The Norfolk and Western Railway had faith in the steam locomotive. And why shouldn’t they! They designed and built the most modern and efficient steam power right in their own Roanoke shops!
Born as an outlet to the tidewater, the N&W grew quickly when coal was discovered in the Pocahontas region of Virginia and West Virginia. (Norfolk Southern continues to pull a lot of coal out of this region.) The heavy N&W coal trains required ever larger steam locomotives to conquer the Blue Ridge grade to the sea. Their fleet evolved through several configurations, such as 4-8-0 “Mastodons”, 4-8-2’s, 2-6-6-2’s 2-8-8-2’s, 2-6-6-4’s and 4-8-4’s. This video takes us back to a time when most Class I’s had completely banished the steamer, But the N&W still used the class “K” and class “J” on passenger trains and the “Y” class articulateds and the fabulous class “A” 2-6-6-4’s on freight and coal trains, usually with one or more on each end of the train.
Visit the Petersburg area in eastern Virginia and the steep grades over the Blue Ridge, between Crewe and Christiansburg, especially at the summit. A few of the “oddballs” also show up at Shaffer’s Crossing, including a brief appearance by “Jawn Henry”.