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FC: Norfolk and Western Steam Jim McClellan

2: I was raised in south Texas and steam was a rarity there, even in the early 1950s. But a family trip to Washington got me close to the last big steam operation in the U.S.-the Norfolk and Western. In 1955, at age sixteen and with virtually no money, I talked my Dad into letting me go to Roanoke, VA for a week. At the time, the N&W was 99% steam, with over 400 active steam locomotives and only 8 diesels. Passenger trains, freight trains and switching services were steam powered. And at the time, Roanoke, the N&W hub, hosted some twenty passenger trains a day. Later, after my first Midshipman cruise from Norfolk, I was able to return to the N&W. But by the time, 1958, steam was rapidly disappearing. 1955 was the last of the "Magic Kingdom." By 1958 it was clearly over. The scene I did not photograph but is my most vivid memory was of an employees special leaving Roanoke on a rainy winter night behind a K and a J class. It is unclear how, on my limited income from a paper route, that I managed to afford color film. But it was a wise decision because there are not a lot of vintage N&W pictures in color. Thanks to Photoshop, some of the really awful Ektachrome pictures haver been at least partially restored. I have left in some of the not so good pictures simply because we will not see anything like this again. I did not have a car so most of the pictures were taken within walking distance of the Roanoke station. And that includes the twelve mile round trip hike to Blue Ridge summit. I burned a lot of shoe leather that summer. I did find enough money to ride to Bluefield and back and to Petersburg. Finally, I have chosen to minimize the text. The basic locations are identified, the trains are not. I have the records but do not they are relevant to what is a visual display. Fewer words are better so far as I am concerned.

4: Roanoke Station was a busy place, with a steady parade of passenger and freight trains. And most passenger trains had cars to be switched and most swapped locomotives.

19: Jawn Henry-the last chance for steam

24: Night pictures were impossible with Kodachrome but these two provide a flavor on night at the station

25: Roanoke Yard was just west of the station and an overhead bridge provided a perfect vantage point for following the action.

30: Shaffers's Crossing -was the main engine servicing facility for the N&W. It was open access for a boy of 16-can't do that anymore!

34: Roanoke to Blue Ridge Summit

35: Leaving the Montvale Valley

37: Vinton

39: Above: An A and J Class team up toward the end of the steam era.

46: Helper Siding

55: Montvale Valley

63: Blue Ridge The top of the grade

76: Blacksburg Mixed Train

78: Bluefield The Arrow departs

79: Heading for Crewe- I rode this engine later in the day

81: Petersburg

82: the 611 at Petersburg on the westbound Cavalier

85: J class bumped to freight service

86: The end of steam

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Jim McClellan
  • By: Jim M.
  • Joined: over 6 years ago
  • Published Mixbooks: 4
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  • Published: almost 6 years ago