“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Downtown Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Power Behind the Nation

The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk

Power Behind the Nation Marker image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., December 28, 2008
1. Power Behind the Nation Marker
Workhorse of the Norfolk and Western: Class Y6

While the sleek class J streamlined passenger locomotives and high stepping Class A locomotives garnered publicity for the N&W; the true workhorse of the Norfolk and Western was the Class Y 2-8-8-2s. Designed and built for one purpose, moving tonnage at reasonable speeds at a reasonable cost.

Beginning in 1930, Roanoke Shops turned out the first home-built Class Y5. The design itself, was solid, with improvements leading to the Class Y6. The Y6, with two sub-classes; Y6a and Y6b, the Y6b was considered the zenith of the heavy locomotives.

The Class Y locomotives handled anything tossed its way: fast freight, coal, empty trains, and upon occasion, a passenger train. By the end of World War II, the die was cast in America; steam was being replaced by diesels. Commercial builders ended production in 1949. The N&W felt Roanoke-built power was superior to the diesels, however, and continued to build steam, but that too, was short-lived. In 1952 the last Y6b, No. 2200, rolled out of Roanoke Shops.

Even the best power couldn’t stop the tide. The diesels
Power Behind the Nation Marker </b>(fourth from left) image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., December 28, 2008
2. Power Behind the Nation Marker (fourth from left)
first arrived on the N&W in October 1955. On May 7, 1960, the last Y6b No. 2190 had its fire dropped at Williamson, West Virginia, ending the mainline steam era in America after being in service less than eight years.

Only one Class Y6 locomotive would survive the end of the steam era, No. 2156 is on display at the St. Louis Museum of Transport today.

The Class J fate was sealed, and on October 24, 1959, Class J, No. 611 closed N&W’s steam passenger train service with a last excursion to Williamson, West Virginia.

[Table in lower center of marker]
Class Y6b, built 1948-1952, Roanoke Shops
Tractive Effort: Simple 152,206 pounds, Compound 126,838 pounds
Boiler pressure: 300 lbs.
Driving Wheels: Eight pairs, 57 inch diameter
Overall length (engine and tender): 114 foot, 10 ½ inches
Firebox area: 14’ 2 1/8” x 8’ 10 ¼”
Weight on driving wheels: 548,500 lbs.
Total weight of engine and tender: 990,120 lbs.
Coal Capacity of tender: 30 tons
Water Capacity of tender: 22,000 gallons
Erected 2007.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars.
Location. 37° 16.387′ N, 79° 56.339′ W. Marker
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is in Downtown Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Norfolk Avenue SE and Market Street SE, on the right when traveling west on Norfolk Avenue SE. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Roanoke VA 24011, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Roanoke - A Railroad Town (here, next to this marker); Operation Fast Freight (here, next to this marker); The Finest Steam Passenger Locomotive (here, next to this marker); Norfolk and Western Railway (here, next to this marker); Roanoke Shops (a few steps from this marker); Today's Rail Traffic (within shouting distance of this marker); Norfolk and Western Passenger Station (within shouting distance of this marker); The Market Square Walkway (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Downtown Roanoke.
More about this marker. All pictures are Norfolk and Western Railway photos provided for the marker from the collection of Kenneth L. Miller. Their captions follow:

[top photo]: Brand new at Roanoke Shops, April 1948

[top left photo]: Just days before Christmas, 1951 workers in Roanoke Shops are putting the finishing touches on Y6b No. 2196.

[lower left photo]: Loads east, empties west: No. 2167 leads freight east at Dry Branch, Virginia while passing a westbound empty hopper train lead by another Y6 headed back to the mines.

[lower right photo]: Rolling as fast as the 58 inch drives will turn, 2157 leads a solid refrigerator car train loaded with perishable produce at Elliston, Virginia on July 18, 1952.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 17, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 15, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 892 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on January 15, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.
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Jul. 3, 2020