“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Downtown in Roanoke, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Roanoke Shops

The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk

Roanoke Shops Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Kevin W., December 28, 2008
1. Roanoke Shops Marker
Inscription.  The three locomotive types referred to on the nearby panels are part of the larger picture; of course. The Classes J, A and Y locomotives were special. What made these locomotives so special compared to products of the commercial builders of steam, such as Lima Locomotive Works, Baldwin, American Locomotive Company and other smaller builders? Aside from their superior operating characteristics, they were designed and built by local residents, in Roanoke. Then, as today, “Roanoke-built” is an impressive statement. Just to the east of where you are standing, is the west end of the 50+ acre complex named Roanoke Shop, also called East End Shops.

From 1927 through the end of the steam era in 1960, every new N&W steam locomotive was built within the Roanoke Shops. Designed by engineers and draftsmen in the Motive Power building (see photo at left and index to right) then constructed in the shops.

The Shops, aside from new construction, rebuilt, repaired and overhauled locomotives, not only for the N&W, but during the second World War, for a number of other railroads. In addition, the Shops did machine work for various
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war-related industries including the U.S. Navy.

Roanoke Shops were not just a locomotive facility. Workers built freight cars, rebuilt and repaired passenger and freight cars for over 100 years. All freight car construction work was done outside, until the freight car shop was put under roof in the early 1950s. In that era, long before computers, the Shops could turn out 15-18 brand-new coal carrying cars per eight-hour day. Norfolk Southern closed the car construction shop in 2000. Today, Freight Car America builds cars in Roanoke.

All pictures are Norfolk and Western Railway photos provided for the marker from the collection of Kenneth L. Miller.

Captions, from top:
Brand-new Class J, No. 600 takes shape in the erecting shop in 1941.

It all begins with the designers and draftsmen who create the plans that the shopmen build from.

Many different tasks were involved in locomotive and car construction; this machinist is turning a set of driving wheels on a large lathe.

Next, another machinist using a large drill press is drilling holes for staybolts in the sidesheets of a firebox. The sheets would be curved after the holes are drilled.

Finally, assembly of the myriad of parts begins to take shape as a Class Y6b in 1951.

Caption for picture in lower right: Railroad shop tasks are hard, dirty work. Freight car assembly

Roanoke Shops Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Kevin W., December 28, 2008
2. Roanoke Shops Marker
This marker, mounted on a railroad axel and wheel assembly, is behind the street sign in this photograph.
is not as glamorous as locomotive work and therefore not frequently photographed. Before indoor/covered assembly areas, workers are rebuilding hopper car sides in the open shop line about 1946.
Erected 2007.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. A significant historical year for this entry is 1927.
Location. This marker has been replaced by another marker nearby. It was located near 37° 16.387′ N, 79° 56.329′ W. Marker was in Roanoke, Virginia. It was in Downtown. Marker was 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 was 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 location. A different marker also named Roanoke Shops (here, next to 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); Hotel Roanoke (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Hotel Roanoke (about 400 feet away); Welcome to Historic Roanoke City Market
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(about 500 feet away); North Jefferson Street (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Roanoke.
More about this marker. This marker was replaced by a new one also named "Roanoke Shops" (see nearby markers).
Credits. This page was last revised on February 1, 2023. It was originally submitted on January 16, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,520 times since then and 127 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on January 16, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.   2. submitted on January 15, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.

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Jun. 9, 2023