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

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

Roanoke Shops

The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk

Updated Roanoke Shops Marker image. Click for full size.
By Shane Oliver, January 7, 2021
1. Updated Roanoke Shops Marker
Inscription.  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 57+ 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 build- ing (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 war-related industries including the U.S. Navy.

Roanoke Shops was not just a locomotive facility. Workers built

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freight cars, rebuilt and repaired passenger and freight cars for over 100 years. All freight car construction work was done out- side, 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 and the locomotive shop in mid-2020. Until late 2019, Freight Car American also produced cars in Roanoke.

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.

Right: Railroad shop tasks are hard, dirty work. Freight car assembly 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

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All photos unless otherwise credited: Norfolk and Western Railway/Kenneth L. Miller Collection.

Erected 2020.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceRailroads & StreetcarsWar, World II.
Location. 37° 16.387′ N, 79° 56.329′ W. Marker is 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. 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); North Jefferson Street (about 500 feet away); Roanoke City Market (about 600 feet away); Norfolk & Western General Office Building (about 600 feet away).
Also see . . .  Old Marker at this Location. This marker replaced an older one at this location also titled “Roanoke Shops” (Submitted on February 15, 2021.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 15, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 15, 2021, by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 54 times since then. Photo   1. submitted on February 14, 2021, by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
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Mar. 6, 2021