The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk
High Speed Freight Locomotive: Class A
While the title of one of Norfolk and Western's company films (top) is appropriate for the mighty Class A 2-6-6-4, they also served in other capacities for the railroad. Designed as the first of the modern, powerful "Big Three" (Class A, J and Y6) beginning in 1936, the Class A was planned as a powerful freight hauler, with enough speed to handle heavy passenger trains as well. Prior to the arrival of the Class J passenger locomotives, two Class A locomotives were assigned to the very hilly Bristol line between Bristol and Radford, Virginia to expedite passenger trains running north and south.
The Class A was huge success with a total of 43 built; all designed and constructed at Roanoke Shops. During World War II, they would haul heavy troop trains without assistance, freeing up the Class J for regular passenger service.
The Class A would generally handle fast freight across the N&W. Modern design and planning allowed fast servicing and turnaround times at terminals, increasing utilization of all N&W's modern power. The Class A would continue to be built through and after World War II, the last versions built in 1950, as the "Super A" with roller bearing rods, further increasing utilization.
But, the Class A was not enough to prevent the onslaught of the diesel locomotives, running out their last mileage on the Norfolk Division between Roanoke and Norfolk. By the summer of 1959, they too would be sent to scrap.
Only one A would survive. The 1218, built June 1943 was sold as an auxiliary boiler at the end of steam. She managed to evade the torch, saved by interested fans and was returned to Roanoke in 1969. The 1218 would run again in excursion service 1987-1991 but joined the 611 in retirement at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in 2004.
[Table in lower center of marker]Class A, built 1936-1950, Roanoke Shops
Tractive Effort: 114,000 pounds
Cylinders: (4) 24 inch diameter x 32 inch stroke
Boiler pressure: 300 lbs.
Driving Wheels: Six pairs, 70 inch diameter
Overall length (engine and tender): 121 foot, 9 ? inches
Firebox area: 13' 10" x 8' 10 ?"
Weight on driving wheels: 432,350 lbs.
Total weight of engine and tender: 951,600 lbs.
Coal Capacity of tender: 30 tons
Water Capacity of tender: 20,000 gallons