The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk
Passenger Locomotive: Class J
The world-renowned Class J 4-8-4 passenger locomotives was completely designed and built in Roanoke. By the mid 1930s, Norfolk and Western was facing heavier passenger traffic due to increased military operations, heavier trains needed to cross the system at increasingly faster schedules. The Motive Power department designed a powerful locomotive specifically for their needs. For many roads, streamlining was the order of the day. The N&W opted for a refined design and rolled the first bullet nosed Class J out of the shops just 40 days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The sleek Class J was an immediate hit with the public and operating men. Fast, easy to run and powerful. The N&W did not need passenger power to run at 100 mph, most of its territory was mountains and curves. The J needed to start a heavy train on grade, and accelerate rapidly and maintain schedule, to this, they were superlative.
Again in 1950, war loomed, and passenger traffic seemed on the rise, Roanoke Shops produced three more Class J locomotives, bringing the total to fourteen. Minor changes were made in the design, but the locomotives were virtually perfect as is. These would be the last steam passenger locomotives built in the US.
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.
Luckily, due to the interest of Roanoke-born brothers Graham and Robert Claytor, both who would rise to become Presidents of the Southern and the N&W. The last Class J, No. 611 survived the scrap heap and was preserved to run again from 1982 through 1994, it was retired for the second time as the sole survivor of the fourteen locomotives at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke.
[Table in lower center of marker]Class J, built 1941-1950, Roanoke Shops
Tractive Effort: 80,000 pounds
Cylinders: 27 inch diameter x 32 inch stroke
Boiler pressure: 300 lbs.
Driving Wheels: Four pairs, 70 inch diameter
Overall length (engine and tender): 109 foot, 2 ? inches
Firebox area: 12' 2" x 8' 10 ?"
Weight on driving wheels: 288,000 lbs.
Total weight of engine and tender: 872,600 lbs.
Coal Capacity of tender: 35 tons
Water Capacity of tender: 20,000 gallons