The David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk
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 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 ?"
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