[N&W] Re: Abingdon Branch

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 6 22:14:37 EDT 2004

Uh Cuzzin' Ed, correct me if I'm wrong pls:

Power for the branch was an M-class 4-8-0 in steam days (pre-1958), usually
No. 382, occasionally 396 or 429, according to Ed King. Diesel era power was
usually a GP9 or two until newer 4-axle Geeps arrived in the mid-'60s. RMC
did a feature on the branch about the time of its demise in 1977; I believe
the final trains were powered by GP9's. Will check to find exact issue.
Mainline power in late steam days were J's usually on passenger runs,
occasionally a K2 4-8-2 on locals 9 &10, or an A on the heaviest passenger
trains (41,42 Ed???) in the early '40s before the J's arrived. Through
freights rated a K1 4-8-2 usually. The Saltville branch trains used a Y6 and
the photos I've seen of post-1940s operations on the N.C. branch showed Y3
2-8-8-2's on the point.
Hope this helps.
Of course, if ole' Ed would stop skinny-dipping at the beach long enough to
commit his multitude of Pulaski District (Bristol line) memories to print,
the whole world'd be better off (hint, hint). Until that happens, Lewis
Newton's excellent triumverate of "Rails Remembered" volumes will have to

Andre Jackson and/or Lisa Burrows

Jay -

Louis Newton's "Rails Remembered", Volume three, has timetable pages and
lots of photos of the Abingdon Branch in the '50's.  Motive power was class
M 4-8-0s, which are going to be a problem for you in O-scale.  The first
diesels used up there were the regular GP9s, with the same two passenger
cars as had been pulled by steam.  When the branch train terminated in
Abingdon, one of the engines was a W-2, the 771 (also a problem in O-scale).
M's probably began to be used when the terminus was moved to Bristol.  "RR"
volume three would be an excellent reference book, and you should obtain

Vintage Rails magazine (I don't know which issue offhand, but heck, there
weren't but twenty published) ran a feature about the Abingdon Branch by
Steve Patterson, with pictures from both the steam and the late diesel era;
the latest train Steve railfanned up there was pulled by a GP30.

The branch at Abingdon during the '50's and later had no special trackage.
The branch took off the east end of the old passing siding around a sharp
curve to the geographical southeast and went its own way.  The switch was
power, operated like the rest of the Bristol Line CTC by the Roanoke
Dispatcher.  There was a home signal governing the northbound train's
entrance to the siding, with a distant signal .8 of a mile out the branch.
There were no other automatic signals on the branch.

Power on the main: Passenger trains - Class J 4-8-4s and the occasional K-2
or K-2a streamlined 4-8-2; local freight - K-1 4-8-2s, usually the 104, 105
and 106 although I have seen the 114 and 115 on them, and once in a blue
moon a Z-1b 2-6-6-2.  Through freight - Shaffers Crossing-assigned
Y-6/Y-6a/Y-6b 2-8-8-2s, numbered 2120-2180 (except the 2162, which was a
Bluefield engine).

After dieselization, the usual mix of GP9/GP18 and Alco RS11/RS36 power.
N&W mixed everything up in early diesel days; I later saw an
SD35/C420/GP9/RS11 combo on the through freight, but early in diesel days
two units were the norm.

Hope this helps.



The trackage at Abingdon is still pretty much in place, to the best of my
knowledge.  The freight station is still standing and used by artisians; the
passenger depot is used by the city police dept and other municipal offices.
You can see where the branch departed the mainline.

For motive power in the era you desire the choices are limited; a Class M
would take care of the steam, and later a GP9 would handle diesel duties.
For the M, Nos. 382 and 433 were frequent visitors.  You will also need a
combine for the mixed train, whcih may be diificult unless you are willing
to accept an unprototypical plastic car.

NWHS has various track charts that it offers for sale from time to time; my
guess is there is a track chart of the Abingdon Branch in the collection;
this would answer most, if not all, of your track related questions.

Regarding timetables, again, the NWHS has a good, but not extensive (yet)
collection; you might also look for these at a railroadiana show.

Remember, the Abingdon Branch trains originated and terminated from Bristol.
You could represent this as a hidden staging yard, etc.  Of course the
staging yard would provide you with an opportunity to mix in "mainline"
trains that would run through Abingdon and into another staging yard.

With all the interest and photographs of the Abingdon Branch, I always
wondered why noone had ever written a complete history of the branch.

Good luck with your project.

Jim Brewer

A small book I have found useful when researching the history of the Va
is " The Virginia Creeper Remembering the Virginia-Carolina Railway" by Doug
McGuinn.   Mr. McGuinn lives in Boone NC.   and you can order a copy direct

Doug McGuinn
147 Little Laurel Rd. Ext.
Boone, NC  28607

I purchased my copy locally in West Jefferson, NC

R DWilliams

Hello, I too have wanted to model the famed Abingdon Branch for some time.
Motive power in the 1940's and the 1950's consisted of class Mollies which
were 4-8-0's. Steam was displaced on the Radford Div. in Dec. 1957, so
afterwards GP-9's, GP-18's, and GP-30's were used through the very early
60's. Timetable info can be found in any Radford Div. employee timetable of
that era. I can send copies of that info, as well as track arrangements
circa 1920's that a friend has furnished me. Hope to see pictures of your
layout someday!

Dave Grigsby

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