[N&W] Re: Abingdon Branch

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 6 22:17:29 EDT 2004

[This one kinda got lost in the flood of posts after last week's storm:]

[Jim Brewer wrote:]
 >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.

[Ed King responds:]

Guys - the 382 was the regular engine, the 429 was the backup and second
engine for doubleheaders.  The 495 saw lots of service on the branch before
its retirement in 1953.  These three engines were superheated and thus
favored.  The 382 was much preferred by engine crews, but no one has been
able to explain why.  The only visible differences were that the 382 had
outside steam pipes to the cylinders and a top double check valve, and the
429 still had its original inside steam passages and side boiler checks.
Neither of these differences seems to me to be critical to performance, but
something was.

When circumstances (two or three of the above unable to perform) the favored
engine was the 396, unsuperheated but with the N&W-design 12,000 gallon
tender.  Enginemen hated it - indeed disliked any of the unsuperheated
engines up there.  More stops for water, and harder job for the fireman.

The 433 was used several times as a pusher from Bristol to Whitetop when
tonnage was extra heavy.  The 382 and 429 were on the point, the 433 cut in
ahead of the coaches.  It backed up all the way from Whitetop to Bristol.

The 433 was rarely used as the second engine of a doubleheader, because of
its small (USRA 10,000 gallon, which it has today) tender.  It and the 396
were regularly seen on Bristol Yard.  Small-tendered and unsuperheated 376,
379, 405, 421 (Stephenson Valve Gear), 434, 467 and 477 were also seen there
in yard service.  When the 405 and 477 went to Radford they were given
12,000-gallon tenders and were used on the Blacksburg Branch, along with
similarly-equipped 449 and 475.  The only time I recall seeing the 475 in
Bristol was for the Centennial celebration in 1957, when it was equipped
with its fake stack and brass trim.  The 375 was also used at Radford.

Hope this helps.

Oh, and Andre - the only authority for seeing a K-1 in through freight
service on the Bristol Line was Rosenberg and Archer's book, and they
mistook local #71 for a time freight.  Sometimes streamlined K's would
doublehead with Y-6s; I've seen them both ahead of the Y and next to the
train.  But the road engine was also, as noted earlier, a Shaffers-assigned

Exceptions:  when an engine failure required the Walton Pusher be sent to
Bristol to handle #88, as the day the 2139 failed at Hayter on #95 and Y-6b
2191 was sent to Bristol for #88.  And, of course, when they were building
Y-6bs in the early '50's their second day of life would be on #95 from
Roanoke to Bristol.

Again, hope I haven't bored anyone . . .


[Bill Prillaman adds:]

   Concerning the interest about the N&W's Abingdon Branch.  I worked for the
railroad in that area in 1969 to 1971 and have since hiked on it as the
Virginia Creeper Trail.  I notice that about 1/2 mile south of the Abingdon
end of the trail there is the roadbed of an old Wye track and possibly some
yard tracks on the east of the branch main.  I do know that there were no
tracks at that location in the late 60's.
   I believe that those tracks were built when the V-C Railroad operated before
the N&W took over and were probably that roads terminus.  I don't know when
those tracks were removed, however, the N&W probably had little or no need for
them.  I would be interested in finding out more about that area, especially
if anyone has seen pictures of it.

[Ed King again:]

Jay - that Volume 3 of Rails Remembered also has a ca-1915 map of the whole
branch, including the extension to Elkland, N. C. which was in service at
the time and the branch to Konnarock.  The two connections at Damascus are
shown, plus the proposed extension from Elkland to Boone, N. C.  Also
included is a profile of three or so miles either side of Whitetop which
shows the grades and curvatures in the worst part of the climb.

Just more reasons why you need Newton's book.


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