Y Class, Etc

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sat Jun 29 06:47:10 EDT 2013

Years after steam power was gone from N&W, I was puzzled when I would read
articles proclaiming the Y class as drag engines good for 45 mph at best.
Well, I grew up along the northern end of the Shenandoah Division and you
could have fooled me. The Y's were the principal freight locomotive there,
and they did roll. How fast I don't know, but 50 mph was the posted speed
for freight. They pulled trains as fast as the diesels that replaced them.

As for the much maligned ACL 4-8-4's, their problem was counterbalancing.
Once the amount of lead was reduced, their operation became satisfactory.
And during World War II they did duty pulling passenger trains as intended.
With normal postwar traffic levels and the rapid dieselization of ACL they
ran out their last miles in freight service. My guess is ACL got 10+ years
of service from them, so they were fully depreciated when they were sold for

>From an article I read years ago, UP was revolutionary in their thinking

about counterbalancing formulas for their modern steam power. The weighting
was much lighter than what was the accepted industry standard. UP's 4-8-4's
were built for passenger service at high speeds, and a certain number of
Challengers assigned to passenger trains had no trouble maintaining 70 mph.
Had ACL's 4-8-4 been treated similarly when built, their problems would have
been avoided. When EMD's E class units hit the market ACL believed they
were suitable only for new lightweight streamliners. Had ACL been as
confident as Seaboard which bet their money on the E's, they should never
have bought those 4-8-4's.

--Rick Morrison

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