Y Class, Etc

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sat Jun 29 20:35:38 EDT 2013

Sitting at the bottom end of the Bristol Line let me observe the 2100s come
in after having been wrung out on some fast track. General Foreman Jesse
Hahn told me he'd ridden a Y-6 down through Atkins at 62 MPH. Engineer Roy
Harrell was seen passing the Pet Milk plant west of Abingdon with a brand
new 2200 (its first trip after its break-in on the Blue Ridge pusher) and
witnesses said the rods were invisible - just a gray blur. Harrell told me
the GE speedometer read 70 MPH. Frank Collins told Bud Jeffries he'd had
Y-6s over 60 but they were shaking everything that could shake.

When you consider the comparatively small drivers and the weight of the
parts necessary to transmit that tremendous power, the 2100 was even a more
remarkable machine than once thought. N&W's Mechanical Engineers, the K-3
notwithstanding, knew how to do counterbalancing. That a J could ride
smoothly at 500+ driving wheel RPM and a 2100 could hold together at the
speeds they ran (and we'll probably never know how fast that was, or the J
either) was all the evidence needed to prove the ability of those guys
working on the third floor of the MP Building.

The engineers showed them no mercy; Louis Newton told me that the north end
of the Shenandoah Division and the Bristol Line were the toughest places for
those engines to live, but live they did.

The only failures I saw the summer I worked at Bristol Shop were the result
of engineers (one, specifically) not drifting the engine properly. Those
who did had little or no trouble.

As far as tonnage is concerned, nobody knows how much an A would pull on the
Kenova District, either. The cars weren't weighed until they went over the
hump at Portsmouth. In diesel days I came out of Williamson with a GP18 and
three Alcos and 254 loads. They said it was 24,785 tons, but they didn't
really know. The speedometer hit 20 MPH for the first time passing Kermit,
19 miles out.

Ed King

-----Original Message-----
From: NW Mailing List
Sent: Saturday, June 29, 2013 3:35 PM
To: NW Mailing List
Subject: Re: Y Class, Etc

I think that it is a coincidence that both Rick and Mason mentioned the
speed of Y6 locomotives on the northern end of the Shenandoah because I was
pondering doing the same. So, I'll go ahead with my comments.

When I finished college in June 1956 and went to work in the Motive Power
Department of the N&W, I was given the title of Shop Inspector and assigned
to the Shaffers Crossing roundhouse. The N&W was 100% steam then (including
steam-turbine-electric N&W 2300, Jawn Henry). One of my assignments was to
handle the broken parts reporting. Either the foremen would notify me of a
failed part removed from some steam locomotive or else I would tour the
roundhouse to find any broken parts removed on another shift. I would use a
report form to describe the nature of each failure to the N&W physical lab,
and hold the part until I heard back whether the lab wanted to inspect it.

I began to notice that an inordinately large percentage of the broken parts
that I found had been removed from Class Y6 locomotives off the
Roanoke--Hagerstown part of the Shenandoah Division. When I mentioned this
to one of the more experienced shop inspectors, he told me that it was
because the engineers on the north end ran the Y6's up to 60 mph there (this
figure is what my feeble mind seems to recall he told me), obviously putting
more stress on the reciprocating parts, such as the valve gear components.
So, my information on Y6 speeds on the north end of the Shenandoah Division
agrees with what Rick and Mason describe.

This brings to mind another Y6 maintenance problem that I observed as a Shop
Inspector during the summer of 1956, but one that doesn't seem to be well
known based on some conversations that I have had with knowledgeable N&W
locomotive historians. What is generally well known, and chronicled in Bud
Jeffries book on N&W steam locomotives, is that the N&W in 1953-55 poured
some 14 tons of lead in the low-pressure engine frames of Class Y5 and Y6
locomotives to take advantage of the increased tractive effort afforded by
the application of booster valves that admitted some high pressure steam
into the low pressure cylinders at low speeds. What I saw in my rounds of
the roundhouse was an occasional Class Y5 or Y6 shopped because of a
low-pressure frame crack in the upper corner of the pedestal opening caused
by the extra weight of the lead (so I was told).

The procedure was to spot the wheel set that was in the cracked pedestal
over the roundhouse drop table, remove the rods connected to that wheelset,
drop the wheelset and move it to the drop pit release spot to stow the
wheelset, and return the drop table to the roundhouse floor level. The
welding supervisor at that time was Curry Neese, and one of his men would
take an acetylene torch and cut out the full length and depth of the crack
in the frame. I would guess, based on my recollection now, that the width
of the cut was at least an inch wide. The welder would then take a stick
electrode and slowly fill in the cut groove with weld metal, finishing the
job by grinding the weld metal flush with the frame surfaces.

This was a case of ten steps forward and one back. The forward steps were
the increased performance with the booster valves, and the back step was the
occasional cracked frame. I don't recall that there was an epidemic of
cracked frames, but they did occur.

Gordon Hamilton

----- Original Message -----
From: "NW Mailing List" <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
To: "'NW Mailing List'" <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
Sent: Saturday, June 29, 2013 11:06 AM
Subject: RE: Y Class, Etc

> Rick is correct. The Y Class engines on the Hagerstown District ran as

> fast

> as track conditions would allow. In the memories I have of them they

> appeared in a flash and were gone. Several times I would prompt my father

> in

> the car to catch up to them and more often than not we would lose.


> Mason Cooper



> -----Original Message-----

> From: nw-mailing-list-bounces at nwhs.org

> [mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at nwhs.org] On Behalf Of NW Mailing List

> Sent: Saturday, June 29, 2013 3:47 AM

> To: NW Mailing List

> Subject: Re: Y Class, Etc


> 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

> scrap.


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


> 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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