Most people who know Norfolk & Western steam engines imagine the giant Class A and Class Y mallet locomotives. Those giants, sometimes double or triple-headded pulling long strings of coal hoppers are a mainstay of later N&W operations, and the incredible power of those locomotives is tempting.
On a model railroad, having and justifying the use of one or more of those locomotives would require huge curves, massive trains, and lots of space to stretch-out a train. The ACP Branch doesn’t have huge curves, massive trains, or lots of space to stretch out.
Beyond the giant mallet’s, mention N&W locomotives, and people might come up with the Class J’s, the most famous of which at this moment would be 611 that has been restored to operation. While not a mallet, this streamliner is much to big and far to late in coming to the N&W for hauling coal in 1927, though in later years the J’s did haul freight. Still, that kind of service wouldn’t be seen on a little branch like we’re creating.
Fortunately, there are other locomotives that are earlier, and still in my mind “signature” locomotives for the N&W that do fit our plans.
Built by the N&W Roanoke shops between 1901 and 1905, the W2 class 2-8-0’s are distinctly N&W in appearance with triple window cabs and other details. These locomotives were successful for what they were built for at the turn of the century, and by the mid to late 1920’s, the W2’s were principal switching and local engines on many N&W lines. They didn’t really disappear until the N&W bought used 0-8-0’s after World War II.
Imported in the 1970’s by Northwest Short Line, brass models of the W2’s occasionally hit the market. I was recently fortunate to find one. The model currently sports a road pilot, but the box includes the switching pilot which will be swapped out when the engine finds a shop to do some work. It will need re-motoring, a sound install, and paint before it hits the rails in service on the ACP branch. One other tweak that I am considering is a tender-swap. The best info I have from photo dates, and my research is ongoing on this point, is that these locomotives may have had as many as 3, and possibly 4, different sized tenders during their service life on the N&W. The tender that the model has appears to be a post-1933 tender, and as I get closer to putting the engine in service I may hunt for a more time-period appropriate and smaller N&W tender.
At the moment, I only have 1 of the W2 locomotives. The original article for our track plan calls for one or two locomotives, and wanting to have up to three trains moving on the branch when operators are available, I may add another of these should one come across my path. The other option would be a 4-6-0, and there is a strong “family” resemblance to the W2’s in the original class A 4-6-0’s. No model I know of has ever been produced of those class A’s, and building one would require doing so from scratch.
This is the builder’s photo of M1 number 1000 in 1906/1907. The obvious resemblance to the W class 2-8-0’s is apparent in this photo. (Photo from the NWHS Archives)
Hauling coal is not a one-engine deal, and the N&W did have a slightly larger locomotive that looks like a W2’s big brother. The 4-8-0 M, M1,and M2 class locomotives began appearing on the N&W in 1906. These locomotives, similar to the W2’s, wound up serving as local and switching power as the railroad put newer and larger locomotives into service. That means that by the late 1920’s, it would be more than appropriate for an M1 to find its way onto the ACP Branch.
Several different manufactures have imported models of the M class locomotives through the years. The one pictured here that we have added to our roster recently is a factory painted model of an M1 imported by Sunset Models. This particular M1, 1007, falls into the group of locomotives in the 1000-1049 series built by Baldwin in 1907. A second group, 1050-1099 were built by the N&W Richmond shops in the same year. This model needs some additional details, Like the number plate on the smoke box and headlight number board filled in, a crew added, and like the W2 model, may also need a different tender along with DCC and sound installed.
These two locomotives will be more than enough power to start operating Phase 1 of our layout, and another locomotive may not be necessary for some time. That will be dictated by operating scheme, which is a topic for another post.
Time to get back to the workbench!