The Norfolk and Western was above all else a railroad built on two things; coal and engineering. The endless flow of black diamonds from the Virginia mountains to Atlantic ports drove the railroad’s finances and planning. But their quest to engineer the most efficient transportation machine possible didn’t end there.
The N&W’s Roanoke Shops turned out some of the finest steam locomotives ever seen. These fine-tuned machines were not only built for the coal trade but for other freight and passenger roles as well. While each is worthy of note in its own right, the queen of the fleet was the Class J. These 4-8-4s were built to handle the N&Ws premier passenger trains. And while the Powhatan Arrow and the Pocahontas may not receive the fame attached to the 20th Century Limited or the Coast Daylight, the J will hold her own in a beauty or performance contest with any road’s passenger power.
N&W built the first five J’s in 1941. Six more came during the war without streamlining or light-weight siderods (all were retrofitted with these later). N&W built the final three, nos. 611-613 in 1950. They were the last passenger steam locomotives built in the United States. The J was also the most powerful Northern type ever built. And despite relatively small 70″ drivers, they could easily maintain speeds in excess of 90 mph. On tests on the Pennsylvania, No. 610 regularly cruised at 110!
More impressive than their speed was their efficiency – a term normally used very loosely with steam locomotives. Despite having only 14 of the class, the J’s held down 80% of the N&W’s passenger schedule. They were able to log 15,000 miles / month and were so well balanced and lubricated that two men could push the 494,000 pound locomotives with ease on level track.
The J’s look complimented the railroad’s passenger trains. Sleek and stylish, nothing flamboyant, but classy from the pilot to the tail car. The premier trains ran from Norfolk to Cincinnati and Columbus. There were also trains on other routes and operations run in conjunction with neighboring railroads to other cities.
Now you can bring these classy trains home to your railroad. Lionel is bringing back the N&W J with LEGACY and RailSounds individually and as part of a new set.
The J locomotives feature:
- LEGACY Control System equipped – able to run in LEGACY Control mode, in TrainMaster Command Control mode, or in Conventional mode with a standard transformer
- Odyssey II Speed Control with On/Off switch
- LEGACY RailSounds system featuring:
- CrewTalk dialog and TowerCom announcements, each with different scenarios depending on whether the locomotive is in motion or stopped
- Six official railroad speeds with Crewtalk dialog
- DynaChuff synchronized with 32 levels of intensity as the locomotive gains speed
- LEGACY “Real-Time Quilling Whistle” control with instant response for realistic signature ‘quilling’ and correctly timed warning signals
- Single hit or continuous mechanical bell sounds
-Sequence Control plays the sound effects of an entire trip, including warning sounds and announcements, based on the movement and speed of the locomotive
-Current speed and fuel dialog, refueling sound effects
- Powerful maintenance-free motor with momentum flywheel
- Wireless Tether connection between locomotive and tender
- ElectroCoupler on rear of tender
- Directional lighting including operating headlight and back-up light on rear of tender
- Illuminated classification lights on the front of locomotive
- Fan-driven smoke unit
- Adjustable smoke output
- Interior illumination in cab
- Die-cast metal locomotive body, pilot, and frame
- Die-cast metal tender body and trucks
- High level of separately applied metal details
- Separately applied builder’s plates
- Authentically detailed cab interior
- Flickering firebox in cab
- Cab glass windows
- Engineer and fireman figures
The set also includes a combination coach-baggage, two coaches and an observation car all finished for the Pocahontas passenger train which ran between Norfolk and Cincinnati. The cars all feature:
- Die-cast metal sprung trucks and operating couplers with hidden uncoupling tabs
18″ extruded aluminum body
- Operating end vestibules with flexible diaphragms
- Realistic interior and exterior lighting
- Separately applied windows with painted frames
- Separately applied roof vents and grab handles
- Separately applied metal underframe details
- Metal frame
- Authentically detailed and painted interior
- Overhead interior lighting with On/ Off switch
- Passenger and train crew figures
- Illuminated marker lights and end light on observation car
- Illuminated drumhead on observation car
Let the engineering of the N&W impress the passengers on your railroad! The individual sale J (No. 612) is scheduled to ship next month. It retails for $1299.99. You can pick up the complete set later this year for $1949.99. All will operate on an O-54 curve.