Norfolk and Western First Generation Diesels by Paul Withers & Robert Bowers DJ

Norfolk and Western First Generation Diesels by Paul Withers & Robert Bowers DJ

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Norfolk and Western First Generation Diesels by Paul Withers & Robert Bowers DJ
Norfolk and Western First Generation Diesels by Paul K Withers and Robert G Bowers with dust jacket Copyright 1990 FIRST PRINTING  288 pages.  
Its late December, 1961, and a combination of holiday traffic and the cold weather has eastbound train #4, the Pocohontas, running 35 minutes late. Due to its late arrival in Bluefield, # 4 is bathed in soft winter sunlight. On this day, the sun provides little relief from the bitter cold of the West Virginia mountains.
Motive power for the swollen consist is a trio of the famous "Redbirds". The lead EMD GP9 did not always wear this colorful paint scheme. It was delivered in early 1957 as part of a six unit order and wore basic black paint scheme with steam engine style lettering. This initial order began d ieselization of the railway's passenger service. The Redbird scheme was introduced on the second order for GP9s delivered in late 1958. These sixteen units completed the retrofitting steam powered passenger trains with internal combustion motive power. This caused the reassignment of the J-class steamers to freight service.
In the background, a pair of ALCO RS11s tug hard on a cut of coal cars with frozen journals. A fleet of one hundred RS11s joined the roster over a three year period. They were mixed freely with the competition, the EMD GP9.
Artist Robert Karsten has captured the feeling of a cold winter's day when the prevalent form of transportation in southern West Virginia was the passenger train. Train # 4 was named the Pocohontas, a name that meant premiere service.
A number of reasons for this passenger class act have been advanced in retrospect, including corporate pride and a sense of civic duty to the communities it served-particularly in remote areas where airplanes couldn't land and roads were almost non-existent. Another possibility was the desire to outshine its glitzy neighbor, Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. (The two roads' Tidewater Virginia-to-Cincinnati and Columbus tracks paralleled and crossed in several places). Thus, while the C&O's flamboyant Chairman Robert R. Young almost launched the revolutionary and star-crossed Chessie train, its neighbor and rival took existing locomotives and rolling stock, spruced up the cars and launched the Powhatan Arrow in 1946.
Of interest too is the fact that C&O fielded a diversity of locomotive wheel arrangements to pull the varnish-4-4-2s, 4-6-2s, of four different classes, 4-8-4s, 4-6-4s, 4-8-2s, 2-8-4s not infrequently, and now and then (before 1948) ferocious 2-66-6s.
By comparison, the N&W with far fewer large on-line communities carried more than 95 percent of its passengers behind J-class 4-8-4s, K1, K2 and K2a class 4-8-2s, and a handful of E2 and E2a-class 4-6-2s. N&W's motive power frugality is one reason the Roanoke-based road could afford to operate passenger trains the equal of its passenger-oriented neighbor.
The road's whole attitude toward innovation probably was best summed up by the late Trains magazine editor David P Morgan, who stated, "Roanoke had a way of obtaining from orthodoxy what others strove for in gadgetry." (Roanoke: Alamo for Steam,"-June 1956 issue).
It was no coincidence that the company house organ, Norfolk and Western Magazine, which faithfully reported such matters of import as the order for 1,000 50-ton hoppers and which car inspector had married off his daughter, sponsored a club for the children of its employees. Run by an anonymous editor, "Nell Norwest," the club was named "The Pocaliers," after two N&W name trains, the POCAhontas and the CavLIER. This club promoted "pen pal-ism" among its members and published their poems, short stories and artwork in the magazine's pages. A trivial matter you say? Maybe. But this building up of the feeling of "family pride" among its troops from general to private was reflected in the quality of both freight and passenger service.
No book of this scope can cover every passenger train that ran on the N&W rails between the time the first one entered the hamlet of Big Lick, Va. in 1882 (thereby creating the Norfolk and Western Railroad), and the end of the line's passenger operations in 1971. Rather, we have attempted to concentrate on those trains that plied the rails from Norfolk to Cincinnati and Columbus, Lynchburg to Bristol, and those of the Shenandoah Division, plus the lines into the tobacco country of Winston-Salem and Durham, N. C. More than a passing nod has been given the more colorful and important branchline trains, too. We have limited the book to the span of almost exactly a quarter century-from N&W's introduction of its new postwar streamliner in 1946 to 1971, when the coming of Amtrak ended all N&W passenger service. These years were turbulent for the entire American rail passenger business because they encompassed the period from the outset of rail's last Herculean effort to recapture a swindling passenger business in the face of rapidly rising costs until the point at which, save for a few staunch holdouts such as the Southern and Rio Grande, no railroad ran so much as a single day coach in scheduled revenue service. Too, these years include the bitter 1949-50 coal miners strikes that forced closing that massive Roanoke Shops for the first time since the Depression; strikes, it is said that did more to accelerate the railroads dieselization than any other factor.

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