Skip to comments.Rural Retreat, VA, Train 42, December 24, 1957 (Christmas Eve Vanity)
Posted on 12/24/2013 7:31:53 PM PST by Rodamala
Train 42, 'The Pelican', headed by N&W 4-8-4 Class J 603 arrives at Rural Retreat, VA eastbound from New Orleans to Washington shortly before 10pm Dec. 27th, 1957, and thunders off into the night. The Norfolk & Western Railway's own Class J was perhaps the finest of all express steam engines, and 603 is heard here in its last days of main line service with a consist of 17 cars.
The photograph is of Train 17 'The Birmingham Special' westbound arriving later that same night at 11:37pm, being waved through by Agent J.L. Akers. The photograph and sound recording were by O. Winston Link and his assistant Corky Zider who operated a Tapesonic recorder and non-directional microphone; chimes were played specially for the recording at the nearby Grace Lutheran Church by Mrs. Kathryn Dodson. Seven nights later, steam motive power would come to an end on the N&W main line through Rural Retreat and Bristol.
Alternate recording, with different photo of an eastbound and possibly of better audio quality:
NPR interview with Mrs. Dodson in 2001:
The station still stands, albeit in poor condition:
Always enjoy seeing the Link night shots — the story behind the set-ups is usually pretty interesting, too.
Thanks for the post. I was 7 years old at the time that photo was taken (and 3,000 miles away).
I have been to the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke. It has an impressive collection of many of his photos.
Thanks for that web page info. Another addition to the list, I guess...
Before expiating in my senior years, I lived my entire life within less then a half mile of the Southern line going east out of Memphis. In the early 50s I remember the quite large steam locomotives. After moving east, 50 miles east of Memphis to Grand Junction, TN in 1972, I had the pleasure of riding in the cab of a very historic steam engine for about 20 miles. They ran it several times on special occasions. It was a rather small hand shoveled coal burner. I wish I could remember the number.
In my last 4 years there, my property adjoined the right of way.
Grand Junction was named for the junction of the Southern and the Illinois Central railroads.
Thanks, I was just remembering. what it was like watching steam engines pull into a station.
Ping to watch tomorrow..........
Wow, great post!!! Warm sounds of a time when our nation was an optimistic place with hope and prosperity just around the corner!
80 inch drivers! Yowzah !
I always think of a particular tv show when I think of steam trains:
Petticoat Junction opening theme:
Petticoat Junction closing theme:
Petticoat Junction Opening Titles Comparison:
Also, in case you were not aware of it, N&W 611, a twin of the locomotive featured in this shot, is being returned to operational status from the Virginia Museum of Transportation.
” N&W 611, a twin of the locomotive featured in this shot, is being returned to operational status from the Virginia Museum of Transportation.”
That is a very modern and spiffy locomotive compared to the one that I rode in. I will keep looking for pics of the one that NS ran as a special event.
It may have been 630 or 610. Both are at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
I live in Rural Retreat, VA. A great place to live. The Depot has plenty of history, it was widely used for years and most notably was during the Civil War. Today, the
depot is being renovated back to its original condition and it’s a wonderful place. Rural Retreat once was known as the cabbage capitol due the many cabbage farms. Music is another reason to live in Rural Retreat, be it from fiddle, guitar or banjo, it’s all here.
Sorry Dear Jimmy,
If only the J class had 80 inch drivers. Drivers were actually 72 inch to “gear” them down for the mountains of the East Coast which were their main haunts. Even with 72 inch drivers the class Js have been clocked at 105 mph which is pretty quick considering the the world record is 123 mph, held by the Mallard, a British Pacific (4-6-2) which did have 80 inch drivers. The Mallard was no where near as technically advanced as the class J (Numbers 600 - 612) Class Js had Timken roller bearings throughout; journals, axle, connecting rods, valve gear, even the bell!
Js were built to do 25,000 miles a month with 300,000 miles between major overhauls. They had the equivalent of 5,000HP. If the were ever fitted with 80 inch drivers I would hazard a guess that they may have been able to do somewhere between 130 - 150 mph. Another interesting fact: the Mallard had only had two runs prior to the speed trail - just broken in. After the speed run they were falling apart and had to be shopped for a thorough rebuild.
At 70 mph on the 611 the engineer can go from cruising to full throttle and the acceleration will throw you back against your seat and hold you there for several seconds. I used to help organize events for the Central Florida Railroad Historical Society and had the pleasure of riding 611 many times during the ‘80s before 611 was retired. She was thoroughly shopped prior to retirement and I’m glad to hear that she is going back on the road. One of the problems that modern steam engines have is finding enough contiguous heavy duty rail, 120 lb versus 80 lb, for significant runs; 80 lb rail just can’t take the pounding of those drivers.
I was even granted the distinct pleasure of doing a footplate tour as a reward for my organizing efforts. I would love to have the time and space to go into the rest of the technical facts about this series of engines but I might get zotted for taking up to much of JRs resources.
Suffice it to say, the Js were the most powerful, and technically advanced passenger engines built, and arguably the most beautiful. Another amazing fact; they weren’t built by Baldwin, Lima, or ALCO. The Class Js were built by Norfolk and Western in the Roanoke Yards - quite an attainment for a railroad company nowhere near the size of the PRR, B&O, NYC or some of the other major RR companies of the period.
Love ‘Em, or could you tell?
Good stuff on 611 - thanks for the extra info from your experience.