The Roanoke Shops of the
Norfolk and Western Railway(N&W) in Roanoke, Virginiawere founded in 1881, and acquired by the railroad in 1883. Before 1881, the "Magic City" of Roanoke had been the sleepy farming community of Big Lick and a small stop on the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad(A,M & O). All that changed when the owners of the Shenandoah Valley Railroadbuilding up the valley purchased the A,M & O, renamed it Norfolk and Western, and selected Big Lick as the new junction.
The town grew rapidly as the new center of the combined railroads and changed its name, becoming a city in just a short time. The massive Roanoke Shops were built there and became the major employer in the Roanoke Valley for approximately 100 years.
At the Roanoke Shops, the N&W developed facilities and workers learned the skills needed to build its own
steam locomotives in-house. During the 1930s, they employed over 6,000 workers, who were producing 4 steam locomotives each day, as well as 20 freight cars. Products included locomotives of all sizes, and of increasingly better technology, from switching engines to the famed streamlined J-class passenger locomotives, the huge articulated Y-class for low speed coal drags, and the A-class for fast freight service. A total of 447 locomotives were manufactured at Roanoke during a 70 year time span.
After the end of steam motive power on the N&W in
1960, J-class # 611 and A-class # 1218 were used in excursion train service from the early 1980s lasting until the early 1990s. They are now exhibited near their birthplace in a specially constructed pavilion at the Virginia Museum of Transportationin downtown Roanoke.
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