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Norfolk & Western classes J and J-1
United States | 1941 | 14 produced
No. 609, which only got its shrouding later, at Bristol, Virginia
No. 609, which only got its shrouding later, at Bristol, Virginia
collection Taylor Rush

To carry heavier express trains, the Norfolk & Western designed the class J, which had a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement and distinctive streamlined casing. It was characterized by a bullet nose, a skyline casing on the top of the boiler and skirting on the running boards. They are considered the most powerful Northerns ever built, surpassing the New York Central's Niagaras. A good compromise between high tractive power and high speeds was chosen with a driver diameter of only 70 inches, a very precise counterbalancing and a very rigid layout of the chassis.

Although the wheel diameter of 70 inches would, according to the rule of thumb, only be sufficient for a top speed of around 70 mph (113 km/h), theoretically they could reach up to 140 mph without causing damage to the locomotive and tracks. In reality, with 15-car trains they reached speeds of around 110 mph (177 km/h). At the same time, stopovers were reduced by the automatic lubrication system, which served 220 points and only had to be refilled every 1,300 miles

The first five were built in 1941 and 1942 with streamlined fairing and lightweight coupling rods. Due to the war, the next six had to be built in 1943 without these features. They were only retrofitted after the end of the war. Three more followed in 1950, bringing the total to 14. When the most important express trains were dieselized in 1958, they were used about one additional year in freight service. The 611 was saved from scrapping and has been back in use since its last overhaul in 2015 and is one of the biggest stars among North American steam locomotives.

General
Built1941-1950
ManufacturerRoanoke
Axle config4-8-4 (Northern) 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Wheelbase47 ft 3 1/2 in
Fixed wheelbase18 ft 9 in
Total wheelbase95 ft 5 in
Service weight494,000 lbs
Adhesive weight288,000 lbs
Total weight872,600 lbs
Axle load72,000 lbs
Water capacity22,000 us gal
Fuel capacity52,000 lbs (coal)
Power
Power sourcesteam
Estimated power6,000 hp (4,474 kW)
Optimal speed45 mph
Top speed110 mph
Starting effort84,981 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter70 in
Boiler pressure300 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylinderstwo, 27 x 32 in
Boiler
Grate area107.7 sq ft
Firebox area578 sq ft
Tube heating area4,693 sq ft
Evaporative heating area5,271 sq ft
Superheater area2,177 sq ft
Total heating area7,448 sq ft
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
express
passenger
streamline
last changed: 02/2024
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