Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Norfolk & Western Steam Locomotive No. 117


In 1919, when the Norfolk & Western railroad found that it needed longer and heavier passenger trains, it ordered ten mighty 4-8-2, or Mountain, type engines to haul them at high speed in the mountain Districts. One 4.8-2 was No. 117 shown here with the Winston Salem local at the Roanoke, Virginia, station. All ten Mountains were equipped with streamlined shrouds as much for appearance as to combat wind resistance. Although Brooks Locomotive Works built all this lot— Nos. 116-125, the Norfolk & Western had its own locomotive-building shops, as did a few other railroads. These turned out modern coalburning iron horses until 1952. For several years after the American railroad industry as a whoIe had dieselized, the Norfolk & Western, located in one of the nations richest coal fields, was known as the last big stronghold of steam power in the United States. Eventually even the N. & W. followed the national trend by scrapping its "steam­ers"' in favor of diesels.


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Joseph A. Smith (1895-1978) was an avid collector of railroad photos, sharing many of them with fellow collectors in the Northeast. A former plumbing contractor, Smith presumably developed his interest in railroads through his father – a trolley motorman in Troy, NY.

His extensive collection focused on the lines that once served Troy: Delaware & Hudson, Rutland, Boston & Maine and New York Central. Many of his children – especially his sons Joseph Jr., James and Paul -- developed a similar interest and added to his collection with photos of their own. Maintaining the collection is now in the hands of his grandson, Kenneth Bradford. Coincidentally, Ken’s other grandfather worked as a manager at the Schenectady plant of the American Locomotive Company.

Smith was a life member of the Capital District Railroad Club of Schenectady. He was also a member of the Mohawk-Hudson Chapter Railway Historical Society and its parent organization, the National Railway Historical Society.