N&W Freight House
If you are a fan of the Norfolk & Western Railroad you have heard of the
Abingdon Branch with its M class 4-8-0 Twelve Wheelers. In the 1950s
fans traveled to Virginia from far and wide to ride the Abingdon and
photograph those 4-8-0s. While Columbus didn't have the Abingdon's
scenery we too had our very own class M right up until the end of steam
When built, starting in 1906, the class M was an advance over the 2-8-0
Consolidations as it could carry a larger boiler. In the beginning
the N&W used the M on freight trains in the mountains. As they were replaced
on the main line with bigger engines they were moved to branch lines like
the Abingdon branch as well as local and switching duties.
What kept the long lived M operating in Columbus was a load limited bridge
over the Pennsy's Yard B that the N&W crossed to get from the joint CA&C/N&W
track, that was located on the north side of yard B, to the N&W freight
house, on the south side of Yard B. The M class was the only N&W
steamer that met the load restriction. Thus at the end of the
1950's the M was the oldest steam locomotive in regular service at
There were actually three bridges across Yard B. Two older girder
bridges on the ends and a more recent concrete bridge added between the
two girder bridges when Yard B was expanded. The newer bridge
section also crossed Cleveland Avenue as you will see below.
The joint CA&C/N&W track
had multiple uses for the N&W. It was used by N&W passenger trains to
access Columbus Union Station. Just west of Cleveland Avenue there
was a freight interchange with the
Big Four, and finally, there was access to the freight house.
To see an aerial view
click here. The photos that follow
were taken along the route to the freight house and at the freight house.
This drawing from
the N&W RR files sets the stage for the photos that follow. The N&W
had two freight houses fronting on Mt. Vernon Avenue in Columbus.
One was for outbound freight and the other inbound. The track seen
crossing Mt. Vernon Avenue gave access to two companies, one a cold
storage warehouse. Between the freight houses and the Pennsy yard B
were more businesses served by the N&W. Click on the drawing to
expand. Drawing from the Gary Rolih Collection.
The Class M serving the
freight house started and ended its day at the Joyce Avenue roundhouse. Here
4-8-0 #496 is getting a turn. Photographer unknown, DAK Collection.
The freight house
engine would travel this route between the Joyce Avenue round house and
the freight house. It ran south of the Joyce Avenue round house for
about a mile where the joint N&W/CA&C tracks curved to the west. The
track the locomotive is on will soon start to rise on a fill to gain
elevation for crossing over Yard B. The Pennsy is storing steam
locomotives at the Chase Avenue yard on the right. The photo was
taken 12/31/1955 by Donald A. Kaiser, DAK Collection.
The engine #444 is picking up the flagman
as it crosses Cleveland Avenue headed for the freight house.
Both Cleveland Avenue and the N&W tracks are on bridges crossing the Pennsy yard B. To the right you
can see the top of one of the two N&W girder bridge sections.
This crossing may
have been a little confusing for automobile, streetcar and bus operators. In 1919 CRP&L Co. streetcar #320
was hit by a cut of cars at this spot probably ending its career.
1933 Cleveland Avenue was the first streetcar route converted to trolley
coaches. You can see the overhead trolley wires used by the trolley coaches.
The photo by Don Etter, was taken October 1953, Jay Williams
#422 with a reefer
is on the track that crosses Mt Vernon Avenue to service a cold storage
warehouse seen in the background. On the far side of the coal yard is the inbound freight
house. Photo taken January 1955 by Donald A. Kaiser, DAK Collection.
#451 with a cut of
cars north of the previous photo. A brick drive for two team tracks is
in the foreground. Box cars would be spotted on these tracks so
trucks could pull up and load or unload. Photo taken 9/4/1955 by
Donald A. Kaiser, DAK Collection. 163
#422 on the east
side of the inbound freight house. You can see the end of one of the two
outdoor platforms used for loading boxcars. Photo taken 1/9/1955 by Donald
A. Kaiser, DAK Collection. 185
#451 in the late
afternoon sun. Photo taken 9/4/1955 by Donald A. Kaiser, DAK
#422 leaving the
freight house area with a string of gondolas. The track is starting
the elevation that will take it over Yard B. In the far distance is
a freight house which is either the N&W outbound freight house or more
likely the Pennsy freight house which is just west of the N&W complex.
Photo taken June 1955 by Donald A. Kaiser, DAK Collection.
has turned to the north from the same spot as the last photo showing the
track headed toward the bridge over the Pennsy yard B. The
tracks on the left interchange with the B&O RR. Photo
taken June 1955 by Donald A. Kaiser, DAK Collection.
Back on the joint CA&C/N&W track with the Pennsy's 20th Street shops in
the background. N&W #2039 a Y3, 2-8-8-2 is backing to the
interchange with the Big Four located just west of Cleveland Avenue.
Note the brakeman's foot in the dog house window. The photo was
Don Etter from the St. Clair Avenue bridge. Jay Williams Collection.
There are still two class M's
in existence. #433 is on display under a shelter in Abingdon, Va.
The Strasburg Rail Road, in Pennsylvania, has an operating class M, #475.
In 2008 #475 was in the shop receiving extensive maintenance. 2009
should see it back in operation.