Atlantic Coast Line R-1 4-8-4's

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Wed Sep 7 00:04:06 EDT 2005

Bill - I appreciate your feelings for your favorite 4-8-4s but let's look at
a few items.

First, Js never handled a 12-14 car lightweight train; the ARROW was a 5-6
car lightweight train, which, for a J, was nothing. Two of the three
Southern trains were all heavyweights, up to 15 cars, and the grades between
Lynchburg and Bristol were up to 1.34% (westbound up Allegheny Mountain).
The speed limit on this mountain was 40MPH due to curvature, with a 50MPH
curve at the bottom so no high-speed run could be gotten for the climb.
Yet, a J could violate the speed limit up above Montgomery Tunnel (several
miles up the hill) with a long heavyweight train.

The J could also run 100 MPH where required, on the Norfolk and Scioto

Now, your contention that a J couldn't have accelerated a 1500-ton train to
70MPH as quick as an 1800 is not based on anything other than your gut feel.
Since the 1800 was not capable of producing the drawbar horsepower (much
less the starting tractive effort) of the J (the J was tops among 4-8-4s in
this achievement, and the 1800 was not even in the top rank), the J could
certainly have accelerated any train the 1800 could handle faster than the
1800 could.

I invite you to ask yourself the following question: If you put an 1800 on
the N&W, could it do what the J did? The answer is - no way. It would have
had trouble lifting a 15-car Pelican out of Marion, Va., eastbound; it would
have had trouble getting an eastbound Cavalier out of Northfork, it couldn't
have gotten a westbound Pocahontas back up to track speed on Bluefield
Mountain after reducing speed for the 25MPH "Jug Neck" reverse curve. These
are things the J was specifically built to do.

If you put a J on the ACL, could it do everything the 1800 did? Absolutely!
The 1800 never had to contend with the grades and curvature that the J did,
and the J could have made the time. What's the maximum grade on the ACL
between Richmond and Miami? I'll bet it's less than 1/2 of 1% and probably
less than that (the SAL had worse grades than ACL did).

And why was ACL so quick to bump the 1800s into freight service? If they'd
been all that great a passenger engine, they'd have lasted longer in the
service. But it's well known that they had deficient counterbalancing, and
were hard on the track. The J's weren't . . .

Now, Bill - the 1800s were good looking engines. If your admiration ended
there, I'd be all for you. But if you get into performance comparisons,
you're treading on thin ice.

The N&W bought the tenders (ten of them, not eight) because they were big,
not because the engines that pulled them were great. And Saunders didn't
buy them . . .

But Keep Steaming! And I wish you'd distribute those great GM 2-10-0 audio
tapes . . .

Ed King

----- Original Message -----
From: <nw-mailing-list at>
To: <nw-mailing-list at>
Sent: Tuesday, September 06, 2005 9:33 PM
Subject: Atlantic Coast Line R-1 4-8-4's

> Having worked in engine service for the ACL beginning in September 1941,

> once in awhile I have one of those "what if" questions to pop up in my

> head.

> You fellows on the N&W are justifiably proud of your J class 4-8-4's, as

> they

> performed well in the assignments for which they were built, which was to

> handle passenger trains over the curvey rip-rap of the N&W between Norfolk

> and Cincinnati. Compared to the ACL, the N&W was only incidentally in

> the

> passenger business, half of which was a joint operation with the Southern

> Railway. In an acceleration test, ACL R-1 No. 1800 was coupled to

> twenty

> heavyweight friction bearing passenger cars that weighed 1500 tons ( and

> not

> to a 12 or 14 car lightweight Powatan Arrow easy rolling train set.) The

> 1800

> went from a dead stop to 70 MPH in eleven and one-half minutes and eleven

> miles. They were capable of handling up to 21 heavyweight cars at 90 MPH,

> and made the schedules of the ACL's fastest trains in a little better than

> 13

> hours between Richmond, Va. and Jacksonville, Fl. The N&W was not even in

> the same ballpark with the ACl when it came to operating passenger trains.

> I submit to you that A J class locomotive with it's 70 inch drivers could

> not

> have matched an ACL R-1 in an acceleration test with 1500 tons. Stuart

> Saunders, who was not the brightest star to ever shine at the N&W bought

> eight of the 12 large 24,000 gallon tenders off the 1800's from the ACL

> for

> use on some of the N&W Y class locomotives when the ACL scrapped the

> 1800's. Bill Sellers


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