Tonnage Ratings

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Wed Dec 26 16:17:37 EST 2018

In my tenure as ARFE on the Scioto Division 1963-1965 the loads out of Williamson weren’t weighed until they went over the hump at Portsmouth.  Therefore, no one knew the weight of the Tadpole coal trains except for the guess based on the number of 55, 70, 85 or larger hoppers.  I came out of Williamson one night with a GP18 and three 1800 Horse Alco RS’s and 254 loads of coal.  The little old units were working their guts out (the Alcos all had good turbos), and the speedometer hit 20 MPH for the first time passing Kermit, 19 miles out.  They said the tonnage was 24,785, but nobody really knew.  We finally got to Portsmouth, and we brought ‘em all with us.  The most I ever brought out of Williamson with two GP30/35s was about 240.  Those engines made transition at 27 MPH, as I recall, and they’d go all the way to Portsmouth drawing 900 amps – in other words, they never got fast enough to make transition; getting over the Bridge at Kenova could be iffy if it was raining.  One day on one of those trains down about Fort Gay Engineer Carl Spriggs looked over at me and said “I’m tired of this trip”.  That was a frequent sentiment, but we brought ‘em all with us.  They tried to run 275-car empty hopper trains with two units, which could be iffy in cooler weather when the air didn’t want to behave.

I rode a test train up the Valley with three SD35s and 267 loads.  Scratched over Kingston at 11 MPH and never slipped.  The engineer was Gail Taylor.  The normal Valley coal train of the day was three GP30/35s and 210 loads, or three tracks of the departure/classification yard at Portsmouth; the normal speed by Kingston was 11 MPH.

Coal trains to Cincinnati were fun.  Watching a Forrest Nichols or Ray Scott or Ray Fultz, or George Irvin, for example, handle one over the rip-rap around Sardinia and west of Batavia was really cool.  They coached me so well that I could get one there, too.  I couldn’t make it look as easy as they did, nor quite make the time they did, but I could get it there.


From: NW Mailing List via NW-Mailing-List 
Sent: Wednesday, December 26, 2018 2:13 PM
To: nw-mailing-list at 
Cc: NW Mailing List 
Subject: Re: Tonnage Ratings and Weather Reductions for Locomotives

Not that it mattered--the tables seemed to be ignored by Pocahontas Div train crews.

A one-week study of tonnage hauled by trains to and from Roanoke revealed
that there were 26 over-tonnage coal trains handled Bluefield to Roanoke.
The truth is that no one knew the actual tons being hauled.  A constant
24-tons was used to calculate the tare weight of hoppers (VGN used 22 tons), and
based on capacity of the hopper 55 tons, 70 tons, or  100 tons was estimated
to be the load.  In some cases, the bona fide loaded weight wasn't revealed
until scaled at Lamberts Point. 

Then came the weigh-in-motion scale at Prichard, WV.  So some 150 or 200
miles from origin, the actual tonnage became known  From memory, a hopper
with 6 1/2 X 12" journals can handle a loaded weight of 272,000# (since increased
to 288,000#) and now there's a weigh-in-motion scale on the former VGN near
Narrows.  Any one crossing the U.S. 220 bridge over South Yard ever noticed the
loads set-out for a crane to remove sufficient tonnage for  the hopper to be in
compliance ?                            Harry Bundy

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