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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 operation. 

        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 Columbus.

        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.  496

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.  187

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. 

In 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 Collection. 444

#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. 188

#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 Collection.  160

#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.  24


The photographer 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.  25

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 taken by 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.