The Lost Engines of Roanoke
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Scrapyard Photos
Lost and found; W2 2-8-0 no. 917, M2c 4-8-0 no. 1151, and M2 4-8-0's 1134 and 1118, minus their cover of vines and asbestos boiler cladding, awaiting rescue from the scrapyard.
(R. Jenkins photo, 3/11/2008)

Click on the links below to view photos.

UPDATE August 2009: All of the locomotives and rolling stock from the Virginia Scrap Iron & Metal South Jefferson Street yard have now found new homes in preservation, and the last pieces were safely relocated from the yard in August of 2009. The sad saga of the "Lost Engines of Roanoke" is over, now the long process of restoration begins.

The steam locomotives in the Virginia Scrap Iron & Metal yard are accompanied by two Baldwin diesel switchers from the Chesapeake Western Railroad, along with two auxiliary water tenders and a flatcar. They are parked on a siding on the edge of the scrapyard, which goes into the yard past a row of ivy-covered trees, and ends on a raised coal dock. The siding is no longer connected to the Norfolk Southern line that goes past the yard. The tenders, diesels, flatcar, and 4-8-0 no. 1118 are outside the yard fence, which crosses the siding behind 1118. Behind the fence are 1134 and 1151, and until recently, 2-8-0 no. 917, which has since gone to a new home in Bellville, Ohio. Behind 917 was a 4-wheel pilot truck, aparently from another unidentified 4-8-0. Four N&W steam-era hoppers used to sit on top of the coal dock behind no. 917. These too have been removed from the yard, and three of them are now on display at the Virginia Museum of Transportation, with the fourth going to a private owner who assisted with the move.

When I first visited the yard back in August of 1997, I was amazed at the density of the plant growth around the equipment. Of the steamers, only 1118 was recognizable at all!  The three engines behind the fence were almost completely hidden among the trees and vines, and I wasn't able to get any photos of them until I returned in March 1999. Even then, without the leaves on the trees, it was still difficult. In the last few years, much of the vegetation around the engines has been cleared away to allow work to take place in preparation for moving, starting with the all-important asbestos removal. The yard itself has also been cleared out in that time, allowing for much clearer views of the equipment from that side as well.

While obviously suffering from neglect, the steam engines are in surprisingly good condition considering their ordeal. However, the obvious collectible parts such as bells, whistles, headlights, and cab fittings are long gone. Other parts, including smokestacks, air compressors, and various main and valve gear rods, are missing on some engines and present on others. (A more detailed description of each engine accompanies the photos on each page.)  Since the Norfolk & Western was not only still running steam engines, but actually building them at the time these engines were retired, it is likely that a lot of usable items were recycled by the railroad.

The most noticeably missing items are the engines' tenders. I have heard that they were scrapped sometime in the 1970's. The spare tenders in the yard came from larger engines (one of them still bears the number of Y2a 2-8-8-2 no. 1706), but the same type of tender was also used behind some of the M2's in their later years. The tenders in the yard were converted to water canteens by cutting down the tops of the coal bunkers, installing couplers in the drawbar pockets, and adding brake wheel stands in front of the bunker gates. Apart from the cut-down "hungry boards", the coal bunkers are still intact, so these canteen cars could be restored (cosmetically at least) as coal tenders with relatively little difficulty, and paired up with two of the 4-8-0's.

Getting any of the steamers to run again would be a massive undertaking, but it's possible that there may be enough good parts between the three 4-8-0's for somebody with big dreams and deep pockets to get one of them back in steam. As I like to say, nothing's impossible, only prohibitively expensive!  Cosmetic restoration of all of the engines should be feasible, though it will take some creativity to replace some of the missing parts.