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Norfolk Southern Roanoke Shops in 2004.

The Roanoke Shops (also called the East End Shops) is a Norfolk Southern workshop and maintenance facility in Roanoke, Virginia. Between 1884 and 1953, the shops produced 447 steam locomotives, all for the Norfolk and Western (N&W). The Roanoke Locomotive Shops famous known steam locomotives preserved were Norfolk and Western 611, a N&W Class J 4-8-4 "Northern" built in 1950, Norfolk and Western 1218, an articulated N&W Class A 2-6-6-4 built in 1943, and Norfolk and Western 2156, an articulated Class Y6A 2-8-8-2 built in 1942.


Before the shops were being built, Roanoke had been the sleepy farming community of Big Lick and a small stop on the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad (AM&O).[1] That changed in February 1881 when the owners of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad, building up the valley, purchased the AM&O, renamed it the Norfolk and Western, and selected Big Lick as the new junction.[1] In 1882, the town grew rapidly as the new center of the combined railroads and changed its name to Roanoke, becoming a city in just a short time.[1]

In October 1881, the Roanoke Machine Works was founded, a set of shops that would grow to massive size and become the major employer in the Roanoke Valley for a century. The shops came under the control of the N&W in 1883, and the following year the shops began building locomotives.[2] Over the next nine years, the facility built 152 locomotives, all for the N&W, then suspended production. Antoine Sauter was one of its foremen.

Builders plate on the N&W #611

Production resumed in 1900 at the facility, which had been renamed the Roanoke Shops in 1897.[3] Over the next 53 years, the shops built 295 locomotives (and re-boilered two more). From 1927 to 1952, the shops built every steam locomotive acquired by the N&W.[3]

During the 1930s, they employed over 6,000 workers, who were working on 4 steam locomotives and 20 freight cars on any given day. Products included locomotives of all sizes and of increasingly better technology, from switching engines to the famed streamlined J-class passenger locomotives, the huge, articulated Y5 and Y6-classes for low-speed coal drags, and the A-class for fast freight service.

In late 1953, the shop built its last locomotive, the S1a-class No. 244, which was also the last steam locomotive manufactured in the United States for domestic use.

After the N&W stopped using steam locomotives in May 1960, J-class No. 611 and A-class No. 1218 were used to pull excursion trains from the early 1980s until the early 1990s. No. 1218 is now on display near its birthplace in a specially constructed pavilion at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in downtown Roanoke. No. 611 has been restored to operating condition for excursion service again in 2015.[4]


  1. ^ a b c McKinney (2014), p. 7.
  2. ^ McKinney (2014), p. 9.
  3. ^ a b William E. Griffon, Jr. & Thomas W. Dixon, Jr. (2010). Virginia Railroads, Vol 1: Railroading in the Old Dominion. Forest, Virginia: TLC Publishing Inc. p. 28. ISBN 9780939487974. 
  4. ^ "Norfolk & Western 611". Fire Up 611. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved April 7, 2018. 

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Coordinates: 37°16′27″N 79°55′55″W / 37.27405°N 79.93202°W / 37.27405; -79.93202