Headed Back to St. Louis

Norfolk & Western 2-8-8-2 No. 2156 is being towed through Glen Hall, Indiana, on Saturday en route back home to St. Louis.

There was no smoke, no steam and, some might say, a lot of sadness.

But it was still a steam locomotive and there it was rolling west on a Class 1 mainline with its driver rods churning.

Scores of photographers and onlookers turned out in Indiana and east central Illinois on Saturday as Norfolk & Western 2-8-8-2 No. 2156 was ferried by Norfolk Southern westbound en route back to its home at the National Museum of Transport in St. Louis.

The Class Y6a had been on loan for the past five years to the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke where the three most notable N&W steam survivors were united.

The other two of the big three, which also had been built in Roanoke, are N&W 4-8-4 No. 611 and N&W 2-6-6-4 No. 1218.

The 611 and 1218 are known for their roles in pulling excursion trains but the 2156 has not been operational since its July 1959 retirement.

The 2156 left Roanoke on the afternoon of June 10, taking ancestral rails via Bluefield, West Virginia, and Portsmouth, Ohio, before getting onto former Pennsylvania Railroad rails in Columbus.

At Bellevue, the 2156 took former Nickel Plate Road rails to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where it got on the former Wabash mainline to St. Louis.

For many years all of the routes covered by the 2156 on its ferry move were part of the N&W network although once it got north of Columbus it was in territory that N&W never owned while the 2156 was worked in revenue service.

The ferry move, operating under NS symbol 957, reached Portsmouth late in the afternoon of June 11.

It then began an overnight run to Bellevue that turned into a much longer ordeal than expected.

Reports from a Facebook Page known as “Tracking Norfolk & Western 2156” indicated that the 957 tripped a detector on the Sandusky District near Bucyrus and was ordered into a siding.

The Facebook page, which appeared to be linked to the locomotives owners, also reported there being some unspecified mechanical issues.

The operating crew “outlawed” at 4:40 a.m. on Friday and it would be more than 12 hours before the special move got moving again.

During that time the 2156 was on “static display” in Bucyrus.

A relief crew finally arrived at 7:45 p.m. and train 957 finally chugged out of the siding at 8:47 p.m.

Another crew took over in Bellevue and left after midnight for the run to Fort Wayne.

Although I was vaguely aware the 2157 would be ferried back to St. Louis I didn’t know the particulars.

I happened upon a report early Saturday morning on HeritageUnits.com of the ferry move.

At the time I was with another railfan friend from Indianapolis waiting to catch Amtrak’s westbound Cardinal north of Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Our plan was to spend most of the day railfanning the CSX St. Louis line. We did spend some time there but spent most of the afternoon staking out the NS Lafayette District east of Attica, Indiana, in an are so remote that neither of us has cell phone service and thus couldn’t continue to follow the progress of the 2156.

We wound up moving further east to Glen Hall to intercept train 957. I got cloud skunked in part at Glen Hall so we scurried westward to a grade crossing where the sun favored views from the north side of the tracks.

The 957 was limited to a top speed of 25 miles per hour and when we caught it the dispatcher had sandwiched it into a westbound convoy led by the 15Q with stack train 21T trailing.

I would think at some point the stack train was moved ahead of the 957 although I don’t know that for sure.

The 957 had as its motive power a rank and file SD60E. Escorting the 2156 were NS office car No. 7 (Pennsylvania) and a boxcar.

It would have looked nice had the 957 been led by the Norfolk & Western heritage unit or even the Wabash H unit.

In the weeks preceding the ferry move there had been discussion in online railfan chat lists about which museum is the proper home for the 2156.

Some argued passionately that it belongs in Roanoke with the 611 and 1218 in part because the 2156 had been built there in March 1942 and the other two had been built there as well.

Others disagreed, saying there was nothing wrong with keeping the 2156 in Missouri. I don’t have strong feelings wither way but I can understand why some want Y6a in Roanoke.

The 2156 is the sole survivor of the 16-member Y6a class and also is the only survivor of the Y5, Y7, Y6a and Y6b locomotive line.

Reportedly the St. Louis and Roanoke museums talked about the latter buying the 2156 but could not reach an agreement.

I was last at the National Museum of Transport in July 2001 so I probably saw and might have photographed the 2156 then.

But Saturday was the first time I’d seen the 2156 moving. It may be the last time.

Coming into the hamlet of Glen Hall, Indiana, on the Lafayette District of Norfolk Southern.

Another view of N&W Y6a No. 2156 at Glen Hall, Indiana.

I was able to get ahead of NS 957 and catch it at a grade crossing a few miles west.


NS assigned office car No. 7 (Pennsylvania) to help escort the N&W 2156.

The other side of N&W 2156 as it continues its westbound trek on the NS Lafayette District.

One last look at the N&W 2156 and its train.

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