Tonnage Rating of Locomotives

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Wed Aug 2 22:38:08 EDT 2006

The tonnage ratings for the Radford Division with eastbound coal trains was 10,300 tons. That rating was about what the actual ratings were for each train in late steam for an "improved" Y5/Y6. One of these Y5/Y6 could take the coal train from Bluefield to Walton, where another Y5/Y6 would push the train to Christiansburg over the Alleghany for the final run to Roanoke. The tonnage rating was more closely adherred than possibly on the flatter portions of the N&W.

On the Scioto Division from Williamson to Portsmouth, and on the Norfolk Division from Crewe to Norfolk, the tonnage rating for an A was 14,500 tons. But in late steam the 1200s routinely handled 190 loads REGARDLESS of tonnage after the auxiliary water cars were added on these flatter portions of the railway. During this era the tonnage kept increasing because of the larger capacity coal hoppers being added to the fleet while the number of cars remained the same in the trains. But that was only on these flatter portions of the N&W System.

Bud Jeffries
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From: nw-mailing-list at
To: nw-mailing-list at
Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 12:01 PM
Subject: Re: Tonnage Rating of Locomotives

Not to overdo the tonnage rating discussion, is the rating in gross tons (total train weight) or net revenue tons (summation of the capacity of each car)? If it's gross, then I figure that 200 hoppers of 72T capy is 14,400T plus 20% car wt (and it's probably more than that) = 17,280T. If memory serves, that is well over the published summertime ratings of the big steamers on 1950's Scioto division. Were tonnage ratings ever exceeded?

If ratings are in net tons, how would empties be counted?

Who kept track of train weights when assembling trains in those days?

I remember as a kid train car counter, many westbound coal drags behind a 1200 in the 190-200 car range - most ever was 213, probably eastbound empties (that was time well spent sitting alone trackside during my formative years).

Ted Goodman

-----Original Message-----
From: nw-mailing-list at
To: nw-mailing-list at
Sent: Wed, 2 Aug 2006 7:44 AM
Subject: Re: Tonnage Rating of Locomotives

As I recollect, the Eno River bridge was one reason that heavier power wasn't
used on the Durham District.

The profile of the Durham District certainly restricted what any engine could
haul -- southbound there was a 2.2% grade in the climb to Naruna. Later,
when N&W started hauling coal to CP&L, southbound, the grade to
Cluster Springs became a real problem. N&W could handle a unit train
(95-100 cars) over the Altavista Dist. to the connection with the Durham District
at Vabrook without a problem. Beyond, the tonnage ratings were so
restrictive that the train had to be handled into Hyco in thirds. The road crew
from Roanoke took one third in and a local crew based at South Boston took
the remaining part in. To accomplish this, N&W spent big bucks to build
set-off tracks at Clarkton. Incidentally, old timetables show a 60' turntable
at Cluster Springs. Maybe this was pusher territory at one time.

Remember this -- if you overload a steam locomotive, it'll stall. On a diesel
electric locomotive, if the engineer ignores the short time ratings (the amount
of time the locomotive is allowed to operate 'in the red'), it'll burn up the
traction motors.
Harry Bundy
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