Here is a close up of one of twelve metal wheels on a very large steam locomotive. On a vintage steam train, these wheels are most often called drivers, or drive wheels. This metal drive wheel might look small without much in the picture to compare, but it is 70 inches high, as tall as a grown man. The connecting rods and pins shown here are massive too, made of some of the finest and strongest steel ever produced.
This locomotive is Norfolk And Western Railway #1218, the last of the 2-6-6-4 Class A steam engines in existence. Built by Norfolk and Western in their Roanoke VA shops, it was designed for power and traction to haul heavy freight trains at high speed, up to 70+ mph. It was made for high traction and heavy work and certainly did just that with all of its 5400 horsepower.
After retiring from revenue service on the railroad in 1959, the locomotive was later reconditioned and spent a few years in the late 1980s hauling railfan excursions. It was then re-retired and moved to a display track at the Virginia Musem of Transportation in Roanoke where it still sits today.
At the museum, you can easily walk right up and see every bit of detail of this locomotive and other railroad equipment. At 120 feet long, you’ll also feel a little small next to this huge machine. It weighs a little over half a million pounds, resting mainly on twelve huge metal wheels like this one.
Location: Virginia Transportation Museum, Roanoke, Virginia. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks
Up Next: Three Drivers #10525