The Virginia Museum of Transportation, Inc., announced today that author Colonel Lewis Ingles “Bud” Jeffries has been named the official historian for the Norfolk & Western Class J 611™ Steam Passenger Locomotive.
Jeffries is the author of N&W Giants of Steam, considered to be the encyclopedia of Norfolk & Western Railway’s steam locomotive design, engineering and tractive power. Jeffries is also a longtime member of the Norfolk & Western Historical Society and the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.
As 611’s historian, Jeffries will help the Virginia Museum of Transportation with exhibits and educational resources connected to the Class J 611, the Norfolk & Western Railway. Jeffries is also contributing to a documentary on the restoration of the Class J 611 locomotive, currently underway at the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer, North Carolina.
“We are very pleased to appoint Bud as our official historian,” said Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Museum. “We have long admired Bud’s research and work, his love for the Norfolk & Western and his dedication to telling this important story. Bud will be an important resource for the Museum, and that his valuable research and vast knowledge will be used to educate younger generations on the history and technology of steam locomotives.”
Fascination with N&W steam started young
As a young boy growing up in Radford, Virginia, Jeffries spent hours sitting by the Norfolk & Western (N&W) tracks watching road, yard and branch line steam power thunder past. “I developed a growing fascination for these mechanical marvels,” he said. “For the railroads, their locomotives were their trademarks, and no railroad did it better than the Norfolk & Western in Roanoke, Virginia.”
Norfolk & Western’s locomotives reflected the characteristics of their owner — rugged, solid, conservative, efficient and proven design. The N&W experimented, developed, refined and tinkered, sometimes through trial and error processes, until it found the locomotives best suited to its needs.
The rich coalfields served by the N&W were located in the rugged mountain territory West Virginia, Virginia and Ohio. The combination of heavy coal tonnage and steep mountain grades meant that the railroad needed to equip itself accordingly. N&W’s steam locomotives were designed to maximum drawbar pull with the highest degree of efficiency.
Jeffries left Radford for a career in the United States Army, rising to the rank of colonel, but the fascination with the Norfolk & Western Railway never ended. Jeffries watched from afar as N&W’s steam era ended in the 1960s, and the men who designed and built and maintained the locomotives were retiring.
“I wanted to tell the story of the Norfolk & Western while the information was still available, and while these men were still alive,” he said.
Jeffries spent years interviewing Norfolk & Western’s former employees — from the men working in the Roanoke Shops, to the men who designed the locomotives to the executives in the motive power building — for his book, N&W Giants of Steam. “These were men of topmost talent and dedication,” he said. “They were men of a worthy profession who were center stage in a drama of accomplishment.”
N&W Giants of Steam was the result of Jeffries’ exhaustive research. The 350-page encyclopedia of Norfolk & Western Railway steam gives readers the opportunity to learn the famous railroad’s superior engineering, management and ingenuity.
“No one will ever forget the sights and sounds of Norfolk & Western Railway’s steam in action,” Jeffries said. “Many thought that day and age had passed into history. But now, with the restoration of the Norfolk & Western Class J 611 Steam Passenger Locomotive, a new generation can see the incredible power of N&W steam.”
About N&W Giants of Steam
When it was first published in 1980, Colonel Jeffries gave us the story of Norfolk & Western Steam as complete as possible, and as no one had ever done. The most definitive story of N&W steam ever written has been updated, revised, and republished in 2005, and fills in the gaps of Norfolk & Western’s history. The revised edition can be purchased from the Norfolk & Western Historical Society Commissary.