A page from history

The vintage Norfolk And Western 2156 Steam Engine & Water Car made an overnight stop in Bluefield on its way to St. Louis, Missouri recently. Train enthusiasts converged near Bluefield Avenue to watch the engine pass through town.

BLUEFIELD — Train enthusiasts got out their cameras this past week and chased a vintage steam locomotive that was making its way through southern West Virginia and to a new home in St. Louis, Missouri.

About a dozen people sharing a love of trains converged the evening of June 10 along the brownstone wall separating Bluefield Avenue from the Norfolk & Southern Railroad yard. With cameras and cellphones ready, they were hoping to see one of the old Norfolk & Western’s Big Three steam locomotives.

The engine had been on display for several years in a Roanoke, Va. museum. It was being towed to a Missouri museum when area train lovers learned that it was passing through the region. One enthusiast, Gabe Clinton of Tennessee, traveled to Bluefield just to see it and get some photographs. It is one of the Big Three, or three largest locomotives, the Norfolk & Western Railroad had ever built. Fans of vintage trains waited in the cool nighttime air to catch a glimpse of it.

Michael Walton of Summer County brought his camera and tripod to Bluefield for some good shots of the locomotive.

“I don’t feel like driving to St. Louis to see it,” he added. “It’s a good chance to see it. It won’t be back through here again.”

Veteran train enthusiast and southern West Virginia photographer Timothy Hairston of Upland said later that he pursued the train from Coopers to Iaeger in McDowell County to shoot some pictures of it.

“My great passion for railroad photography is all about being in the right place at the right time,” Hairston said. “On June 11t and 12, 2020, Norfolk & Western 2156 Steam Engine and water car in tow left Roanoke.,Va. west bound for St. Louis, Missouri passing right through the Pocahontas Division, stopping overnight in Bluefield W,Va.”

Hairston caught up with the 2156 at the Cooper’s trestle bridge the morning of June 11, and then proceeded to the Roderfield trestle bridge near Iaeger. For many train enthusiasts like Hairston, seeing the historic locomotive was a special moment.

“I was born July 4, 1957 and the steam train era was an amazing time to be born,” he said. “For me and a lot of railroad train buffs, the excitement of NW 2156 in tow put a great big smile upon our faces. It made my heart rejoice just to see two magnificent pieces of NW railroad machinery still in existence. Just to see and hear those huge iron-clad wheels chugging forward in tow, brought back so many precious memories of the by-gone days of the great steam train era.”

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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