Rural Retreat, VA, Train 42, December 24, 1957

Train 42 ‘The Pelican’ headed by N&W 4-8-4 Class J Nr.603 arrives at Rural Retreat, VA eastbound from New Orleans to Washington shortly before 10pm Christmas Eve 1957, and thunders off into the night. The Norfolk & Western Railway’s own Class J was perhaps the finest of all express steam engines, and Nr. 603 is heard here in its last days of main line service with a consist of 17 cars. The photograph is of Train 17 ‘The Birmingham Special’ westbound arriving later that same night at 11.37pm, being waved through by Agent JL Akers. The photograph and sound recording were by O. Winston Link and his assistant Corky Zider who operated a Tapesonic recorder and non-directional microphone; chimes were played specially for the recording at the nearby Grace Lutherian Church by a Mrs. K. Dodson. Seven nights later, steam motive power would come to an end on the Bristol line. The building on the right still stands today, however its future seems uncertain.

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