Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis 4-8-4 "Northern" Locomotives in the USA

The Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad bought five 4-8-4 locomotives in 1930, which they called "Dixies" (instead of "Northerns" - a name that would seem inappropriate on a fine southern railroad). These 1930 "Dixies" came from the American Locomotive Company and were designated Class J-2 and assigned road numbers 565 through 569. They had 70" drivers, 25 x 30 cylinders, a boiler pressure of 250 psi, a tractive effort of 57,000 lbs and weighed 381,000 pounds.

In 1942 and 43, another 20 Class J-3 Northerns (road numbers 570 through 589) came from ALCO and were very similar to the Class J-2s except that they weighed 400,500 pounds.

There is one surviving NC&StL "Dixie", number 576, at Centennial Park in Nashville, TN. During the 1970s, when planning for the Bicentennial Train was taking place, NC&StL 576 was considered as power for the eastern tour of the American Freedom Train but it was decided that it was not heavy enough and the Reading 2101 was selected instead.

576 was also considered for the Southern Railway Steam Program sometime around the mid-70s and was examined by "master mechanic" Bill Purdie. There was quite a bit of local opposition from those who did not want the engine to leave Nashville.

576 was also considered for a new steam excursion program by the Seaboard System/Clinchfield Railroad in the 1970s. They had operated excursions for some time powered by their tiny, ancient 4-6-0 #1 (with two "B" unit diesels behind) and wanted to upgrade to a "proper" steam locomotive. Bill Purdie once again may have assisted with the inspections. Nashville again decided that they didn't want their engine to leave the city, so the Clinchfield folks went up to Kentucky and leased the C&O 2716. It was pulled down to Marion, NC to a siding for restoration. They slowly worked on it for about 6 months, when their whole excursion program fell through, and the engine was sent back to Kentucky. Eventually, the Southern did lease it, overhaul it, and operated it for about 2/3s of a season. Meanwhile, the folks in Nashville changed their mind and offered the 576 to the Clinchfield, but it was too late.

In 1998 the smokebox was painted yellow, the headlight shroud was painted red, and the counterweights were painted silver.


ClassRoad NumberYear BuiltBuilder

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class J2-57 (Locobase 8330)

Data from NC&StL 6 - 1951 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive Rail Data Exchange. Works numbers were 68281-68285 in March 1930.

Charles B Castner, writing in Drury (1993), notes that these were the first 4-8-4s in the South (where they were never referred to as "Northerns", but rather as "Dixies") and were derived from the USRA Light Mountains (Locobase 231).

Alco delivered an impressive machine on a one-piece cast-steel frame that carried brackets for auxiliary piping normally hung on the boiler. Castner also notes the "feedwater heaters, large fireboxes, and free-steaming boilers." The class soon acquired the nickname of "Gliders" for the smoothness with which they negotiated curves, an ease attributable to the lateral-motion axle boxes fitted to the first two driven axles.

J2s first ran on the Chattanooga Division in Eastern Tennessee, moving in 1940 to Atlanta and still later to Memphis. The Dixie Line returned to Alco for more 4-8-4s in 1942-1943; see Locobase 212.

Class J3-57 (Locobase 269)

Data from 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and from NC&StL 6 - 1951 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive Rail Data Exchange. Works numbers were 70829-70838 in September 1943.

Based on the J2s that appeared in 1930 (Locobase 8330) as enlargements of the J1 Mountains, this class had very few changes of note. Firebox heating surface included 116 sq ft of thermic syphons (97 sq ft/9 sq m) & arch tubes (19 sq ft/1.75 sq m). One noticeable difference was the much larger tender that held half again as much coal as that of the J2 and weighed 45 tons more. The engine's weight also increased by 10 tons.

570-579 were known as the "Yellow Jackets" because of a wide yellow stripe on the valence over the running gear. The later ten engines had painted edges but no valence and were known as "Stripes." Charles B Castner, writing in Drury (1993), notes and photos confirm that the Yellow Jackets had a neat appearance with a conical smokebox, retractable couplers in the pilots, and few pipes or pumps mounted on the boiler. Running gear was as might be expected in late-model steam engines: roller bearings throughout and Boxpok drivers.

For all their modern features, these engines were soon out of service, being withdrawn in 1951-1952 when diesels took over..

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Middle Run Media

Locobase ID8330 269
RailroadNashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis (NC&StL)Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis (NC&StL)
Number in Class520
Road Numbers565-569570-589
Number Built520
Valve GearWalschaertWalschaert
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)18.25 / 5.5618.25 / 5.56
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)44.25 / 13.4945.08 / 13.74
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheelbase 0.41 0.40
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)82.58 / 25.1786.31 / 26.31
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)220,000 / 99,790228,000 / 103,419
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)381,000 / 172,819400,500 / 181,664
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)194,000 / 87,997285,000 / 129,274
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)575,000 / 260,816685,500 / 310,938
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)10,000 / 37.8815,000 / 56.82
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / Liters/MT)16 / 1516 / 15
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)92 / 4695 / 47.50
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)70 / 177870 / 1778
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)250 / 17.20250 / 17.20
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)25" x 30" / 635x76225" x 30" / 635x762
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)56,920 / 25818.5156,920 / 25818.51
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 3.87 4.01
Heating Ability
Tubes (number - dia) (in / mm)49 - 2.25" / 5749 - 2.25" / 57
Flues (number - dia) (in / mm)169 - 3.5" / 89169 - 3.5" / 89
Flue/Tube length (ft / m)20.50 / 6.2520.50 / 6.25
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)444 / 41.26454 / 42.19
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)77.30 / 7.1877.30 / 7.18
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)4193 / 389.684203 / 390.61
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)1782 / 165.611782 / 165.61
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)5975 / 555.295985 / 556.22
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume246.07246.65
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation19,32519,325
Same as above plus superheater percentage25,12325,123
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area144,300147,550
Power L138,42838,531
Power MT1540.351490.28

  • 576 Notice the wartime shroud covering the headlight. (photo courtesy Eric Lauterbach)
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Wes Barris