N&W Y6a to return to St. Louis after five years in Virginia

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Norfolk & Western Y6a No. 2156 will return to the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis after five years in Virginia. It is at left in this May 2015 view of the reunion of N&W's Y, J, and A classes in Roanoke, Va.
TRAINS: Jim Wrinn
After spending the past half-decade in Virginia, former Norfolk and Western Y6a steam locomotive No. 2156 will soon return home to St. Louis.

Coby Ellison, curator at the National Transportation Museum, says the 2156 is being prepped for shipment back to Missouri after being on loan to the Virginia Museum of Transportation since 2015. Officials at the Virginia museum said in January that discussions were being held to potentially extend the five-year loan/lease of the 2156, but Ellison has confirmed that the locomotive will be returned in the near future.

Ellison says there currently is no timeline for the locomotive’s return. He says the National Transportation Museum is currently closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the restrictions associated with the pandemic have made the timeline for the return of 2156 uncertain. He says he hopes the museum will open by June 1, but it remains uncertain if the locomotive will be returned by that date. “We’re just excited to bring it back,” Ellison says.

The 2156 was leased to the Virginia Museum of Transportation by the St. Louis museum in May 2015 in exchange for the Virginia museum’s EMD FTB demonstrator diesel. The steam locomotive was pulled dead in tow across Norfolk Southern trackage to Roanoke, arriving in time for the return of famed Class J steamer N&W No. 611 to operation in late May 2015.

Built in 1942 in Roanoke and retired in 1959, the 2156 is one of only two N&W 2-8-8-2s that survive. The arrival in Roanoke of the Y6a in 2015 marked the reunion of N&W Class J No. 611, the 2156 and N&W Class A No. 1218, the first such reunion of N&W’s three famed locomotive types built in Roanoke in more than a half-century.

Will Harris, a board member and former Virginia Museum of Transportation president, says the museum made an attempt to keep the 2156 in Roanoke. “We made a substantial offer to purchase it and included some exchange, but we just weren’t able to come to an agreement,” he says. “They couldn’t have been any nicer to work with. Hopefully, in the the future, we can work out another exchange and possibly have it back here again alongside its two sisters.”

Harris said the 2156’s visit to Roanoke would not have been possible without the assistance of Norfolk Southern and former NS CEO Wick Moorman. He also said Bob Saxton with NS helped make the project possible.

Ellison says the 2156 will again be shipped via Norfolk Southern, and the Virginia museum’s FTB diesel will also be shipped back to Roanoke. Harris says the 2156 will be prepped for shipment at the Norfolk Southern Schaffer’s Crossing shops. He says the locomotive’s connecting robs will be removed from its drivers, and greasing and inspection will then be performed prior to shipment.
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