The N&W hoped to combine the electric drive of the diesel with the proven power of steam, and so placed an order in 1954 to Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton and marine boilermaker Babcock & Wilcox (which supplied a marine-type water tube boiler) to design a 4,500/5,000 horsepower steam turbine locomotive. What the builders came up with was a C-C-C-C design (which sat on traditional trucks) that looked similar to the C&O design but weighed less (818,000 pounds) and was somewhat shorter. The locomotive, listed as Class TE1 and numbered 2300, could produce 600 psi (more than twice the pressure of a standard steam locomotive), and was given the designation Jawn Henry by crewmen (the famous African American
worker who defeated a steam drill and died during his efforts), a name which stuck. The turbine's tractive effort far surpassed the N&W's Class A and Y workhorses at 175,000 pounds starting and 144,000 pounds at 9 mph.
It also offered superior fuel savings over the Class Y up to operations of 12 mph and Baldwin believed that in standard road service the Jawn Henry would offer a savings of 50%. Unfortunately, this wasn't quite the case. Above 12 mph and in relatively flat country the Class As, for instance, could handle trains about 15% faster than the Henry due to its low drawbar rating of 4,000 horsepower. Other issues were also piling up on #2300; the locomotive was far more expensive to build than either a traditional steam or diesel model (although Baldwin stated that as other units were mass produced the cost would decline), the controls were complex and difficult to master, at 161 feet it was far longer than either the As or Ys (by more than 50 feet), it did not fit on any of the N&W's turntables, electrical equipment was regularly fouled by coal dust and fly ash, and the turbine could be touchy and troublesome in service if an engineer coupled onto a train with too much speed.
Due to these issues and others, the N&W quickly learned that the Jawn Henry could not be trusted on the head-end of merchandise freights or coal drags and thus was relegated to helper service most of the time along the main line between Roanoke, Virginia and Bluefield, West Virginia. For railfans hoping to see the steam turbine effectively compete against the diesel the locomotive was not quite what they expected; the Jawn Henry did not offer the thrilling and thunderous performance of a Class A or Y, for instance. Instead, it produced a "whoosh!" sound, not unlike a jet engine of today. Despite the N&W's attempts it was becoming obvious that the diesel was the future; parts for steam locomotives were becoming harder (and more expensive) to purchase and the associated costs of personnel and facilities made it hard for the company to justify continuing is policy of steam.
Finally, in 1955 the railroad placed an order for GP9s (a model which would eventually number more than 300 on its roster by 1959) from Electro-Motive and eight RS3s from Alco (numbered 300-307). From that point the railroad continued to order diesels throughout the '50s and into the 1960s. For the Jawn Henry the N&W rostered the locomotive for a few more years before she was sent to the scrapper in 1958 (by that date even Baldwin had exited the locomotive manufacturing business). Today, the Henry and the other turbines built during the early diesel era are only a memory, an interesting time in the industry when steam tried to hang on one last time.
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