Norfolk And Western Railway's Magnificent Mallets is written by William Warden and released by TLC Publishing of Virginia in the early 1990s. Although the book is not a particularly large book it offers an incredible amount of information and background on the company's large, articulated 2-8-8-2 Class Y steam locomotives found in daily use to pull heavy coal drags and other trains over and through the Appalachian Mountains in western Virginia and southern West Virginia. Throughout the book the author highlights the various details of this locomotive class from its specifications to construction. The N&W was a master builder of steam locomotives and knew precisely how to obtain the most horsepower and tractive effort from each through its Roanoke shop forces located in Virginia. Overall, if you enjoy the history of the N&W and its steam locomotives this is a good piece to have in your collection.
In general, to understand the Norfolk & Western is to realize that it was a breed apart from most large, Class I systems of its day. The N&W was not convinced of the superiority of diesels and continued to design and develop its steam fleet well into the 1950s. No other railroad built such efficient and powerful steamers as the N&W so in many ways it really did have a strong argument against switching to diesels. Not only were these locomotives superbly engineered but their facilities were just as well engineered. For instance, the major yard at Williamson, West Virginia could refuel, clean, and perform light maintenance on the large steamers so fast that they usually were ready to continue their journey eastward or westward in just an hour! In any event, Mr. Warden begins his book with an introduction giving the reader a brief history of what the N&W referred to as its workhorse locomotive.
While many railroads utilized wheel arrangements like the 2-8-2 Mikado and 4-6-2 Pacific as their standard power during the steam era the N&W was quite different rostering large motive power like the 2-8-8-2 (Class Y), 2-6-6-2 (Class Z), and 2-6-6-4 (Class A). You will also learn in this section why the railroad decided to fleet Mallets and where they could typically be found in regular use. From an operations standpoint, the author notes that after the N&W relocated its main line in West Virginia that discontinued the remainder of its electrics in 1950 the Y Class 2-8-8-2s were used throughout the Appalachians. The rest of the introduction looks at other various aspects of the 2-8-8-2s and some of their more notable specifications.