On November 21, 1926 the Norfolk & Western added a new passenger train to its conservative fleet; dubbed the Pocahontas (or Pokey for short) the train, then the railroad's primary nighttime run between Norfolk and Cincinnati, replaced an earlier named consist called the Norfolk-Chicago Express
(the train's numbers for the train renamed the
same, #3 [westbound] and #4 [eastbound]). The N&W
promoted the Pokey as "...a new fast train connecting the Midwest with
the Carolinas and the Atlantic Coast." While the railroad typically kept
a low-key approach with its passenger services it did make a bit of
public splash over its inauguration, holding a contest to find the appropriate name for the train (it would do the same thing 20 years later when inaugurating the Powhatan Arrow).
A History Of The Norfolk & Western
Other Norfolk & Western Trains And Services
Birmingham Special: Operated between New York and Birmingham, Alabama in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad and Southern Railway with the N&W carrying it between Lynchburg and Bristol.
Pelican: Operated between New York and New Orleans in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad and Southern Railway with the N&W carrying it between Lynchburg and Bristol.
Powhatan Arrow: (Norfolk - Cincinnati)
Tennessean: Operated between New York and Memphis in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad and Southern Railway with the N&W carrying it between Lynchburg and Bristol.
As might be expected the Pocahontas featured standard heavyweight equipment of the era with power provided by K Class 4-8-2 Mountains (in later years, some of these locomotives, notably the K-2's, featured elegant, semi-streamlining like the legendary Js.). The early version of the train offered relatively familiar amenities of the day such as sleepers, diners (which offered classic Southern fried cooking), parlors, and standard coach service. As an added touch the rear heavyweight observation featured a brass railing with its rear porch overhang. Finally, with through Pullman service offered passengers had the option of reaching such far away destinations as Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit (before the N&W came to serve these cities directly in later years by acquiring such roads as the Wabash and Nickel Plate).
In 1946 the status of the Pocahontas was bumped a bit when the Norfolk & Western launched its first brand new streamliner, the daylight run of the Powhatan Arrow, using new equipment it had already ordered in 1941 before the start of World War II. In 1949 the Powhatan
was further upgraded when it received even more new streamlined
equipment from Pullman-Standard allowing the "hand-me-downs" to be transferred to the Pocahontas. Initially, this older streamlined equipment
did not allow the train to achieve full status as a streamliner.
However, that changed after 1950 when the N&W completed its order of new sleepers from
Pullman, allowing the Pokey to operate with complete sets of streamlined cars.
(The below Pocahontas timetable from the Official Guide is dated effective December 15, 1969.)
|Read Down Time/Leave (Train #3)
Time/Arrive (Train #4)
|2:40 PM (Dp)||0.0||Norfolk, VA||5:10 PM (Ar)|
|3:15 PM||25.2||Suffolk, VA||4:23 PM|
|3:40 PM||54.2||Wakefield, VA||3:56 PM|
|3:46 PM||61.7||Waverly, VA||3:49 PM|
|4:10 PM (Ar)||84.2||Petersburg, VA (Fort Lee)||3:25 PM (Dp)|
|4:25 PM (Dp)||84.2||Petersburg, VA (Fort Lee)||3:00 PM (Ar)|
|5:03 PM||121.5||Blackstone, VA (Camp Pickett)||2:16 PM|
|5:25 PM||132.1||Crewe, VA||2:05 PM|
|5:52 PM||153.4||Farmville, VA||1:30 PM|
|6:11 PM||170.5||Pamplin, VA||1:05 PM|
|6:21 PM||181.4||Appomattox, VA||12:55 PM|
|6:55 PM (Ar)||205.6||Lynchburg, VA||12:25 PM (Dp)|
|7:05 PM (Dp)||205.6||Lynchburg, VA||12:10 PM (Ar)|
|7:30 PM||227.5||Bedford, VA||11:45 AM|
|8:10 PM (Ar)||255.6||Roanoke, VA||11:10 AM (Dp)|
|8:35 PM (Dp)||255.6||Roanoke, VA||10:35 AM (Ar)|
|9:20 PM||288.2||Christiansburg, VA||9:41 AM|
|F 10:10 PM||323.9||Pearisburg, VA||F 8:46 AM|
|F 10:15 PM||327.2||Narrows, VA||F 8:42 AM|
|11:15 PM (Ar)||356.5||Bluefield, WV||7:55 AM (Dp)|
|11:30 PM (Dp)||356.5||Bluefield, WV||7:40 AM (Ar)|
|12:04 AM||378.6||North Fork, WV||6:46 AM|
|12:28 AM||390.7||Welch, WV||6:28 AM|
|409.0||Iaeger, WV||6:00 AM|
|2:10 AM (Ar)||456.1||Williamson, WV||4:55 AM (Dp)|
|2:15 AM (Dp)||456.1||Williamson, WV||4:50 AM (Ar)|
|3:53 AM||529.1||Kenova, WV||3:01 AM|
|4:12 AM||541.1||Ironton, OH||2:41 AM|
|4:45 AM (Ar)||568.3||Portsmouth, OH||2:05 AM (Dp)|
|5:00 AM (Dp)||568.3||Portsmouth, OH||1:50 AM (Ar)|
|5:42 AM||602.6||Peebles, OH||1:08 AM|
|6:02 AM||617.3||Winchester, OH|
|F 6:14 AM||626.8||Sardinia, OH||F 12:39 AM|
|7:35 AM (Ar)||679.9||Cincinnati, OH (Union Terminal)||11:25 PM (Dp)|
Just as with the Powhatan, the Pokey began using
the N&W's legendary semi-streamlined J Class 4-8-4s after 1941, which replaced the fleet of Class K 4-8-2s. The Js
remained primary power for the two flagship
trains until the N&W finally upgraded to Electro-Motive's GP9s for
passenger service in 1958. Interestingly, unlike most lines, which used
streamlined diesels (such as Electro-Motive's E series) for their
passenger trains the N&W never owned
a single example (this can be explained by the fact that it continued
operating steam locomotives until the late 1950s). For many years both
flagship runs sported the railroad's
classic passenger livery of Tuscon red and black with Gold Leaf trim.
However, this changed somewhat in the early 1950s when the N&W
attempted to reduce costs by switching to an imitation gold paint. For more information and history about the N&W's passenger services please click here.
it turns out, the railroad was one of just a very few
lines to completely scrap its original passenger livery for an entirely
different look (the Great Northern was another). After the mid-1960s, under new ownership the railroad
switched to a deep blue and gold livery powered by matching GP9s.
This scheme remained through the end of the railroad's time as a
passenger carrier. Interestingly, the Pocahontas actually became
the N&W's flagship train for the last few years until Amtrak took
over intercity operations. On May 23, 1969 the Powhatan was discontinued leaving the Pokey as the last remaining named train on the system (actually, the Interstate Commerce Commission required the railroad to at least maintain one intercity train). It thus acquired the Powhatan's former equipment including Vista-Domes and streamlined diners. The Pokey made its final run on April 30, 1971.
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