N & W

A collection of information and personal research

The Fate of the 1218

On May 8, 1997, Steve Lee, manager of the Union Pacific steam program, wrote to the RAILROAD list about the Norfolk Southern steam auction earlier that spring. The auction was held to empty the NS steam shop at Birmingham, Alabama, following the termination of the excursion program operated for 25 years by NS and its predecessors.

Lee also commented on the state of the 1218. His comments are posted here, with his permission, to provide a professional perspective on what happened to the A.

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I saw the engine in the shop during the auction and got a good look at it. The work that was in progress at the time was primarily firebox work that was needed at the time the engine was restored but wasn't completed at that time because of budget and time constraints. This consisted of new partial side sheets in the firebox, a new door sheet, most of a new mudring, and some new side sheet sections at the mudring. This was in addition to replacement of flues, tubes and superheaters and some appliance work that was normal maintenance, not left over from the restoration. When I saw the engine, the new sheets had been rolled and the staybolt holes punched, and were tackwelded in place in the firebox. The ashpans, grates and grate bearers were out, of course, as were the flues, tubes and superheaters. As I said, the sheets were only tackwelded in place. There was still a great deal of work to do in finish welding the sheets, riveting the mudring, and making and driving several hundred staybolts. None of this work was fully completed; the grates, grate bearers and ashpans were put back in for appearance by Scott Lindsey and his crew.

NS's entire stock of flues, tubes, and superheater material was sold; most of it went to scrappers because it was odd-sized and not of use on any locomotives now running or under restoration. Some of the appliances (injector, air pumps, lubricators, water pump, dynamo, etc) now on the engine are shells, put back on for appearance only. The appliances that had been rebuilt brought a much higher price at the auction than would empty shells, of course, and no one at the auction could stand the thought of fully-rebuilt appliances being put on a locomotive that probably won't run again for many years, if at all.

As noted, N&W used a lot of odd-sized stuff, including odd-sized staybolts and odd-sized flues and superheater units. Because these things weren't adaptable to any other locomotives out there now, the scrappers got it all. Of course, this stuff can be made new again from scratch.

IMHO, NS could have simply scrapped the 1218 and all the machines, parts, tools and supplies at the end of the program. Instead, they spent some money putting 1218 back together, and made the other stuff available to other users. Contrary to popular belief, they did not make much, if any, money on the auction sale when all things are considered, and much of that stuff is being used all over the country now to keep other engines going and even to help in some restorations. AFAIK, no one has ever given them any credit for that.

Steve Lee