Powhatan Arrow

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Powhatan Arrow
Powhatan Arrow postcard.jpg
A postcard photo of the Powhatan Arrow
First service 1946
Last service 1969
Former operator(s) Norfolk and Western Railway
Start Norfolk, Virginia
End Cincinnati, Ohio
Train number(s) 25/26

The Powhatan Arrow was one of the named passenger trains of the Norfolk and Western. Its route ran from Norfolk, Virginia, to Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

Train 25 leaves Norfolk at 7:00 am,[1] and made the 565 mile run to Portsmouth, Ohio, in 12 hours 50 minutes. The remaining 111.6 miles to Cincinnati took nearly 3 hours as the train performed all the local work on that stretch of line.[2]

In the reverse direction, Train 26 left Cincinnati at 8:10 am[2] and Portsmouth at 11:10, arriving in Norfolk at 11:55 pm.[1]

The motive power for the Powhatan Arrow was built by the Roanoke Shops of Norfolk and Western located in Roanoke, Virginia. The train was given its name from a name submission contest offered by Norfolk and Western, the winner of which was Mr. Leonard Allen Scott of Dry Branch, Virginia. His entry (among over 140,000) was sent out in the last sack of mail picked up by the mail train in Parrott the day of the deadline for postmarks. The Arrow made its maiden run on April 28, 1946, and quickly became one of the most popular of Norfolk and Western's passenger trains. It and its J-class powered companions traveled approximately 15,000 miles per month and may have traveled nearly three million miles in its lifetime.[3]

Background and class history[edit]

Among the most famous steam power of the N&W were the Class "J" 4-8-4 steam locomotives. They were the pride of the N&W, pulling crack passenger trains such as the Cavalier, the Pocahontas and the Powhatan Arrow, as well as ferrying the Southern Railway's Tennessean and Pelican between Monroe, Virginia, and Bristol, Tennessee. On a test on the Pennsylvania Railroad, a "J" achieved 110 mph with a ten car, 1050-ton train along one section of flat, straight track in Pennsylvania. This was remarkable performance for a 70-inch drivered reciprocating steam locomotive. But, the only time the "J"s were able to do anything like that on N&W rails was on the Eastern portion of the line, between Petersburg and Norfolk. The average speed of the Arrow between Norfolk and Cincinnati, with much of the route through the mountains, was only about 43 mph. The "J"s were numbered from 600 through 613, and were built in three groups from 1941 to 1950, and the only surviving member of this famous class of locomotives is 611, currently operational.

In April 1946, the N&W ordered sufficient passenger cars to re-equip the Powhattan Arrow completely and the Pocohontas partially. The consist for the new Powhattan Arrow included two 48-seat coaches with crew room (P1 class, #501 and #502), two 66-seat divided coaches (P2 class, #511 and #512), ten 56-seat coaches (P3 class #531–540), four 36-seat dining cars (D1 class, #491–494) and two lounge-tavern-observation cars (P4 class, #581 and #582). Some of the P3 and two of the D1 cars were for the Pocohantas.

The cars were delivered by Pullman-Standard in 1949 thus allowing the Arrow to be one of the first post-war streamliners inaugurated.[citation needed] They were smooth-sided and delivered in Tuscan red and black. Of the ten P3 cars, seven may still be in some type of operation. Several of these cars were used in the Norfolk Southern Steam Program. According to surviving drawings, the N&W streamlined/lightweight trains were originally supposed to be painted as follows: sides, ends and skirts "Tuscan red", roofs "dark brown" with trucks "Pullman green", and lettering/striping "gold leaf".

During the early 1950s the lettering and striping was changed to imitation (Dulux) gold, while the roofs and trucks were repainted black. The heavyweight cars were painted the same as before but did not carry train name logos or striping.[4] After absorbing the Wabash Railroad by merger, the N&W "officially" adopted blue and yellow as passenger colors at the end of 1965. The repaints were not all done right away.[5]

The Powhattan Arrow made its last run in 1969, two years before the end of all N&W passenger train service.

Remaining cars[edit]

P1 Class #501-#502[edit]


Refurbished interior at Roanoke Shops 1982. Renumbered NS 28 on December 20, 1984[6]


Sold to Amtrak October 19, 1971. No further information.[6]

P2 Class #511-#512[edit]


Sold to Ontario Northland Railway, October 19, 1971.[6] Reported as ONT 840.[7] ONT 840 (EX N&W 511) listed as retired.[8]


512 is in operation and is used for events at Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke but is owned by the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society

P3 Class #531-#540[edit]


Converted in 1982 at Roanoke Shops for excursion service; no air conditioning; installed raise window sash. 1991 sold. Donated in 1973 to Cass Scenic Railroad, Atlanta, Georgia.[6]


Sold to Ontario Northland Ry October 19, 1971[6] Renumbered ONT 841.[7] Listed as in service.[8]


Refurbished interior at Roanoke Shops, 1982. Renumbered NS 29 by December 20, 1984.[6]


Renumbered 1010 at Roanoke Shops October 3, 1975 for Chicago Commuter Service; sold to Cycle Systems, Lynchburg, Virginia, by 1993.[6] Car is now privately owned and undergoing extensive restoration.[citation needed]


Sold to Ontario Northland Railway October 19, 1971.[6] Renumbered ONT 842.[7] In service.[8]


Converted 1982 at Roanoke Shops for excursion service; no air conditioning; installed raise window sash. Sold February 28, 1995 to Great Smokey Mountain RR.[6]


Renumbered 1009 at Roanoke Shops February 13, 1975 for Chicago Commuter Service; 1980 donated to Roanoke Chapter, NRHS.[6] Is kept in operation by the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.


Donated to Roanoke Chapter, NRHS, October 24, 1984.[6] Awaiting Restoration by the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.


Converted 1982 at Roanoke Shops for excursion service; no air conditioning; installed raise window sash. Donated to Watauga Valley NRHS, Johnson City, TN 4-91. 539 is owned by the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. It has been refurbished and updated to Amtrak standards and has been used for many railroad excursions over the past several years.


Converted 1982 at Roanoke Shops for excursion service; no air conditioning; installed raise window sash. Sold February 28, 1995 to Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, Cumberland, Maryland.[6]

D1 Class #491-#494[edit]

Dining Car #492 is in service with the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway, N.H. It is one of the feature cars of the railroad's "Notch Train", which operates through the historic Crawford Notch on a segment of the former Maine Central Railroad Mountain Division.

Dining Cars #493 and #494 are in service as part of the office car fleet of Norfolk Southern Corp.


The Powhattan Arrow experienced at least one wreck in its career when the train went off-track in August 1947, killing two people. [9]


  1. ^ a b N&W October 27, 1957 Timetable, p. 14
  2. ^ a b N&W October 27, 1957 Timetable, p. 15
  3. ^ The Virginia Museum of Transportation. "The Virginia Museum of Transportation, Inc.". Archived from the original on May 21, 2007. Retrieved June 5, 2007. 
  4. ^ McCall, C. A. "Norfolk & Western Railway Company". Retrieved November 3, 2006. 
  5. ^ "N&W Passenger Cars". Bachmann Forum. Retrieved November 3, 2006. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Steel Car Roster
  7. ^ a b c http://passcarphotos.info/Indices/ONT1.htm
  8. ^ a b c http://cptdb.ca/wiki/index.php?title=Ontario_Northland
  9. ^ "Norfolk and Western Historical Society Vol 7 No 2". 


  • Jeffries, Lewis. Norfolk and Western – Giant of Steam.
  • Prince, William. Norfolk and Western – Pocahontas Coal Carrier.
  • Warden, William E. (1990). Norfolk and Western Passenger Service, 1946–1971. Lynchburg, Virginia: TLC Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-9622003-3-6. LCCN 00130198. 
  • Norfolk and Western Railway, (October 27, 1957). Passenger Timetable, Table 1 p. 6, Table 11 pp. 14–15.
  • McGonigal, Robert S. (2016). Great Trains East. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing.