The Norfolk and Western Railway was a coal-hauling line of modest extent, with most of its trackage in three states: Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio. Yet among railfans and modelers, the N&W has achieved recognition far out of proportion to its size. One reason was the N&W's loyalty to steam. Modern reproductions aside, the last steam locomotives made in the United States were built in the N&W's Roanoke shops, and as late as 1955 there was not a single diesel on the property.
A second reason is what N&W fans call the "holy trinity of steam": Classes J, Y6, and A, arguably three of the finest steamers ever made. The Class A 2-6-6-4 was perhaps as close to a perfect all-around locomotive as was ever built. Smooth, fast, and powerful, the A was a greyhound that could race a heavy passenger train along at 70 mph or hustle 200 loaded hoppers over level track. The 43 Class A engines built from 1936-50, along with contemporaries like the UP Challenger and C&O Greenbrier, were the tail end of the "super-power" era of steam technology, in which the external combustion engine was refined to its finest form. After the A and its contemporaries came only futile attempts to stop the onslaught of the diesel.
The Class A returns to the Premier line in 2015, offered for the first time with Proto-Sound 3.0 and featuring additional detailing and upgraded sounds - and ready to haul your longest freight or passenger consists.