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Lima, Ohio

How the Nickel Plate Road 779 came to be the last locomotive from the Lima Locomotive Works

As told to Scott Trostel by former LLW employee Bob Keller July 1993, at LLW during a plant tour conducted by Bob Keller.

When it was determined all steam locomotive production would end at the Lima Locomotive Works, there were two orders on the books, one for ten 2-8-4's for the Nickel Plate Road, Numbers 770-779 (CO 1209) and a second group of 22  2-8-4's for the Louisville & Nashville Railway, Numbers 1970-1991 (CO 1208). The  L & N order was placed during May, 1948. The Nickel Plate order was approved by their Board on June 17th and the order was placed with Lima on July 16, 1948.

Builders records show the delivery sequence was as follows:

L&N 1970 Ja.nuary 14, 1949
L&N 1971 January 18, 1949
L&N 1972 January 21, 1949
L&N 1973 January 27, 1949
L&N 1974 February 4, 1949
L&N 1975 February 10, 1949
L&N 1976 February 17, 1949
L&N 1977 February 23, 1949
L&N 1978 February 25, 1949
NKP 770 March 14, 1949
NKP 771 March 18, 1949
L&N 1979 March 18, 1949
NKP 772 March 24, 1949
NKP 773 March 25, 1949
L&N 1980 March 28, 1949
L&N 1981 March 29, 1949
L&N 1982 March 31, 1949
L&N 1983 April 4, 1949
L&N 1984 April 8, 1949
L&N 1985 April 13, 1949
L&N 1986 April 15, 1949
L&N 1987 April 19, 1949
L&N 1988 April 21, 1949
NKP 774 April 26, 1949
L&N 1989 April 28, 1949
NKP 775 May 4, 1949
L&N 1990 May 5, 1949
NKP 777 May 9, 1949
NKP 776 May 10, 1949
L&N 1991 May 11, 1949
NKP 778 May 11, 1949
NKP 779 May 13, 1949 Friday

There had been some discussion among the two railroads and LLW managers as to  who would get the last steam locomotive, and it was agreed that it would be the Louisville & Nashville.

Production commenced and as the pages turned from December, 1948 to January, 1949, the first four of the final 32 Berkshire locomotives came together on the erecting shop floor. The first four, L & N 1970-1973 were rolled out in January, 1949.

Someone goofed in the machine shop!

The NKP 779 and L & N 1991 were sitting side by side in the erecting shop  undergoing final assembly. As the various locomotive components were completed,  department crews were either laid-off or reassigned to the crane production.  Many of the men involved in the early phases of production, such as the hammer  smiths had finished their work weeks earlier and the crews were laid-off. Rod  machining had been completed on the blanks and many of those men were also gone.  By early May the last of the two orders were sitting on the assembly tracks in  an increasingly empty erecting shop. The finished drive rods were delivered to  the assembly gang and applied to the locomotives, but one main rod came up  missing for the NKP 779. A look around the buildings at first revealed nothing.  Some decisions had to be made. The L & N 1991 had all of its rods, thus the focus was turned to completing final assembly and it would be readied for shipment while the mystery of the lost rod was explored. All the while the NKP 779 was sitting by, awaiting the errant rod. A second look for the rod found it  in the scrap bid, hidden from sight, and with obvious defects caused during machining. This produced a real dilemma for the assembly gang.

While the 779 drive rod situation was being addressed, the L & N 1991 was  completed. Records indicate it was finished on May 4, with the usual live tests and final paperwork, such as the creation of the Form 4 and the acceptance being completed by the shipping date of May 11, 1949. The locomotive left the south  gate of the plant, rolling onto the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for the trip to Cincinnati where it would be delivered to the L & N. The NKP 779 sat alone in the empty erecting shop awaiting a single drive rod.

A single bloom of alloy steel was pulled from the raw stock inventory, and a hammer crew recalled from lay-off just to hammer out the blank shape. The big  hammer and a soaking furnace was readied. In a few days the long familiar thump  of the hammer shop was heard one last time in South Lima. The hammer smiths demonstrated the fine art of sculpting red hot steel one last time as the hot bloom was blanked out, one thump at a time. The completed rod blank was taken to the heat-treat furnace by itself to be normalized. Machinists were called over to the rod shop to transform the blank into a finished rod. At last the completed rod was delivered to the erecting shop.

On Friday morning, May 13, 1949 at 9:40 AM Nickel Plate Road Number  779 steamed through the gates of the Lima Locomotive Works at South Lima and was turned over to the NKP roundhouse foreman. It was readied for its first revenue  run, departing South Lima at noon with 2nd 90 to Bellevue, Ohio. The golden age of steam Super Power builder, Lima Locomotive Works had ended without any fanfare. Later that day the new Lima diesel electric was presented for public viewing, not a mention was ever made that just hours earlier the last steam  locomotive had steamed off the property.

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