Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 763

Builder:Lima Locomotive Works – Lima, Ohio
Built:August 1944
Serial Number:#8671
Wheel Arrangement:2-8-4 Berkshire
Driver Diameter:69″
Cylinder Bore x Stroke:25″ x 34″
Boiler Pressure:245 psi
Pulling Power:64,100 lbs. tractive effort
Engine Weight:220 tons
Tender Weight:180 tons
Capacity:Coal – 22 tons; Water – 22,000 gallons

One of the famed 2-8-4 Berkshire-type locomotives of the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (better known as the “Nickel Plate Road”), No. 763 was constructed in August 1944 by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio. The NKP was a bridge route between Chicago and Buffalo, and made its money by providing high-speed, reliable freight service between these two cities. To ensure the NKP’s heavy trains arrived on-time against tight schedules, the NKP employed 80 of the fast, powerful Berkshires. Designed to run comfortably at 70 mph across the entire railroad, the “Berks” were finely-tuned machines that performed exactly as intended. No. 763 enjoyed a reputation as one of the best running of the NKP 2-8-4’s.

NKP and its Berks laughed demonstration diesel locomotives from EMD off the property – twice – and continued pulling freight trains until June 1958 when the realities of dwindling parts supplies and escalating labor costs finally ushered in the more efficient diesels. Most of NKP Berks were kept until official retirement in August of 1960 when they began being towed to scrap yards. Six were preserved, with No. 763 eventually being put on display in Roanoke, Virginia by NKP’s new corporate parent, the Norfolk and Western Railway.

Ten years later, No. 763 was moved to New Jersey for inspection and possible overhaul as power for the American Freedom Train, which at that time was proposed to be pulled by double-headed NKP Berks No. 763 and No. 755. However, that plan did not work out, so the engine headed back to Roanoke. The park exhibits were later transferred across town to the covered display tracks of the new Virginia Museum of Transportation, which displayed the 2-8-4 alongside N&W’s own steam locomotives.

Jerry Jacobson purchased No. 763 in 2007, and the locomotive made the trip from Roanoke home to Ohio on its own wheels in a special Norfolk Southern train. Today, this beautiful Berkshire sits in the Age of Steam Roundhouse and highlights one of the most famous classes of American steam power.

A sister locomotive, No. 765, is operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society in Indiana.