Pocahontas (train)

The Pocahontas was one of the named passenger trains of the Norfolk and Western Railway. It was an overnight train between Norfolk, Virginia, and Cincinnati, Ohio, with a through-car to and from Chicago, Illinois. The Pocahontas ran from November 1926 until May 1971.

Westbound Train 3 left Norfolk at 2:40 p.m. and arrived at Cincinnati at 7:35 a.m., while the eastbound Train 4 left Cincinnati at 11:25 p.m. and arrived back at Norfolk at 5:10 p.m.[1] A connection was made in Portsmouth, Ohio, with the Columbus District passenger trains 33 and 34.[2]

The train carried two 10-roomette-6-double-bedroom sleeping cars from Norfolk to Cincinnati, one of which went through to Chicago on train 71 of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Pocahontas also handled a Winston-Salem to Columbus 10-6 sleeping car that was carried in train 12 from Winston-Salem to Roanoke, train 3 from Roanoke to Portsmouth, and train 33 from Portsmouth to Columbus.[3] All those trains had counterparts operating in the opposite directions.

The most famous power of the Pocahontas was the J steam locomotives. They were the pride of the N&W, pulling crack passenger trains such as The Cavalier, The Powhatan Arrow, and The Pocahontas, as well as ferrying the Southern Railway's Tennessean between Lynchburg, Virginia, and Bristol, Virginia. One test proved that a J could pull 15 cars at 100 m.p.h. along one section of flat, straight track in eastern Virginia. The only surviving unit of the J class is 611.

In April 1946 the N&W ordered sufficient passenger cars to re-equip The Pocohontas partially and The Powhatan Arrow completely. The new cars for The Pocahontas included ten 56-seat coaches (P3 class #531–540), two 36-seat dining cars (D1 class, #493 General William Mahone and #494 Frederick J. Kimball), three 10-roomette-6-double bedroom cars from Pullman-Standard (S2 class), and 20 similar cars from Budd (S1 class). Some of the P3 and two more D1 cars (#491–492) were for The Powhatan Arrow, and the sleeping cars, which were all named after colleges and counties in Virginia, were used on all N&W sleeping-car trains.

The cars were delivered in 1949. They were smooth-sided and were delivered in Tuscan Red and Black; even the stainless-steel Budd cars were painted, and they lacked the usual fluted sides. Of the ten P3 cars, eight may still be in operation. Several of those cars were used in the Norfolk Southern Steam Program.[4] The N&W streamlined/lightweight trains were originally painted as follows: sides, ends, and skirts ("Tuscan Red"), roofs ("Dark Brown"), with Trucks ("Pullman Green") and lettering/striping ("Gold Leaf").

N&W GP9 514 Train 3, The Pocahontas, leaving Norfolk, VA on November 24, 1968 (25345240682)
The Pocahontas leaving Norfolk, VA on November 24, 1968

Around the early 1950s the lettering/striping was changed to imitation gold. The roofs, when repainted in the '50s, changed to black, as were the trucks. The heavyweights were painted the same but did not carry train-name logos or striping.[5] N&W adopted blue at the end of 1965, but the repaints were not all done right away.[6]

May 1, 1971, marked the final run for N&W train 4, the eastbound Pocahontas; it was also N&W's last regularly scheduled passenger train.[7]

The Pocahontas steam streamliner Norfolk and Western
A postcard photo of the Pocahontas
Service typeInter-city rail
First service1926
Last service1971
Former operator(s)Norfolk and Western Railway
StartNorfolk, Virginia
EndCincinnati, Ohio
Distance travelled676.6 miles (1,088.9 km)
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)3/4
On-board services
Sleeping arrangementsOpen sections, compartments and drawing rooms (1949)
Catering facilitiesDining car
Pocahontas drumhead
"Drumhead" logos such as this often adorned the ends of observation cars on the Pocahontas.

Major stops

  • Branch service from Petersburg to Richmond


  1. ^ http://www.american-rails.com/pocahontas.html
  2. ^ Norfolk and Western Railway, October 27, 1957 timetable, p. 14–15
  3. ^ Norfolk and Western Railway, October 27, 1957 timetable, p. 5
  4. ^ www.craterroad.com
  5. ^ Norfolk & Western Railroad Paint Schemes
  6. ^ www.bachmanntrains.com
  7. ^ This Month in History; May(NRHS Rivanna Chapter)
Named trains of the Norfolk and Western Railway

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