Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 763
Builder: Lima Locomotive Works - Lima, OH
Built: August 1944                 
Serial No: #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
Length: 101'
Fuel: Coal
Capacity: Coal - 22 tons; Water - 22,000 gallons
Class: S-2
Status: Non-operational
Steam locomotive Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No.763 was constructed in August 1944 (serial #8671) by the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio.
It was a high-horsepower, high-speed freight hauler to move reefers of perishables (meat, fruits and vegetables) between Chicago and Buffalo. The NKP was a bridge route between these two cities, so tight running schedules had to be kept in order that NKP-hauled freight connected with trains of foreign roads that were ready to depart and continue moving the hotshot consists.
These Berks were used on other NKP routes, but it was the Chicago-Buffalo main line where these “War Babies” earned their keep and gained their reputations.
They laughed EMD diesel demonstrators off the property—twice—and continued pulling 70 mph freight trains until June 1958 when the realities of dwindling parts supplies and escalating labor costs finally conspired to give the nod to more efficient diesel locomotives.
Most of Nickel Plate’s Berks were kept on the property until officially retired in August 1960 when the 2-8-4s began moving dead-in-tow to scrap yards. Four were preserved, and by 1965 just two remained—No.757 in Bellevue and No.763 Conneaut. Thankfully, both went to museums the following year.
During 1966 NKP’s new corporate parent, Norfolk & Western, transferred No.763 to Roanoke, Virginia, for outdoor display at Wasena Park.
Ten years later No.763 was moved to New Jersey for inspection and possible overhaul for use in 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 No.763 headed back to Roanoke.
The park exhibits were transferred across town to the covered display tracks of the Virginia Museum of Transportation, which displayed the 2-8-4 alongside N&W’s finest, home-built steam power.
Years later VMT sold No.763 to Jerry Jacobson of Ohio Central Railroad fame, and during 2007 the wayward No.763 was repatriated to its rightful home in the state of Ohio.
Today, this beautiful Berkshire sits in the Age of Steam Roundhouse, waiting for its turn to be rebuilt in the adjacent back shop and eventual return to service.
A sister locomotive, NKP Berkshire No. 765, out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been overhauled and is operational.