Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 in motion: The chiseled good looks of a Greek god

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Sunday, September 23, 2018

There was a time, friends, when I was a mere lad. As a mere lad I had model trains before I had a good camera and a driver’s license with which to chase real trains. They were Lionel and HO, and they were good. So, I did things that model railroaders do and I exchanged printed passes to my imaginary basement short line with other modelers who did the same. And when I did, I soon learned that the profile of a Nickel Plate Road Berkshire is an icon that is not only held in great revere not only by those who swear by the afore mentioned railroad company. The likeness of a Nickel Plate Road Berkshire is a sacred thing to many as I saw on rubber stamps that adored envelopes bearing passes to imaginary railroads far and wide. It was on passes themselves. Heck, I even gave in and used it on the rubber stamp I used to dress up my Macon County Railroad’s correspondence. And believe me I had no business being interested in NKP 2-8-4s, having grown up in rural Western North Carolina.

So, for the last three days, I have reveled in the picturesqueness of NKP 765 as it has run up and down the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad multiple times. The more I see this stately locomotive, and bear in mind that I’ve seen it now for going on 35-plus years, it looks more and more like a chiseled Greek god to me; a mobile Mona Lisa with cylinders, drivers, and a smokestack; an old friend whose face always lights up to greet you. Just look at the pictures, and I believe you will agree with me. 

There’s nothing new about NKP 765. She is just steam locomotive good looks. It’s in that face – the slatted pilot, the pump shields, the head light and Mars light combination, the hanging bell, and indicator boards that are well balanced. It’s the right combination of drivers, boiler, valve gear, cab, and firebox, and a tender that doesn’t overpower the engine or look like it should be coupled to something less sophisticated. No. 765, as they say, is the entire package.

Of course, so far, all we’re talking about is looks and appearances. But NKP 765 is one powerful 4,000 hp brute. At Cuyahoga Valley, 15 passenger cars loaded with 800 customers each don’t tax her. She can probably handle twice that number and still never strain on this water-level route. But hook her up just right and she can still put on a show.

A few other random notes before I close for the evening:

·         No. 765 was hardly the only show at Cuyahoga Valley this weekend, where the railroad is celebrating its acquisition of two former California Zephyr domes, Silver Lariat and Silver Solarium. The cars have been in private car service for years, the owners are ready to retire, and at their new home, they’ll see plenty of good use. Maybe even more on a regular basis than before. Perhaps instead of the California Zephyr, it’s the Cuyahoga Zephyr?

·         Security for this weekend’s trips was tight. There was a significant show of police presence, many areas with temporary no parking signs along roads that parallel the tracks, and many temporary barricades and volunteers in safety vests to keep spectators back. If you chase next weekend, plan to be on your best behavior. Given the fatality that happened on Union Pacific 844’s Frontier Days excursion in July, the extra effort for safety is to be expected.  

·          It is good to see steam excursion trains sold out. With 800 seats per trip, hopefully that’s another 2,400 new customers each weekend who know the excitement and thrill of big steam.

Have a great week, and I’ll check back soon with more steam news.





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