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Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, a 4-8-4 locomotive has four leading wheels, eight coupled driving wheels and four trailing wheels.

Other equivalent classifications are:

UIC classification: 2D2 (also known as German classification and Italian classification)

French classification: 242

Turkish classification: 48

Swiss classification: 4/8

The type is sometimes called Northern.

The 4-8-4 was an obvious progression from the 4-8-2 "Mountain" and, like the 2-8-4 "Berkshire" and 4-6-4 "Hudson" types, an example of the "Super Power" concept in steam locomotive design. It combined the stability at speed of the 4-6-4 and 4-8-2 due to the 4-wheel lead truck, the greater adhesive weight of the 2-8-4 and 4-8-2 (leading to greater traction, and allowing a larger, more powerful locomotive) and the larger firebox supported by the 4-wheel trailing truck common to 2-8-4s and 4-6-4s (allowing for freer steaming, particularly at speed).

Development in North America

The 4-8-4 was first used by the Northern Pacific Railway and the type was thereafter named "Northern". Most railroads used this name, but a number adopted different titles, including Confederation (Canadian National), Golden State (Southern Pacific), Niagara (New York Central and NdeM), Pocono (DL&W), Wyoming (Lehigh Valley Railroad), Dixie (NC&StL), Big Apple (Central of Georgia Railway), Greenbrier (Chesapeake and Ohio Railway), Western (D&RGW), Potomac (Western Maryland Railway) while the RF&P gave each of its three classes a separate title: General, Governor and Statesman.

Although locomotives of the 4-8-4 wheel arrangement were used in a number of countries, those developed outside the Americas included various design features which set them apart from North American practice. The United States, Canada and Mexico were the home of the American 4-8-4, and scaled down examples of the type were exported by two American builders for metre gauge lines in Brazil.

The American 4-8-4

The Northern type evolved in the United States soon after the Lima Locomotive Worksmarker introduced the concept of “Lima Super Power” in 1925. The Northern Pacific Railway prototype was built by Alco in 1927 to Super Power principles, with a four-wheel trailing truck to carry the weight of a very large firebox designed to burn low quality lignite coal. But the potential of supporting a firebox with a grate on a four-wheel trailing truck was quickly seen, as given the additional weight of approximately over the two-wheel truck, the four wheel truck could carry an additional engine weight. So the difference of was available for increased boiler capacity, or in other words, the power plant of the locomotive.

The Northern type came at a time when nearly all the important design improvements had been proven, such as the superheater, mechanical stoker, outside valve gear, the Delta trailing truck and the one-piece bed frame of cast steel with integral cylinders, which did so much to advance the application of roller bearings on locomotives since it gave the strength and rigidity to hold them in correct alignment. Indeed, in 1930 the Timken Company used a 4-8-4 with roller bearings an all axles, which they classified Timken 1111, to demonstrate the value of their roller bearings over nearly every main line in the United States. It was subsequently sold to the Northern Pacific Railway.

The stability of the 4-8-4 enabled it to be provided with driving wheels up to diameter for high speed passenger and fast freight operation, and with the latest lateral control devices, the type was flexible on curves. The increased boiler size possible with this type, together with the high axle loads permitted on main lines in North America, led to the design of some massive locomotives, with all up weights exceeding 350 tons.


Most American 4-8-4’s were built by the American Locomotive Company, the Baldwin Locomotive Worksmarker or the Lima Locomotive Works. The large fleet of CNR was built by the Montreal Locomotive Works, and only the CPR, the N&W and Reading Railroad built their own.

Owning railroads

The Northern type was purchased by 36 railroads in the Americas, including 31 railroads in the United States, three in Canada, one in Mexico and two in Brazil. In all, there were less than 1,200 engines of this type, compared with approximately 2,500 Mountain types and 6,800 Pacific types built in the United States. By far the largest fleet was owned by the Canadian National Railway and its subsidiary the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, with 203 engines. Other major owners were the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad with 85, the Southern Pacific Railroad with 74, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway with 65, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad with 56, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad with 53, and the Union Pacific Railroad with 45. The Pennsylvania Railroad did not own any 4-8-4 steam locomotives but, the Pennsy had an electric 4-8-4. This was the PRR R1 electric.

Route availability

The American 4-8-4 was a heavy locomotive, nearly all examples in the United States having axle loads above 30 short tons. On railroads with , axle loads of over 36 short tons were permitted, and exceptionally heavy Northerns were therefore introduced on the AT&SF, C&NW, C&O, MILW, NP, N&W, SP&S and WM. The preserved Spokane, Portland and Seattle 700marker is a surviving example of the three E-1 class, which had the heaviest axle load of all at 37.1 short tons. The lightest Northerns in the United States were the six H-10 class of the Toledo, Peoria & Western with an axle load of 23 short tons.The Canadian and Mexican 4-8-4’s weighed in with axle loads between 27.3 and 31.3 short tons, as main lines in those countries were generally laid with rail.


The 4-8-4 proved itself suitable for both express passenger and fast freight service. It was not suited to heavy drag freight, but faster and lighter trains were well suited to the type.

The AT&SF Northerns were daily rostered to haul the Chief and the Fast Mail between La Junta and Los Angeles, a distance of , and also handled the Grand Canyon Limited between Los Angeles and Wellington, Kansas ( ). From 1942 they ran through from Los Angeles to Kansas City via Amarillo, a distance of , setting a new record for through steam locomotive rosters [50565], but this is understood to have been exceeded by the NP, which rostered a single Northern for the run between St Paul, Minnesota, and Livingston, Montana, on the North Coast Limited. The Niagaras of the NYC also accomplished long runs, handling the 12 daily New York to Chicago passenger trains including The Chicagoan, The Commodore Vanderbilt and The Empire State Express.

Not all railroads favored the type. The Pennsylvania Railroad owned none of the type, instead engineering their own T1 4-4-4-4 "Duplex" locomotives. The Canadian Pacific Railway experimented with Northerns in 1928, building two K-1a class in its Angus shops, numbered 3100 and 3101. As the CPR had main lines built to high standards, they preferred to develop the 4-6-4 Hudson type for passenger work, as it gave adequate power and was cheaper to maintain. For heavy-duty work they adopted ten coupled types. Nevertheless, although CPR’s Northerns were orphans, they proved their worth on Montreal–Toronto overnight passenger trains, and before retirement in 1960 worked freight trains in the prairie provinces.


The AT&SF spent considerable effort in developing their Northerns. The fourteen 3751 class engines introduced in 1928 were a rather conservative design, with driving wheels, and a boiler pressure of . In 1938 these engines were rebuilt with features including new Boxpok driving wheels, increased size of steam passages to and from the cylinders, boiler pressure raised to , and roller bearings on all engine axles. This gave them a maximum drawbar power of at . Engine 3752 was also fitted with Franklin rotary-cam poppet valves, and achieved the very low steam rate of 13.5 lb per indicated horsepower-hour (2.28 mg/J). These engines were permitted to run at , but they have been documented exceeding several times.

The very heavy Northerns of the C&NW were rebuilt in 1940 with lightweight rods, Boxpok driving wheels and roller bearings on all axles, and boiler pressure was raised from . Some years later 24 of them underwent another rebuild which included new nickel–steel frames, new cylinders, pilot beams and air reservoirs, new fireboxes and many other minor improvements. These were reclassified as Class H-1.

In 1945–1947 a conversion was undertaken by the Reading Company. Thirty of their heavy I-10 class 2-8-0s were rebuilt as booster-fitted 4-8-4s with driving wheels, class T1 Nos. 2100–2129. An additional ring was added at the smokebox end of the boiler, increasing the length of the tubes from to , and a much larger smokebox provided with distance of instead of between the tube plate and the chimney centre line. The steam pressure was raised from . Four syphons were fitted, three in the firebox proper, and one in the combustion chamber. A much larger 12-wheeled tender, containing 23.5 tons of coal and of water, and weighing not less than 167 tons loaded, was attached. A new cast steel frame, with the cylinder cast integral, and roller bearings to all carrying wheels, was of course provided. Two of these engines, preserved for hauling special trains, were still in service in 1963.


During their service lives, the Northerns were workhorses that went without much public recognition. But there were a few exceptions. The Southern Pacific class GS-4 were semi-streamlined and given one of the most striking liveries of the steam era. A real flag waver for the SP, they headed the Coast Daylight train between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and caught the eye of Hollywood movie makers. Every episode of the TV series Superman was introduced by a GS-4 as the announcer declared that the hero was “more powerful than a locomotive!”

Southern Pacific #4449, a GS-4, has been restored and survives in operating condition.

The Canadian National U-4a Confederation locomotive was one of few fully streamlined 4-8-4’s, and number 6400 achieved fame in 1939 by heading the Royal Train, and being exhibited at the New York World’s Fair the same year.After the demise of steam however, the Northern has constantly come into the spotlight of publicity, and has been the favoured type to provide main line excursions in the United States. Indeed, UP 844 of the Union Pacific FEF Series is the only steam locomotive of a Class I railroad never to have been retired.

Exports to Latin America

The Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México placed orders with ALCO and Baldwin for 60 Niagaras in 1946 for use on its principal express passenger services on upgraded lines, but the order was reduced to 32 in favour of diesel locomotives. These QR-1 class engines were used mainly on lines north of Mexico Citymarker, and were nicknamed to La Maquina. All were taken out of service in the late 1960s. #3028 survives, although not in operable condition. It is stored on the deadline at the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad in New Hope, Pennsylvaniamarker.

In order to meet the acute locomotive shortages in Brazilmarker post–World War II, 27 scaled down 4-8-4’s were ordered by the Brazilian Departamento Nacional de Estradas de Ferro from ALCO (USA) in 1946, and supplied to the Viação Férrea do Rio Grande do Sul (VFRGS), which then purchased another 15 directly from ALCO in 1947. These locomotives became the 1001 class. From 1956 to 1957, some of these locomotives were sold to Bolivia.The Baldwin Locomotive Works supplied similar metre-gauge 4-8-4’s to the Rede Mineira de Viação (RMV) Nos 601–604, the Rede de Viação Paraná – Santa Catarina (RVPSC), Nos 801–806, and the Noroeste do Brasil (NOB), Nos 621–623.

Builder details:
  • DNEF 1001–1027 4-8-4 (2D2-h2) ALCo-S 73767–73778 / 1945–6 for Rio Grande do Sul.
  • VFRGS 1028–1042 4-8-4 (2D2-h2) ALCo-M 74873–74887 / 1946 meter gauge.
  • All locomotives—cylinder: diameter. Wheel diameter . Grate Evap Super , Ad. Weight 52 tons Engine Weight 98 tons.

The Chapelon-designed 4-8-4’s supplied to Brazil are discussed under "The French 4-8-4" below.


The big wheeled 4-8-4 was at home on heavy passenger trains, and quite capable of speeds over , but freight was the railroad’s bread and butter and in that service the Northern had limitations. On a 4-8-4 adhesive weight was limited to about 60 percent of the engine's weight, not including the dead weight of the tender. Henry Bowen, the chief mechanical engineer of the CPR (1928–1949) recognized this, and after testing the first two K-1a Northerns introduced by his predecessor, he designed a 2-10-4 using the same boiler, or in other words, the same power plant. This T-1a Selkirk locomotive had the same number of axles as the Northern, but the driving wheels were reduced from , and tractive effort increased by 27 percent. In a later variant, Bowen added a booster to the trailing truck, enabling the big Selkirk to exert nearly 50 percent more tractive effort than the K-1a, which was much the same size. A three-unit EMD F3 diesel electric weighing a little less than the total engine and tender of K-1a could produce nearly three times its tractive effort: this won the railroads, and super power steam locomotives a few years old were set aside as quickly as finance allowed.


Most 4-8-4’s were two-cylinder locomotives, but three classes of three cylinder 4-8-4’s were built, one by the Deutsche Reichsbahn, one by the Victorian Railways, and the 242A1 of the SNCF in France, which also had the distinction of being (along with an experimental high pressure locomotive of the New York Central) one of the few compound 4-8-4's. These are described below.

The only four cylinder design was the large and striking duplex locomotive developed by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Pennsylvania Railroad, which used two sets of cylinders in a rigid frame, each set driving two of the four driving axles. The 52 T1 class are classified by the Whyte system as a 4-4-4-4 type, but they had the same number of leading, driving and trailing wheels as a 4-8-4 and are generally compared with other 4-8-4's. Indeed, they were set in competition against the NYC Niagara’s between New York and Chicago, and provided a brief swan song of giant high speed super power steam.

The Russian 4-8-4

Outside North America, the largest fleet of 4-8-4's was the P36 class of the SZD (Sovetskie Zheleznye Dorogi or Soviet Railways), with 251 examples built from 1949 to 1956. As the last Russian standard class steam locomotive, they shared some common components and design attributes with the earlier standard designs, the L class 2-10-0 and LV 2-10-2, plus common attributes with the P34 2-6-6-2 Mallet and P38 2-8-8-4 Mallet. For example, the P36 and LV-classes shared the same feedwater heater made by the Bryanskmarker machine factory. They were the only semi-streamlined steam locomotives built in Russia, although a trio of fully streamlined 4-6-4 locomotives were built. They were one of the best classes of passenger steam locomotives built in Soviet Unionmarker. They had boilers of 243.2 m2, worked on 15 kgf/cm2 (1.5 MPa) boiler pressure. Russian-designed roller bearings were fitted throughout, and the boilers were designed to provide continuous steaming capacity of 57 kg for each square meter of heating surface on boiler. The 1850 mm driving wheels could easily provide speeds up to 125 km/h and the 575 × 800 mm cylinders proved to be satisfactory with passenger train up to 800 tons.

Class P36 appeared at first on the Oktyabrskaya Railway to haul principal express trains between Moscowmarker and Leningradmarker. But they were very short lived on this 650 km main line. The diesels took over after only a couple of years and the P36 locomotives were transferred to other railways. At first they worked on Moscow–Kurskmarker, Moscow–Ryazanmarker, Kalinin, October, Krasnoyarskmarker, Belorussian, Stalin (Melitopolmarker depot), Kuibyshev, and Northern (Alexandrov depot) Railways.

Later, when the electrification and dieselization expanded, many of the class P36 locomotives were transferred to work on Lvovmarker, Far East, Eastern Siberiamarker, and Transbaikalmarker Railways. The last were withdrawn in 1974 from regular scheduled express passenger train service. All were stored in full working order for times of extraordinary demand. It was common that at certain intervals the engines were taken out from store, steamed up and coupled to trains to haul them to test the condition of the locomotives. Only in the late 1980s were these "strategic reserves" of locomotives disbanded and the P36 locomotives were distributed for museums and for preservation. Some, without regular use for more than 15 years, which were in the worst mechanical condition, were scrapped. It was found that the roller bearings suffered most by standing unused. When the computerised new class numbers were introduced by MPS class P36 become class 1000.001 -1000.0251 with a control digit. In the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number were sold to private train operators.

Builder details:
  • P36-0001 Kolomna Locomotive Works 9000 / 1949 (prototype)
  • P36-0002–P36-0005 Kolomna Locomotive Works ? – ? / 1953
  • P36-0006 Kolomna Locomotive Works ? / 1954
  • P36-0007–P36-0036 Kolomna Locomotive Works 10182–10201 / 1954
  • P36-0037–P36-0161 Kolomna Locomotive Works 10205–10330 / 1955
  • P36-0162–P36-0251 Kolomna Locomotive Works 10331–10420 / 1956

The South African 4-8-4

The South African Railways introduced the first of 140 Class 25 4-8-4's in 1953, at a time when American railroads were replacing the type with diesel-electric locomotives. These powerful engines were incorporated any aspects of American 4-8-4 locomotive design, scaled down for narrow gauge operation. A novel feature of many of these locomotives was the use of enormous condensing tenders, designed to save water in arid areas by converting exhaust steam back to water. The condensing tenders were so big that Henschel provided own works numbers for the tenders it built.
  • Henschel 28780 - 28839 / 1953

Originally, when placed into service the class 25 with condensing tenders worked through Great Karroo from Beaufort Westmarker to De Aarmarker and the non-condensing locomotives, class 25NC, north of De Aar to Kimberleymarker and to Welverdiend near Johannesburgmarker. These locomotives nearly monopolised the service between 485 km Kimberley and Beafort West including named express trains such as Blue Train, Orange Express and Drakensberg.This line has always been a busy one in South Africa. Up to 60 trains per day occupied the rails. The 25 class locomotives become known as Silent Suzy. In late 1970s the need of condensing locomotives dropped dramatically when dieselization and electrification expanded. Most of the condensing class 25 locomoives, when passing through major overhaul at Salt River Works were rebuilt to non-condensing version, class 25NC. Only three remained with condensing tenders, 87 locomotives being rebuilt. These locomotives become known in Afrikaans as Worshonde (Sausage Dog) after the shape of their rebuilt tenders.

When the teething troubles had been solved the class 25 locomotives proved to be most economical in the service, especially class 25NC locomotives. Their enormous boilers were in 1970s still in splendid condition and needed only 600 to 800 manhours at works during major overhauls. The major overhaul was done only after 800.000 km or nine years intervals. Intermediate repairs were carried out after 400.000 km or 54 months (4.5 years). As early as in 1960 SAR reported that ninety condensing locomotives had achieved an aggregate mileage of 30 million corresponding to a monthly average of around per locomotive over difficult terrain. They hauled heavy, but relatively slow (by European standard) trains with much time spend standing at passing points on the mainly single line railway.

In 1981, a Class 25 locomotive was rebuilt into the experimental Class 26NC "Red Devil". This relatively compact locomotive (the engine unit weighed just 123 tonnes) was capable of extraordinary power (in excess of drawbar) yet delivered exceptional economy in coal and water use. However, like the French 242A1 4-8-4 built 35 years earlier, the 26NC remained a one-off. The new leadership of SAR had decided to modernise its fleet with diesel and electric traction rather than invest further development in steam traction.

Builder details:
  • 3401 - 3410 2D2-h2 24x28 60 (610x711 1524) North British Locomotive 27287 - 27296 / 1953
  • 3411 2D2-h2 24x28 60 (610x711 1524) North British Locomotive 27311 / 1953
  • 3412 - 3450 2D2-h2 24x28 60 (610x711 1524) Henschel 28731 - 28769 / 1953
  • 3451 2D2-h2 24x28 60 (610x711 1524) Henschel 28730 / 1953
  • 3452 - 3540 2D2-h2 24x28 60 (610x711 1524) North British Locomotive 27312 - 27400 / 1953

The 4-8-4 in New Zealand

After Russia and South Africa, the New Zealand Railways Departmenthad the largest fleet of 4-8-4's outside North America, with 71 similar locomotives in the K, KA and KB.

The small South Pacific nation of New Zealandmarker adopted the narrow gauge of to minimise railway construction costs, and due to the mountainous terrain the structure gauge was restricted to a maximum height of and width of – one of the most restrictive structure gauges in the world. No doubt this reduced the cost of building the 200 odd tunnels on the railway system, but it posed major problems for locomotive designers, which were exacerbated by an axle load limit of 14 tons.

The remarkable K class 4-8-4 was designed by R.J.Gard to the requirements of Locomotive Superintendent (later Chief Mechanical Engineer) P.R. Angus. and was built locally at the NZR Hutt Workshops, the first being outshopped during the depths of the Depression in 1932. The grate and comparatively large boiler was slung low on narrow frames to keep within the height restrictions, and width restrictions were avoided by sloped cab sides and the mounting of two single stage air compressors in front of the smokebox.

After construction of 30 K class locomotives, the NZR further developed the design to strengthen the frames, and introduce improvements such as roller bearings on all axles and ACFI feedwater heaters. Introduced from 1939, they were built in NZR workshops, most of them with streamlined casing to cover external pipe work. Thirty five were classed Ka, and worked North Island mainlines with the older K class, but six others were built for service on the steeply graded Midland line in the South Island, and were given trailing truck boosters, which lifted their tractive effort by .

The streamlining of the Ka and Kb was removed in the late 1940’s as the ACFI feedwater heaters were replaced with exhaust steam injectors. These 4-8-4's recorded speeds up to on occasion. The last of them was set aside in 1968 due to dieselisation.

The French 4-8-4

Although only one 4-8-4 was designed and built for the SNCF, a class of 24 distinctively French 4-8-4's was built for metre gauge railways in Brazil. As the hand of Andre Chapelon is evident in all these locomotives, they are considered together.

SNCF 242A1

The lone SNCF 242A1 prototype, rebuilt from an unsuccessful Etat three-cylinder 4-8-2 simple expansion locomotive 241.101 into a 4-8-4 compound locomotive. This remarkable locomotive achieved both extraordinary power outputs and efficiencies in coal and water use, but no further examples were built as SNCF focused on electric traction for its future motive power development. 242A1 was trialed on many test runs which showed that this locomotive was equal in power output as the (then) existed SNCF electric locomotives. Here, for the first time in Europe, was a steam locomotive with a 20-ton axle load which not only was at least as powerful as the most powerful high-speed electric locomotive but which could repeatedly develop its maximum power without any mechanical trouble. Developing [vague] in the cylinders and with of peak tractive effort, mean tractive effort—nothing in Europe could touch it.While Nr.242A1 being tested the electrical engineers were designing the locomotives for Parismarker - Lyonmarker line, which was to be electrified. An electric locomotive slightly more powerful than the successful Paris - Orleansmarker 2-D-2 type electric locomotive was contemplated. But when the test results of the test of 242A1 become known, the design was hurriedly changed to incorporate the maximum capacity possible within a 23-ton axle load, and then the 144-ton 9100 class was produced with over more than the originally designed. Thus the performances of the Mistral and other heavy passenger express trains would not have been so outstanding if 242A1 had not existed.

Therefore Andre Chapelon indirectly influenced French electric locomotive design. In addition 242A1 demonstrated the suitability of the Sauvage-Smith system of compounding for French conditions and the designs for future French steam locomotives, prepared but unfortunately stopped, were of Sauvage-Smith compounding system.

In ordinary service 242A1 was allocated at Le Mansmarker depot (SNCF Region-3 Ouest and hauled express trains in 1950 - 1960 between Le Mans and Brestmarker 411 km. Nr. 242A1 did not last long, it was withdrawn from service and hurriedly scrapped in 1960.

Builder details:
  • SNCF 242A1 2D2-h3v (1)600x720 (HP) / (2)680x760 (LP) 1950 148 tons Marine Homecourt 339 / 1945 (rebuilt from 2D1-h3 Fives Lille 4800 / 1932) Written off from books 10 / 1960.

Brazil's 242F

French engineer André Chapelon was chief designer of 24 metre gauge 4-8-4's built by GESLA, - Groupement d´Exportation de Locomotives en Sud-Amerique -, a job he took after retirement from SNCF where he had designed the 242A1. On October 27, 1949, a contract was signed between the D.N.E.F. (Brazil) and the GELSA for the construction 24 locomotives of the 4-8-4 type with a 13 ton axle load. The order included 66 2-8-4's and all were delivered by January 1953. The Federal DNEF - Departmento Nacional de Estrados de Ferre allocated the locomotives to four of Brazil's state railways. The specification was for a maximum speed of 80 km/h, a Tractive Effort @ 85% pressure of 29,120 lbs, and the ability to negotiate curves with a minimum radius of 80 metres. This last point proved to be a source of contention, as it was later discovered that in some places the curves were less than 50 metres. Consequently the 242F was involved in a number of derailments.

These modern, - perhaps too modern - locomotives for Brazilian railway conditions were not liked by local staff, and were not used as much as had been hoped. Their maximum axle load of 13 tons restricted their use, as did their long tenders. In some places turntables were too short to turn the engines and they had to be turned on triangles.

The 242s were built by Batignolles Chatillon. They were two cylinder simple expansion locomotives designed to burn local low calorific thermal value coal, with driving wheels of / 5 ft) diameter and grate area of to burn the poor quality coal. They were coupled to big tenders which carried 18 tons of coal. The Belpaire firebox included a combustion chamber and the boiler pressure was a high 18 kg (atm) /sq cm. One member of class 242F1 - 242F24 locomotive was tested on metre gauge Reseau Breton line before shipment to Brazil.

In the late 1960s they were relegated down from first class passenger trains. Some locomotives, allocated to Southern Brazilia, were even tried in Boliviamarker.

Builder details:
  • 2D2-h2 Batignolles - Chatillon 850 - 861 / 1951 DNEF 242F1 - 242F12
  • 2D2-h2 Batignolles - Chatillon 862 - 873 / 1952 DNEF 242F13 - 242F24

Note: These Nantes-St.Joseph works plates are not confirmed.

The British 4-8-4 for China

A total of 24 4-8-4s were designed and built in Britain for the Shanghai-Nankingmarker Railway. These Chinese Government Railways Class KF1 were designed by Colonel Kenneth Cantlie and No 607 is preserved by the National Railway Museum, UK.

Originally idented for 303 km Shanghai-Nanking Railway, these big 2D2-h2 locomotives worked on this railway only up to Japan - China Incident, their roster included also the famous Shanghai Express. (Named after the Hollywoodmarker classic film Shanghai Lily).When the whole 706 km Changshamarker - Kanton Railway was finally completed in October 1936,the class KF 1 - 24 locomotives were transferred to operate over northern section between Hankow and Changsha on this new main line, combining Tientsinmarker and Peking with Kanton, over vast distance of .

Most of the class KF survived the 1937 - 1945 Sino - Japanese Conflict / World War II 1939 - 1945. They retained their old classification and continued in service up to early 1970s. One was presented by the Chinese Government, as a Good Will gesture back to the British to be presented at United Kingdommarker representing what is commonly thought to be the biggest and heaviest non-articulated British built exported steam locomotive. However, this distinction belongs to the ten 500 class 4-8-2 locomotives supplied by Armstrong Whitworth to the South Australian Railways in 1926, which were 20 tons heavier.

Builder details:
  • KF 1-16 2D2-h2 520x725 1752 Vulcan Foundrymarker 4668 - 4683 / 1935 Renumbered to 'KF' 601 - 616
  • KF 17-24 2D2-h2 520x725 1752 Vulcan Foundry 4696 - 4703 / 1936 Renumbered to 'KF' 617 - 624

The 4-8-4 in Australia

A total of 21 4-8-4's operated in Australia, built to three distinct designs.

South Australian Railways

The South Australian Railways 500 class of 1926, originally a 4-8-2 design, was modified in 1929 into the 4-8-4 500B class by the replacement of the trailing axle with a booster-equipped four-wheel trailing truck. These engines were built by Armstrong Whitworth and were the largest non-articulated locomotives built in Great Britain. The design was based on ALCO drawings modified by AW and SAR engineers.

In 1943 the first of twelve streamlined South Australian Railways 520 class were outshopped from the Islington Workshops in Adelaide. They were designed to run on lightly-constructed 30 kg/m (60 lb/yd) track by virtue of the engine unit's weight being spread over eight axles. Their streamlining bears a strong resemblance to that of the PRR T1 locomotive.

Victorian Railways

The Victorian Railways H class three-cylinder 4-8-4 of 1941 was designed for heavy passenger work on the Melbournemarker-Adelaidemarker line. It was the largest and most powerful locomotive built in Australia. Due to the necessary upgrades to the Adelaide line being deferred, the H class operated only on the Melbourne-Alburymarker line, achieving success as a fast freight locomotive.

The 4-8-4 in Chile

In 1935 the German builder Henschel & Son supplied ten 4-8-4s of the 5’6” gauge to the FdE, Ferrocarriles del Estado (State Railways), of Chilemarker, which became their 100 class. They were called “Super Montañas” (Super Mountains) as they followed the 80 class 4-8-2 introduced six years previously. They were equipped with mechanical stokers, and Vanderbilt tenders, and weighed 185 tonnes. On test they produced 2,355 Indicated Horse Power, at a coal consumption of 34 kg/km and water consumption of 274 l/km. The design was not repeated however, and the FdE returned to the 4-8-2. The 100 class were used on the Almeda to Talcamarker line, and were replaced by diesels in 1970. No 1009 is preserved in the Santiago Railway Museum.

The 4-8-4 in Spain

Ten express passenger 4-8-4's were designed by the RENFE in 1955, and were remarkably well-proportioned. Developed from a preceding 4-8-2 type, they had improved steam passages and developed 30 to 40 per cent more power at medium cut-offs and high speed. These engines, Nos.242F2001 - 242F2010 were built by La Maquinista Terrestre y Maritima SA, Barcelonamarker to burn fuel oil and had Witte type smoke deflectors. They were fitted with a double Kylchap (Kylälä-Chapelon) blast-pipe, a Worthington feedwater heater and the T.I.A. (Traitement Integral Armand) water-softening device. The plate frames, thick were substantially braced by a cast-steel coffer between the cylinders, transverse plates between the cylinders and the first coupled axle, by front and back buffer beams by six groups of transverse cross-ties, those joining the lower parts of the frames near firebox being of heavy design in order to counteract any tendency of the frames. The main journals were in diameter, the journals of the coupled axles, . All axless had SKF roller-bearing axle-boxes and the coupled axles were provided by Franklin automatic wedges. All the rotating weights and 33 per cent of the alternating weights were balanced. The weight per coupled axle was reduced to 19 tons, with driving wheels of in diameter. (Later replaced with 1900 mm diameter wheels.) The spokes of the coupled wheels were of U section and both sides of the wheels were braked. The four-wheeled pony truck was provided with Isothermos axle boxes as well as tender bogies. To increase the comfort of the locomotive crew, the cabs of these oil-fired 4-8-4s had a wooden floor mounted on springs, and the seats of the driver and fireman were also provided with springs, a very welcome improvement for long runs on poor tracks. These locomotives were painted green when coming out from builers works at Barcelona.

The 4-8-4 was a very swift machine, and when tested on the line from Barcelona to Tarragonamarker between Villanueva y Geltrumarker and San Vincente, over practically level and straight line a speed exceeding was sustained twice, firstly with 430 tons and then with 480 tons behind tender. High-capacity tests took place between Madridmarker and Ávilamarker. A train weighing 426 tons, including a dynamometer car, was hauled at sustained speeds of up a gradient of 3.5 pro mille (1 in 286), up 10.5 pro mille (1 in 95) and up 22.8 pro mille (1 in 44.5). The gross hp figures recorded with the dynamometer car being 1.790, 2.350, and 2.320, and the calculated hp at the rim of driving wheels being 2.600, 3.400 and 3.580. The latter output indicates about . Shortly later it was found that they had too small tenders.With these engines there was almost some anxiety about water. The capacity of the tender was only 6.200 gallons and, with only few water cranes in service, the full capacity of the locomotive was not always used for fear of running short of this essential supply in half-aridSpanish landscape. As example, for the between Medina del Campomarker and Burgosmarker, rising 131 metres with start uphill, three intermediate stops, one slack and some shunting movements to couple in the train some extra coaches, the amount of water consumed was about 7.300 gallons.

All ten were allocated to Miranda de Ebromarker shed to haul principal heavy express trains. They were called generally Los Verdes. In the 1960s they were familiar sight at the head of best express trains, but in 1971 they were wiped out from express trains used in semifast passenger trains and even to haul heavy seasonal fruit trains between Castejon and Alasua from October to January. One, 242F.2009 is preserved at Madrid Railway Museum.

Builder details:
  • 242F.2001 2D2-h2 1672 640x710 1900 142.3 tons La Maquinista 695 - 704 / 1955-1956
RENFE 242F.2001 was completed in October 1955, 242F.2002 - 242F.2010 in 1956.

The German 4-8-4

In 1939 the Deutsche Reichsbahn placed in service two prototype three cylinder DRG Class 06 heavy express locomotives, with a maximum speed of 140 km/h (87 mph). Due to World War II no further examples were produced, and 06 002 was bombed during the hostilities. The 06 001 survived until 1951, when it was set aside. With large 2000 mm (6'6¾") driving wheels, a high boiler pressure and tractive effort of , they could haul a 650 tonne train at 120 km/h. Many parts such as the boiler were standardised with the DRG Class 45 heavy freight locomotive. Both were scrapped in the 1950s.
  • DRB 06.001 - 06.002 2D2-h3 3x520 x 720 2000 129.9 tons Krupp 2000 -2001 / 1938 + 14.11.1951


The 4-8-4 was a late development of the steam locomotive, and was often 'name' passenger power at the time of steam's demise. Many were therefore earmarked for preservation, either plinthed or in museums, with a few in running condition.

Of the 205 original Canadian Northerns only eight have been preserved, six CNR Northerns and both 3100 and 3101 Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Northerns.

Some of the more notable of this type are:
RENFE242F-2009. Retired in 1973,restored in 1989 and another time in 2005. Altougth she is in running order, usually is in static display at Museo Nacional Feroviario from Madrid-Delicias


  1. Alfred W.Bruce. The Steam Locomotive in America: Its Development in the Twentieth Century. New York. 1952. p308-9
  2. Alfred W.Bruce. The Steam Locomotive in America: Its Development in the Twentieth Century. New York. 1952. p296,299
  3. Vernon L.Smith. 'The Case for the American Steam Locomotive’ Trains Magazine, August 1967,
  4. James A. Brown and Omer Lavallee. 'Hudson Royalty’ Trains Magazine, August 1969.
  6. SAR Class 25NC 4-8-4 - retrieved 3 November 2006
  7. The Ultimate Steam Page - David Wardale - retrieved 3 November 2006
  8. SAR Class 25 4-8-4 - retrieved 3 November 2006
  9. Engineering Heritage - retrieved 1 November 2006
  10. [1]
  11. [2]
  12. [3]
  13. Technical Data Index - retrieved 1 November 2006
  17. Colquhoun, Stewien & Thomas.(1969) 500: The 4-8-2 and 4-8-4 Locomotives of the South Australian Railways Walkerville, S.A. : ARHS (SA Division). p6
  18. National Railway Museum - 500B-class 4-8-4 steam locomotive No.504 "TOM BARR-SMITH" - retrieved 1 November 2006
  19. National Railway Museum - 520-class 4-8-4 steam locomotive No.523 "Essington Lewis" - retrieved 1 November 2006
  20. ARHS Railway Museum: What to see - H220 - retrieved 15 October 2006
  21. [4]
  22. BR 06] - retrieved 1 November 2006
  23. CN Locomotive 6167 Restoration Committee, Guelph Civic Museums - retrieved 11 May 2008
  24. CP Northerns at Steam Locomotive dotcom - retrieved 11 May 2008
  25. (based on SNCF 242A1 and DR BR 06 locomotives being scrapped) Victorian Railways H Class 4-8-4 - retrieved 1 November 2006
  26. Canadian National Railway locomotive 6167 photo gallery - retrieved 11 May 2008

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