4-8-4 Locomotives in Canada

The 4-8-4 was the ultimate wheel configuration for the modern passenger and fast freight steam locomotive. The eight driver arrangement was usable on almost every main line in North America and with drivers up to 80 inches in diameter allowed any reasonable speed that the railroad could handle. The four wheel trailing truck supported a larger firebox for maximum steam levels allowing for extra boiler capacity. The four wheel leading (or pony) truck completed the best combination for riding and tracking.

With the surge in passenger business in the 1920's most railroads were being forced to operate extra trains or run their scheduled trains in sections simply because the locomotives in use could only haul about 12 cars. It was out of this need that the "super powered" locomotives were developed and of them the 4-8-4 was the most numerous and widely used.

The first 4-8-4 was built by the American Locomotive Company, in January, 1927, for the Northern Pacific. This locomotive was basically the 4-8-2 modified to accommodate a large grate area and a very deep firebox which was required to burn the very low grade of bituminous coal that the Northern Pacific produced from its own mines. This new wheel arrangement was dubbed "Northern Pacific", which was quickly shortened to "Northern".

There were 36 North American Railroads that owned and operated a total of 1,126 "Northern" type locomotives.

Some railroads, particularly the southern ones, rejected the "Northern" name and used names with a more regional connection. The C&O called them "Greenbriers"; the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western used the name "Poconos"; the Lehigh Valley came up with "Wyoming"; the Nashville, Chattanooga & St.Louis named them "Dixies"; the New York Central chose "Niagaras"; the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac named each of its 27, 4-8-4s after southern generals, governors and statesmen; the Southern Pacific used the name "Golden State"; the Western Maryland dubbed them "Potomacs" and in Canada, the CNR named them "Confederations" while the Nacionale de Mexico called them "Niagras".

The Timken Demonstrator

In 1930, the Timken Company took delivery of its own 4-8-4 Northern locomotive from the American Locomotive Company. Timken wanted to demonstrate the advantages of roller bearings on steam locomotives and thus became one of the very few private owners of a main line locomotive.

This locomotive carried road number 1111 and the Timken name and became known as "four aces" on the many railroads that tested it. In the two years it traveled the country it ran up an impressive record in both passenger and freight operation.

Designed for fast freight and passenger service, this locomotive was tested in drag freight operation and consistently did well without helpers. On one occasion it started a 132 car freight train of 9,864 tons.

Timken had "four aces" built so that the boiler pressure could be varied between 235 and 250 psi and its weight could be shifted between the drivers and trucks thus allowing the demonstrator to have a tractive effort of 59,900 lbs at 235 psi and 63,700 lbs at 250 psi. The locomotive weighed 417,500 lbs, had 73" drivers and 27 x 30 cylinders.

While being tested on the Northern Pacific, number 1111 suffered crown sheet damage. Timken was essentially finished with it and did not want a damaged locomotive and NP did not want to repair a locomotive it did not own. In order to resolve this stand-off, NP bought the locomotive, repaired it, numbered it 2626 and used it until 1955.

Information for this introduction to Northerns provided by Richard Duley.

Builders of 4-8-4 "Northern" Type Locomotives (by Richard Duley)

Railroad LineQuantity, BuilderName
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe65 BaldwinNortherns
Atlantic Coast Line12 Baldwin1800s
Canadian National130 MLW 30 Canadian Locomotive WorksConfederations
Canadan Pacific2 CPRNortherns
Central of Georgia8 LimaBig Apples
Chesapeake & Ohio12 LimaGreenbriers
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy8 Baldwin 28 CB&QNortherns
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific10 ALCO 41 Baldwin 1 CMStP&PNortherns
Chicago & North Western35 BaldwinNortherns
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific85 ALCONortherns
Delaware & Hudson15 ALCONortherns
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western55 ALCOPoconos
Denver & Rio Grande Western19 BaldwinWesterns
Grand Trunk Western37 ALCO 6 LimaConfederations
Great Northern20 BaldwinNortherns
Lehigh Valley21 ALCO 16 BaldwinWyomings
Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Sainte Marie4 LimaNortherns
Missouri Pacific15 Baldwin 25 MPNortherns
Nacionales de Mexico16 ALCO 16 BaldwinNiágaras
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis25 ALCODixies
New York Central28 ALCONiagaras
Norfolk & Western14 N&WJs
Northern Pacific13 ALCO 36 BaldwinNortherns
Ontario Northland5 Canadian Locomotive WorksNortherns
Reading30 ReadingNortherns
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac27 BaldwinGenerals, Governors & Statesmen
St. Louis San Francisco25 BaldwinNortherns
St. Louis Southwestern10 Baldwin 10 SLSWNortherns
Southern Pacific10 Baldwin 60 LimaGolden States
Spokane, Portland & Seattle3 BaldwinNortherns
Texas & Louisiana Lines4 BaldwinGolden States
Toledo, Peoria & Western6 ALCONortherns
Union Pacific45 ALCOFour-Eight-Fours
Wabash25 BaldwinNortherns
Western Maryland12 BaldwinPotomacs
Western Pacific6 LimaNortherns

A Dimensional Comparison of Northerns

RailroadATSFCB&QCMStP&PC&OGNNC&StLNPN&WNYCPhiladelphia & ReadingSPUP
Wheel Arrangement4-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-4
Cyl:Dia x Stroke28x3228x3026x3227.5x3029x2925x3028x3127x3225.5x3227x3227x3025x32
Driver Diameter8074747280707770797073.580
Boiler Pressure300250250255225250260275275240260300
Grate Area108106.596.210097.7577.3115107.710194.490.2100.2
Evaporative Heating Surface5,3125,2374,4785,4344,7814,2034,6725,2714,8234,9204,8524,294
Superheater Heating Surface2,3662,4031,4382,3152,2651,7821,9302,1772,0731,2141,8341,400
Weight on Drivers293,860279,030259,300292,800247,300228,000295,000288,000275,000278,200270,300270,300
Total Engine Weight510,150474,620460,000506,300420,900400,500508,500494,000471,000441,300468,400490,700
Maximum Axle Weight77,50073,20074,00069,74067,900
Tender Weight464,700359,000364,100388,200326,560285,000443,500378,600337,000367,700317,800421,550
Total Engine and Tender Weight974,850833,620824,100894,500747,460685,500952,000872,600808,000809,000786,200912,250
Overall Wheelbase108.1790.6995.598.4491.1786.3197.595.497.2198.42
Tractive Effort79,96867,54162,11968,29958,30556,92069,75677,89961,56867,98465,75963,750
Tractive Effort Booster
Maximum Speed
Drawbar Horsepower

Railroads that used 4-8-4 Locomotives in Canada (data provided by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media)

Surviving Examples of 4-8-4 Locomotives in Canada

No.ClassF.M. WhyteGaugeRailroad LineLocationStatusBuilder InfoNotes
6153U-2-c4-8-44'-8½"CNR Canadian Railway Museum, Delson, QCdisplayMontreal Locomotive Works #67782, 1929
6218U-2-g4-8-44'-8½"CNR Fort Erie Railroad Museum, Fort Erie, ONdisplayMontreal Locomotive Works #69716, 1942
6167U-2-e4-8-44'-8½"CNR Near Farquhar Street, Guelph, ONdisplayMontreal Locomotive Works #69262, 1940
3100K1a4-8-44'-8½"CPR Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, ONdisplayCPR (Angus) #2070, 1928
6200U-2-g4-8-44'-8½"CNR Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, ONstoredMontreal Locomotive Works #69698, 1942
6400U-4-a4-8-44'-8½"CNR Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, ONdisplayMontreal Locomotive Works #68715, 1936 Streamlined
3101K1a4-8-44'-8½"CPR Evraz Regina Steel, Regina, SKdisplayCPR (Angus) #2071, 1928
6213U-2-g4-8-44'-8½"CNR Toronto Railway Museum, Toronto, ONdisplayMontreal Locomotive Works #69711, 1942 Once displayed at Exhibition Place. Restoration to operational condition being explored
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