Grand Trunk Western / Canadian National 4-8-4 "Northern" Type Locomotives

Introduction

Canadian National Confederations

The Canadian National Railway took delivery of its first 4-8-4 locomotive (road number 6100) in 1927 and used the name "Confederation" (to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation) for this wheel arrangement from the very beginning. In all, 40 "Confederations" were delivered to CNR in 1927, 20, Class U-2-a, from the Canadian Locomotive Works and 20, Class U-2-b, from the Montreal Locomotive Works.

In 1929, another 20 "Confederations", Class U-2-c, came from the Montreal Locomotive Works and in 1936, another five, Class U-2-d, also from Montreal were added, making a total of 65.

Also in 1936, five very special semi-streamlined locomotives, Class U-4-a (road number 6400 through 6404) were built by the Montreal Locomotive Works. The design was the product of extensive research conducted by the National research Council of Canada in a study completed in 1934 with the purpose to improve efficiency of engines by reducing aerodynamic drag and enhance safe operation by improving visibility from the cab at lower speeds. 6400 is the only one of its class preserved.

Between 1940 and 1944 a total of 90 more 4-8-4s, in four batches, were added to the roster giving CNR a total of 160 "Confederations".

There are six surviving "Confederations"; number 6153 at the Canadian Railway Museum in Delson, QC, number 6167 near the CN station in Guelph, ON, numbers 6200 and 6400 at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa, ON, number 6213 at the CPR John Street Roundhouse in Toronto, ON and number 6218 at the Fort Erie Railroad Museum in Fort Erie, ON.

Grand Trunk Western Confederations

The Grand Trunk Western Railroad, a US subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway had a fleet of 43 4-8-4s. The GTW bought 12 Class U-3-a "Confederations" (as the 4-8-4s were called by CNR) from the American Locomotive Company in 1927 and was one of the first railroads to use them. These locomotive were assigned road numbers 6300 through 6311. They had 73" drivers, 26.5 x 30 cylinders, a boiler pressure of 250 psi, a tractive effort of 60,000 lbs and weighed 399,000 pounds.

Another six 4-8-4s were bought in 1938 from the Lima Locomotive Works and designated Class U-4-b and assigned road numbers 6405 through 6410. These locomotives had 77" drivers, 24 x 30 cylinders, a boiler pressure of 275 psi, a tractive effort of 52,500 lbs and each weighed 382,700 pounds.

In 1942 and 1943, the GTW bought another 25 "Confederations" from ALCO. These locomotives were designated Class U-3-b and had 73" drivers, 26 x 30 cylinders, a boiler pressure of 250 psi, a tractive effort of 59,000 lbs and weighed 403,000 pounds. They were assigned road numbers 6312 through 6336.

On March 23, 1960, GTW locomotives numbers 6319 and 6322 had the distinction of hauling the last regularly scheduled main line steam powered passenger train in the United States. Number 6319 led the 15 cars of the first section of Train #21 from Detroit to Durand, MI while number 6322 led the 22 cars of the second section.

There are two surviving GTW "Confederations"; number 6323 at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL and number 6325 at the Ohio Central Railroad in West Lafayette, OH.

Confederation or Northern?

Most every article I have seen on the web about CNR 4-8-4s refers to them as "Confederations" (example). However, I have been told by more than one reader that they were simply called "Northerns" like most other locomotives of this wheel arrangement. Why? If they were really called "Northern" why do most articles call them "Confederations"? If they were really called "Confederations" why do people now say there were called "Northerns"? Perhaps they were officially meant to be called "Confederations" because they were introduced 60 years after the birth of Canada but the working railroaders called them "Northerns" because of the precedence set by Northern Pacific only a year earlier.

Supposedly CN Lines Vol 16 No 3 clarifies this conundrum. I would like to see that article but I have not been able to find it on-line. I have been told that the words "Northern Type" can be found on brass plaques attached to both cylinder casings on all CNR 4-8-4 locomotives. Could the confusion around the name have arisen because CNR 6111 was named "Confederation" to commemorate Canada's founding as a nation in 1867? Why is there so much disagreement around this?

Roster by Richard Duley

CNR ClassRoad NumbersYR bltBldrDrvCylBPWeightTE
U-2-a6100 - 61041927CLW73"25.5x30250385,59057,000
U-2-a6105 - 61141927CLW73"25.5x30250396,39057,000
U-2-a6115 - 61191927CLW73"25.5x30250385,59057,000
U-2-b6120 - 61391927MLW73"25.5x30250381,90057,000
U-2-c6140 - 61591929MLW73"25.5x30250383,00057,000
U-2-d6160 - 61641936 MLW73"25.5x30250390,00057,000
U-2-e6165 - 61791940 MLW73"25.5x30250402,70057,000
U-2-f6180 - 61891940CLW73" 25.5x30250389,33057,000
U-2-g6200 - 62341943MLW73" 25.5x30250399,60057,000
U-2-h6235 - 62641944MLW73" 25.5x30250400,30057,000
U-4-a6400 - 64041936MLW77" 24x30275379,80052,000
CLW = Canadian Locomotive Works
MLW = Montreal Locomotive Works
GTW ClassRoad NumbersYear BuiltBuilder
U-3-a6300-63111927ALCO
U-4-b6405-64101938Lima
U-3-b6312-63361942-43ALCO

Class Details by Steve Llanso

Class U-2a/b (Locobase 240)

Data from tables in 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia. See also articles in Rail Canada, No 487 (May-June 2002), pp. 43-73. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for sending a PDF of the Rail Canada articles.)

These locomotives were the first in a large series of 4-8-4s of very similar design that totalled more than 200 engines.

Firebox had water tubes that contributed 100 sq ft (9.3 sq m) to the direct heating surface; the boiler had an Elesco K29 feedwater heater. Of the 177 flues, 15 did not contain superheater elements. Firebox heating surface area included 22 sq ft (2 sq m) of arch tubes and 95 sq ft (8.8 sq m) of thermic syphons. Main frames were made of vanadium steel for the 6105, 6110, 6112, 6114-6129. The others--6104, 6106-6109, 6111, 6115, 6130-6139--had main frames made of nickel steel

U-2a (works #1800-1819) numbered from 6100 to 6119 and delivered from Canadian Loco Works in 1927.

U-2b (6120-6139), delivered from Montreal in 1927 (works #67351-67370), identical except for 233,400-lb weight on drivers and commensurate 4.10 factor of adhesion. Also the first ring of the boiler measured 80 7/8" in diameter.

6100 was named Confederation and that moniker was used in preference to "Northern" on all CNR 4-8-4s.

GTW had several batches of identical locomotives in the U-3 class; see Locobases 3171 and 255.

Class U-2c/d/e/f (Locobase 2951)

Data from 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia and CN to 1953 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. See also articles in Rail Canada, No 487 (May-June 2002), pp. 43-73. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for sending a PDF of the Rail Canada articles.)

Firebox had thermic syphons and water tubes that contributed 100 sq ft (9.3 sq m) to the direct heating surface. The boiler had feedwater heater. These were follow-ons to the U-2a/2b with a different tube/flue ratio. All of the engines had Boxpok drivers and nickel-steel main frames.

Obviously, the CNR found the dimensions of this design to be a good fit as they added locomotives to the class for eleven years. All of the U-2s had the trailing axles that somewhat unusually carried wheels of considerably different sizes. The leading wheels were 34 1/4" (876 mm) in diameter, while the rear wheels measured 48" (1,219 mm). All the truck wheels rolled on SKF roller bearings.

MLW's works # for the 6140-6159 were 67769-67788 in 1929. Seven years later, the company added 5 more (works #68710-68714) built to the same specs, but weighing a bit more (237,600 lb on the drivers, 390,000 lb total). In 1940, MLW supplied works #69260-69274 as road numbers 6165-6179 and Canadian Locomotive Works added 10 more (works #1960-1969) as road numbers 6180-6189.

Class U-2g/h (Locobase 241)

Data from 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and CN to 1953 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. See also articles in Rail Canada, No 487 (May-June 2002), pp. 43-73. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for sending a PDF of the Rail Canada articles.) U-2g 6200-6234 -works 69698-69722, 69780-69799 in 1943; U-2h 6235-6259 -- works numbers 70303-70332 in 1943-1944.

Firebox heating surface included 99 sq ft (9.3 sq m) of thermic syphons (three), boiler had type E superheater. It was a slight redesign of the earlier U-2 classes (Locobase 2951 ) that traded some tube heating surface for superheater area. Like the earlier classes, the trailing axles somewhat unusually carried wheels of considerably different sizes. The leading wheels were 34 1/4" (870 mm) in diameter, while the rear wheels measured 48"(1,219 mm).

Class U-3a (Locobase 3171)

Data from 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and CN to 1953 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. See also articles in Rail Canada, No 487 (May-June 2002), pp. 43-73. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for sending a PDF of the Rail Canada articles.) Alco works numbers were 67339-67350 in 1927.

Firebox had thermic syphons and arch tubes that contributed 100 sq ft (9.3 sq m) to the direct heating surface. These locomotives and their CNR U-2 cousins were relatively light 4-8-4s of relatively orthodox layout for the late 1920s. See Locobase 255 for the later U-3cs, which were quite different in their internal layout.

Like the U-2s, the trailing truck wheel diameters differed considerably. In the case of the U-3s, the leading carrying truck under the firebox measured 33" (838 mm) in diameter while the trailing wheels were 10" (254 mm) larger.

Class U-3b (Locobase 255)

Data from 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and CN to 1953 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. See also John B Corns, "6325--A New Face in the World of Steam" Trains, November 2001, downloaded from http://www.ohiocentralrr.com/shop/johnb.html (link no longer active).

Firebox had 95 sq ft (8.8 sq m) of thermic syphons. These locomotives and their CNR U-2 cousins were relatively light 4-8-4s. Like all CNR Northerns, the trailing axles somewhat unusually carried wheels of considerably different sizes. The leading wheels were 34 1/4" (870 mm) in diameter, while the rear wheels measured 48" (1,219 mm).

The U-3bs (works #69618-69642) had been preceded by a 1927 batch of U-3a, which is the subject of a separate entry (Locobase 3171). As they were very nearly the same size and tractive power, comparing the two directly reveals the impact of the superpower revolution on how that power was generated. The tube-flue ratio changes profoundly from 200+ small-diameter tubes and 50 flues of more than twice the cross-sectional area to a reversed layout of tubes and flues that are nearer the same size. The firebox heating surface actually declined, but the superheating percentage climbed seven points to more than 30% of the combined heating surface.

www.ohiocentralrr.com/shop/johnb.html by John B. Corns details the refurbishment of this locomotive for operations on the Ohio Central beginning in September 2001. The article sketches how well-suited for its service was this design. As passenger engines, they wheeled 16-car trains across the relatively flat Michigan rail at impressive speeds. One U-3b reportedly hit 106.5 mph pulling 12 cars in 1956. Corns notes that the class was "equally at ease heading 80-car manifests across GTW's Chicago Division ..."

Among the features in this design were roller bearings on all but the driving axles, Boxpok drivers, Nicholson thermic syphons, and Elesco exhaust steam injectors ("the 'poor man's feedwater heaters'").

Restoration to tourist operation by owner Jerry Jacobson is estimated to have cost him over 3/4 of a million dollars.

Class U-4a (Locobase 242)

Data from 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and the CN to 1953 locomotive diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. See also articles in Rail Canada, No 487 (May-June 2002), pp. 43-73. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for sending a PDF of the Rail Canada articles.)

Said to be a streamlined variant of the U-2 series; see in particular the detailed sketch of all the different tweaks used to accomplish streamlining on page 74 of the Canadian Rail account. Works numbers were 68715-68719. Differences are more than skin-deep, however, and include a smaller boiler and grate, larger drivers, lower adhesive weight, and lower tractive effort. The firebox included thermic syphons, the engines had Boxpok drivers and roller bearings on all of the engine and tender trucks.

Seven more went to the Grand Trunk Western as #6405-6411; see Locobase 243. (For some reason, the GTWs had one less small tube.)

Class U-4b (Locobase 243)

Data from 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and the CN to 1953 locomotive diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive collection. Lima's works numbers were 7759-7764 in 1938.

Very slight differences between these engines and the CNR U-4s numbered 6400-6404 (Locobase 242). Note the light average axle loading and the weight per foot of driving wheelbase. Direct heating surface area included a combustion chamber and thermic syphons. Piston valves measured a relatively small 12" (306 mm) in diameter.


Specifications by Steve Llanso
ClassU-2a/bU-2c/d/e/fU-2g/hU-3aU-3bU-4aU-4b
Locobase ID240 2951 241 3171 255 242 243
RailroadCanadian National (CNR)Canadian National (CNR)Canadian National (CNR)Grand Trunk Western (CNR)Grand Trunk Western (CNR)Canadian National (CNR)Grand Trunk Western (CNR)
CountryCanadaCanadaCanadaCanadaCanadaCanadaCanada
Whyte4-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-44-8-4
Road Numbers6100-61396140-61896200-62646300-63116312-63366400-64046405-6410
GaugeStdStdStdStdStdStdStd
BuilderSeveralseveralMontreal LWAlcoAlcoMontreal LWLima
Year1927192919431927194219361938
Valve GearBakerBakerWalschaertBakerWalschaertBakerBaker
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase19.50'19.50'19.50'19.50'19.50'20'20'
Engine Wheelbase43.83'43.83'43.83'43.83'43.83'44.12'44.12'
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.44 0.44 0.44 0.44 0.44 0.45 0.45
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender)82.40'82.23'82.40'82.40'82.40'82.69'82.71'
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle)
Weight on Drivers237330 lbs232200 lbs246100 lbs237700 lbs245000 lbs236000 lbs237900 lbs
Engine Weight396390 lbs383000 lbs400300 lbs399000 lbs403000 lbs379800 lbs382700 lbs
Tender Light Weight268500 lbs277900 lbs278000 lbs267500 lbs270500 lbs280280 lbs278500 lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight664890 lbs660900 lbs678300 lbs666500 lbs673500 lbs660080 lbs661200 lbs
Tender Water Capacity13800 gals13000 gals13920 gals13550 gals14300 gals11700 gals14300 gals
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal)20 tons20 tons18 tons20 tons16 tons18 tons20 tons
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) on which locomotive could run99 lb/yard97 lb/yard103 lb/yard99 lb/yard102 lb/yard98 lb/yard99 lb/yard
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter73"73"73"73"73"77"77"
Boiler Pressure250 psi250 psi250 psi250 psi250 psi275 psi275 psi
Cylinders (dia x stroke)25.5" x 30"25.5" x 30"25.5" x 30"26.25" x 30"26" x 30"24" x 30"24" x 30"
Tractive Effort56786 lbs56786 lbs56786 lbs60175 lbs59034 lbs52457 lbs52457 lbs
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.18 4.09 4.33 3.95 4.15 4.50 4.54
Heating Ability
Firebox Area432 sq. ft415 sq. ft414 sq. ft436 sq. ft413 sq. ft390 sq. ft394 sq. ft
Grate Area84.40 sq. ft84.40 sq. ft84.30 sq. ft84.30 sq. ft84.30 sq. ft73.60 sq. ft73.60 sq. ft
Evaporative Heating Surface4244 sq. ft4220 sq. ft4080 sq. ft4607 sq. ft4402 sq. ft3861 sq. ft3852 sq. ft
Superheating Surface1840 sq. ft1760 sq. ft1835 sq. ft1388 sq. ft1955 sq. ft1530 sq. ft1530 sq. ft
Combined Heating Surface6084 sq. ft5980 sq. ft5915 sq. ft5995 sq. ft6357 sq. ft5391 sq. ft5382 sq. ft
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume239.33237.98230.08245.17238.78245.80245.23
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation21100211002107521075210752024020240
Same as above plus superheater percentage27430272192760825922276082590725907
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area140400133838135585134070135258137280138688
Power L139390379683887731206397014399344018
Power MT1463.621441.951393.081157.721428.991643.861631.66

Photos

Canadian National
Grand Trunk Western

Reference

Credits

Introduction and roster provided by Richard Duley. Class details and specifications provided by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media.