Sumpter Valley 2-8-2 "Mikado" Locomotives in the USA

The Sumpter Valley Railway was a narrow gauge railroad, which began in Baker City, Oregon in 1890. It followed the Powder River through Bowen Valley to Salisbury, just nine miles south of Baker City and continued on the McEwen. In the 1892, a major gold strike was found, near the town of Sumpter and a boom began. The railway was extended the six miles to Sumpter by 1896. When the railroad came to Sumpter the population was 200 people, with it came a surge in population and by 1897 the town grew to about 9,000 people.

In 1900, the track was laid over Larch summit, an altitude of 5,094 feet, and down the west side of Huckleberry Mountain. By 1901, the tracks reached Whitney, an Oregon Lumber Company town. Tracks were constructed from Whitney in all directions. Some spur lines went 14 miles into the woods. It was not long before a depot was built.

During 1903, the tracks were extended across the Whitney Valley, over the North Fork of the Burnt River, and up the pass of the Greenhorn Mountains to the Tipton summit, at 5,127 feet. The rail reached Tipton in 1904. A station was built in Tipton and a wye constructed to turn the helper engines. From Tipton the railway entered Grant County, traveling down the mountain to what later became White Pine. Soon the rails were reaching down the mountainside 8 miles from White Pine, arriving at the stage stop of Austin, in 1905. In 1909 the track crews began constructing the final segment of the railway 21 miles south of Austin. By June 1910, the tracks descended to the John Day Valley, crossed the John Day River and were completed to Prairie City. The railway was now 80.1 miles from Baker City.

In 1916, three "Mikado" type locomotives were bought from the Baldwin Locomotive Works which were given road numbers 16, 17 and 18. These three narrow gauge locomotives had 42" diameter drivers and each weighed 141,910 pounds.

The Sumpter Valley Railway purchased two more narrow gauge "Mikados" this time from the American Locomotive Company in the 1920. They were built to Sumpter Valley Railway specifications. These locomotives had 44" drivers, 19" x 20" cylinders, a 170 psi boiler pressure, they exerted 23,700 pounds of tractive effort and each weighed 224,000 pounds.

After 20 years, when the SVRY bought the two famous Unitah "Mallets", Mikados 19 and 20 were retired and their tenders put behind the "Mallets". In 1940, Mikados 19 and 20 were purchased by the White Pass and Yukon to assist in the ever increasing demand to aid in the construction of the Alcan Highway. Here they were renumbered 80 and 81. In 1942, the demands on the railroad were so great that the 770th Railway Operating Battalion leased the YP&Y and ran it for two years.

Passenger service along the line was discontinued in 1937 and the last freight train steamed into South Baker on June 12, 1947. Shortly thereafter the rails were pulled up, the lines completely dismantled, and the land on which the tracks were laid was sold or abandoned. The Oregon Lumber Company operated a saw mill in South Baker until the middle 1950's, when the company was sold to Edward Hines Lumber Company. The SVR chugged back and forth in the lumberyards until 1961.

In 1970 a group of Baker County residents got together and formed a preservation society to acquire as much of the remaining equipment of the original Sumpter Valley Railway right of way as possible. They hoped to restore a portion of the original line to operation. In 1971 the group was able to purchase 2-truck, wood burning Heisler No. 3 from Boise Cascade. The locomotive had survived all these years in a shed in Cascade, ID serving as a backup boiler to a lumber mill until 1969. The Union Pacific donated rails and ties and a couple of flat cars were obtained from the D&RGW.

The "Mallets", with the "Mikado's" tenders, were sold to the International Railway of Central America in Guatemala, where they were run until they fell apart and were scrapped except for the tenders. The Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration in 1971 got the two "Mikados" back from Alaska, and the tenders back from Guatemala. "Mikado" number 19 has been fully restored and is now in operation summers on the Sumpter Valley Railroad. "Mikado" number 20 has not been restored and is on display and a fund has been set up for its restoration. The railway operates from Memorial Day through the last weekend in September.


Qty.Road NumbersYear BuiltBuilderNotes
316, 17 & 181916Baldwin1
219 & 201920ALCO2
  1. Numbers 16, 17 and 18 were sold to the Peruvian Government in 1945.
  2. Number 19 is operational and number 20 is on static display on the Sumpter Valley Railway.

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class 15 (Locobase 12507)

Data from Baldwin Locomotive Works Specification for Engines as digitized by the DeGolyer Library of Southern Methodist University, Volume 51, p. 360. Works numbers were 42073-42074 in May 1915 and 42815 in January 1916.

A relative rarity for a Mikado of any size - one without superheating. The specs noted the challenging quality of the 80-mile (128 km) right of way, which extended from the junction with the Oregon-Washington railroad at Baker through Sumpter to Prairie Valley. The grades were not compensated for curves, curvature could reach 24 degrees, and the ruling grade scaled to 4 degrees (210 ft/mile). The value of the Mikado on this line was its ability to run in both directions.

All were converted to oil-firing in 1940. In 1945, all three were sold to Dulien Steel Products for rehabilitation and resale. Dulien accomplished the latter by selling all three to the Peruvian State Railways.

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Middle Run Media

Locobase ID12507
RailroadSumpter Valley
Number in Class2
Road Numbers15-17
Number Built2
Valve GearWalschaert
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)11.50 / 3.51
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)25 / 7.62
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheelbase 0.46
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)52.54 / 16.01
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)95,000 / 43,091
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)126,000 / 57,153
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)76,000 / 34,473
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)202,000 / 91,626
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)4000 / 15.15
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / Liters/MT)
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)40 / 20
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)42 / 1067
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)180 / 12.40
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)17" x 22" / 432x559
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)23,161 / 10505.67
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.10
Heating Ability
Tubes (number - dia) (in / mm)214 - 2" / 51
Flues (number - dia) (in / mm)
Flue/Tube length (ft / m)16 / 4.88
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)111 / 10.32
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)23 / 2.14
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)1894 / 176.02
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)1894 / 176.02
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume327.68
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation4140
Same as above plus superheater percentage4140
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area19,980
Power L15339
Power MT495.60

  • 19 (unknown photographer)
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Wes Barris