2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives in the USA

The development of the 2-8-4 wheel arrangement for steam locomotives was a result of an effort by the Lima Locomotive Works to improve on the speed and horse power of the USRA Mikado (2-8-2) locomotive, which was designed by the United States Railroad Administration during World War I. The USRA design had difficulty keeping up steam over long periods and often experienced wheel slippage.

Lima Locomotive Works' engineer William E. Woodward started with a New York Central Class H-7 "Mikado" type locomotive and added a larger firebox, creating an experimental Class H-10 "Mikado". He then went one step further and designed a locomotive with a 100 square foot firebox. This larger firebox required a four-wheel trailing truck to support it. The resulting locomotive was designated Class A-1, and it was the first 2-8-4.

This new 2-8-4 locomotive was sent to the Boston & Albany Railroad by Lima in the early spring of 1925 for tests on that railroad. In several test runs over a division of the railroad that crossed the Berkshire Hills, the demonstration locomotive, which carried road number "1" hauled up to 2500 tons. The most dramatic test occurred on April 14, 1925. A Class H-10, 2-8-2 "Mikado" type steamed eastbound from the Selkirk Yard pulling a 46 car, 1691 ton, train. About 47 minutes later the Class A-1 demonstrator led a 54 car, 2296 ton, in the same direction. The demonstrator Class A-1 arrived at North Adams Junction ten minutes ahead of the Class H-10. Soon after these impressive tests, the Boston & Albany ordered forty-five of these new locomotives. Being the first railroad to use this new wheel arrangement the B&A chose to call them "Berkshire" type.

Lima put its Class A-1 demonstrator on the road and sent it across the country to sell this new class of locomotive. Wherever it went the Class A-1 established new records. This locomotive was later shipped to the Illinois Central Railroad as part of its order for fifty "Berkshires" and became Illinois Central road number 7049.

After its debut in 1925, the "Berkshire" type locomotive continued to be improved by locomotive builders and the various railroads that used them. These heavy-duty main line locomotives were used by many railroads. Notably among them were the Boston & Albany Railroad, the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Erie Railroad, the Illinois Central Railroad, the Nickel Plate Road and the Pere Marquette Railroad.

Twenty of the "Berkshire" type locomotives exist today: 2 from the Pere Marquette, 6 from the Nickel Plate Road and 12 of the C & O's 2-8-4 locomotives, which they called "Kanawhas".

There are also a number of tenders that were used on "Berkshire" type locomotives that have survived. Two are from the L&N. One was the tender from L&N number 1966 and it is now at the Southern Railway Museum in Duluth, GA and the other is the tender from L&N number 1985 and it is now at the Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven, KY. There is also one that was used behind the NKP 765 and then N&W 611. There is another in New Haven, IN, one in Noblesville, IN and one used with MILW 261.

Information for this introduction to Berkshires provided by Richard Duley.

Builders of 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Type Locomotives (by Richard Duley)

Number of Locomotives by Builder
RailroadALCOBaldwinLimaOtherFrom Other Railroads
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe15 7 B&M
Boston & Albany55
Boston & Maine25
Chesapeake & Ohio7020
Chicago & North Western12
Detroit, Toledo & Ironton6
Illinois Central51
International - Great Northern5
Louisville & Nashville2022
Missouri Pacific25
New York, Chicago & St. Louis1565
Norfolk Southern5
Pere Marquette39
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie7
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac10
Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo2
Wheeling & Lake Erie32

Number of 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Type Locomotives Built by Year (by Richard Duley)


A Comparison of Famous Berkshires and Kanawhas

 NKP (S-2)
PM (N)
C&O (K-4)
Wheel Arrangement2-8-42-8-42-8-4
Drivers69" dia.69" dia.69" dia.
Weight on Drivers264,300 lbs278,000 lbs292,000 lbs
Total Locomotive Weight440,800 lbs442,500 lbs460,000 lbs
Locomotive & Tender Weight802,500 lbs805,900 lbs850,000 lbs
Grate Area90.3 sq ft90.3 sq ft90.3 sq ft
Cylinders (dia x stroke)(2) 25" x 34"(2) 26" x 34"(2) 26" x 34"
Cylinder HP2754 HP2979 HP2979 HP
Boiler Pressure245 psi245 psi245 psi
Tractive Effort64,100 lbs69,350 lbs69,350 lbs
Tender Capacity:   
water:22,000 gals.22,000 gals. gals.21,000
coal:22 tons22 tons30 tons

Railroads that used 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives in the USA (data provided by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media)

Surviving Examples of 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives in the USA

No.ClassF.M. WhyteGaugeRailroad LineLocationStatusBuilder InfoNotes
2705K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore, MDdisplayAlco (Schenectady) #70854, 1943From Russell, KY.
757S22-8-44'-8½"NYC&StL Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum, Bellevue, OHdisplayLima #8665, 1944From the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Strasburg, PA. Arrived in Bellevue, OH on February 14, 2019. Underwent a cosmetic restoration between 2019 and 2021. Reunited with sister NKP Berkshire locomotive 765 in early October 2021.
755S22-8-44'-8½"NYC&StL Conneaut Station, Conneaut, OHdisplayLima #8663, 1944
2700K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Dennison, OHdisplayAlco (Schenectady) #70849, 1943 Underwent a cosmetic restoration between 2017 and 2018.
1966M-12-8-44'-8½"L&N Southeastern Railway Museum, Duluth, GAdisplayTender only.
1223N-12-8-44'-8½"PM North Harbor Drive, Grand Haven, MIdisplayLima #7837, 1941
2736K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, WIdisplayAlco (Schenectady) #70885, 08/1944
779S32-8-44'-8½"NYC&StL Lincoln Park, Lima, OHdisplayLima #9380, 1949 Last steam locomotive built by Lima.
2755K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Chief Logan State Park, Logan, WVdisplayLima #9262, 1947 Placed on the National Register of Historical Places on September 28, 2006.
2760K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Treasure Island Road, Lynchburg, VAdisplayAlco (Schenectady) #75173, 1947
765S22-8-44'-8½"NYC&StL FWRHS, Edgerton Rd, New Haven, INoperationalLima #8673, 1944 Restored to operation in 1979. Taken out of service in 1993. Returned to operation in 2006. Masqueraded as C&O 2765 in October 1993 and NKP 767 in September 2016.
767 (1970)M-12-8-44'-8½"RPCX (L&N) FWRHS, Edgerton Rd, New Haven, INauxiliary water tenderLima #9364, 05/1949Tender only (40966). From the Kentucky Railway Museum. Donated by the Seaboard System in 1984. Used as an auxiliary water tender for NKP 765.
2756K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Huntington Park, Newport News, VAdisplayLima #9263, 1947
2789K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, North Judson, INrestorationAlco (Schenectady) #75202, 1947Cosmetic restoration only.
1225N-12-8-44'-8½"PM Steam Railroading Institute, Owosso, MIout of serviceLima #7839, 1941Test fired in 1985. Restored to operation in 1988. Appeared in The Polar Express movie. Taken out of service in early 2022. Undergoing running gear overhaul.
2716K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. Steam Shop, Ravenna, KYrestorationAlco (Schenectady) #70865, 1943Owned by the Kentucky Railway Museum, New Haven, KY. Operated for the Norfolk Southern steam program from 1981 to 1982. Leased by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society from 1995 to 1996 as a running mate for NKP 765. Appeared in Love Those Trains.
2732K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond, VAdisplayAlco (Schenectady) #70881, 1944
759S22-8-44'-8½"NYC&StL Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PAdisplayLima #8667, 1944 Operated mainline excursions in the 1960s and 1970s. Retired from excursion service in 1977 due to frozen and cracked boiler flues.
2727K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Museum of Transportation, St. Louis, MOdisplayAlco (Schenectady) #70876, 1944
763S-222-8-44'-8½"NYC&StL Age of Steam Roundhouse, Sugarcreek, OHdisplayLima #8671, 1944Acquired by N&W in 1964 when NKP merged; to Wasena Park in Roanoke in 1966 for display; to Virginia Museum of Transportation; purchased by Jerry Jacobson in 2007.
2707K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Illinois Railway Museum, Union, ILdisplayAlco (Schenectady) #70856, 1943Once displayed in Brookside Park, Cleveland, OH.
2776K-42-8-44'-8½"C&O Jesse Eyman Park, Washington Court House, OHdisplayAlco (Schenectady) #75189, 1947 Being preserved by the Railroad Preservation Society of Fayette County, OH.

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