New York, Chicago & St Louis 4-6-4 "Hudson" Locomotives in the USA

The New York, Chicago & St. Louis (Nickel Plate Road) took delivery of four Hudsons from the American Locomotive Company in 1927, just one month after the New York Central received number 5200. It designated them Class L-1a and gave them road numbers 170 through 173. In 1929. the NKP obtained four more Hudsons (designated Class L-1b with road numbers 174 through 177), this time from the Lima Locomotive Works.

These eight locomotives were the pride of the NKP's passenger service and saw 16 years of handling main line passenger trains between Buffalo, NY and Chicago, IL until displaced by diesels in the 1950s.

There is one surviving locomotive, number 170, on display at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Mo.


ClassRoad NumbersYear BuiltBuilder

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class L-1a/L-1b (Locobase 188)

Data from 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia, supplemented by NKP 5 - 1950 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for valve gear ID; and for his 22 September 2017 email reporting unlikely boiler pressure values for 177 entries. A Locobase macro caused the error.) Alco's Brooks Works supplied the first four (works numbers 67211-67214 in March 1927 and Lima finished the class with four (works numbers 7399-7402 in November 1929).

Firebox had syphons.The nearly square cylinders were fed by 14" (356 mm) piston valves. A thicker tire (74") more than offset an increase in boiler pressure to 225 psi (15.5 bar), so the tractive effort dropped slightly.

The Brooks engines had built-up frames while the Limas were delivered with cast-steel beds. The Alcos would be given cast-steel beds just after World War Two.The L-1b's boilers were pressed to 215 psi (14.8 bar) and the engines weighed slightly more. By the end of their careers, all eight would roll on Timken roller bearings.

These were among the very first 4-6-4s to be built. Drury's (1993) comment on these engines: They "...looked bigger than they were after the smoke lifters were added. In actuality, they were little more than a USRA light Pacific with a four-wheel trailing truck."

By the end of their days, the L-1s would be photographed pulling local freights and other secondary services.

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Middle Run Media

Locobase ID188
RailroadNew York, Chicago & St Louis (Nickel Plate)
Number in Class8
Road Numbers170-177
Number Built8
Valve GearWalschaert
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)13 / 3.96
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)37.75 / 11.51
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheelbase 0.34
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)73.65 / 22.45
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)58,700 / 26,626
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)175,475 / 79,594
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)316,500 / 143,562
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)206,200 / 93,531
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)522,700 / 237,093
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)11,000 / 41.67
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / Liters/MT)16 / 15
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)97 / 48.50
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)73 / 1854
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)215 / 14.80
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)25" x 26" / 635x660
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)40,681 / 18452.61
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.31
Heating Ability
Tubes (number - dia) (in / mm)224 - 2.25" / 57
Flues (number - dia) (in / mm)45 - 5.5" / 140
Flue/Tube length (ft / m)20 / 6.10
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)302 / 28.06
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)66.80 / 6.21
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)4219 / 391.95
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)1055 / 98.01
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)5274 / 489.96
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume285.65
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation14,362
Same as above plus superheater percentage17,234
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area77,916
Power L126,962
Power MT1016.23

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Wes Barris