Philadelphia & Reading 4-8-4 "Northern" Locomotives in the USA

When Revelle W. Brown became president of the Reading Company he wanted to speed up freight service. To that end he ordered the company's superintendent of motive power and rolling equipment, E. Paul Gangewere, to get together with the design engineers at the Baldwin Locomotive Works to develop a plan to convert 30 of the railroad's I-10a 2-8-0 Consolidations to new 4-8-4 Northerns.

These 30 steam locomotives (road numbers 2100 -2129) were rebuilt in the railroad's own shops in Reading, PA, beginning in 1945 with the project completed by 1947. The conversions were made with several reclaimed parts from the I-10a Consolidations (road numbers 2020-2049) and new parts furnished from Baldwin and other vendors.

The first 20 locomotives converted were put into freight service and were regularly used for coal traffic. The last 10 were equipped for passenger service but, except for a few troop trains, were also used for freight.

The Reading Class T-1's were handsome heavy-duty locomotives which saw steady work until diesels took over freight service in the early 1950's. As they were taken out of service, the T-1's were kept in top-notch shape inside the Reading Roundhouse.

By 1956, steam was dead and virtually all steam locomotives but the T-1's were gone from the Reading. The only exceptions to this were 10 G3 Pacifics which remained in storage until mid-1957 when they were scrapped and a single 0-6-0 (Reading number 1251) which was still used as a switcher at the Reading shops and is now preserved at the Strasburg Railroad.. Three years later the T-1's would begin a new and more celebrated career pulling train loads of railfans on excursions through the Pennsylvania country side. These outings became known as "Reading Rambles".

Of the 30 T-1's built by the Reading only four survive today and are located as shown below.

The Iron Horse Rambles (Reading Rambles)

Reading 2102 on a Ramble
Excursions were a regular part of railroading in the waning days of the steam era. These rail outings were usually run "off the beaten track" over freight-only branches or were main line "Autumn leaf excursions " run in the fall to view the Autumn colors.

On the Reading Railroad these excursions which became known as "Reading Rambles" were started in 1936, when the first was run in October and was billed as an "Autumn leaf excursion". This very popular ramble ran every year until the outbreak of World War II. After the war only a few rambles were run and, when diesels took over completely in the mid 1950's, they were thought to have become a part of the romantic history of railroading.

Then surprisingly in 1959, the Reading announced an "Iron Horse Ramble" to be led by a steam locomotive, one of the T-1s, #2124. This nostalgic revival of the rambles was run on October 25, 1959, with #2124 pulling a 16 car train from Wayne Junction to Shamokin. The Reading continued to run the rambles using T-1 #2100, #2102 and #2124 until high locomotive repair costs and track deterioration caused the cessation of these very popular outings. From the October 25, 1959 ramble to the last one on October 17, 1964, the Reading had operated a total of 50 "Rambles".

An interesting note is that on that 50th and final "Ramble", the T1 broke a tender or engine spring. It was later replaced with one from the 2123 which had recently been sold for scrap but was still intack. There was a TRAINS photo showing the 2123 being scrapped.

The American Freedom Train

American Freedom Train
In April, 1975, the American Freedom Train, a 20 car rolling museum, full of exhibits about American history embarked on a nationwide tour. This train carrying some of the nation's treasures, was the brain child of Ross E. Rowland, Jr.

His plan was to have the train travel from city to city and to be pulled by restored steam locomotives. For the southern and western portions of the tour he was able to secure the services of restored Southern Pacific #4449 and the restored Texas & Pacific #610.

For the east, Ross Rowland found a Reading T-1, #2101, in a scrap yard in Baltimore, MD and overhauled it in the same Reading shop were it had been converted nearly 30 years earlier.

After the American Freedom Train, Ross Rowland kept #2101 and conducted a series of "Chessie Steam Special" excursions on the Chessie System in 1977 and 1978 until #2101 was severely damaged in a roundhouse fire in 1979. The fire was so severe that the coal in 2101's tender burned. As a result there was some uncertainty in the structural integrity of the locomotive and tender. After the fire the Chessie, who had been pleased with the "Chessie Steam Special" program, wanted the steam train excursions to continue and traded to Ross Rowland a C&O main line steam locomotive (#614) for the damaged #2101. They also contributed $100,000 to the restoration efforts of #614. In return Ross Rowland (Steam Loco. Corp of Americs) would cosmetically restore #2101 to its "American Freedom Train #1" appearance and donate it to the B&O museum where it still remains today.

About That Wootten Firebox

John E. Wootten patented a boiler, in 1877, that was designed to burn small sizes of cheap anthracite coal. Slow burning anthracite required a very large grate area to achieve the same heat as a much smaller one that burned bituminous coal. His firebox was extremely wide and shallow at the bottom and had a crown sheet curved with a large radius. The design permitted a thin fire and a light draft which avoided blowing fuel out of the stack.

The Reading Railroad used Wootten fireboxes on most of its steam locomotives from 1880, right up to dieselization. The I-10a locomotives, built in 1923-1925, and later converted to T-1s, had a firebox with over 90 square feet, which was about double that of a comparable soft coal burning locomotive at that time. The T-1 had a grate area of 94.5 square feet.

Over time, a mixture of hard and soft coal was used on the Reading Railroad and in the 1940's it changed to 100% soft coal. The Wootten fireboxes were modified to burn stoker-fed bituminous coal. The Wootten firebox proved a natural for getting the huge heating surface that was required in the larger locomotives that were used in the later days of the steam era.

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class T-1 (Locobase 275)

Data from table and diagram in 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and "What the Reading Saved,", Steam Locomotive Number 2 (December 1959), pp.8-14 . See also "Reading Company No. 2124", Steamtown Special History Study - American Steam Locomotives, National Park Service website at [], last accessed 14 April 2017. (Many thanks to Ellis Tammeleo's group for creating the "October 2022" Google doc with a series of corrections and questions about Locobase's information, including this entry.)

Firebox had four thermic syphons and two arch tubes.

Trailing-truck booster added 11,100 lb (5,035 kg) to starting tractive effort. These engines were built using the boilers from 30 I-10 2-8-0s. The back end was unchanged, the front lengthened primarily by installing a Baldwin-built smokebox section that was 111" (2,819 mm) long and two boiler courses each extending to 187" (4.75 m). General Steel Casting supplied the new one-piece engine bed with integral cylinders and pump bracket; as delivered, the unit weighed 60,000 lb (27,216 kg) . Other special equipment were the Worthington 5 1/2 SA feed water heater and Standard HT stoker.

According to John Bohon, who wrote Locobase care of Wes Barris's on 3 October 2011, the first engine used friction bearings on the drivers. The other ten used roller bearings. Lead and trailing trucks used roller bearings of either SKF or Timken manufacture. Bohon comments that there was no pattern as to what tenders used which bearings.

The writer of What the Reading Saved noted that the only existing components to be reused were "the major part of the boiler and small items like whistles, water gauges, headlights, air pumps, safety valves, and grate rigging ...The last 15 engines built even had new fireboxes." Yet the final cost to the Reading came to $157,000 "or more than $75,000 under the estimated cost of a completely new locomotive."

Bohon adds: "the original use of all the T-1's was in fast freight service. Like most railroads the Reading needed engines to speed up their trains. It was not until later when the diesels started to arrive in mass that the T-1 was bumped down to coal train service. In spite of the compromises in their construction these were good locomotives."

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Locobase ID275
RailroadPhiladelphia & Reading
Number in Class30
Road Numbers2100-2129
Number Built30
Valve GearWalschaert
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)19.25 / 5.87
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)45.83 / 13.97
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheelbase 0.42
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)69,740 / 31,634
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)278,200 / 126,190
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)441,300 / 200,171
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)367,700 / 166,786
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)809,000 / 366,957
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)19,000 / 71.97
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / Liters/MT)26 / 24
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)116 / 58
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)70 / 1778
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)240 / 16.50
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)27" x 32" / 686x813
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)67,984 / 30837.06
Booster (lbs)10,100
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.09
Heating Ability
Tubes (number - dia) (in / mm)291 - 2" / 51
Flues (number - dia) (in / mm)50 - 5.375" / 137
Flue/Tube length (ft / m)20 / 6.10
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)465 / 43.20
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)94.40 / 8.77
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)4920 / 457.08
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)1214 / 112.78
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)6134 / 569.86
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume231.97
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation22,656
Same as above plus superheater percentage27,187
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area133,920
Power L123,988
Power MT760.38


Surviving T-1s

Reading 2100 in Ontario

2100: B&O Roundhouse, Cleveland, OH

A Brief History of 2100

Photos and Information

B&O Railroad Museum

2101: B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore, MD

A Brief History of 2101

2101 is probably best known for its part in the American Freedom Train of 1975-1977 after being rescued from a junk yard in Baltimore. During this time it was also used to power the Chessie Steam Special, honoring the 150th anniversary of B&O. It was painted in Chessie System colors, and pulled 18-20 cars. Unfortunately, 2101 is also known for being in the Chessie System roundhouse that burned in 1979. It has been cosmetically restored and is currently on display at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD.
Photos and Information

Reading 2102 Under Steam in 1985

2102: Reading Blue Mountain & Northern, Port Clinton, PA

2102 is perhaps best known for its operation on the Blue Mountain & Reading in Hamburg, PA where it was used from 1985 until the early 1990's. In 1995 it was brought to Steamtown National Historical Site to be repaired in exchange for running some excursions. In 1997 work had begun to repair 2102 but in mid 1998 it was suddenly towed to the RBM&N headquarters in Port Clinton, PA where it was put on display. RBM&N had plans to run 2102 on excursions.

A Brief History of 2102

Photos and Information

Reading 2124 in Steamtown

2124: Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PA

2124 was the first T-1 used on the Iron Horse Rambles and is the only surviving T-1 that hasn't operated since the Reading Rambles in 1964 being replaced by 2101. From 1963 and on, it has been located at Steamtown National Historic Site. There is an organization called Restore 2124 which is attempting to create interest in restoring 2124 to operational condition.

A Brief History of 2124

Photos and Information

Other T-1s

All material Copyright ©
Wes Barris