2-8-4 Berkshire

2-8-4 PM 1225

In the US, the 2-8-4 wheel arrangement was a development of the successful USRA’s 2-8-2 Mikado. The design came from the requirement for a locomotive with greater steam heating capacity. To achieve more steam, the solution was to increase the size of the firebox.  However, the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement with its single axle trailing truck limited the permissible increased axle loading with the additional weight of a larger firebox. The solution was to add a second trailing axle to spread the weight.

The first US 2-8-4s were built for the Boston and Albany Railroad (B&A) in 1925 by Lima Locomotive Works. The Berkshire name evolved from the fact that the locomotive’s testing including crossing the substantial Berkshire mountains.  However, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) preferred the name Kanawha for 2-8-4s or Big Mikes from the fact that they replaced the Mikados. Berkshires were eventually manufactured by Lima, Baldwin, Alco, Alco-Dunkirk, and Montreal in the US.

2-8-4 wheel arrangement was used mainly for hauling fast express freight trains on heavy freight service. They replaced 2-8-2 Mikados with more power. Berkshires were replaced by even more powerful 2-10-4 Texas type locomotives.

The Berkshire’s popularity increased in1934, when the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad, the Nickel Plate Road or NKP, began using 2-8-4s designed by the Advisory Mechanical Committee (AMC) of the Van Sweringen empire. The Nickel Plate Road, Erie Railroad, Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and Pere Marquette Railway operated under Van Sweringen. The AMC’s design generated 64,100 pounds-force (285 kilonewtons) of tractive effort and became the standard design for later Berkshires. The Erie Railroad purchased 105 of locomotives which were the largest number of 2-8-4s.  As the first large major user, the NKP became synonymous with the Berkshire locomotive type.

Lima’s last steam locomotive was also the last US 2-8-4, the NKP’s No. 779 of 1949. Some 700 2-8-4s were built for US service, and at one point delivered 5% of the nation’s freight ton-miles.

In the motion picture Digimon, Runaway Locomon is a 2-8-4 type locomotive.

Locomotive Digimon
Locomotive Digimon


Nickel Plate No. 765 was built by Lima in 1944.

Nickel Plate No. 765 is restored and used in exhibition to transport passengers and tourists in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  For more information about Nickel Plate No. 765 go to https://fortwaynerailroad.org/nickel-plate-road-no-765/

For more info about the Nickel Plate line go to http://www.nkphts.org/history.html

Nickel Plate No. 759 was built by Lima in 1944.

Nickel Plate No. 759 is on display at the Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA.  For more information go to https://www.nps.gov/stea/index.htm

Nickel Plate No. 759
Nickel Plate No. 759

The Chesapeake & Ohio line (C&O) referred to Berkshires as Kanawhas and also Big Mikes as they replaced the USRA Mikado train.

More information about the Chesapeake & Ohio No. 2705 at B&O Museum at http://www.borail.org/2705.aspx

Pere Marquette No. 1225

Pere Marquette 1225 built for Pere Marquette Railway (PM) by Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, OH. 1225 is one of two surviving Pere Marquette 2-8-4 locomotives.  Nickel Plate 765, operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society is also a Lima built Berkshire very similar in appearance and specifications.

The Pere Marquette Railroad used 1225 in regular service from 1941 until the railroad merged into Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) in 1947. It stayed in use on C&O’s Michigan lines until 1951.  It was acquired by Michigan State University in 1957 and placed on static display.

The locomotive is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now used on excursion trains over the former Tuscola and Saginaw Bay Railway, now Great Lakes Central Railroad.

For more information about 1225 go to American Rails at http://www.american-rails.com/pm-1225.html , Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pere-Marquette-Railway-Steam-Locomotive-No-1225/612717552197976 , and Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/386113368023270842/?lp=true

Pere Marquette No. 1225
Pere Marquette No. 1225

Micro-Mark sells several Berkshires for modeling at  http://www.micromark.com/search?keywords=Berkshires


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