Classic Streamliners - TRAIN​CYCLOPEDIA

A 2-8-4 Slideshow.

The 2-8-4 Whyte notation: one unpowered leading axle in a leading truck, followed by four powered and coupled driving axles, and two unpowered trailing axles mounted in a truck.

An Erie Railroad type 2-8-4 (Berkshire) locomotive on a turntable at Salamanca, New York, June 30, 1947.

Schematic of 2-8-4 steam locomotive wheel arrangement: one unpowered leading axle in a leading truck or pilot wheels, followed by four powered and coupled driving axles, and two unpowered trailing axles mounted in a truck, called the trailing truck.

Snake River Farms Wagyu Brisket

2-8-4 Steam Locomotive
Under the Whyte notation, a 2-8-4 is a steam locomotive that has one unpowered leading axle, usually in a leading truck, followed by four powered and coupled driving axles, and two unpowered trailing axles, usually mounted in a truck. This locomotive type is most often referred to as a Berkshire, though the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway used the name Kanawha for their 2-8-4s. In Europe, this wheel arrangement was mostly seen in mainline passenger express locomotives and, in certain countries, in tank locomotives.

n the United States of America, the 2-8-4 wheel arrangement was a further development of the enormously successful United States Railroad Administration (USRA) 2-8-2 Mikado. It resulted from the requirement for a locomotive with even greater steam heating capacity. To produce more steam, a solution was to increase the size of the locomotive's firebox, but the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement with its single axle trailing truck limited the permissible increased axle loading from a larger firebox. The most practical solution was to add a second trailing axle to spread the increased weight of a larger firebox.

The first American 2-8-4s were built for the Boston and Albany Railroad in 1925 by Lima Locomotive Works. The railroad's route across the Berkshire mountains was a substantial test for the new locomotives and, as a result, the name Berkshire was adopted for the locomotive type.

In Europe, 2-8-4 tender locomotives were designed mainly for passenger express trains, but they also hauled long distance express freights to increase utilization. European 2-8-4 tank locomotives were a logical transition from the 2-8-2T locomotive types, allowing larger fireboxes and larger coal bunkers. They were mainly used for busy suburban services in heavily populated suburban areas of big cities, but infrequently also for sparsely populated rural areas or long distance lines.

United States
Locomotives of a 2-8-4 wheel arrangement were used mainly for hauling fast express freight trains on heavy freight service. They often replaced older 2-8-2 Mikados where more power was required. In turn, they were often replaced by even more powerful 2-10-4 Texas type locomotives.

Six years after the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway experimented with the first 2-10-4, the first 2-8-4s were built for the Boston & Albany (B&A) by Lima Locomotive Works in 1925. The railroad's route over the Berkshires was a substantial test for the new locomotives, but the type proved its worth, outpacing the 2-8-2 Mikados already in use there. This mountain range lent its name to the locomotive type, though the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway preferred the name Kanawha for their 2-8-4s. Buoyed by the success of the demonstrations on the B&A, Lima and ALCO both sold a few hundred of the new locomotive type.

The Berkshire type's big boost came in 1934, when the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate Road or NKP) received its first 2-8-4s, built to a new design from the Advisory Mechanical Committee (AMC) of the Van Sweringen empire. Under the Van Sweringen umbrella were the Nickel Plate Road, Erie Railroad, Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and Pere Marquette Railway. The AMC's design generated 64,100 pounds-force (285 kilonewtons) of tractive effort and became the standard design for subsequent Berkshires. The Erie Railroad purchased the largest number of 2-8-4s, rostering 105.

Lima's last steam locomotive was also the last American 2-8-4, the NKP's No. 779 of 1949. Some 700 2-8-4s were built for American service, constituting 2% of the steam fleet prior to dieselization and delivering 5% of the nation's freight ton-miles.

As the first large scale user, the NKP became synonymous with the Berkshire locomotive type. One of this class, Nickel Plate no. 765, is preserved in operating condition and is operated occasionally from its New Haven, Indiana home. Nickel Plate no. 779 is preserved as a static display in Lincoln Park in Lima, Ohio.

Many larger American railroads rostered Berkshires. The list below shows data on the American 2-8-4 locomotives as they were built.

American 2-8-4 Construction Roster

Railroad: Lima Locomotive Works

Quantity: 1
Class:  A1
Road numbers: 1
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1925
Notes: to IC 7050.

Railroad: Boston and Albany Railroad

Quantity: 55
Class:  A-1a
Road numbers: 1400–1424
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1926
Class: A-1b
Road numbers: 1425–1444
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1926
Class: A-1c
Road numbers: 1445–1454
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1930

Railroad: Illinois Central Railroad

Quantity: 50
Class:  7000
Road numbers: 7000–7049
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1926
Notes: 7038 rebuilt to 4-6-4.

Railroad: Erie Railroad

Quantity: 105
Class:  S-1
Road numbers: 3300–3324
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1927
Class: S-2
Road numbers: 3325–3349
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1927
Class: S-3
Road numbers: 3350–3384
Builder: Baldwin
Build year: 1928
Class: S-4
Road numbers: 3385–3404
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1929

Railroad: Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway

Quantity: 15
Class: 4101 
Road numbers: 4101–4115
Builder: Baldwin
Build year: 1927

Railroad: Chicago and North Western Railway

Quantity: 12
Class:  J-4
Road numbers: 2801–2812
Builder: Alco-Dunkirk
Build year: 1927

Railroad: Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo Railway

Quantity: 2
Class: 
Road numbers: 201–202
Builder: Montreal
Build year: 1928

Railroad: Boston and Maine Railroad

Quantity: 25
Class:  T-1
Road numbers: 4000–4019
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1928
Note: 7 to ATSF, 10 to SP in 1945.
Road numbers: 4020–4024
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1929

Railroad: International–Great Northern Railroad

Quantity: 5
Class:  BK-63
Road numbers: 1121–1125
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1928

Railroad: Missouri Pacific Railroad

Quantity: 25
Class:  BK-63
Road numbers: 1901–1925
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1929
Notes: Rebuilt to 4-8-4s.

Railroad: Nickel Plate Road

Quantity: 80
Class:  S
Road numbers: 700–714
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1934
Class: S-1
Road numbers: 715–729
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1942
Class: S-1
Road numbers: 730–739
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1943
Class: S-2
Road numbers: 740–769
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1944
Class: S-3
Road numbers: 770–779
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1949

Railroad: Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad

Quantity: 6
Class:  700
Road numbers: 700–703
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1935
Road numbers: 704–705
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1939

Railroad: Pere Marquette Railway

Quantity: 39
Class:  N
Road numbers: 1201–1215
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1937
Notes: to C&O in 1947.
Class: N-1
Road numbers: 1216–1227
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1941
Class: N-2
Road numbers: 1228–1239
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1944

Railroad: Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway

Quantity: 32
Class:  K-1
Road numbers: 6401–6410
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1937
Notes: to Nickel Plate Road class S-4 in 1949.
Road numbers: 6411–6415
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1938
Road numbers: 6416–6422
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1942
Road numbers: 6423–6432
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1943

Railroad: Norfolk Southern Railway

Quantity: 5
Class:  F-1
Road numbers: 600–604
Builder: Baldwin
Build year: 1940
Notes: to the NdeM in 1950, numbers 3350-3354.

Railroad: Louisville and Nashville Railroad

Quantity: 42
Class:  M-1
Road numbers: 1950–1963
Builder: Baldwin
Build year: 1942
Road numbers: 1964–1969
Builder: Baldwin
Build year: 1944
Road numbers: 1970–1991
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1949

Railroad: Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad

Quantity: 10
Class:  571
Road numbers: 571–580
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1943

Railroad: Chesapeake and Ohio Railway

Quantity: 90
Class:  K-4
Road numbers: 2700–2739
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1943
Road numbers: 2740–2749
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1944
Road numbers: 2750–2759
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1945
Road numbers: 2760–2789
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1947

Railroad: Virginian Railway

Quantity: 5
Class:  BA
Road numbers: 505–509
Builder: Lima
Build year: 1946

Railroad: Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad

Quantity: 7
Class:  A-2a
Road numbers: 9400–9406
Builder: Alco
Build year: 1948
Notes: Tenders built by Lima

Berkshires in fiction
In the motion picture The Polar Express, the "know-it-all" boy identifies the train's locomotive as a Baldwin 2-8-4 built in 1931, although the actual prototype for the film's locomotive was the Pere Marquette no. 1225, a Berkshire built by the Lima Locomotive Works in 1941.

In the Transformers television series, motion picture and toy line, the Decepticon triple changer Astrotrain is modeled on a Japanese Class D62 2-8-4 locomotive.

Locomon in the motion picture Digimon: Runaway Locomon is a 2-8-4 type locomotive.

2-8-4 (Berkshire) Overview
Equivalent classifications
UIC class: 1'D2
French class: 142
Turkish class: 47
Swiss class: 4/7
Russian class: 1-4-2
First known tank engine version
First use: 1893
Country: Australia
Locomotive: WAGR K class
Railway: Western Australian Government Railways
Designer: Neilson and Company
Builder: Neilson and Company
Evolved from: 2-8-2T
Benefits: Larger fireboxes and coal bunkers
First known tender engine version
First use: 1925
Country: United States of America
Locomotive: B&A class A1
Railway: Boston and Albany Railroad
Designer: Lima Locomotive Works
Builder: Lima Locomotive Works
Evolved from: 2-8-2
Benefits: Larger firebox than 2-8-2

See also:

Berkshire Locomotives

Steam Locomotives
An Erie Railroad type 2-8-4 (Berkshire) locomotive on a turntable at Salamanca, New York, June 30, 1947.
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