nkp 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives of the USA

The New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad was dubbed the "Nickel Plate Road" in a newspaper article in 1882. It seemed to the writer that everything on this railroad, from the tracks to the fittings in the passenger cars, was bright, polished and perfect, as if nickel-plated. The name stuck and the railroad used the name until it merged with the Norfolk & Western and the Wabash in 1960.

There is an alternate story of how the Nickel Plate Road got that name. When William Vanderbilt sought to purchase the NYC&StL, to remove it as a competitor with his New York Central, the price, which he was quoted was, in his view, so exorbitant that he exclaimed, "My God! Your railroad must be nickel-plated!"

In 1927, the Nickel Plate Road was part of a group of railroads controlled by two brothers, Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen. Along with the Nickel Plate Road they controlled the C & O, the Pere Marquette and the Hocking Valley Railroad. The Van Sweringens established the "Advisory Mechanical Committee", which represented the best design talents from the four railroads.

This committee, after exhaustive studies and tests, used the most favorable ratios, proportions and characteristics of the Erie Railroad's 2-8-4 of 1927, and enlarged it into the famous C & O Class T-1, 2-10-4, which were built by Lima in 1930. In 1934, the process was applied in reverse from the 2-10-4 and the equally famous Nickel Plate Road "Berkshire" Class S, 2-8-4 resulted.

In 1934, the NKP took delivery of fifteen of the new "Berkshires" from the American Locomotive Company. These new locomotives were perfectly suited for the NKP and with them they set record after record. In all the NKP bought eighty "Berkshires", fifteen from ALCO and the balance from Lima Locomotive Works and numbered them 700 through 779.

These locomotives had 69" diameter drivers, 25" x 34" cylinders, a 245 psi boiler pressure, they exerted 64,135 pounds of tractive effort and each weighed between 261,100 to 266,030 pounds.

There are six surviving NKP 2-8-4 "Berkshire" type locomotives. They are: number 755 at the Conneaut Railroad Historical Museum in Conneaut, OH, number 757 at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA, number 759 at Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, PA, number 763 at the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, VA, number 765 at the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society on Edgerton Rd in New Haven, IN and number 779 at Lincoln Park in Lima, OH

Roster by Richard Duley

ClassQty.Road NumbersYear BuiltBuilderNotes
S15700-7141934ALCONumbers 700-714 scrapped between 1957 and 1961
S-115715-7291942LimaNumbers 715-729 scrapped between 1957 and 1964
S-110730-7391943LimaNumbers 730-739 scrapped in 1961-1962
S-230740-7691944LimaNumbers 755, 757, 759, 763 and 765 are preserved. All the others scrapped between 1960 and 1964.
S-310770-7791949LimaNumber 779 was the last steam locomotive built by Lima and it is preserved. All the others scrapped between 1961 and 1963.


If you have any railroad data such as diagram books, rail station plans or anything else that you would be willing to share, please contact us.