Boston & Albany / New York Central 4-6-4 "Hudson" Locomotives of the USA

A New York Central Hudson

New York Central

The New York Central is where the Hudson locomotive was designed and tested. It's development was due to the increase in passenger business on the NYC. In the mid 1920s longer trains were required and the existing motive power could not handle more than 12 cars. There was a need for a passenger locomotive which had the capability of pulling 16 to 18 cars. In 1926, the new chief mechanical engineer, Paul Kiefer, designed a 4-6-4 locomotive that had greater starting tractive effort and the ability not only of pulling longer trains but also of maintain higher speeds.

So successful was this new design that 275 Hudsons were built for the NYC system including its wholly owned subsidiaries. Of the 275 Hudsons, 30 were used on the Michigan Central, 30 went to the CCC&StL, 20 went to the Boston & Albany and 195 were used on the NYC. Only 10 were built by the Lima Locomotive Works. The balance were built by the American Locomotive Company.

The first Hudson arrived on 2/14/27 and the last in 1938. The NYC numbered them in consecutive order starting at 5200 and even renumbered the ones on its subsidiaries so that there was an unbroken string of numbers that reached 5474. All 275 NYC Hudsons had boosters.

Of the 275 Hudsons in the fleet, 13 were streamlined. Number 5344 was the world's first streamlined locomotive having had its shroud installed in 1934. The "bathtub" shroud was designed by the Case School of Science in Cleveland, OH. In 1935 it was assigned to the 20th Century Limited between Toledo and Chicago and remained in this service for some time. During July, 1939, this locomotive was re- shrouded to look like the 20th Century J3s. After an October, 1945 grade crossing accident with a sand truck in East Chicago, all the streamlining was removed. Another "claim to fame" of this locomotive is that it was the prototype for the Lionel O-gauge model.

Numbers 5426 and 5429, both Class J-3s were streamlined with a stainless steel cowling to match the "Empire State Express" train. This cowling was removed in 1950.

Ten of the Class J-3 Hudsons numbers 5445 through 5454 were built streamlined in 1938. The design was created by Henry Dreyfuss and styled to match the new cars of the New York - Chicago "Twentieth Century Limited" which was America's most famous luxury train. After 1945, the stainless steel shrouds were removed.

From the very first Hudson, number 5200, there were many design improvements. The Class J-1s had five different design levels. Class J-2 had three. The final Class of Hudsons (J-3) were vastly different from the previous classes and were constantly being improved. The NYC was the pioneer of the 4-6-4 wheel arrangement and ultimately used nearly 56% of all the Hudsons ever produced. Many consider the Hudson to have been the most beautiful steam locomotive ever built. Unfortunately, the NYC did not save even one for posterity.

In 1948 two J-1 NYC Hudsons (5311 and 5313) were sold to the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo where they became 501 and 502. In 1954, when the TH&B dieselized, both Hudsons were scrapped. Howerver, 5313's tender was retained and outfitted with a steam generator for use on TH&B passenger trains. Tender 5313 survives to this day at Steamtown. It is the largest extant single piece of a NYC Hudson.

Boston & Albany

The Boston & Albany purchased twenty Hudsons, ten from the American Locomotive Company and ten from the Lima Locomotive Works.

These locomotives were bought in three orders: one in 1928 for five Class J-2a (road numbers 600 through 604) from ALCO, a second in 1930, for five Class J-2b (road numbers 605 through 609) also from ALCO and a third in 1931, for ten Class J-2c (road numbers 610 through 619) from Lima.

These 4-6-4s were very similar to all the other NYC system Hudsons and they had 25 x 28 cylinders, 75" drivers, a 240 psi boiler pressure (later reduced to 225 psi) and exerted 47,600 lbs of tractive effort.

On the NYC System roster, these 20 locomotives carried numbers 5455 through 5474.

Michigan Central

The Michigan Central Railroad purchased 30 Hudsons from the American Locomotive Company in three orders. Ten Class J-1bs in 1927 (road numbers 8200 through 8209), five Class J-1cs in 1929 (road numbers 8210 through 8214) and 15 Class J-1ds in 1930 (road numbers 8215 through 8229). Later, the NYC renumbered them 5345 through 5374.

Big Four

The CCC&StL Railroad purchased a total of 30 Hudsons from the American Locomotive Works in two orders. The first 20 Class J-1ds in 1929 (road numbers 6600 through 6619) and last 10 Class J-1es in 1931 (road numbers 6620 through 6629). Later, the NYC renumbered them 5375 through 5404.

Roster by Richard Duley

ClassB&A NumbersYr. BuiltBuilderLocomotive Weight
J-2a600 - 6041928ALCO353,000 lbs
J-2b605 - 6091930ALCO356,500 lbs
J-2c610 - 6191931Lima357,000 lbs

ClassQtyMC Nos.NYC Nos.Yr. BuiltBuilder

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class J-2a, b (Locobase 176)

Data from tables in 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia. Works numbers were 67604 in July 1928, 67605-67608 in August and 68482-68486 in August 1930.

Boiler had Coffin feedwater heater, valve motion limited cutoff.

These engines, built for the New York Central subsidiary, were virtually identical to the NYC J-series Hudsons. A visible difference was the B&A square sand dome. This is the first set of ten, delivered by Alco. Locobase 5873 has the Lima 10, which had slightly less superheating surface.

Class J-2c (Locobase 5873)

Data from NYC 1 - 1944 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive Raildata collection. Works numbers were 7574-7583 in April-May 1931.

These engines, built for the New York Central subsidiary by Alco-Schenectady (1st 10) and Lima (last 10), were virtually identical to the NYC J-series Hudsons.

Boiler had Coffin feedwater heater, valve motion limited cutoff of 14" (356 mm) piston valves. A visible difference was the B&A square sand dome and the smaller drivers, the latter in recognition of the Berkshire grades. Later, they trailed much heavier tenders that weighed 280,700 lb (127,324 kg) carrying 12,500 US gallons (47,313 litres) of water and coal weighing 24 tons (21,772 kg).

As mainline express power shifted to EMD diesels, the J-2s were transferred to suburban service.

Class J1a to J1e (Locobase 185)

Data from tables in 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia. See also NYC 1 - 1946 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for his question about the J-1e that prompted a major Locobase revision of this entry.) Works numbers were

J1a 67165 in February 1927

J1b 67432-67453 in September; 67454-67475 in October; 67476-67480 in November.

J1c 67712-67720, 67722-67729 in December 1928; 67721, 67730-67736 in January 1929.

J1d 68153-68159 in November 1929; 68160-68172 in December; 68173-68189 in January 1930; 68190-68192 in February.

J1e 68551, 68553 in April 1931; 68552, 68554-68566 in May; 68567-68576 in June; 68577 in July; 68578 in September; 68579 in October; 68580 in November

Boiler had Elesco feedwater heater except as noted. These were the predecessors to the more well-known J3 class. Michigan Central and the Big Four each received thirty of the type. Their tonnage rating was 1,270 tons on the flat at an average speed of 55 mph (89 km/h). Although the engines came in five batches (see below), they had essentially the same dimensions. Firebox heating surface included 37 sq ft (3.45 sq m) of arch tubes. Steam was admitted to the cylinders through 14" (356 mm) piston valves.

J1a 1 5200 in February 1927.

J1b 59 5201-5222 in September 1927; 5223-44 in October, 5245-5249, 5345-5348

in November, and 5349-5354 in December. Delivered with

Walschaert gear. 5201-5220, 5240-5244, 5350-5354 fitted with Coffin

feedwater heaters..

J1c 25 5250-5258, 5260-5267 in December 1928; 5259, 5268-5274 in January 1929. All

fitted with Coffin feedwater heaters.

J1d 75 5275-5281 in November 1929, 5282-5294 in December, 5295-5311 in January

1930; 5312-5314, 5385-5394 in February, 5375-5384, 5360-5374. These

engines used Baker valve gear.

J1e 39 5317 in April 1931; 5316, 5318-5330 in May; 5331-5340 in June; 5341 in July; 5342 in September; 5343 in October; 5344 in November;

5395-5404 in June 1931. Like the J1ds, the J1es operated Baker valve

gear. 5316-5338, 5340-5344 fitted with Coffin feedwater heaters.

The cylinder proportions were more equal than in later locomotives and boiler pressure was relatively low. The 5200's low BDF of 519 indicated the design's growth potential. Some J1es assigned to the Water-Level Route premium passenger runs trailed very large tenders that weighed 155,700 lb (70,624 kg) empty and 380,700 lb (172,683 kg) loaded with

. So equipped, the tractive system (engine and tender) came to 739,300 lb (335,341 kg).

S. Kip Farrington dissented boldly from the usual encomiums directed at this design in his Railroading Coast to Coast (1976, p 4). "Readers might be surprised to know that I put the very popular and the pioneer Hudson type, New York Central's J classes at the bottom of the list. They had many more troubles with them than were ever made public, although they did lead the parade."

#5311, 5313 went to the Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo in 1948 as 501-502, where they ran until scrapped in 1954.

Class J1b to J1e with thermic syphon (Locobase 15867)

Data from NYC 1 - 1946 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley.

Locobase 185 is the main entry for this large class of NYC Hudsons. The present record shows the locomotives whose firebox was later retrofitted with 90 sq ft (8.35 sq m) of thermic syphons at the expense of 18.5 sq ft (1.7 sq m) of arch tubes.

Only a few locomotives received the new firebox layout; as of 1946, only the following engines are shown so equipped:

J1a 5245-5246, 5249

J1c 5265-5266, 5268, 5271, 5274

Class J3a (Locobase 186)

Data from NYC 1 - 1944 and NYC 1 - 1946 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley. Works numbers were 68839-68848 in September 1937; 68849-68869 in October; 68870-68876 in November; 68877-68878 in December.

Almost all of this class used Elesco feedwater heaters: 5406, 5411, 5418, 5420, 5428, 5430, 5435-5436, 5441, and 5444 were fitted with Worthingtons. Firebox heating surface included 37 sq ft (3.45 sq m) of arch tubes as well as that supplied by the combustion chamber. The latter feature was relatively uncommon in New York Central engines.

Compared to the earlier J-1, the J-3 had less heating surface but a higher boiler pressure. According to Alvin Staufer (Steam Power of the New York Central System, 1961), the initial pressure setting of 275 psi (19 bar) led to the bending of main rods, so it was lowered by 10 psi. Roller bearings were mounted on all engine and tender wheels. Like the earlier New York Central Hudsons, these had 14" (356 mm) piston valves to supply steam to the cylinders.

Both had low BDF and GDF, suggesting an easy-to-work locomotive, a conclusion reinforced by the high degree of superheat. The J3s, however, developed 20% more power than did the J-1s at 65 mph. Their tonnnage ratings included 1,130 tons at 59 mph (95 km/h). Moreover, they could run 185,000 to 200,000 miles (297,850 km to 322,000 km) between shoppings for heavy repairs, which equates to approximately 2 years of service. Such high service levels came also from a variety of large tenders. The heaviest weighed 169,300 lb (76,793 kg) empty and 401,100 lb (181,936 kg) loaded, bringing the total system (engine and tender) weight to 766,600 lb (347,679 kg).

The last ten locomotives were completed with the famous Dreyfuss streamlined casing; see Locobase 15868.

Class J3a-Dreyfus (Locobase 15868)

Data from NYC 1 - 1944 and NYC 1 - 1946 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley. See also Stephen Drucker, " A Train of Thought:The unforgettable 20th Century Limited and Its Creator, Henry Dreyfuss," Architectural Digest (May 2003), archived at, last accessed 10 October 2003. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for his 2 June 2015 email noting that the original tenders for these engines were the same as those supplied to other J-3s.) Works numbers were 68879-68882 in March 1938; 68883-68888 in April.

See Locobase 186 for the J-3a entry, which describes the powerful Hudson design in its final proportions. This entry describes the the last ten locomotives, which were completed with the famous Dreyfuss streamlined casing. Stephen Drucker delineates the thinking and execution that went into creating one of the most readily recognized examples of the streamline era:

"Dreyfuss worked with almost pathological restraint, transcending the mindless fashion for streamlining, mixing images of the Machine Age and the Stork Club as only he could. The Century's steam locomotive wore a shroud often compared to a Spartan warrior's helmet, its six huge driving wheels pierced with holes and painted aluminum to attract the eye; and at night the churning wheels were lighted. Dreyfuss understood that his locomotive, which would become one of the most photographed symbols of the era, created drama enough. The rest of the exterior was simplicity itself. It had all the self-assurance of a well-cut gray flannel suit, with blue chalk stripes and a Moderne tail sign glowing blue as it retreated up the Hudson River."

A Dreyfuss touch for the interior of some of the 90 cars that also made up the 20th Century Limited was the inclusion of a speedometer in the club car. "Seeing the needle hit 85 miles per hour," Drucker writes,"gave passengers the same thrill they would get, four decades later, watching a digital readout on Concorde [supersonic airliner] as it passed through Mach 1."

Chris Hohl correctly states that the first tenders behind this class were the same as those pulled by the other 40 J-3As. They carried 13,600 US gallons of water and and 28 tons of coal. Locobase chose instead to show the enormous PT-1 tenders assigned to the class by 1944; the much greater capacity, in combination with track troughs meant that refueling the PT tenders happened just once along the way from the beginning of steam territory at Harmon, NY to the Limited's arrival in Chicago 15 1/2 to 16 hours later.

With the exception of 5450, the Dreyfuss engines retained their streamlining throughout World War Two. The rest shed their ornamental shrouds beginning in March 1946 and ending in December 1947. Including 5450, which had suffered a boiler explosion in September 1943, the entire J3a stud operated into the mid-1950s.

Other leading promoters of the streamline age adopted the New York Central's premier passenger power to showcase their products. The Edward G Budd Company of Philadelphia shrouded J3as 5426 and 5429 assigned to the new Empire State Express in 1941 in casings that included their trademark fluted stainless steel in the valences over the rear truck. Similar stainless steel sheathing was applied to the tenders and the 32 cars.

Specifications by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
ClassJ-2a, bJ-2cJ1a to J1eJ1b to J1e with thermic syphonJ3a
Locobase ID176 5873 185 15867 186
RailroadBoston & Albany (NYC)Boston & Albany (NYC)New York Central (NYC)New York Central (NYC)New York Central (NYC)
Number in Class1010205840
Road Numbers600-609/5455-5464610-619 / 5465-54745200-5404various5405-5444
Number Built101020540
Valve GearBakerBakerBaker or WalschaertBaker or WalschaertBaker
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase14'14'14'14'14'
Engine Wheelbase40.33'40.33'40.33'40.33'40.33'
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.35 0.35 0.35 0.35 0.35
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender)76.12'76.12'83.62'83.62'83.62'
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle)
Weight on Drivers187500 lbs188100 lbs189000 lbs184500 lbs201800 lbs
Engine Weight353000 lbs357000 lbs359800 lbs346500 lbs365500 lbs
Tender Light Weight206800 lbs208800 lbs316400 lbs212200 lbs316000 lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight559800 lbs565800 lbs676200 lbs558700 lbs681500 lbs
Tender Water Capacity10000 gals10000 gals12500 gals12500 gals13600 gals
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal)16 tons17 tons24 tons24 tons28 tons
Minimum weight of rail (calculated)104 lb/yard105 lb/yard105 lb/yard103 lb/yard112 lb/yard
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter75"75"79"79"79"
Boiler Pressure240 psi240 psi225 psi225 psi265 psi
Cylinders (dia x stroke)25" x 28"25" x 28"25" x 28"25" x 28"22.5" x 29"
Tractive Effort47600 lbs47600 lbs42366 lbs42366 lbs41860 lbs
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 3.94 3.95 4.46 4.35 4.82
Heating Ability
Firebox Area281 sq. ft281 sq. ft281 sq. ft352.50 sq. ft360 sq. ft
Grate Area81.50 sq. ft81.50 sq. ft81.50 sq. ft81.50 sq. ft82 sq. ft
Evaporative Heating Surface4484 sq. ft4484 sq. ft4484 sq. ft4556 sq. ft4187 sq. ft
Superheating Surface1951 sq. ft1920 sq. ft1951 sq. ft1951 sq. ft1745 sq. ft
Combined Heating Surface6435 sq. ft6404 sq. ft6435 sq. ft6507 sq. ft5932 sq. ft
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume281.87281.87281.87286.40313.74
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation1956019560183381833821730
Same as above plus superheater percentage2542825428238392383928032
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area876728767282193103106123066
Power L14421943693436674446756713
Power MT1559.781536.311528.081594.031858.73

Specifications by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Locobase ID15868
RailroadNew York Central (NYC)
Number in Class10
Road Numbers5445-5454
Number Built10
Valve GearBaker
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase14'
Engine Wheelbase40.33'
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.35
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender)88.49'
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle)
Weight on Drivers201800 lbs
Engine Weight365500 lbs
Tender Light Weight420000 lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight785500 lbs
Tender Water Capacity18000 gals
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal)46 tons
Minimum weight of rail (calculated)112 lb/yard
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter79"
Boiler Pressure265 psi
Cylinders (dia x stroke)22.5" x 29"
Tractive Effort41860 lbs
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.82
Heating Ability
Firebox Area360 sq. ft
Grate Area82 sq. ft
Evaporative Heating Surface4187 sq. ft
Superheating Surface1745 sq. ft
Combined Heating Surface5932 sq. ft
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume313.74
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation21730
Same as above plus superheater percentage28032
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area123066
Power L156713
Power MT1858.73



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