2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives in Cuba

The development of the 2-8-4 wheel arrangement for steam locomotives was a result of an effort by the Lima Locomotive Works to improve on the speed and horse power of the USRA Mikado (2-8-2) locomotive, which was designed by the United States Railroad Administration during World War I. The USRA design had difficulty keeping up steam over long periods and often experienced wheel slippage.

Lima Locomotive Works' engineer William E. Woodward started with a New York Central Class H-7 "Mikado" type locomotive and added a larger firebox, creating an experimental Class H-10 "Mikado". He then went one step further and designed a locomotive with a 100 square foot firebox. This larger firebox required a four-wheel trailing truck to support it. The resulting locomotive was designated Class A-1, and it was the first 2-8-4.

This new 2-8-4 locomotive was sent to the Boston & Albany Railroad by Lima in the early spring of 1925 for tests on that railroad. In several test runs over a division of the railroad that crossed the Berkshire Hills, the demonstration locomotive, which carried road number "1" hauled up to 2500 tons. The most dramatic test occurred on April 14, 1925. A Class H-10, 2-8-2 "Mikado" type steamed eastbound from the Selkirk Yard pulling a 46 car, 1691 ton, train. About 47 minutes later the Class A-1 demonstrator led a 54 car, 2296 ton, in the same direction. The demonstrator Class A-1 arrived at North Adams Junction ten minutes ahead of the Class H-10. Soon after these impressive tests, the Boston & Albany ordered forty-five of these new locomotives. Being the first railroad to use this new wheel arrangement the B&A chose to call them "Berkshire" type.

Lima put its Class A-1 demonstrator on the road and sent it across the country to sell this new class of locomotive. Wherever it went the Class A-1 established new records. This locomotive was later shipped to the Illinois Central Railroad as part of its order for fifty "Berkshires" and became Illinois Central road number 7049.

After its debut in 1925, the "Berkshire" type locomotive continued to be improved by locomotive builders and the various railroads that used them. These heavy-duty main line locomotives were used by many railroads. Notably among them were the Boston & Albany Railroad, the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Erie Railroad, the Illinois Central Railroad, the Nickel Plate Road and the Pere Marquette Railroad.

Twenty of the "Berkshire" type locomotives exist today: 2 from the Pere Marquette, 6 from the Nickel Plate Road and 12 of the C & O's 2-8-4 locomotives, which they called "Kanawhas".

There are also a number of tenders that were used on "Berkshire" type locomotives that have survived. Two are from the L&N. One was the tender from L&N number 1966 and it is now at the Southern Railway Museum in Duluth, GA and the other is the tender from L&N number 1985 and it is now at the Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven, KY. There is also one that was used behind the NKP 765 and then N&W 611. There is another in New Haven, IN, one in Noblesville, IN and one used with MILW 261.

Information for this introduction to Berkshires provided by Richard Duley.

Builders of 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Type Locomotives (by Richard Duley)

Number of Locomotives by Builder
RailroadALCOBaldwinLimaOtherFrom Other Railroads
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe15 7 B&M
Boston & Albany55
Boston & Maine25
Chesapeake & Ohio7020
Chicago & North Western12
Detroit, Toledo & Ironton6
Illinois Central51
International - Great Northern5
Louisville & Nashville2022
Missouri Pacific25
New York, Chicago & St. Louis1565
Norfolk Southern5
Pere Marquette39
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie7
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac10
Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo2
Wheeling & Lake Erie32

Number of 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Type Locomotives Built by Year (by Richard Duley)


A Comparison of Famous Berkshires and Kanawhas

 NKP (S-2)
PM (N)
C&O (K-4)
Wheel Arrangement2-8-42-8-42-8-4
Drivers69" dia.69" dia.69" dia.
Weight on Drivers264,300 lbs278,000 lbs292,000 lbs
Total Locomotive Weight440,800 lbs436,500 lbs460,000 lbs
Locomotive & Tender Weight802,500 lbs794,500 lbs850,000 lbs
Grate Area90.3 sq ft90.3 sq ft90.3 sq ft
Cylinders (dia x stroke)(2) 25" x 34"(2) 26" x 34"(2) 26" x 34"
Cylinder HP2754 HP2979 HP2979 HP
Boiler Pressure245 psi245 psi245 psi
Tractive Effort64,100 lbs69,350 lbs69,350 lbs
Tender Capacity:   
water:22,000 gals.22,000 gals. gals.21,000
coal:22 tons22 tons30 tons

Railroads that used 2-8-4 "Berkshire" locomotives in Cuba (data provided by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media)

Surviving Examples of 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives in Cuba

No.ClassF.M. WhyteGaugeRailroad LineLocationStatusBuilder InfoNotes

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