Charleston & Western 0-4-0 "Switcher" Locomotives in the USA

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class Best Friend of Charleston (Locobase 1016)

(Kinert, 1962) for tube number, Hollingsworth (1982) for axle loading. See also "History" on the Best Friend of Charleston website, at, last accessed 7 March 2018; and Angus Sinclair, Development of the Locomotive Engine (New York: A Sinclair, 1907), pp. 56-57; and Carl W Mitman (ed), "Cat No 180244 USNM--Model of the 'Best Friend Locomotive, 1830. Made in the Museum," Catalogue of the Mechanical and Engineering Collection in the United States National Museum - Motors, Locomotives, and Self-Propelled Vehicles (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1922), pp. 76-78.

For information on Adam Perry (see below), see William H Brown, History of the First Locomotives in America (Philadelphia: Barclay & Co, 1877), pp. 28-29, "Henry G Raworth--The Oldest Locomotive Engineer Living", Railway Age, Volume 13, Issue 2 (24 August 1888), p. 546; Carroll W Pursell, A Hammer in Their Hands: A Documentary History of Technology and the African American Experience. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), p 72.and Theodore Kornweibel, Jr, Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2010).

When the Best Friend set forth on its first revenue run on 25 December 1930, it became the first locomotive in the US to haul a regularly scheduled passenger train The first run covered six miles on wood and iron rails rolling on wheels made of iron tubes, woodens spokes and felloes wrapped in iron tires.

The locomotive was designed by E L Miller and was the first to be built in the United States. Its frame held the two axles turning wooden wheels and a vertical boiler (described by a contemporary "in form of an old-fashioned porter bottle', located ahead of the leading axle and towering over the chassis on account of its stack. According to Bulletin 119 of the United States National Museum, the firebox at the bottom was surrounded by water and was "all filled inside full of what we call teats running out from the sides and top, with alternate stays to support the crown of the furnace; the smoke and gas passed out through the sides at several points into an old jacket which had the chimney on it."

Sinclair claimed the boiler was "perfectly efficient and steamed well with rich pine wood, the fuel used." Nicholas Darrell, the Best Friend's first engineer, wrote that the locomotive could haul four-five cars holding 40-50 passengers at 16-21 mph (26-34 kph) and 35 mph (56 kph) with no load.

The BFoC website quotes the Charleston Courier's 29 December 1830 report on the impression this train made on the Charlstonians and Locobase repeats its awestruck, breathless account here: "The one hundred and forty-one persons flew on the wings of wind at the speed of fifteen to twenty-five miles per hour, annihilating time and space.leaving all the world behind. On the return we reached Sans-Souci in quick and double quick time, stopped to take up a recruiting party-darted forth like a live rocket, scattering sparks and flames on either side-passed over three salt creeks hop, step and jump, and landed us all safe at the Lines before any of us had time to determine whether or not it was prudent to be scared."

This engine gained fame for its spectacular boiler explosion on 17 June 1831, caused it was said by the fireboy's (variously described as "colored", "negro", or "African") tying down the safety valve to cut the noise. He was the only person on the run to die from the scalding.

Julius D Petsch--the very first master mechanic on any railway-- rebuilt the Best Friend, eliminating the crank axles, installing cast-iron wheels with wrought iron tires, and fitting outside cylinders in addition to a new boiler. After the work was completed at Thomas Dotterer's shop, the "Native" reappeared, but was soon to be renamed Phoenix.

( A second engine, West Point, was very similar. A 23 September 1869 letter from Nicholas Darrell, South Carolina Railroad's former Superintendent of Machinery, said that the only big difference was the boiler. This vessel now lay horizontally and had 6-8 tubes 3" (76.2 mm) in diameter and "about five or six feet long".

The 1888 Railway Age article focused on Henry G Raworth, who operated the Phoenix for 28 years and served as locomotive engineer from 1834 to August 1885. It then talks about the only fireman Raworth ever had during his last 28 years of service: "...a negro--of whose faithful services he speaks in terms of unstinted praise."

Locobase wondered why the RA didn't include the "faithful" fireman's name. Locobase's wife mused on the pleasure of restoring that man's name to the historical record, with which Locobase completely agreed. He found the 1877 Howard book cited above that contained the man's name and much more.

Adam Perry, Raworth's long-serving fireman, was a slave, property of Major John Schmidt, when he was leased out to the railroad's assistant civil engineer George B Lythgoe in 1835.

When Raworth wrote of him to Howard in 1872 (quoted in Pursell's 2005 compilation), he told the historian that Perry had served as his fireman for nineteen years (i.e., since 1853). A follow-up letter date February 1876, he told Howard that he was still in service and "P.S. - My old negro fireman, Adam Perry, is still with me and well."

The old engineer made it clear that he valued Perry, insisting when the slave was freed (possibly at the end of the Civil War) that he be paid the same as white firemen. Raworth's white fireman, Thornton Randall, began working with Raworth two years after Perry. When the Aiken Hill section required two firement on the engine, the two men worked well together, he said, adding "they were always kind to each other". Raworth added that the his long service and that of his two firemen could be attributed to their total abstinence from liquor.

Perry continued on Raworth's footplate until 1884 when he passed away.

By 1888, the RA article could say of Raworth:"During his long service on the South Carolina road (he was never employed on any other) Mr. Haworth only had one accident, which occurred in 1852 and was the result of the washing away of a culvert. He claims'to have killed less stock than did any other engineer on the road.

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
ClassBest Friend of Charleston
Locobase ID1016
RailroadCharleston & Western
Number in Class2
Road Numbers1
Number Built2
BuilderWest Point Foundry
Valve Gear
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)4500 / 2041
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)10,000 / 4536
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)10,000 / 4536
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)10,000
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)165 / 0.63
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / ML/MT)
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)8 / 4
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)57 / 1448
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)50 / 3.40
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)6" x 16" / 152x406
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)429 / 194.59
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort)23.31
Heating Ability
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)
Grate Area (sq ft / m2) 2.20 / 0.20
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation110
Same as above plus superheater percentage110
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area
Power L1
Power MT

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Wes Barris