United States Railroad Administration 2-8-2 "Mikado" Locomotives in the USA

There were over 2200 2-8-2s of the "light" and "heavy" designs installed from 1917 too as late as 1944. The mechanical specifications of these two classes are shown later.

The starting tractive effort figures are calculated on the standard AAR formula, using 85% of working pressure, for these locomotives were all full cutoff. It must be pointed out that, in terms of dimensions, there was nothing unusual about these two locomotives. The specifications for the "light" Mikado were identical to similar locomotives on the Milwaukee Road, and the Santa Fe had "heavy Mikados" with 200 psi boiler pressure with drivers and cylinder dimensions identical with those of the 2-8-2B. (The majority of USRA "heavy" Mikados had their boiler pressure increased to 200 psi, with an attendant loss of adhesion in some cases, and an increase in starting tractive effort to 62,949 pounds).

However, there were certain features, which made these two classes, as well as the USRA designs in general, outstanding. For one thing, they were designed in a period when superheating was general. But, all of the designs except for the two switchers and the smaller Pacific were built with stokers. In 1918, when the USRA locomotives were designed, there was no Federal requirement for stoker installation, and several railroads, the Pennsylvania for one, were receiving 2-8-2s of size equal to the USRA heavy without stokers.

Two features of all the USRA road designs were the installation of combustion chambers and the use of "100%" boilers (boiler - furnace to be precise). The combustion chamber was an extension of the firebox ahead of the grates. Its purpose was to give the fire a chance for more complete combustion before the flames entered the fire tubes. It also increased the "direct" heating surface - that area where the boiler water was coming into contact with the firebox, rather than being heated by the tubes as flues, and where the amount of steam raised per square inch of surface was six to ten times greater than that achieved where the heat is transmitted through the flues. By 1930, it was considered essential to any large capacity steam locomotive, but, in 1918, it was rejected by some mechanical officers on the grounds of excessive maintenance. (In fact, on the New York Central, until Depression era limitations stopped the program, combustion chambers were removed from USRA (H6 and H9) classes when they came in for major shoppings.) The USRA Mikados had short combustion chambers, 21 inches in the heavy and 24 in the light.

Another design principle applied to the USRA engines was the concept of a "100%" boiler. This was the designing of the boiler so that its boiler horsepower was at least 100% of the cylinder horsepower. (The horsepower figures used were calculated according to the "Cole" formula) In actuality, the boilers of the USRA designs delivered 106/107% of cylinder horsepower. This resulted in these locomotives having much more power available at the higher speed ranges.

Note that none of the initial USRA orders were for oil burning service. Subsequent orders for some roads, such as the Western Pacific and some Missouri Pacific Texas subsidiaries, were oil burners. The Central New Jersey received 10 2-8-2 heavies, and then ordered a further 76 with a 93 square foot grate to accommodate the burning of anthracite coal.

The following list is of all Mikados of USRA design built from 1918 through October, 1944, when Akron, Canton & Youngstown 406, a "light" 2-8-2, was built by Lima, coincidentally the last Mikado built for domestic service in the United States. Please note that the USRA orders were placed at a time when certain large railroads, the Southern and New York Central being two examples, ordered locomotives for subsidiaries. This list takes the liberty of lumping them together. Also, these are the eventual final owners of USRA locomotives. Asterisk indicates non-USRA order.

Akron, Canton & Youngstown7* 
Atlanta & West Point3*1*
Baltimore &b Ohio100 
Central New Jersey 10 plus 75*
Chesapeake & Ohio (Pere Marquette)30 plus 10* 
Chicago & Alton10 plus 5* 
Chicago & Eastern Illinois15 
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 20
Chicago Great Western15 
Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville516*
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific 100
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific20 
Chicago, St Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha 4 plus 14*
Detroit & Toledo Shore Line9* 
Erie 15
Florida East Coast15* 
Grand Trunk15 
Grand Trunk Western25 plus 18* 
Great Northern 9
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio37* 
Lehigh & Hudson River4 
Louisville & Nashville18 plus 75*20 plus 170*
Maine Central6 
Midland Valley7* 
Missouri Pacific25180*
Mononghahela10 plus 6* 
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis10 plus 12* 
New York Central14330
New York, Chicago & St. Louis25 plus 61* 
Pittsburgh & West Virginia3 
St. Louis-San Francisco3385
Seaboard Air Line10 plus 117* 
Southern25 plus 45*166
Texas & Pacific11 
Union Pacific40 
Wabash 20 
Western of Alabama4*1*
Western Pacific5 
Wheeling & Lake Erie 20

This list is based on one which appeared in "Railroad History", number 93, back in October, 1955. Mr. William Edson, who is one of the true experts on locomotive history, prepared it. This list has been amended to a certain extent. For example, Mr. Edson listed 200 light 2-8-2s for the Milwaukee Road as being USRA, which they were not, and also included 41 Erie post 1920 2-8-2s as being of USRA design, which was incorrect. Perhaps foolishly, the Erie went back to the 1912/13 N1 class mentioned in the text for a modified design, class N3, and these were the 41 locomotives listed. It also has to be remembered that this list, was done by Mr. Edson on the basis of eventual ownership. There were many shifts, both prior and after manufacture. For example, the 4 2-8-2s delivered to L&HR started out as an order for 0-8-0s for the LIRR, switched to 2-8-2s when the LIRR ordered some 0-8-0s of its own design and then transferred to the L&HR. Another example is the Pennsylvania, which actually had received over 30 light 2-8-2s, which wound up on the MP and the Frisco. The five which stayed on the PRR roster had been delivered to, and were assigned to a PRR subsidiary, the Grand Rapids and Indiana. The Missouri-Kansas-Texas was allowed to receive 25 2-8-2s from Alco in November, 1918, which were additions to an existing design slightly smaller than the USRA heavy. For another example, the second CNJ order for 2-8-2s, eleven locomotives, was ordered as a modified design with the anthracite burning firebox mentioned above while the USRA was still in control.

Setting this aside, note the geographical distribution. Leaving the three "Pocahantas" roads (C&O, N&W and VGN, all of which received other USRA designs) out, since these were not typical of other lines south of the Mason- Dixon Line, note the concentration of USRA Mikados in the South. (Indeed, if one were to include other wheel arrangements, it would be almost impossible to find a railroad in the region, which did not utilize USRA designs.) In fact, if one accepts the conventional wisdom that the Ps4 Pacifics were 73 inch versions of the USRA "heavy" Pacific, as a few do, the Southern, excepting some 2-8-8-2s and a class of large 2-8-0s, never installed a steam locomotive of non-USRA design from 1918 to the end of steam. (To break away from listings of numbers and specifications, this might be a place to discuss the way things worked; the most important line of the Southern was the one from Alexandria VA to Atlanta. The Southern had acquired a fleet of 57 inch driver 2-10-2s, on which the USRA "light" 2-10-2 was based, and, indeed, 50 out of the total of 98 2-10-2A locomotives built during and post- USRA times were assigned to the Southern for use on the Alexandria-Atlanta line. In 1923, the Southern received the first of its Ms4 class, basically USRA "heavy" 2-8-2s, which replaced the slower 2-10-2s on the route mentioned, as they subsequently did on other routes where speed was more important. This left the Southern with a huge surplus of 2-10-2s. To remedy this, they began a building program to convert these locomotives to 2-8-2s, with some success, except that the Depression ended this endeavor.)

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class Heavy (Locobase 41)

Data from tables in 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia and from American Locomotive Company, Standardized Locomotives, US Railroad Administration (Alco Pamphlet 10049, 1918), pp. 17-18, reprinted by (Ocean, NJ: Specialty Press , 1973). See also DeGolyer, Vol 58, pp. 96+.

See also "Standard Equipment Specialties," Railway Mechanical Engineer, Vol 93, No 3 (March 1919), pp. 137-138 for a list of all the "special equipment" by manufacturers--everything from air brakes to lubricators to rolled steel wheels--and the USRA designs on which they appeared.

Baldwin and Alco (Brooks and Schenectady) built 233 engines in 1918-1919. The Brooks works turned out 130 locomotives, Alco at Schenectady produced 73, and Baldwin added 30. The Milwaukee Road took delivery of 100, 50 from each Alco plant. Firebox heating surface included 51 sq ft (4.75 sq m) in the combustion chamber and 28 sq ft (2.6 sq m) in arch tubes. Cylinders were served by piston valves measuring 14" (356 mm) in diameter.

These engines had the same tube and flue counts as the USRA's Light Santa Fe (Locobase 89) and Light Articulated (Locobase 14240), but all were shorter. In addition, the grate area was slightly smaller.

Many more similar engines appeared in the 1920s. For standardization and general appeal, these and the light Mikes are unrivaled in the US age of steam. Not until EMD produced the FT set of diesel freight locomotives did another design achieve the same widespread acceptance.

Class Light (Locobase 40)

Data from tables in 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia and from American Locomotive Company, Standardized Locomotives, US Railroad Administration (Alco Pamphlet 10049, 1918), pp. 16-17, reprinted by (Ocean, NJ: Specialty Press , 1973) and DeGolyer, Vol 58, pp. 61+. (Many thanks to Chris Hohl for his 22 September 2017 email reporting unlikely boiler pressure values for 177 entries. A Locobase macro caused the error .)

See also "Standard Equipment Specialties," Railway Mechanical Engineer, Vol 93, No 3 (March 1919), pp. 137-138 for a list of all the "special equipment" by manufacturers--everything from air brakes to lubricators to rolled steel wheels--and the USRA designs on which they appeared.

625 engines were built to this basic, and very successful design in 1918-1919, which shared tube and flue count with the USRA's Heavy Pacific shown in Locobase 173 and Light Mountain (Locobase 231). Firebox heating surface included 50 sq ft (4.7 sq m) in the combustion chamber and 27 sq ft (2.5 sq m) in arch tubes. Cylinders were served by piston valves measuring 14" (356 mm) in diameter.

Alco (Schenectady) built 412, Baldwin built 183, and Lima 130. The largest single order sent 100 to the B&O. Many, many more Mikados were built along USRA lines over the next two decades.

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Locobase ID41 40
RailroadUnited States Railroad Administration (USRA)United States Railroad Administration (USRA)
Number in Class
Road Numbers10,00010,000
Number Built
Valve GearWalschaertWalschaert
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)16.80 / 5.1216.80 / 5.12
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)36.10 / 1136.10 / 11
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.47 0.47
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)71.71 / 21.8671.38 / 21.76
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)240,000 / 108,862221,500 / 100,471
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)325,000 / 147,418290,800 / 131,905
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)185,400 / 84,096188,300 / 85,412
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)510,400 / 231,514479,100 / 217,317
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)10,000 / 37.8810,000 / 37.88
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / ML/MT)16 / 14.5016 / 14.50
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)100 / 5092 / 46
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)63 / 160063 / 1600
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)190 / 13.10200 / 13.80
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)27" x 32" / 686x81326" x 30" / 660x762
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)59,801 / 27125.3154,724 / 24822.42
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.01 4.05
Heating Ability
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)307 / 28.52280 / 26.01
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)70.80 / 6.5866.70 / 6.20
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)4293 / 398.983783 / 351.58
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)993 / 92.29882 / 81.97
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)5286 / 491.274665 / 433.55
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume202.45205.21
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation13,45213,340
Same as above plus superheater percentage16,00815,875
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area69,41366,640
Power L113,89114,947
Power MT510.41595.08

  • SLSF 4009 (4009, shown at Springfield, MO in 1946, is a 282A "light", built by Lima in 1919, Photo courtesy Edward Weinstein)
  • SLSF 4100 (4100, shown at Springfield, MO in 1946, is the first of 865 282B "heavys", built by Lima in 1923, Photo courtesy Edward Weinstein)
  • Erie 3062 (Erie 3062 is a Brooks product of 1912. Originally, it had 28 x 32 cylinders, 63 inch drivers, 170 psi boiler, starting tractive effort 57,740 lbs. After 1927, 3062 received a stoker and an Elesco feedwater heater, had its cylinders lined down to 27 inches and developed 62,950 lbs tractive effort plus 10,000 booster. (Croxton yard, Secaucus NJ, 1948). Photo courtesy Edward Weinstein)
  • Reading 1765 (This is an example of the "Anthracite Road" Mikado. Reading 1755 was photographed in 1951 at the CNJ Bethlehem Engine House, on the CNJ between Bethlehem and Allentown PA. As a class M1sb, it was built with 55.5 inch drivers. later with 61.5 inch to conform to the earlier Mi1sa. Notice the giant Wooten firebox. The Reading built Pacifics, 2-8-0s and huge 2-10-2s with Wootten fireboxes through the 1920s. In the Locomotive Cyclopedia, these were listed as burning "Anthracite and Bituminous mixed". Photo courtesy Edward Weinstein)
  • Central of New Jersey 926 (This is an example of the "Anthracite Road" Mikado. CNJ 926 at Elizabethport, NJ is a USRA 2-8-2 with 200 psi with a giant Wooten firebox. The Jersey Central built Mikados and Pacifics with Wootten fireboxes through the 1920s. In the Locomotive Cyclopedia, these were listed as burning "Anthracite and Bituminous mixed". Be that as it may, a CNJ document from 1940 giving instructions as to what mix of anthracite and bituminous should be loaded in locomotive tenders, gave specific instructions that the two daily Scranton - Jersey City fast freights were to be fueled entirely with bituminous when leaving Scranton, even though that coal was an import to the heart of the anthracite country. Photo courtesy Edward Weinstein)
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