Chicago & North Western 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives in the USA

Number 2804 Bud Laws Photo.

The Chicago & North Western Railroad bought twelve "Berkshire" type locomotives from the American Locomotive Company in 1927. These locomotives carried road numbers 2801 through 2812 and were very similar to the Boston & Albany's "sports models" Class A-1c.

The C&NW designated them as Class J-4. These locomotives had 63" diameter drivers, 28" x 30" cylinders, a weight of 397,000 pounds and exerted a tractive effort of 67,200 pounds under 240 psi of boiler pressure.

The J-4s were assigned to freight service and regularly pulled coal trains until they were retired in the early 1950s.

There are no surviving C&NW 2-8-4 "Berkshire" type locomotives


ClassQty.Road NumbersYear BuiltBuilderNotes
J-4122801-28121927ALCONumbers 2801-2812 scrapped between 1950 and 1953.

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class J-4 (Locobase 56)

Data from table in 1930 Locomotive Cyclopedia, supplemented by C & NW 10 - 1952 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive Rail Data Exchange. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for his 18 March 2016 email and attachment containing the Alco builder's card for the J-4 and for his 22 September 2017 email reporting unlikely boiler pressure values for 177 entries. A Locobase macro caused the error .) Supplied in a batch built in Dunkirk (Brooks) in August 1927 (works numbers were 67372-67383),

Firebox heating surface included 103 sq ft (9.57 sq m) of thermic syphons and 21 sq ft (1.95 sq m) of arch tubes, valve motion had limited cutoff in actuating 14" (356 mm) piston valves. The trailing truck wheels had two different diameters. The front axle turned 33" (838 mm) wheels, the rear 44" (1,118 mm) wheels.

the class was assigned to coal trains on the Nelson-Peoria line.

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Locobase ID56
RailroadChicago & North Western (C&NW)
Number in Class12
Road Numbers2801-2812
Number Built12
Valve GearWalschaert
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)16.80 / 5.12
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)39.70 / 12.10
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.42
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)82.25 / 25.07
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)253,500 / 114,986
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)397,000 / 180,076
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)287,000 / 130,181
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)684,000 / 310,257
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)15,000 / 56.82
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / ML/MT)20 / 18.20
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)106 / 53
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)63 / 1600
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)240 / 16.50
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)28" x 30" / 711x762
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)76,160 / 34545.64
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 3.33
Heating Ability
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)411 / 38.18
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)100.30 / 9.32
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)4777 / 443.96
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)2243 / 208.46
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)7020 / 652.42
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume223.43
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation24,072
Same as above plus superheater percentage31,775
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area130,205
Power L131,846
Power MT1107.82

  • 2804 (Bud Laws Photo)
  • 2809 (Dave Royer Collection)
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Wes Barris