Norfolk Southern 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives in the USA

The Norfolk Southern Railroad took delivery of its entire fleet of five "Berkshire" type locomotives from the Baldwin Locomotives Works in early 1940. These locomotives were designated as Class F-1 and were assigned road numbers 600 through 604.

These five locomotives were designed specifically for use on the Norfolk Southern trackage, which could only handle a maximum axle weight of 50,000 pounds. These "Berkshires" had 63" diameter drivers, 23.5" x 30" cylinders, a 250 psi boiler pressure, they exerted 49,300 pounds of tractive effort and each weighed 335,400 pounds.

These very special 2-8-4s proved their worth during the heavy traffic days of the second world war and were retired early and sold on 12/28/50 to the Domestic and Foreign Commerce Company. This company resold them and through a series of transactions all five of these locomotives made their way onto the Ferrocarri Nationale de Mexico (NdeM) and there they were converted to oil burners and later scrapped them.

There are no surviving NS 2-8-4 "Berkshire" type locomotives

Roster by Richard Duley

ClassQty.Road NumbersYear BuiltBuilderBuilder NumbersNotes
F-1 5600-6041940Baldwin62322-62326Numbers 600-604 sold to a broker in 1950. These locomotives were in turn sold to the NdeM and became NdeM numbers 3350-3354 and were later scrapped.

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class F (Locobase 53)

Data from tables in 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia. See also Bill Sellers, "Growing up on the old Norfolk Southern: Big Railroads are not always better" archived at, last accessed on 14 December 2011.

Firebox had 3 syphons equalling 86 sq ft of heating surface. One of the smallest "Berks" built, but still larger than most 2-8-2s. At the time these Berkshires were ordered, NS was in receivership after having built a network of railroads in Virginia and North Carolina.

Bill Sellers, who grew up in Wilson, NC, describes the 1940 arrival of the 600 and their differences: "Those were the fIrst and only stoker fired steam engines the Norfolk Southern ever had, a fact reflected in the smiling face of the fireman." He also adds a nice atmospheric touch: "The little 2-8-4s also came equipped with a throaty steamboat whistle which would send chills down the back of most mortals."

In the late 1950s, the N & S disposed of its Berks by selling them to the Nacional de Mexico as class UR-1 (road numbers 3350-3354) in 1957 and 1962.

Specifications by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Locobase ID53
RailroadNorfolk Southern (NS)
Number in Class5
Road Numbers600-604
Number Built5
Valve GearWalschaert
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)16.50 / 5.03
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)39 / 11.89
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.42
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)80.60 / 24.57
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)202,900 / 92,034
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)335,400 / 152,135
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)200,000 / 90,719
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)535,400 / 242,854
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)14,000 / 53.03
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / ML/MT)16 / 14.50
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)85 / 42.50
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)63 / 1600
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)249.50 / 17.20
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)23.5" x 30" / 597x762
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)55,771 / 25297.33
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 3.64
Heating Ability
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)382 / 35.49
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)80.30 / 7.46
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)3418 / 317.66
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)1350 / 125.46
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)4768 / 443.12
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume226.95
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation20,035
Same as above plus superheater percentage25,645
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area121,996
Power L130,403
Power MT1321.38