Philadelphia & Reading
4-8-4 "Northern" Locomotives in the USA
When Revelle W. Brown became president of the Reading Company he wanted to
speed up freight service. To that end he ordered the company's
superintendent of motive power and rolling equipment, E. Paul Gangewere, to
get together with the design engineers at the Baldwin Locomotive Works to
develop a plan to convert 30 of the railroad's I-10a 2-8-0 Consolidations to
new 4-8-4 Northerns.
These 30 steam locomotives (road numbers 2100 -2129) were rebuilt in the
railroad's own shops in Reading, PA, beginning in 1945 with the project
completed by 1947. The conversions were made with several reclaimed parts
from the I-10a Consolidations (road numbers 2020-2049) and new parts
furnished from Baldwin and other vendors.
The first 20 locomotives converted were put into freight service and were
regularly used for coal traffic. The last 10 were equipped for passenger
service but, except for a few troop trains, were also used for freight.
The Reading Class T-1's were handsome heavy-duty locomotives which saw
steady work until diesels took over freight service in the early 1950's.
As they were taken out of service, the T-1's were kept in top-notch
shape inside the Reading Roundhouse.
By 1956, steam was dead and virtually all steam locomotives but the T-1's
were gone from the Reading. The only exceptions to this were 10 G3 Pacifics
which remained in storage until mid-1957 when they were scrapped and a
single 0-6-0 (Reading number 1251) which was still used as a switcher
at the Reading shops and is now preserved at the Strasburg Railroad..
Three years later the T-1's would begin a new and more celebrated career
pulling train loads of railfans on excursions through the Pennsylvania
country side. These outings became known as "Reading Rambles".
Of the 30 T-1's built by the Reading only four survive today and are
located as shown below.
The Iron Horse Rambles (Reading Rambles)
Reading 2102 on a Ramble
Excursions were a regular part of railroading in the waning days of the
steam era. These rail outings were usually run "off the beaten track"
over freight-only branches or were main line "Autumn leaf excursions "
run in the fall to view the Autumn colors.
On the Reading Railroad these excursions which became known as "Reading
Rambles" were started in 1936, when the first was run in October and was
billed as an "Autumn leaf excursion". This very popular ramble ran
every year until the outbreak of World War II. After the war only a few
rambles were run and, when diesels took over completely in the mid
1950's, they were thought to have become a part of the romantic history
Then surprisingly in 1959, the Reading announced an "Iron Horse Ramble"
to be led by a steam locomotive, one of the T-1s, #2124. This nostalgic
revival of the rambles was run on October 25, 1959, with #2124 pulling a
16 car train from Wayne Junction to Shamokin. The Reading continued to
run the rambles using T-1 #2100, #2102 and #2124 until high locomotive
repair costs and track deterioration caused the cessation of these very
popular outings. From the October 25, 1959 ramble to the last one on
October 17, 1964, the Reading had operated a total of 50 "Rambles".
An interesting note is that on that 50th and final "Ramble", the T1 broke
a tender or engine spring. It was later replaced with one from the 2123
which had recently been sold for scrap but was still intack. There was
a TRAINS photo showing the 2123 being scrapped.
The American Freedom Train
American Freedom Train
In April, 1975, the American Freedom Train, a
20 car rolling museum, full of exhibits about American history embarked on a
nationwide tour. This train carrying some of the nation's treasures, was the
brain child of Ross E. Rowland, Jr.
His plan was to have the train travel from city to city and to be pulled by
restored steam locomotives. For the southern and western portions of the tour
he was able to secure the services of restored Southern Pacific #4449 and the
restored Texas & Pacific #610.
For the east, Ross Rowland found a Reading T-1, #2101, in a scrap yard in
Baltimore, MD and overhauled it in the same Reading shop were it had been
converted nearly 30 years earlier.
After the American Freedom Train, Ross Rowland
kept #2101 and conducted a series of "Chessie Steam Special" excursions on
the Chessie System in 1977 and 1978 until #2101 was severely damaged in a
roundhouse fire in 1979. The fire was so severe that the coal in 2101's
tender burned. As a result there was some uncertainty in the structural
integrity of the locomotive and tender. After the fire the Chessie,
who had been pleased with the "Chessie Steam Special" program, wanted the
steam train excursions to continue and traded to Ross Rowland a C&O
main line steam locomotive (#614) for the damaged #2101. They also
contributed $100,000 to the restoration efforts of #614. In return Ross
Rowland (Steam Loco. Corp of Americs) would cosmetically restore #2101 to
its "American Freedom Train #1" appearance and donate it to the B&O
museum where it still remains today.
About That Wootten Firebox
John E. Wootten patented a boiler, in 1877, that was designed to burn small
sizes of cheap anthracite coal. Slow burning anthracite required a very large
grate area to achieve the same heat as a much smaller one that burned
bituminous coal. His firebox was extremely wide and shallow at the bottom and
had a crown sheet curved with a large radius. The design permitted a thin fire
and a light draft which avoided blowing fuel out of the stack.
The Reading Railroad used Wootten fireboxes on most of its steam locomotives
from 1880, right up to dieselization. The I-10a locomotives, built in
1923-1925, and later converted to T-1s, had a firebox with over 90 square
feet, which was about double that of a comparable soft coal burning
locomotive at that time. The T-1 had a grate area of 94.5 square feet.
Over time, a mixture of hard and soft coal was used on the Reading Railroad
and in the 1940's it changed to 100% soft coal. The Wootten fireboxes were
modified to burn stoker-fed bituminous coal. The Wootten firebox proved a
natural for getting the huge heating surface that was required in the larger
locomotives that were used in the later days of the steam era.
Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Class T1 (Locobase 275)
Data from table and diagram in 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia. See also "Reading Company No. 2124", Steamtown Special History Study - American Steam Locomotives, National Park Service website at , last accessed 14 April 2017.
Firebox had thermic syphons.
Trailing-truck booster added 11,100 lb to starting tractive effort. These engines were built using the boilers from 30 I-10 2-8-0s. The back end was unchanged, the front lengthened primarily by installing a smokebox section that was 111" (2,819 mm) long and two boiler courses each extending to 187" (4.75 m).
According to John Bohon, who wrote Locobase care of Wes Barris's Steamlocomotive.com on 3 October 2011, the first engine used friction bearings on the drivers. The other ten used roller bearings. Lead and trailing trucks used roller bearings of either SKF or Timken manufacture. Bohon comments that there was no pattern as to what tenders used which bearings.
Bohon adds: "the original use of all the T-1's was in fast freight service. Like most railroads the Reading needed engines to speed up their trains. It was not until later when the diesels started to arrive in mass that the T-1 was bumped down to coal train service. In spite of the compromises in their construction these were good locomotives."
Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Philadelphia & Reading
Number in Class
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)
19.25 / 5.87
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)
45.83 / 13.97
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase
Bought by Ross E. Rowland Jr in 1975 (used for parts for 2101 rebuild)
1975 - 1987: stored in Hagerstown, MD
In 1987 2100 was sold to the "2100 Corporation". The group was
led by Richard Kughn and included Ross Rowland and Bill Benson.
Overhauled in 1988 at Hagerstown, MD (by Richard Kughn at a cost
of over $1,000,000) with plans to run it. However, no railroad was found
that would agree to accommodate a locomotive that large.
It was broken in on the Winchester & Western after rebuilding and
then stored until it was towed (under steam; without main rods) to the
Wheeling and Lake Erie Rook Yard in Pittsburgh. Rods were installed and it
ran to the W&LE shops in Brewster, OH.
Stored at the W&LE shops in Brewster, OH until 198?
The Kughn group donated 2100 to the Portage Ohio Regional Transportation
Authority (PORTA) which had plans to operate it on its lines. These
plans did not work out and PORTA placed 2100 up for sale.
Sold at auction on 1/16/98 to Tom Payne (RailLink Ltd, of Edmonton, Alberta).
On the last week of May, 1998, 2100 was steamed on test runs conducted at the Ohio Central Railroad.
Tom Payne planned to have 2100 spend a few months during
the summer of 1998 at the former Michigan Central Railroad Shops which
are now part of the Elgin County Railway
Museum in St. Thomas to have it converted to burn oil. Tom also
bought an auxiliary tender and owned twelve stainless steel first class
cars and planned to offer excursion trips through the Canadian Rockies.
However, after successfully converting number 2100 to an oil-burning
locomotive, Tom Payne determined that there was no suitable location to
operate the locomotive out of St. Thomas, Ontario.
June, 2005 2100 was sold to the Golden Pacific Railroad in Tacoma, WA.
2101 is probably best known for its part in the American
Freedom Train of 1975-1977 after being rescued from a junk yard in
Baltimore. During this time it was also used to power the Chessie Steam
Special, honoring the 150th anniversary of B&O. It was painted in Chessie
System colors, and pulled 18-20 cars. Unfortunately, 2101 is also known
for being in the Chessie System roundhouse that burned in 1979. It has
been cosmetically restored and is currently on display at the Baltimore
& Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD.
Originally built in 1923, by Baldwin as an I-10a 2-8-0 road #2021
Converted to T-1 Class in 1945, by the Reading Railroad
1959 - 1964: Remained on standby during the Rambles, but was never used.
Sold to Striegel Supply & Equipment (scrap yard) in Baltimore, MD in 1965 (another source says 1967).
Rescued by Ross Rowland and restored at Chessie's (B&O) Riverside engine terminal in 1974
2102: Reading Blue Mountain & Northern, Port Clinton, PA
2102 is perhaps best known for its operation on the Blue Mountain & Reading in Hamburg, PA where
it was used from 1985 until the early 1990's. In 1995 it was brought
to Steamtown National Historical Site
to be repaired in exchange for running some excursions. In 1997 work
had begun to repair 2102 but in mid 1998 it was suddenly towed to the
RBM&N headquarters in Port Clinton, PA where it was put on display.
RBM&N had plans to run 2102 on excursions.
A Brief History of 2102
Originally built in 1923, by Baldwin as an I-10a 2-8-0 road #2022.
Converted to T-1 Class in 1945 by the Reading Railroad.
Was used on the Reading Rambles from 1960 through 1964.
Sold to Bill Benson's Steam Tours Inc of Akron, OH in 1966.
Ran excursions on the Western Maryland and the B & O in 1972.
Sold to Andrew Muller (Blue Mountain and Reading Railroad) in 1985.
Ran excursions on the BM&R tourist line from 1985 until the early
Moved to Steamtown NHS in 1995
Moved in 1998 to be displayed at RBM&N's new steam locomotive shops in
Port Clinton, PA with plans to rebuild it as soon as the shops are
complete. RBM&N plans to run 2102 and 425 on excursions as soon as
2124: Steamtown National Historic Site, Scranton, PA
2124 was the first T-1 used on the Iron Horse Rambles and is the
only surviving T-1 that hasn't operated since the Reading Rambles in 1964
being replaced by 2101. From 1963 and on, it has been located at Steamtown National Historic Site. There is
an organization called Restore
2124 which is attempting to create interest in restoring 2124 to
A Brief History of 2124
Originally built in 1924, by Baldwin as an I-10a 2-8-0 road #2044
Converted to T-1 Class in 1947, by the Reading Railroad
Appeared in the opening scene of the film "From the Terrace" with Joanne Woodward. This portion of the 20th Century Fox film was shot in the Jersey City Terminal on December 2, 1959, less than a month after the first three Iron Horse Rambles.
Was featured in a double page advertisement in national magazines and in a two
full page color spread in a Life article.
Was used on the Reading Rambles from 1959 through 1961
Pulled its last Reading Ramble on October 22, 1961
Retired and sold to "Steamtown" on July, 1963
Declared to be restorable but only cosmetically restored in 1997