Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac 4-8-4 "Northern" Locomotives in the USA

The Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad bought five 4-8-4 type locomotives from the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1937, and assigned them road numbers 551 through 555. Not wanting to use the generally accepted "Northern" name the RF&P named each of the new locomotives for a Virginia Civil War general. These five "Generals" had 77" drivers, 27 x 30 cylinders, a 275 psi boiler pressure, a tractive effort of 66,500 lbs and each weighed 446,040 pounds.

In 1938, six more 4-8-4s were acquired from Baldwin (road numbers 601 through 606). Each was named for a Virginia governor. These locomotives had 77" drivers, 27 x 30 cylinders, a 260 psi boiler pressure, a tractive effort of 62,800 lbs and weighed 408,400 pounds. In 1942, another six (road numbers 607 through 612), identical to the 1938 "Governors", were added to the roster and each of them was also given a name of a Virginia governor.

10 more 4-8-4s were delivered by Baldwin in 1944 or 1945 and were assigned road numbers 613 through 622. They were identical to the "Governors" but were each given a name of a Virginia statesman.

After receiving the first five, the RF&P called its 4-8-4s "Generals". As it added the "Governors" the older 4-8-4s were still called "Generals" while the newer 12 were called "Governors". After it received the last 10 which were named for Virginia statesmen it had three different names for the 4-8-4 wheel arrangement.


RF&P 4-8-4 Locomotive Names
Road #Locomotive Name
551General Robert E. Lee
552General T. J. Jackson
553General J. E. B. Stuart
554General A. P. Hill
555General J. E. Johnson
601Governor Patrick Henry
602Governor Thomas Jefferson
603Governor Thomas Nelson
604Governor Benjamin Harrison
605Governor James Monroe
606Governor John Tyler
607Governor Edmund Randolph
608Governor Henry A. Wise
609Governor John Letcher
610Governor Fitzhugh Lee
611Governor William Smith
612Governor Claude A. Swanson
613John Marshall
614George Washington
615Henry Clay
616George Mason
617John Randolph
618James Madison
619William Byrd
620George Wythe
621Richard Henry Lee
622Carter Braxton

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class Generals (Locobase 10076)

Data from 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia tables and diagrams. (Thanks to Chris Hohl, whose 22 February 2013 email flagged an error on the valve gear and to Chuck Zeiler for his 14 April 2014 email pointing out the duplication of the comments section. To quote Locobase from his now singular set of comments below: "Org!") Works numbers were 61974-61978 in 1936.

Firebox heating surface included 124 sq ft (11.5 sq m) in three thermic syphons and 19 sq ft (1.75 sq m) in arch tubes. The Generals were big, powerful locomotives, but they suffered from a curious limitation. According to an account of Washington, DC area railroad bridges published in the bulletin of the National Railway Historical Society's DC chapter -- Robert Cohen, "History of the Long Railroad Bridge Crossing Across the Potomac River"

[] -- "Amazingly, they were several inches too wide to properly clear the tunnels in Washington. More importantly they had too heavy of an axle-load to traverse the Long Bridge."

Org! Locobase wonders what former employees approved that spec? Cohen notes the consequences: "These two factors forever consigned these beautiful engines to the Virginia side of the river and freight service. Although they were pressed into emergency passenger service on occasion, they always stayed on the south side of the river."

Cohen asks: "One can only wonder how they were delivered from their Pennsylvania manufacturer to the RF&P at that time."

551-555 had names of famous Confederate generals:

551 General Robert E. Lee

552 General T.J. Jackson

553 General J.E.B. Stuart

554 General A. P. Hill

555 General J.E. Johnston

See Locobase 276 for the much-altered later RF&P 4-8-4s that were adapted to the DC-area's clearances.

Class notes (Locobase 276)

Data from table and diagram in 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and RF&P 1937 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive Rail Data Exchange. 601-606 entered service in 1938 (works numbers 62218-62223), 607-612 in 1942 (works numbers 64625-64630), and 613-622 (works numbers 71992-72001) in 1944.

Firebox heating surface included 103 sq ft (9.55 sq m) in three thermic syphons. and 140 sq ft (13 sq m) in the combustion chamber as well as 18 sq ft (1.65 sq m) in arch tubes. One-piece cast steel bed frame and Worthington 5-SA feed water heater. The last ten had Timken roller bearings on all axles. Tender capacity increased from 16,000 to 18,000 US gallons (68,130 litres) in 607-622, which increased its weight to 313,600 lb (142,247 kg). Taken together with the slightly heavier engine (409,400 lb/185,701 kg), this motive power system weighed 723,000 lb (327,948 kg).

This class represented a substantial retrogression in certain basic respects from the 1936 Generals (Locobase 10076). In place of the capacious Schmidt Type E flue arrangements, Baldwin fitted a smaller vessel with a more traditional layout. As noted in the Generals entry, much of the difference can be attributed to a belated recognition that the original quintet was too wide and too heavy for the Potomac River bridges.

The first twelve were named for Governors:

601 Governor Patrick Henry

602 Governor Thomas Jefferson

603 Governor Thomas Nelson

604 Governor Benjamin Harrison

605 Governor James Monroe

606 Governor John Tyler in 1938


607 Governor Edmund Randolph

608 Governor Henry A. Wise

609 Governor John Letcher

610 Governor Fitzhugh Lee

611 Governor William Smith

612 Governor Claude A. Swanson in 1942

The last group were named for Statesmen:

613 John Marshall

614 George Washington

615 Henry Clay

616 George Mason

617 John Randolph

618 James Madison

619 William Byrd

620 Henry Wythe

621 Richard Henry Lee

622 Carter Braxton

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Locobase ID10,076 276
RailroadRichmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac (RF&P)Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac (RF&P)
Number in Class2222
Road Numbers551-555601-622
Number Built2222
Valve GearWalschaertWalschaert
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)20 / 6.1020 / 6.10
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)46.92 / 14.3046.08 / 14.05
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.43 0.43
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)97.19 / 29.6297.87 / 29.83
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)277,245 / 125,756261,486 / 118,608
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)466,040 / 211,392407,810 / 184,980
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)376,900 / 170,959282,000 / 127,913
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)842,940 / 382,351689,810 / 312,893
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)20,000 / 75.7616,000 / 60.61
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / ML/MT)22 / 2017 / 15.50
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)116 / 58109 / 54.50
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)77 / 195677 / 1956
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)275 / 19260 / 17.90
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)27" x 30" / 686x76227" x 30" / 686x762
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)66,391 / 30114.4962,770 / 28472.03
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.18 4.17
Heating Ability
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)417 / 38.75503 / 46.73
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)96 / 8.9286.50 / 8.04
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)4372 / 406.324289 / 398.46
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)2165 / 201.211325 / 123.10
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)6537 / 607.535614 / 521.56
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume219.92215.74
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation26,40022,490
Same as above plus superheater percentage35,11227,888
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area152,518162,167
Power L146,05231,434
Power MT1464.801060.10

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Wes Barris