• Alco "Standard" 4-8-4

  • Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads
Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads

Moderators: slide rules, Typewriters

  by Pneudyne
It must be a decade or more since I last looked at anything to do with steam locomotives, but the recent acquisition of the Eugene Huddleston book “Uncle Sam’s Locomotives” got me thinking again about standardization, derivatives of standard locomotives, etc., and long unanswered questions.

In the chapter “World War II Parallels” Huddleston mentions how under the aegis of the WPB and its “no new designs” restriction, the 1929 Rock Island 4-8-4 was used as the basis for locomotives built successively for the D&H, the Milwaukee and then for the Rock Island itself.

These activities are fleshed out in Richard Steinbrenners’s Alco book, wherein the term Alco standard WWII 4-8-4 is used.

But the curious thing is that in some respects, there was quite a jump between the original Rock Island R-67b and the D&H K-62 that seem to go beyond the detail changes that the WPG typically allowed, such as valve gear choice and trading off between boiler pressure and cylinder diameter.

In particular, the firebox size increased, with grate area going from 88.3 to 96.2 ft², although in other dimensions the boiler seemed to be unchanged. The tubes were shorter and the combustion chamber was longer, but I would think that this would fall into the detail change class. With the longer firebox, overall wheelbase was increased, and the driving wheelbase went from 19’3” to 19’9” to allow the use of 75” driving wheels. I can’t think of any other WPB case where this level of change was allowed, and one imagines that there might have been quite a bit of design work required to get from the R-67b to the K-62, so this case does look to be anomalous.

But perhaps there is another connection?

Using mostly the information available in the “Train Shed Cyclopedia” series, to my eyes the Lehigh Valley (LV) T-2 class 4-8-4 looks to be same locomotive as the Rock Island R-67B, apart from some detail changes, including slightly higher boiler pressure, 255 instead of 250 lbf/in², and 70” instead of 69” drivers. However, this connection is not mentioned by Steinbrenner, or in fact in any other literature that I have encountered.

If it is the case that the T-2 was the R-67b in disguise, then that the LV acquired the T2b in 1943, essentially as an updated, but dimensionally unchanged T-2 makes the K-62 et seq look even more anomalous. Had the WPB been sticking closely to its own rules, then one may argue that the T2b would have been the locomotive that was also supplied to the D&H, Milwaukee and the Rock Island in the 1943-44 period, maybe with 74 inch drivers, which the basic design could accommodate.

Anyway, back to the LV connection, treating the T-2 as being essentially the Rock Island R-67b makes the very similar LV T-1 its Baldwin counterpart, with the typical Baldwin differences including the short wheelbase, equal wheel diameter trailing truck and 27” x 30” rather than 26” x 32” cylinder dimensions; Baldwin seemed to be staying with 4-8-2 era precepts in this regard. One might say that the T-1 and T-2 are to each other as is the L&N 2-8-4 to its Van Sweringen cousins.

Allowing the LV T-1 into the lineage then also brings in the Baldwin-built T-3. This was essentially the T-1 stretched to accommodate 77” drivers, and with boiler pressure increased to 275 lbf/in² to compensate. But the firebox was lengthened to allow a grate area of 96.5 ft², with the boiler being otherwise unchanged. And that seems to be the missing link. Apart from a small fractional difference in length, the K-62 firebox was the same as that on the T-3.

Thus one may conclude that although the K-62 differed from the R-67b in non-trivial ways and so might have been viewed as being outside of the WPB guidelines, the basic elements already existed, and it was more a case of a different combination of existing elements than a major redesign, just enough so to be allowed by the WPB.

One more possible connection is the Lima-built Soo Line O-20 class 4-8-4. That looks very much as if its design was informed largely by the R-67b. It had the same boiler and firebox dimensions, although a different arrangement of flues and tubes. It also had the 16’9” driving wheelbase that accommodated 75” drivers, so even this design element of the K-62 had an apparent family precedent.

Whilst the foregoing seems logical on the basis of the available information, it does concern me that the LV connection to the R-67b is not mentioned in the literature. Thus maybe I have missed something in my analysis, which is essentially an attempt to provide a post facto rationale for what appears to be a WPB anomaly.

WPB or not, the K-62 managed to embody much of Alco’s current thinking, perhaps via the D&H J-95 Challengers and evidently related to Alco’s work with the UP with the FEF-2, Big Boy and “big” Challengers. Thus in respect of its running gear, it had lateral motion devices on three driving axles, and auxiliary coil springs at the suspension anchor points.

Now looking back to the front end of this design sequence, was there a prior design, a 4-8-2 perhaps, that partially at least informed the original R-67b? The DL&W Q-1 and Q-2 are mostly different, although share the same firebox dimensions and grate area. But these firebox numbers go back at least to the USRA Heavy 2-10-2, so are not really all that defining. Perhaps the 1927 MoPac MT-73 4-8-2 was an antecedent of sorts? I think that it has similar boiler dimensions to the R-67b, albeit with a smaller grate area (84.3 ft²). The 1927 model was much larger and heavier than the first MoPac MT-73, which was essentially a slightly stretched USRA Light 4-8-2 with 73” drivers. Thus indirectly the MoPac might have arrived at a notional 73” driver derivative of the USRA Heavy 4-8-2. (I don’t think that any of the other 73/74” driver 4-8-2s developed from 1922 onwards would have qualified, but 4-8-2 development in that period looks to be a complex topic, so I can’t be sure.) Continuing this theme, perhaps the R-67b is as close as it got to a logical 4-8-4 successor to the USRA Heavy 4-8-2. On the other hand the USRA Light 4-8-2 did have a definite 4-8-4 successor in the form of the NC&StL J-1 class, which design effectively became the Alco standard light 4-8-4.

  by Allen Hazen
Try to get hold of "Classic Trains, Special 2012" (a.k.a. "Fantastic 4-8-4 Locomotives"). Try NOW: call your hobby shop TODAY and ask, since the cover of this Kalmbach publication says "display until March 19, 2012"!

It's a 100+page, magazine format, "book" about (mainly North American, though there is a 2-page photo spread with colour pics of Soviet, South African, Spanish and Australian 4-8-4), lots of pictures but some intelligent text, including -- immediately relevant to your post -- ten pages on Alco 4-8-4 by Neil Carlson.

high points:
-- Rock Island 5000-5024 (built 1929) and 5025-5064 (built 1930) were very different in design from their 5100-5119 (built 1944-1946), even though they were confusingly assigned the same railroad class, R67B.
--Both groups can be described as "Alco standard designs".
--The earlier Rock Island 4-8-4 were similar to locomotives built for Timken (the roller bearing demonstrator, 1111), Lehigh Valley (T-2 and T-2B classes) and DL&W (Q-4 class).
--This "standard design" could be fine-tuned to suit the purchaser: different groups had driver diameters from 69" to 75", and cylinder dimensions of 26"x32" (CRI&P, LV), 27"x30" (Timken) or 28"x32" (DL&W). The boilers are more nearly uniform: all had 250 or 255 lbs./sq.in. pressure, allburnedsoftcoal on 88.3 sq.ft. grates, all had 21'6" tube lengths, evaporative heating surfaces from 5120 to 5488 sq.ft and superheating surfaces of 2095 to 2243 sq.ft. (General trend seems to before later versions to have slightly smaller heating surfaces: perhaps minor modifications that improved gas flow?)
--The later Rock Island 4-8-4 closely resembled locomotives built for D&H (K-62 class) and CMStP&P (S3 class).
--Compared to the earlier standard design, these had larger grates (84 sq.ft. area), longer combustion chambers (84" vs 54" or 66"), shorter tube length (20'), significantly smaller heating surfaces (evaporative from 4477 to 4597, superheating 1438 to 1473 sq.ft.), and, in two of the three classes, higher pressures (285 lbs./sq.ft. for the D&H, 270for the CRI&P). (Smaller heating surfaces but probably more efficient: a square foot of combustion chamber wall transfers more heat to the boiler water than a square foot of tube. These locomotives, of which the first ere built in 1943, are clearly more modern: my suspicions that their performance was at least equal to that of the earlier ones despite the lesser heating surface.)
  by Pneudyne
Hello Allen:

Thanks very much for that. I haven’t yet found that issue of “Classic Trains”, and will continue looking. It will be interesting to see what insights Neil Carson has on this topic.

I had considered the DL&W and Timken locos basis their timing and common use of 88.3 ft2 grates and corresponding firebox dimensions. But there were differences in boiler diameters. Whilst all seemed to share a 84¼ inch inside diameter at the first ring, maximum outside diameter (BMOD) varied, being 95 inches for the DL&W Q-classes, 96 inches for Timken “1111” and 98 inches for the Rock Island, LV, D&H, and Milwaukee locomotives. So the latter might form a subset (or two subsets really) within a larger and more loosely connected grouping. I would imagine that BMOD has some significance when it comes to steam generating capacity; at least Bruce seems to treat it as a key parameter basis the individual locomotive data shown in his book.

Looking again at the LV T-3, this might have had a slightly shorter combustion chamber than the 54 inches of the early Rock Island and preceding LV locomotives, as well as a longer firebox giving a 96.5 ft2 grate area. In fact it looks as if the “back end” of the boiler was very similar to that of the Wabash O-1.

The Soo O-20 boiler looks to be the same as the original Rock Island design except perhaps for a slightly less-sloped backhead.

Carson’s contention that the 1944 Rock Island design was very different to the original means that so was the D&H K-62, in which case it is even more surprising that the WPB agreed to it, so in that sense the mystery deepens.

Nevertheless, it is good to see that he brings in the LV T-2 and T-2b as relatives to the original Rock Island design, this being something that writers have missed.

  by ssschuele
I suspect D&H K-62 shares more than a little in design with UP FEF-1 - check out heating surface numbers, superheater details, etc. The smaller grate area on the D&H engine may be related to the eastern line's shorter runs, lower speeds, smaller drivers, better quality coal, or residual Loree stinginess... Thw WPB may have accepted the "new" design via that route. It also appears to me that Soo Line (WC) liked what it saw of the RI 1929 R-67Bs and asked the various builders to propose "something similar". Lima may have won out based on price, or perhaps on design updates (higher boiler pressure, more modern appliances, etc.) Just guessing, long after the fact and without a whole lot of details on hand...
  by Pneudyne
To return to this thread after a long absence, I did acquire a copy of “Classic Trains” Special Edition No. 10 about the North American 4-8-4s and very good it is. I also found R&LHS Newsletter Volume 23, No.2 , 2003 Spring, which contained a pertinent article by Robert LeMassena entitled “The USRA Heavy 4-8-2 and its Illustrious Ascendants”. This covered those 4-8-2 and many 4-8-4 designs that LeMassena claimed were derived from the USRA heavy 4-8-2 (4-8-2B), including the Alco/Rock Island 4-8-4 group. It is available on-line at: http://rlhs.org/Publications/Quarterly/PDF/nl23-2.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;.

LeMassena appears to have used broader boundaries than did Carlson in deciding when somewhat differing locomotives had an underlying common design, and of course he reached back to the USRA heavy 4-8-2 as the progenitor of the series. His primary criterion for family membership was the boiler used on the 4-8-2B.

The Carlson and LeMassena analyses and syntheses do not always agree. Whilst there may be some elements that stem from engineering accounts of the locomotives at the time they were built, to a large extent they look like post facto inferences and conclusions, in which case some differences may be expected.

Just a few observations from those two treatises:

LeMassena included the Lehigh Valley (LV) T1, which was essentially the Baldwin version of the Alco-built T2, in turn close to being a clone of the Rock Island R-67b.

But then he did not mention the LV T3. This was essentially the T1 with larger drivers and a larger firebox. Within the boundaries that one might impute from his study overall, it would certainly have been an easy fit in a group that included the DLW Q-1.

Similarly, the Soo O-20 was not mentioned, although again it was an easy fit within those boundaries.

Carlson did not mention any of the above as being related to the Alco standard design, but then his study considered each builder separately.

Oddly, LeMassena missed the 1944 Milwaukee S3, which Carlson had (correctly, I think) as a member of the Alco 2nd standard group that included the 1943 D&H K-62 and the 1944 Rock Island R-67. LeMassena also characterized the K-62 as a new design, whereas he saw the 1944 R-67 as an update of the earlier version.

  by Allen Hazen
Thank you! It will take some thinking (and a careful read of the on-line article you link to) before I have much to say…

Idle thoughts:
---Steam locomotives. in the U.S., were traditionally "custom designed," and even the War Production Board couldn't impose TOO much standardization. Leaving it as a "judgment call" what would be an (allowed) change to the options with a common design and what would be a (forbidden) new design. Given that each railroad thought it had its own unique requirements, and had an internal tradition of what options to employ (on things like, e.g., feed water heaters).
---My impression is that in the later years of U.S. steam construction, "Type E" superheaters were increasingly favoured over "Type A," but different railroads had … different preferences. And that one choice, even if you had identical boiler SHELLS, could make a massive difference to the boiler statistics. Example to show the difference it could make (sorry, I don't have a late Alco-standard pair of designs at my fingertips!): The Pennsylvania Railroad used both Type A and Type E superheaters on its I-1 Decapods(*): with Type E they had over 1600 sq. ft. of superheating surface, with type A about 1100.
---As for the U.S.R.A. heavy 4-8-2… It seems to have been a good and influential design, and maybe it did in some way influence later designs, but it was a 1918 design, and had features that had been superseded by the time 4-8-4 were introduced: low boiler pressure (200 psi), small superheaters (under 1100 sq ft).

(*) from Pennsylvania Railroad diagrams at George Ellwood's "Fallen Flags" site. (Perhaps significantly, the Type A option is shown only for the earlier I-1s subclass, with the later I-1sa shown only with Type E.) (And note that a very similar boiler was used on the M-1 4-8-2 which was perhaps comparable to a mid-size 4-8-4 on other railroads: PRR, I think, had access to unusually good coal, and their steam locomotives often seem to have had smaller grate areas than comparable power elsewhere…)
  by Engineer Spike
Alco seemed to have come up with a good general design, which could be adapted for the customer’s exact desire, with some fine tuning. It was earlier questioned whether the UP FEF class was similar to the Milwaukee and D&H. Does anyone have any stats to compare?

There is more to this story. I wonder how close the Central’s Niagara was. Of course, Central had a pure high speed design in mind, as opposed to the D&H’s intent for something for more ambidextrous. This is evidenced by a video of D&H assigning the K67 to fast freight, then turning it around on a limited to Montreal. This thought came about one day with a retired D&H conductor. He had a Niagara model, and was comparing it to pictures of the K67. The lines matched almost perfectly. His intent was to kitbash the D&H Northern.

To further my comments and observations, How about the Mexican Northerns? I believe that they were Alcos, but somewhat smaller. Along this same line is the Rutland L1 class Mountain. They look like a midget version of some of Alco’s other contemporary products. Going back up in size would be the P&LE Berkshire of 1948. What I am trying to point out is that it seems like Alco had perfected a general design. Not only could things be personalized, such as the noted similarities of the Milwaukee, and Delaware and Hudson engines, but they could be scaled up or down.
  by Allen Hazen
The NYC Niagara and the D&H 4-8-4 certainly LOOK very similar but I think this is partly a matter of similar "cosmetics": both locomotives have a very smooth look. How similar the underlying designs were in mechanical and thermodynamic respects I don't know. (I think the Niagara had new thinking in its thermodynamic aspects: certainly a lot of thought went into the boiler design w.r.t. cross-sectional area for free gas flow through the boiler. Which is a big part of why the Niagara seems to have had higher output -- higher horsepower -- than the slightly larger Santa Fe Northerns.)

The P&LE Berkshires certainly are part of this story: their boiler proportions and are clearly derived from the Niagara. Slightly shorter (smaller grate) and operated at a much lower boiler pressure, but the same arrangement of tubes and flues in the same diameter shell.

The Mexican railways (N de M) bought "Niagras" from both Alco and Baldwin: I don't know if they were to he same design. Assuming (plausibly) that it was an Alco design... well, Alco had experience with small 4-8-4 designs, having built some for the TP&W (and, of course, having access to design and paperwork from MLW on CN's fleet).

Steinbrenner's Alco "Centennial" book has an organizational chart of the diesel engine design department, but I've never seen anything like it for steam designs. How large a staff woud Alco have had working on steam locomotive design? And how many engineering man-hours went into a new steam locomotive design?