In the 1920s, increased competition meant that railroads had to come up with new ways of doing business if they hoped to remain successful. Up to that time, most freight was moved by connecting as many cars as possible to a locomotive and having the steam engine heave and drag them along (called "drag freight"). Some railroads decided to compete more effectively by increasing the speed, not the capacity, of their freight trains. The Lima Locomotive Works' 2-8-4 Berkshire steamer, introduced in 1924 and named for the Massachusetts mountains where it was demonstrated, helped make this happen. The Berkshire was dubbed a "Super Power" engine because its larger firebox grate and other related elements (which necessitated the 4-wheel trailing truck) greatly increased the engine's steam-making capacity. And more steam capacity meant more power and more speed. In all, 611 Berkshires were built for nearly 20 Class 1 railroads. They were a huge success and remained in service on U.S. rails until 1958, well into the diesel era.
M.T.H. Electric Trains is pleased to offer the RailKing Imperial Berkshire in three road names: Nickel Plate, including No. 765 which runs today in excursion service (learn more at www.fortwaynerailroad.org); Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac; and the P&LE subsidiary of the New York Central System.
Did You Know?
The first 2-8-4 was built with 63" drivers, but railroads soon discovered that it had so much more steam capacity than previous freight engines it could power larger - and therefore faster - drivers, and subsequent models had 69"-70" drivers. Cruising speeds averaged about 55 mph.