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  • Andrew Fitz

4-6-0 Ten Wheeler

The Norris Locomotive Works built the first 4-6-0 in North America in 1847 for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The design was a natural evolution of the American 4-4-0. Like the American, the esthetically beautiful and often ornately ornamented Ten-Wheeler was found in both passenger and freight operations. Although larger on average than their American contemporaries, the Ten-Wheelers remained modest sized locomotives for most of their long tenure. With over 16,000 produced they were exceeded in popularity among US railroads through much of the 19th Century only by the classic 2-8-0 Consolidation. On most railroads in the second half of the 19th Century 4-6-0s were typically assigned to one engineer or “Pilot” who often kept them polished and spotlessly clean. 



By the 1880s, the Ten-Wheeler began to lose ground to the Atlantic (4-4-2) for faster passenger service and the Consolidation (2-8-0) for heavy freight service. But the 4-6-0 occupied that space in the middle that was useful for both lighter and faster freight runs and heavier passenger trains which didn't demand the fastest schedules.

Though the most well known 4-6-0 was probably Illinois Central #382 which engineer Casey Jones rode to his death, the most famous is certainly “The movie star locomotive” Sierra #3 owned by the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, California. Former Transportation History curator at the Smithsonian Institution William L. Withhuhn described the locomotive's historical and cultural significance: "Sierra Railway No. 3 has appeared in more motion pictures, documentaries, and television productions than any other locomotive. It is undisputedly the image of the archetypal steam locomotive that propelled the USA from the 19th century into the 20th.




By the 1880s, the Ten-Wheeler began to lose ground to the Atlantic (4-4-2) for faster passenger service and the Consolidation (2-8-0) for heavy freight service. But the 4-6-0 occupied that space in the middle that was useful for both lighter and faster freight runs and heavier passenger trains which didn't demand the fastest schedules.

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