The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railroad’s
2-6-6-6 Class H-8 Allegheny locomotives were the most powerful reciprocating
steam locomotives to be built anywhere in the world. Designed by the Lima
Locomotive Works, sixty Allegheny locomotives were delivered to the C&O
between December 1941 and December 1948.
With a weight of more than 775,000 lbs and a
boiler pressure of 260 psi, they could develop a tractive effort of 110,200
lbs and generate 7500 horsepower at 40 miles per hour. Their boilers were
capable of delivering 8000 horsepower. This, coupled with their 67-inch
diameter drivers, gave them a wonderful turn of speed, although they were
rarely used in high-speed operations.
While most of American industry was in a
terrible economic slump during the 1930’s, the C&O was busy constructing new
tunnels, laying double track, rebuilding bridges and generally upgrading
their system. This fortuitous situation was because of the main product
that they transported – coal. Some of the finest bituminous coal deposits
in America were adjacent to the C&O routes and coal was needed even during a poor
In the late 1930’s, it became evident that
the C&O would need additional motive power for the 80 mile coal run between
Hinton, West Virginia and Clifton Forge, Virginia. This route crossed the
Allegheny Mountains and included a 0.58% 13 mile grade up to a 2,072 foot
summit and a descent of 1.14% into Clifton Forge. The C&O was currently
operating Texas class 2-10-4s and planned to procure additional locomotives of this class until
Lima approached them with their new and
somewhat novel 2-6-6-6 design.
The new locomotive was to weigh over 775,000
lbs and would use four 22.5-inch diameter cylinders with a 33-inch stroke.
The articulated chassis would carry a huge boiler with a 9 ft x 15 ft
firebox containing 135 square foot grate. The resulting rear weight
required a six-wheel trailer truck to support it. The tender would be the
largest ever designed for the C&O, weighing over 430,000 lbs, and would
contain a 25,000-gallon water tank and a 25-ton coal bunker.
The overall length of the locomotive and
tender was limited by the length of existing turntables so the tender was
designed to be short and its rear section was designed “high” to carry a lot
of weight. This configuration required an eight-wheel rear tender truck to
distribute the load to the rails. The leading tender truck had six
The final length of the locomotive and
tender was slightly over 125 feet. The increased power and improved
economics of the new design over the
Texas class was the deciding
factor. The C&O selected it and never regretted their decision, as it
would prove to be one of the finest locomotive designs in American railroad
history. The name Allegheny' was given to the new giants in honor of the
mountain range over which they would be operated.
Standard operating procedure for the coal
run was to use two Allegheny class locomotives, one pulling and one pushing,
to haul a 140-car train. Starting at Hinton, the train would climb the
steep grade up the mountain to the summit when the pushing locomotive would
be uncoupled and turned for its descent back to Hinton. The lead locomotive
would then proceed down grade with the train into Clifton Forge. There it
was turned and sent back to Hinton hauling a string of empties.
The first ten locomotives were delivered in
December 1941 and were immediately pressed into service to meet the demands
of World War II. The performance of the Allegheny was so impressive that
the C&O ordered an additional ten locomotives, Numbers 1610 through 1619,
which were delivered in 1943 and another 25, Numbers 1620 through 1644,
which were delivered in 1944.
During the war, the C&O had twenty-three its
Allegheny-class locomotives modified to include steam heating and signal
lines for passenger service but used them only rarely to haul a troop train
or heavy mail train. Their more normal assignment was to haul a 10,000-ton
freight train at 15 miles per hour. This is in stark contrast to their
design goal of hauling a 5000-ton train at 45 miles per hour. Thus the
Allegheny locomotives were never given the opportunity to demonstrate their
A final fifteen locomotives, Numbers 1645
through 1659, were delivered in 1948 making a total of sixty Alleghenies on
the C&O roster. They continued to give faithful service over the post-war
years but they were eventually replaced by diesels, a process that began in
1952. The last Allegheny was taken off the operating roster in 1956.
The Virginian Railway also operated eight
2-6-6-6 Lima built locomotives during World War II, which were essentially
identical to those of the C&O however they were known as the Class AG Blue
Ridge. Delivered in 1945, they too were used mainly on coal-hauling
operations. They operated well into the 1950s but were all scrapped by
Fortunately for railroad enthusiasts, two
Allegheny locomotives have survived and are currently on public display in
the United States. Number 1601 is at the Henry
Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Number 1604 is at
the B&O Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
After Number 1601 was retired, she ran to
Detroit and was stored inside the Ford Museum, where, it is said, she
is the most photographed item of all exhibits there. Number 1604 also
dodged the scrapper’s torch and was donated to the Roanoke
Transportation Museum in the
late 1960's. In the late 1980’s, she was moved to Baltimore as the
centerpiece for the newly constructed Mt. Clair
Shopping Center. In 1990, she
was moved to on the property of the B&O
Railroad Museum where she
resides to this day.
Aster chose to model Allegheny Number 1625.
Delivered in 1944, this locomotive has long- since vanished from the rails
after a career of hard, unglamorous, but vital work. This fine locomotive
represented the pinnacle of the locomotive builders' art and is the
embodiment of brute strength.
The recreation of the H-8 Allegheny is one
of Aster's grandest and greatest achievements both in detail and quality.
With a Baker Valve Gear, the model is a fully functioning museum quality
piece. The boiler accommodates both alcohol and coal firing.
It is Aster Hobby’s sincere hope that
through the medium of Gauge 1, the spirit of Allegheny 1625 will live
again. Locomotive enthusiasts through the world will have the opportunity
of seeing a miniature giant in action.