What locomotive had an uncommon wheel arrangement of two leading wheels, two sets of ten driving wheels, along with a pair of trailing wheels?
If you’re a railroad buff who appreciates unusual, rare locomotives, you know the answer:
The 2-10-10-2 steam locomotive
There were only two classes of these interesting locomotives ever built:
- ATSF’s 3000 class
- Virginian Railway’s class AE
We’ve covered these articulated Mallet-type locomotives before, showcasing a Westside Model brass HO Scale AT&SF Santa Fe 2-10-10-2 3000 Class Locomotive. Here, we’re taking a closer look at another example of the 2-10-10-2 wheel arrangement, inspired by a great model we recently acquired from a collection of rare brass model trains: an NJ Custom Brass Virginian Railway Class AE 2-10-10-2 steam locomotive. This model was crafted by Kumata in 1979 (catalog # ST-826).
Unlike the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s 3000 class, Virginian Railway’s class AE locomotives enjoyed greater success during their run that spanned upwards of three decades. The 3000 class locomotives were eventually returned by the AT&SF Railway to their original 2-10-2 configuration.
Here are 10 interesting facts about the Virginian Railway’s Class AE locomotives:
- By the time Santa Fe was finished converting their 2-10-10-2 locomotives back to a 2-10-2 wheel arrangement, the Virginian’s locomotives were just being built…
- Alco (Schenectady) built a total of 10 articulated Mallet type steam locomotives back in 1918 for the Virginian Railway.
- Because of their massive size, the class AE locos were delivered disassembled – minus their cabs and front low-pressure cylinders, which were inclined several degrees to give clearance.
- At 48” inches, their low-pressure cylinders were said to be the biggest on any loco in the US at the time.
- To fit on the Virginian’s turntables, their fuel tenders were shorter than typical. Guess what railroad became an early user of auxiliary tenders? (hint: the Virginian)
- Sometimes referred to as a “Double Decapod,” the Virginian’s 2-10-10-2’s hauled coal from the mountainous areas of West Virginia all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The Virginian’s grades were not for the faint of heart, such as the 2.11% grade at Elmore, WV.
- A massive blast in 1941 destroyed the #800 (see an old image here). The boiler explosion claimed the lives of all 3 crewmembers – an Engineer, Fireman, and Head Brakeman, who was said to be just a week shy of his 27th birthday.
- #808 boasts some impressive history: across rugged terrain, it once hauled 110 of the Virginian’s loaded 120-ton 12-wheel coal gondolas (weight: 17,050 tons) from Princeton, WV all the way to Norfolk, VA. It was assisted by three 0-8-0 switchers at Princeton, and again by a 2-8-8-2 on a 9.4 mile stretch of 0.6% grade.
- Their impressively sized boilers were big enough to sustain steam pressure at around eight miles per hour. In compound operation, the class AE locos were capable of operating at full capacity: at about 8MPH, they produced around their 147,200-lb rating for hours.
- Although the nature of their work changed over the years, it’s said that these 2-10-10-2’s were never modified in their many years of dedicated service – save for the application of Worthington BL feedwater heaters.
Despite the poor performance of the AT&SF’s class 3000 locomotives, they did share at least one thing in common with their class AE counterparts: neither they nor the Virginian Railway’s class AE locomotives remain in existence today. Class AE locomotives were scrapped beginning in 1943, with the last destroyed by 1949. 70-odd years later, these unusual locomotives take railfans back to the glory days of steam.