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Atlantic Coast Line 4-8-4s

Atlantic Coast Line

Class R-1 4-8-4's

the "Eighteen-hundreds"

Updated 3 April 2023

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Atlantic Coast Line No. 1809 at Yemassee, SC in 1942

(photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt)

"No frills, no childish excrescences, just good design."- Samuel Vauclain, Chairman, Baldwin Locomotive Works

This page provides an overview of some of my favorite steam locomotives used in the United States, the Class R-1 4-8-4's of the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) Railroad.

The ACL R-1's were built in 1938 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the road's lucrative passenger traffic between Richmond, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida. While officially classified as R-1 locomotives, trainmen and locals along the ACL knew them as "eighteen hundreds".  The R-1's were the only "modern" steam locomotives owned by the ACL.

These engines replaced double-headed USRA light Pacifics on the road's passenger trains and their performance initially exceeded all expectations. During testing, no. 1800 accelerated a 20 car, 1500 ton passenger train (consisting of friction bearing heavy weight cars) from a dead stop to 70 miles per hour in 11-1/2 minutes and 11 miles. In passenger service, the R-1's initially made as high as 18,000 miles per month. The R-1's could hold to the scheduled running times of the fastest passenger trains with as many as 21 heavy weight cars. Initially, the maximum operating speed was limited to 80 MPH, but after the running gear balance was adjusted their speed was later raised to 90 MPH. Although 90 MPH was the "official" speed limit for these engines, amateur observers (my father for one) occasionally clocked them in excess of 100 MPH on the ACL's mostly level and straight mainline.

After WWII, as the locomotives were shifted to fast freight service, they were known to consistently outperform 3-unit, 4000+ HP consists of EMD FT diesels on perishable fruit trains.

ACL #1802

ACL no. 1802 at Richmond, VA

Otto Perry Photo

R-1 Cab

Cab Photo of R-1 from the 1941 Locomotive Cyclopedia

ACL R-1 No. 1809 at Jacksonville, Florida, April 14, 1948

photo by C.W. Jernstrom

adding sand

Hostler Adding Sand to R-1 Sand Dome

Photographer, location and date unknown

As the ACL acquired diesel-electric locomotives for their passenger trains, the R-1's were gradually shifted to fast-freight service and were also very successful in this application. In freight service, the R-1's were rated at 6200 tons under normal conditions on the road's mainline between Richmond, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida. The 1800's operated into the early 1950's until they were all retired and scrapped between 1951 and 1952. Unfortunately, none of these engines was preserved.

Site launched May 16, 2003

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