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.
The 1800's were the only "modern" steam locomotives owned by the ACL,
and featured cast bed frames with cylinders and many accessories cast
integrally, cast pilots, roller bearings on leading and driving axles,
handsome Baldwin disk drivers, 275 PSIG boilers, Type "A" superheaters,
feedwater heaters, front-end throttles, large fireboxes with combustion chambers and equipped with
four thermic syphons, Elesco centrifugal steam separators, extensive
mechanical lubrication, and massive
8-axle tenders. The engines featured jacketed smokeboxes and were
painted in a sharp two-tone metallic
gray/black paint scheme with silver striping, lettering and driver tires. The ACL
herald on the tender was a separate embossed sheet metal disk which was
attached to the tender providing a dramatic change from
earlier engines which merely had "Atlantic Coast Line" lettered on the
replaced double-headed USRA 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
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) often clocked them in excess of 100 MPH on the ACL's
mostly level and straight mainline.
ACL no. 1802 at
shortly after the locomotives entered service, problems with the
counter-balancing of the locomotives' running gear became apparent
after much track damage occurred. Although the R-1's were balanced per
the AAR's latest published recommendations of 1934, at high speed the
main drivers actually left the rails and repeatedly slammed back down,
kinking rails and damaging track alignment for miles. Although the
design calculations were correctly made, and although the calculations
"bouncing" of the drivers should not occur, forces were at work
on the running gear of the locomotives which were beyond the
capabilities of the engineering of the 1930's to analyze. After much
investigation by Baldwin and ACL engineers, the locomotives'
counter-balancing was reduced by removing excess balance material from
the drivers and the problem was eliminated.
Unfortunately, as a result of these problems and competitor Seaboard
Air Line's success with new EMD diesel-electric locomotives, the ACL's
motive power purchases were all diesel. Other railways with modern
steam power built about this time (such as the New Haven's 4-6-4's)
suffered similar problems. These problems were significant in
discouraging further purchases of modern steam power and unfortunately
accelerated the change to diesel-electric motive power in the U.S.
Cab Photo of
R-1 from the 1941 Locomotive Cyclopedia
The 1800's were
overhauled at the ACL shops in Tampa, Florida, as they were too large
for the road's backshops in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Few changes
to the R-1's during their careers. Provisions were made in the original
design to allow trailing truck boosters to be fitted, but this was
never done. Photographs show that within the first couple of years of
service, the original whistles, mounted at the steam dome and fed with
saturated steam, were replaced with larger whistles mounted on the
fireman's side of the boiler just behind the stack on the superheater
header, where they were fed with superheated steam (see photo below).
Headlights seem to have been changed on some if not all of
the locomotives as well. Finally, locomotives 1800, 1801, 1806,
1807, 1808, and
1809 were fitted with Timken light-weight pistons, piston rods, cross
heads, and new tapered main rods with roller bearing wrist pins (see
photos below). These components greatly reduced the mass of the
reciprocating parts which improved the R-1's running gear balance even
The 1800's were
well-designed steam locomotives and were nearly state-of-the-art for
1938, lacking only roller bearing axles on the trailing truck and
tender axles. Their large fireboxes with combustion chambers and
4 Nicholson Thermic Syphons were among the largest in heating surface
area of any 4-8-4 and undoubtedly made them prodigious steamers.
One curiosity is Baldwin's use of relatively small piston valves for
such large engines which seems to have been part of Baldwin's design
philosophy at the time. The 1800's had only 12 inch diameter
piston valves whereas even the ACL's much smaller Class P-5 Pacifics
had 14 inch valves. The R-1's also had somewhat smallish
superheaters for their size (Type A, 1425 square feet). These two
items would have restricted their "breathing" at high speed by impeding
the steam flow into and out of the cylinders. Later 4-8-4 designs
used 14 inch piston valves with even longer valve travel and huge Type
E superheaters to improve their high-speed performance.
Nonetheless, the R-1's were known as outstanding performers on the ACL
and their theoretical design deficiencies were not seen as drawbacks
when they were in service.
R-1 Details of Interest
The photos below
point out some minor changes made to the R-1's during their service on
Builder's Photo (above) of
showing (1) original headlight, (2) original whistle fed with saturated
steam from the steam dome, (3) heavy, one-piece forged crosshead and
non-tapered main rods. This photo also shows the ASF wheelsets on
the lead truck (indicated by the large hubs with bolts around the
perimeter) which were an interesting development of the 1930's.
These wheelsets included both roller bearings and conventional journal bearings on
each axle. The friction bearings were intended to serve as a
"back-up" in case the "new-fangled" roller bearings should fail.
Late photo (above)
of ACL R-1 showing (1) different headlight, (2)
whistle fed with superheated steam from the superheater header, (3)
Timken light-weight crosshead (not seen are Timken light-weight piston
and piston rod),
and (4) light-weight, tapered main rod with roller bearing wrist pin.
This photo unfortunately also shows the not-quite-spic-and-span
condition somewhat typical of most ACL steam, especially near the end
of steam on the railway.
interesting feature of the R-1's were the Atlantic Coast Line
heralds on the tender, which were embossed 45 inch diameter plates bolted to
the sides of the tender rather than just a painted logo. The plates were provided by the Allen-Morrison Sign Company of Lynchburg, Virginia. The builder's drawings for
the locomotives show that rivets were omitted in this area of the
tender, welding being used to secure the internal braces to the
exterior sheets in this area. The rivet-free area can be seen on
the photo of N&W 2084 below with the herald removed.
ACL R-1 No.
1802 in Richmond, Virginia, July 11, 1947
photo by C. W. Jernstrom
ACL R-1 No.
1809 at Jacksonville, Florida, April 14, 1948
photo by C.W. Jernstrom
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 1953. Unfortunately, none of these engines was
8-axle tenders (24,000 gallons water, 27 tons of coal) of eight of the
R-1's were purchased by the Norfolk and Western in 1953 and attached to
Y-4 class 2-8-8-2 compound mallets (see below). These engines operated
until 1958 when they too were withdrawn and scrapped.
No. 2084 with R-1 Tender
photo from Virginia Tech N&W Collection
Note- the area where the ACL heralds were previously mounted (where "AND" appears) can be seen to be free of rivets in the above photo.
This artist's rendering was purchased at an estate sale in New Jersey in the summer of 2016; the image was forwarded to me by Mrs. Joanne Harvey for use on the website. It appears to be a concept drawing done at the Baldwin Locomotive Works prior to the construction of the locomotive to present to the railroad for review. Note that the locomotive in the drawing appears to have conventional bearings on an outside bearing lead truck.
A brass HO
scale model of the R-1 was imported by Overland Models in the
The Smithsonian Institution owns a large (1/2 inch = 1 foot) scale model of an R-1. This model is currently on loan to another orginazation.