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Front of locomotive to the left
An 1880s woodcut of a 4-4-0 locomotive

Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives by wheel arrangement, 4-4-0 represents the arrangement of four leading wheels on two axles, usually in a leading bogie, four powered and coupled driving wheels on two axles, and no trailing wheels. Almost every major railroad that operated in North America in the first half of the 19th century owned and operated locomotives of this type. Due to the large number of the type that were produced and used there, the 4-4-0 is most commonly known as the American type, but the type subsequently became popular in the United Kingdom, where large numbers were produced.

Other equivalent classifications are:

  • UIC classification: 2′B (also known as German classification and Italian classification)
  • French classification: 220 (also known as Spanish classification)
  • Turkish classification: 24
  • Swiss classification: 2/4
  • Russian classification: 2-2-0


The first use of the name American to describe locomotives of this wheel arrangement was made by Railroad Gazette in April 1872. Prior to that, this wheel arrangement was known as a Standard or Eight-Wheeler. This locomotive type was so successful on railroads in the United States of America (USA) that many earlier 4-2-0 and 2-4-0 locomotives were rebuilt as 4-4-0s by the middle of the 19th century.

Several 4-4-0T tank locomotives were built, but the vast majority of locomotives of this wheel arrangement were tender locomotives.

American development

Just five years after new locomotive construction had begun at the West Point Foundry in the USA with the 0-4-0 Best Friend of Charleston in 1831, the first 4-4-0 locomotive was designed by Henry R. Campbell, at the time the chief engineer for the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railway. Campbell received a patent for the design in February 1836 and soon set to work building the first 4-4-0.

For the time, Campbell's 4-4-0 was a giant among locomotives. Its cylinders had a 14 inches (356 millimetres) bore with a 16 inches (406 millimetres) piston stroke, it boasted 54 inches (1,372 millimetres) diameter driving wheels, could maintain 90 pounds per square inch (620 kilopascals) of steam pressure and weighed 12 short tons (11 tonnes). Campbell's locomotive was estimated to be able to pull a train of 450 short tons (410 tonnes) at 15 miles per hour (24 kilometres per hour) on level track, outperforming the strongest of Baldwin's 4-2-0s in tractive effort by about 63%. However, the frame and driving gear of his locomotive proved to be too rigid for the railroads of the time, which caused Campbell's prototype to be prone to derailment. The most obvious cause was the lack of a weight equalizing system for the drivers.

At about the same time as Campbell was building his 4-4-0, the company of Eastwick and Harrison was building its own version of the 4-4-0. This locomotive, named Hercules, was completed in 1837 for the Beaver Meadow Railroad. It was built with a leading bogie that was separate from the locomotive frame, making it much more suitable for the tight curves and quick grade changes of early railroads. The Hercules initially also suffered from poor tracking, which was corrected by giving it an effective springing system when returned to its builder for remodeling.

1856 relief sculpture of a 4-4-0 commissioned by the Norris Locomotive Works, depicting an early model prior to the adoption of the covered cab

Even though Hercules and its successors from Eastwick and Harrison proved the viability of the new wheel arrangement, the company remained the sole builders of this type of locomotive for another two years. Norris Locomotive Works built that company's first 4-4-0 in 1839, followed by Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works, the Locks and Canals Machine Shop and the Newcastle Manufacturing Company in 1840. After Henry Campbell sued other manufacturers and railroads for infringing on his patent, Baldwin settled with him in 1845 by purchasing a license to build 4-4-0s.

Short wheelbased Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railroad Coos, circa 1856, Longueuil, Quebec

As the 1840s progressed, the design of the 4-4-0 changed little, but the dimensions of a typical example of this type increased. The boiler was lengthened, drivers grew in diameter and the firegrate was increased in area. Early 4-4-0s were short enough that it was most practical to connect the pistons to the rear drivers, but as the boiler was lengthened, the connecting rods were more frequently connected to the front drivers.

In the 1850s locomotive manufacturers began extending the wheelbase of the leading bogie and the drivers as well as the tender bogies. By placing the axles farther apart, manufacturers were able to mount a wider boiler completely above the wheels that extended beyond the sides of the wheels. This gave newer locomotives increased heating and steaming capacity, which translated to higher tractive effort. It was in this decade that 4-4-0s began to look like the locomotives that were preserved.

The design and subsequent improvements of the 4-4-0 configuration proved so successful that, by 1872, 60% of Baldwin's locomotive construction was of this type and it is estimated that fully 85% of all locomotives in operation in the USA were 4-4-0s. However, the 4-4-0 was soon supplanted by bigger designs, like the 2-6-0 and 2-8-0, even though the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement was still favored for express services. The widespread adoption of the 4-6-0 and larger locomotives eventually helped seal its fate as a product of the past.

British development

The first British locomotives to use this wheel arrangement were the 7 ft 0 14 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge 4-4-0T tank engine designs which appeared from 1849. The first British tender locomotive class, although of limited success, was the broad gauge "Waverley" Class of the Great Western Railway, designed by Daniel Gooch and built by Robert Stephenson & Co. in 1855. The first American style British 4-4-0 tender locomotive on 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge, designed by William Bouch for the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1860, followed American practice with two outside cylinders.

Britain's major contribution to the development of the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement was the inside cylinder version, which resulted in a steadier locomotive, less prone to oscillation at speed. This type was introduced in Scotland in 1871 by Thomas Wheatley of the North British Railway.



The first 4-4-0s appeared in South Australia in 1859. From that initial order for two locomotives, the numbers of this wheel arrangement multiplied and eventually appeared in most of the Australian colonies. Tender, tank and saddle tank versions, varying in size from small engines to express passenger racers with 6 feet 6 inches (1,981 millimetres) driving wheels, worked in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania on 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge, 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge and 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) Irish gauge.

The locomotives came from British builders such as Dübs and Beyer, Peacock, from the American Rogers Locomotive Works in New Jersey and from local firms such as James Martin & Co. in Gawler, South Australia, and the Phoenix Foundry in Ballarat, Victoria. In New South Wales and Victoria the 4-4-0 ruled the rails for mainline passenger services until the early 1900s. In Western Australia some were later converted to 4-4-2s.


Finnish Class A4 locomotive of 1872

In Finland the 4-4-0 was represented by the Classes A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, A6 and A7.

  • The Class A4 was a class of nine locomotives, built in 1872 and 1873 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for use on the Hanko–Hyvinkää railway.
  • The Class A5 was a class of only two locomotives, built in 1874 and 1875 by the Finnish State Railroad's workshops in Helsinki. One of them is preserved at the Finnish Railway Museum.


Restored Beira Railway Falcon F2

Between 1895 and 1898 Pauling and Company placed forty-two Falcon F2 and F4 4-4-0 tender locomotives in service on the 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge line that was being constructed for the Beira Railway in Mozambique. They were supplied in six batches by Falcon Engine and Car Works Limited in England and the Glasgow Railway Engineering Company in Scotland.

In service these locomotives were nicknamed "Lawleys" after the Beira Railway construction subcontractor. The construction of the last batch of ten F4 locomotives was subcontracted by Falcon to the Glasgow Railway Engineering Company in Scotland and these were consequently often referred to as the "Drummond F4".

The Falcon F4 was larger and heavier than the earlier F2, with a tractive effort that was increased from the 3,000 pounds-force (13.3 kilonewtons) of the F2 to 3,987 pounds-force (17.7 kilonewtons) at 75% boiler pressure. It could haul 180 long tons (182.9 tonnes) up the ruling gradients, compared to the 160 long tons (162.6 tonnes) that the F2 could manage.


When the Beira Railway in Mozambique was regauged to 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge by 1900 and the whole 4-4-0 Lawley locomotive fleet was staged, six of the F4 locomotives were acquired by the Ayrshire Railway, which was then under construction in Southern Rhodesia. They remained in service there until 1914, when this line was also converted to Cape gauge and became the Sinoia branch of the Beira, Mashonaland and Rhodesia Railway.

South Africa

Narrow gauge

In 1907 and 1910 the Tongaat Sugar Estates in Natal acquired two 4-4-0T tank locomotives from W. G. Bagnall for their 2 ft (610 mm) gauge line. These locomotives had 9 by 14 inches (229 by 356 millimetres) cylinders. A further eleven similar locomotives, but with 10 by 15 inches (254 by 381 millimetres) cylinders, were delivered from the same manufacturer between 1926 and 1946.

SAR Class NG6 106 at Fort Beaufort

In 1915 thirteen of the Beira Railway’s retired 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge Falcon F2 and F4 locomotives were acquired from Mozambique by the Union Defence Force for use in South Africa, where they replaced locomotives that had been commandeered for the war effort in German South West Africa during World War I. At the end of the war these locomotives were staged, until they were placed back in service by the South African Railways (SAR) in 1921. When a system of grouping narrow gauge locomotives into classes was eventually introduced by the SAR between 1928 and 1930, they were classified as Class NG6.

In 1936 Bagnall built a single 4-4-0T tank locomotive, named "Burnside" and with 11+12 by 15 inches (292 by 381 millimetres) cylinders, for the 2 ft ½ in (622 mm) gauge line of the Natal Estates sugar plantation at Mount Edgecombe in Natal.

Standard gauge

The third locomotive of the 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge Natal Railway was obtained in August 1875, fifteen years after the opening of the railway. It was a 4-4-0T side tank built by Kitson and Company, initially named "Durban" but soon renamed "Perseverance". It was the last locomotive obtained by the Natal Railway before the establishment of the Natal Government Railways and the conversion from Standard gauge to 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge.

Cape gauge

Seventeen 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) Cape gauge 4-4-0T tank locomotives, designated 1st Class, were delivered to the Cape Government Railways (CGR) from Robert Stephenson and Company in 1875 and Neilson and Company in 1880. The first eleven were later equipped with four-wheeled tenders, while the last six were delivered without rear bunkers and with six-wheeled tenders. In 1879 and 1880 they were followed by fourteen more tender locomotives, built by Avonside Engine Company and Neilson. Eleven 1st Class locomotives survived to come into SAR stock in 1912, when they were grouped in Class O1 as obsolete locomotives.

Between 1882 and 1891 eleven 4-4-0T tank locomotives for the Wynberg suburban line in Cape Town were delivered to the CGR from Neilson and Dübs and Company. Designated 2nd Class and known as "Wynberg Tanks", ten of them became SAR Class O2 in 1912.

Two 4-4-0 tender locomotives of the CGR’s Experimental 3rd Class were supplied by Neilson in 1882. They had unusual six-wheeled tenders, with the leading axle mounted in a rigid frame and the other two axles mounted in a bogie. Eighteen similar locomotives with conventional six-wheeled tenders, the first of the CGR’s 3rd Class and known as the "Four-coupled Joys" because they had Joy valve gear, were delivered from Neilson in 1883. Dübs delivered twenty-four more with Stephenson’s valve gear in 1889. These were followed by six of an enlarged version, the "Wynberg Tenders", from Neilson in 1898 and another fourteen from Sharp Stewart and Company in 1901 and 1903. The 3rd Class locomotives that survived until 1912 all became SAR Class O3.

United Kingdom

Tank locomotives

4-4-0T tank engine classes began to appear on 7 ft 0 14 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge lines in the United Kingdom (UK) from 1849. The Great Western Railway built its Bogie class saddle tanks for the South Devon Railway in 1849, and others for its own use during 1854 and 1855. Between 1851 and 1876 the South Devon Railway acquired a further six saddle tank classes, and the Vale of Neath Railway a further nine. The Bristol and Exeter Railway introduced several 4-4-0ST classes after 1855.

William Adams built a series of standard gauge 4-4-0T classes for the North London Railway between 1863 and 1876. He went on to build the LSWR 46 Class for the London and South Western Railway in 1879. Other British 4-4-0T types included the A Class of the Metropolitan Railway, built by Beyer, Peacock and Company from 1864, and the Highland Railway O Class of 1878 and P class of 1893-94. Also in 1864, John Lambie of the Caledonian Railway built twelve Class 1 4-4-0T locomotives.

Inside cylinder tender locomotives

A LB&SCR B4 class c.1910 typical of the British inside frame/inside cylinder layout

Between 1876 and 1903 Samuel W. Johnson of the Midland Railway built 350 inside cylinder tender locomotives to various designs, notably the Midland Railway’s 483 Class. The type was particularly refined by John F. McIntosh of the Caledonian Railway with his "Dunalastair" and "Breadalbane" classes of 1896 to 1898. In addition, Wilson Worsdell of the North Eastern Railway designed six classes between 1896 and 1909. Other notable classes included the London and South Western Railway’s T9 class of 1899 and the London and North Western Railway’s "Precursor" Class of 1904.

From the mid-1890s until after the First World War, the inside cylinder 4-4-0 was the standard type for British Express passenger trains, although several classes were also used in mixed traffic service in later years.

The GWR’s "City of Truro"

The Great Western Railway (GWR) preferred to retain outside frames on their inside cylinder 4-4-0s. One member of its "City" class, the "City of Truro", designed by George Jackson Churchward and built at the GWR’s Swindon Works in 1903, was reputedly the first steam locomotive in Europe to travel in excess of 100 miles per hour (160 kilometres per hour), reaching a speed of 102.3 miles per hour (164.6 kilometres per hour) on 9 May 1904 while hauling the "Ocean Mails" special from Plymouth to London’s Paddington station.

Although the inside cylinder 4-4-0 had largely been superseded by larger locomotives for mainline express trains by 1920, the type remained in use in Scotland and East Anglia, where lines that could not support heavier or larger locomotives were common. Thus both the Great Eastern Railway’s "Claud Hamilton" classes of 1900 to 1911 and the Great Central Railway’s "Director" classes of 1920 were perpetuated by the London and North Eastern Railway in 1923. Until 1932 the London, Midland and Scottish Railway also continued to build its Class 2P of traditional inside cylinder 4-4-0s for secondary passenger working.

Three cylinder tender locomotives

Southern Railway "Schools" class "Stowe", constructed in 1934

Experiments were conducted with three cylinder compound locomotives by Wilson Worsdell of the North Eastern Railway in 1898, Samuel W. Johnson of the Midland Railway in 1901 and Francis Webb of the London and North Western Railway. Of these, the development of Johnson's design by Richard Deeley of the Midland Railway into the 1000 Class was the most successful. This class continued to be built by the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) after 1905, until 1932 with the almost identical LMS Compound 4-4-0.

British three cylinder simple expansion (simplex) locomotives included Nigel Gresley's LNER Class D49 of 1927-28. However, the most powerful and one of the most successful 4-4-0 designs ever constructed was the "Schools" class of the Southern Railway, designed by Richard Maunsell and built between 1930 and 1935. These were used on secondary express trains between London and South Coast towns, until their withdrawal in 1962.

United States of America

AM&O no. 87, delivered on flatcars due to gauge incompatibility

Since the first locomotives in the United States of America (USA) were imported from the UK, the British 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge was also adopted by the first US railroads. When new locomotive construction began in the USA in 1831, some new railroads opted for a different gauge, resulting in gauge incompatibility as railroads began to be joined together. Apart from freight reloading issues, another result was that new locomotives for some of these railroads had to be delivered on flatcars.

The 4-4-0 played a major role in the development of rail transport in the USA. Some of the notable 4-4-0 locomotives that saw service on US railroads are:

  • The General, built in 1855 by Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor in Paterson, New Jersey, was the fleeing locomotive during the Great Locomotive Chase of the American Civil War.
An AT&SF 4-4-0 on a passenger train across Kansas, circa 1895
  • The Texas, built in 1856 by Danforth, Cooke and Company in Paterson, New Jersey, was the pursuing locomotive during the Great Locomotive Chase.
  • The Jupiter, Central Pacific Railroad’s no. 60, built by Schenectady Locomotive Works of New York in September 1868, was one of the two locomotives to meet at Promontory Summit during the Golden Spike ceremony upon the completion of the First American Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869.
  • Union Pacific no. 119, built by Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works of Paterson, New Jersey in 1868, was the other locomotive at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869.
  • The Virginia and Truckee Railroad’s Dayton, built in 1873 by the Central Pacific Railroad, had the honour of opening the branch line between Carson City and Minden in Nevada in 1906.
  • The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad no. 999, built in 1893 to haul the railroad's Empire State Express, is believed to have been the first in the USA to travel at a speed of more than 100 miles per hour (160 kilometres per hour).
Pennsylvania Railroad class D6 4-4-0 no. 317, built in 1881.

By 1900, the 4-4-0 was considered obsolete in US locomotive manufacture, although they continued to serve on branch lines and in private industry into the mid-20th century. The last 4-4-0 to be built was a diminutive Baldwin product for the United Railways of Yucatan in 1945. Fewer than forty 4-4-0s survive in preservation in the USA, reproductions excluded.

Between 1959 and 1992 the Crown Metal Products Company of Wyano, Pennsylvania built live steam reproductions of classic 4-4-0 designs for use by amusement parks. The largest of these, of which 18 were produced, ran on 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge track. Most are patterned after 19th century American designs, but those produced for Busch Gardens have European styling. Many of these are still in daily operation at parks such as Paramount's Kings Island, Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, and the Omaha Zoo Railroad at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

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