A steam locomotive, or steam engine, is a steam-powered machine which pulls freight cars, trucks, or passenger coaches. It is made up of a tender, smokestack (or funnel), boiler, wheels, pistons, firebox, and domes for steam and sand.

Early HistoryEdit

Gov01 10Rail015a-1-

Locomotion No. 1, one of the very first locomotives ever built. As well as being one of the very first steam locomotives. It was built by George Stephenson.

The first high-pressure steam locomotive was built in 1804 by Richard Trevithick. Working for the Pen-y-Darren mines, it made a journey of 10 miles (16 kilometers) in 4 hours and five minutes, carrying 10 tons of iron and 5 wagons of 70 men. Its average speed for the journey was under 3 mph (approx. 4 km/h), a remarkable speed for such a load at the time. The engine suffered mechanical problems often. "Locomotion No. 1" was the first majorly successful British steam locomotive, which was designed by Stephenson. Many people designed and built individual steam locomotives during the early period of experimentation in locomotive design.


The 4-4-0 "American Standard" was the first major type of steam locomotive built in the U.S, which sprung an economic growth in the Western States during the Wild-West Era, when they very last states to be established on the mainland of the US. But because of having the states being newly established,
American Standard

A 4-4-0 "American Standard".

and having settlers migrate from other states (pioneers) caused lack of law-enforcement, which led to train robberies, as well as leading to the famous train-robbers such as Jessie James. But after the states became established, law enforcement was established, and the population grew; thus the American Standard began to see replacements. Like the 2-6-0 "Mogul", 4-6-0 "Ten-Wheeler", 2-8-0 "Consolidation", 2-8-2 "Mikado", the 2-6-2 "Prairie", and the 4-6-2 "Pacific". The 4-4-0 was also one of the very first major wheel-arrangements used on some of the very first major types of steam locomotives built in Britain. As well as Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.
City of Truro

GWR "City of Truro"; a GWR "City" Class of steam locomotive.

GWR (Great Western Railway) "City" Class of steam locomotives are an example of some of the first major types of steam locomotives built in Britain. As well as No. 3440 "City of Truro" being the first locomotive to ever travel at a speed of 100 mph. NYC No. 999 set a record of traveling at a speed of 100 mph.

Mallets and StreamliningEdit

The decade of the "roaring" 1920's was when the need for much more powerful and faster steam locomotives was needed for the growth of railroads throughout North America and Europe. Anatole Mallet (name of French origin; pronounced: "Mallay") of Switzerland, designed the "Mallet" type or arrangement of steam locomotives, which helped improve railroads to deliver long and heavy loads of freight over long distances, as well as streamlining, to help improve the speed of steam locomotives for passenger trains.


The true decline for steam locomotives began in the 1930s, known as the Great Depression. EMD had introduced numerous four-axle and six-axle diesel locomotives, and since they required fewer manhours to operate, were simpler to maintain, were faster, and were more fuel efficient, steam technology lost out. However, due to World War 2 regulations, most railroads purchased steam locomotives instead despite the diesel's benefits, so by the time the war ended, may railroads chose to "dieselize (converting from a steam locomotive fleet to a diesel locomotive fleet). By the 1950s there were only a handful of steam locomotives operating around the United States and Canada. The final steam locomotive to retire from a Class 1 railroad in the USA was on the Climax Branch of the Colorado & Southern Railroad (a CB&Q subsidiary) when 2-8-0 #641 (built by ALCo in 1906) ran her last train on Thursday, October 11th, 1962.


There are several different types and, or, forms of steam locomotives:

  • Single/Standard/Prime Mover - Which is the main form of a steam locomotive, which includes various sizes and having a tender.
  • Tank Engine - Which is a smaller, tenderless, steam locomotive.
  • Mallet - (French word pronounced: Mallay) Which is a large steam locomotive consisting of a separate section, and set, of the wheels. These wheels are joined to the locomotive via a vertical articulated pivot, or "hinge" in the center of the loco. These Mallet locomotives were superseded by the Garratt type.

Note that the forward tender contains the water, and the rear contains the coal.

  • Garratt or Beyer - Garratt - This type of steam locomotive is simiular to the Mallet type, but has a pivot point at each end of the boiler's chassis (frame), which has no wheels and rest on the pivots. The detached chassis (frames) are tenders which hold the water, the front one, and coal, the rear one. (See photo of G Class.)
  • Fireless - A steam locomotive without a firebox, and is powered by heated or pressurized steam.
  • Gas Turbine - A locomotive that is powered by compressing air and fuel, the fuel being either oil or gasoline, in a compressor, much like a jet engine.
  • Geared - A steam locomotive powered by gears to have it move as opposed to pistons with siderods connected to the wheels. (Such examples are: the Shay type, the Heisler type, and the Climax type.)

Cylinder layoutsEdit

There are two main forms of cylinder layouts: The "inside-cylinders"; and the "outside-cylinders" -layouts. The inside-cylinders layout, which was very popular on locomotives built between 1900 and 1920, has the cylinders between the chassis rails. In other words: between the wheels inline with the boiler. The outside-cylinders layout, which was very popular post-1920, has the cylinders hanging on the outside of the chassis/wheels. The latter design allows larger cylinders. In many express passenger locomotives, there are cylinders outside the line of the wheels, and a cylinder (or cylinders) inside the line of the wheels. This layout is commonly referred to as a "inside-outside" cylinder layout.

An example of a inside-cylinder locomotive is the Jinty, an example of a outside-cylinder locomotive is the Victorian Railways K Class and an example of an inside-outside cylinder arrangement is the LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard.


800px-Number 4468 Mallard in York

The LNER Mallard, is the fastest steam locomotive in the world.


This steam locomotive is the first steam locomotive to ever operate, and it was built in 1804 by Richard Trevithick. (This is a replica.)

  • Steam locomotives are made up of more parts than both diesel and electric locomotives.
  • Most British steam locomotives are named and referred to as a "he" or "she" like with most American cars and automobiles.
  • As shown in the article, the GWR "City of Truro" was the first ever locomotive (in history) to ever travel at a speed of 100 mph. (Aside from NYC No. 999, which set the same record close to the same time.)
  • The LNER (London, and North-eastern Railway) Mallard is the fastest steam locomotive in the world.
  • The LNER Flying Scotsman has traveled further than any other steam locomotive without stopping.
  • The Union Pacific ALCO 4000 Class "Big Boy" type, is largest type of steam locomotive ever built.
  • The C&O (Cheasapeke and Ohio railroad) "Allegheny" type of steam locomotive, is the heaviest type of steam locomotive ever built.
  • "Rishra" is the smallest steam locomotive ever built, beating all the Talyllyn Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway's small steam locomotives, all of which are narrow-gauge.
  • The newest ever from scratch train created was 60163 Tornado, an LNER Peppercorn Pacific (A1) built from scratch by the A1 Steam Trust, Darlington in 2008.
  • The last steam locomotive built for U.S. commercial use was Norfolk & Western Railroad 0-8-0 #244 (built by Roanoke Shops in December 1953). The last U.S. built steam locomotive was built by Baldwin in 1955 for use in India, they were 2-8-2 Mikados.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.