Pennsylvania Railroad (2-8-0) Consolidation Steam Locomotive

'Consolidation' is the U.S. designation for a steam locomotive that has a single-axle leading truck followed by four powered driving axles and no trailing truck. The wheel arrangement is 2-8-0.

The first locomotive of this wheel arrangement was commissioned by Alexander Mitchell, master mechanic of the Lehigh and Mahoney Railroad. He needed a powerful engine to pull coal loads over steep grades and found that 4-6-0s and 2-6-0s were not up to the task. The Baldwin Locomotive Works built a steam engine to his specifications in July 1866. The design was a great success and Baldwin soon incorporated the Consolidation in its line of offerings.

Alexander Mitchell's Consolidation as built by Baldwin - photographed outside the Philadelphia factory prior to delivery

The 2-8-0 design was given a major boost in 1875 when the PRR made it the railroad's standard freight locomotive. The same year, the Erie Railroad began replacing its 4-4-0s in freight service with 2-8-0s. Railroads found that the 2-8-0 could move trains twice as heavy for half the cost of earlier locos.

Most PRR Consolidations were constructed between 1901-15. They were built by Baldwin or the Pennsy's own shops in Altoona PA. Quite a few remained in service until the end of steam locomotive operation on the PRR in 1957. The Pennsy bought/built about 3,500 examples of the sturdy 2-8-0 workhorses.

A partially-built Consolidation is on the hoist at the Erecting Shop of the Baldwin Locomotive Works at Broad & Spring Garden Sts., Philadelphia. The photo was taken around 1900, when Baldwin was Philadelphia's largest employer with a workforce exceeding 8,200. In 1907, when employment reached 18,500, the firm moved from this cramped 17 acre urban site to a 225 acre site in nearby Eddystone, PA.

Total U.S. production of the Consolidation class has been estimated at more than 33,000 locomotives. About a third were built for export to other countries.

PRR #2846, built in 1905 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, has been preserved by the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. The nearby Strasburg Railroad regularly operates a Consolidation on its scheduled passenger train excursions.

In 2000, I bought an O-gauge Pennsylvania Express starter set made by MTH Electric Trains. The set included a PRR 2-8-0 Consolidation steam locomotive and tender, a box car, hopper car and caboose. It also featured Protosound, which produces a realistic steam-chuffing sound and an upgraded digital whistle sound. It is a very nice set and offered exceptional value for the money but the locomotive didn't have much 'cab appeal'. So I later bought and installed an engineer and fireman and seats from Arttista Figurines. I also detailed the locomotive cab's inside gauges and levers in brass and silver and put a "fire" in the firebox - using a mix of gold, red and yellow paints.

While the PRR Consolidation steam locomotive normally hauls a freight consist, it looks so good that - in 2009 - I purchased some heavyweight-style MTH Rail King passenger cars for it. These are the Rugged Rails series - the entry-level, budget line of cars offered by MTH. I was pleasantly surprised at the high level of quality and detail on these inexpensive models. Each of these well-made cars has overhead interior lighting, a full car interior, end-of-car elastomer diaphragms, diecast 6-wheel trucks and operating diecast metal couplers.

I detailed the open observation car with silver paint on the railing, gold finials, gold-trimmed rear lanterns and installed a drumhead made from a metal PRR lapel pin. I also installed figures in the coach seats of all coach cars and on the observation platform.

In early 2010, I produced a video short (running time - 1:51 min.) of my Consolidation loco and passenger consist in action:

More Train Info & Photos

Main Page - Introduction
Overview - General description
Aerial photo - Large overview of layout
Photorama - Several pages of photos
Construction - Progress photos and descriptions
Layout storage - How we move and store this train layout
Inventory list - It continues to grow
Frequently asked questions - And answers to them
Tips for a better layout - Ten helpful suggestions
My grandson's layout - A simple model railroad for kids
GM Aerotrain - 1950s Train of the Future
Hiawatha - The first streamlined steam loco
PRR GG1 - The most famous electric locomotive on earth
PRR Mallet - Pennsy's big, powerful steam freight hauler
PRR MP54 - Serving commuters for over 50 years
PRR T1 - Sleek and massive Pennsy steam power

copyright Joseph M. Sherlock - 2000-14