The history of the 2-8-8-0 began in 1911 at the Sante Fe's Topeka,
Kansas shops as one of the railroad's first such locomotives put into
service. The AT&SF thought that by basically smashing together a
pair of standard 2-8-0 Consolidations a more powerful unit could be
What resulted was a design the Santa Fe called the Consolidation Mallet,
a name that stuck in describing the wheel arrangement. The first unit
outshopped was #3296 but the unit encountered balancing issues and did
not achieve a desired tractive effort rating. The railroad went on to
roster four examples in all (3296-3299) but was never particularly happy
with the results. According to SteamLocomotive.com after only a decade
of service the units were rebuilt back into 2-8-0s around 1923.
Soon after the AT&SF's experimentation with the 2-8-8-0 the Great Northern received a batch of 25 Consolidation Mallets from Baldwin in 1912 numbered 2000-2024 and listed as Class N-1. Here, the design found far more success as the GN was quite pleased with its examples as they received the nickname of "Bull Moose" for their ability to pull almost anything. According to SteamLocomotive.com the GN's fleet of 2-8-8-0s utilized the Belpaire Firebox (only the Great Northern and Pennsylvania used this firebox in wide-scale use within its steam fleet) and offered tractive efforts that exceeded 98,000 pounds. After only a decade of service the original compound locomotives were simpled in 1925 boosting their boilers to 240 psi and offering tractive efforts exceeding 100,000 pounds.
The GN continued to refine their fleet of Consolidation Mallets, overhauling the units in 1940 with, among other improvements, roller bearings and a boiler rating of 265 psi. The more powerful 2-8-8-0s were used in both passenger and freight service where they were well liked. As it turns out the Union Pacific was another system quite fond of the 2-8-8-0 and also referred to its fleet using the "Bull Moose" designation. The railroad went on to roster 70 of these Mallets either built by its own shops or manufactured by the American Locomotive Company (Alco) and first went into service in 1918. Listed as Class MC by the UP the locomotives were upgraded twice during their service lives, in 1924 and 1937 (where tractive efforts reached more than 100,000 pounds), and primarily operated as helpers over the stiff grades of the Wyoming Division.
The only eastern line to use the 2-8-8-0 design in large numbers was the Baltimore & Ohio, which first put its Class EL-1s into service during 1916. This fleet of 70 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the B&O intended them for use over the mountainous West End of the Cumberland Division tackling Cranberry Grade and other stiff sections of the route. Like the Union Pacific and Great Northern, the B&O was very fond of its Consolidation Mallets where it found the locomotives quite suitable as helpers in drag service with tractive efforts over 110,000 pounds (after they were overhauled).
In 1920 the railroad acquired a fleet of sixteen former Seaboard Coast Line 2-8-8-2 Chesapeakes, which were numbered 7300-7315 and given Class EL-6a. The B&O did not like the trailing axle and converted them into 2-8-8-0s. In all, the railroad rostered seven different classes of Consolidation Mallets (EL-1, EL-2/a, EL-3/a, EL-5/a, and EL-6a) with the "a" designation referring to the units being rebuilt from compound to simple operation. The 2-8-8-0s proved so useful on the B&O that they remained in service through the mid-1950s, essentially until the end of the steam era. The three other roads to operate the 2-8-8-0 included the Utah Railway, Pennsylvania (which rostered only a single unit it built at its Juniata Shops in 1919, #3700), and Kansas City Southern.
purchased a fleet of 17 units (#750-766) from Alco between 1918 and 1924
listed as Class G-1/2 thanks in large part to the success of its Class G
0-6-6-0s. The railroad normally operated the 2-8-8-0s, which it
referred to as "Big Mallies," along its northern Division between Kansas
City and De Queen, Arkansas. The locomotives remained in regular
service until after 1950. Finally, the Utah had a fleet of three it
purchased from Baldwin in 1920, #200-202, that the railroad also liked
very well and used them in heavy coal drag service until the 1950s.
Related Reading You May Enjoy
2-8-8-0, Consolidation Mallet