The American Type has its beginnings dating as far back as 1836 when
Henry Campbell developed the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement. Up until the time
of Campbell’s new design steam locomotives offered not only little
horsepower but also they tended to be unreliable. Of course,
this is partly due to the fact that the industry was still mostly in
its infancy and steam locomotive designs and technology were just under
way with now famous models like the Best Friend of Charleston (an 0-4-0 design), Stourbridge Lion (an English-built 2-2-0), John Bull (an early 4-4-0, which also came from England), and the Tom Thumb (a very crude, albeit historically significant, 2-2-0 design) leading the way.
Not only did the new American Type offer much better horsepower,
tractive effort, and reliability it also signaled the way steam
locomotives were to forever be built in the future with the boiler mounted horizontally (instead of vertically) and a smoke stack situated at a ninety-degree angle to the boiler
at the front of the locomotive to expel the smoke and cinders. The
4-4-0 design also featured greater protection for train crews with an
entirely enclosed cab (save for to the rear) on the back of the boiler.
Essentially, the American standardized many steam locomotive designs
that would become common fixtures on future models (other features would
include things like cowcatchers, front-mounted headlamps/lights, etc.).
The American's increased power and tractive effort enabled railroads and manufacturers to build larger and heavier freight and passenger cars, which allowed more money to be made
per train (it also resulted in the need for heavier rails to support
the increased weights). While Campbell originally thought up the 4-4-0
design in the United States he was not the first to successfully
capitalize on it (initially, that is, he would later sue on infringement
to his patented design). He originally included in the design a rigid
front truck (instead of one that could freely swivel, as later became
common practice), which could not successfully negotiate curves in the
rails, particularly during those days when track construction was
typically shoddy, at best. The Eastwick & Harrison Company beat him
to the punch on this much needed design improvement, delivering its
first, the Hercules to the Beaver Meadow Railroad in 1837.
In the subsequent years the American Type was improved upon
and featured better traction, power, and an overall larger design (such
as an increase in its boiler size). The 4-4-0 design proved to be just
what the railroads needed during the latter half of the 19th century in
their quest to build west and move larger and heavier trains. While
Americans quickly lost their luster during the final decade of the 1800s
as more powerful locomotives took their place such as Ten-Wheelers (of
the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement) and Consolidations (of the 2-8-0 wheel
arrangement) they had done their duty in pioneering steam locomotive
design and development (some 4-4-0s remained in service into the 1940s,
over 100 years after the design was initially conceived!).
Interestingly, some railroads continued to employ their older 4-4-0s
in service (usually as switchers or in secondary service) while smaller
shortlines found them useful in everyday applications
through the end of the steam era in the 1940s and 1950s. In the end,
virtually every road both large and small that ever operated from the
1850s forward owned at least one American, a testament to just how
utilitarian these locomotives were with thousands upon thousands
manufactured from a wide range of builders (names like Rogers, Cooke,
Norris, Stevens, Portland and of course the "Big Three" of Baldwin, Lima, and Alco).
Today, several American Types have been preserved and a few even remain
in operation! One of the most famous is Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
#25, the William Mason fully restored and operational it is
bedecked in a beautiful dark green livery and gold trim. Another well
known operating American Type is Central Pacific Railroad #60, the Jupiter,
which is likewise adorned in a classic livery of bright red and blue
with a black boiler and stack. Other surviving 4-4-0s include
Wilmington & Western #98 (operational) and Pennsylvania D16 #1223.
These are not all of the surviving Americans, of course, but some of the
more well known examples. For every 4-4-0 operational there are many
more preserved on static display.
Related Reading You May Enjoy