The Atlantic Type was originally designed in the last decade of the 19th
century as railroads looked to increase speeds on their most prominent
passenger trains. Basically a 4-4-0 American Type design with an added
trailing truck, the new feature on the Atlantic allowed for a larger
firebox to be used, normally situated behind the driving wheels on
standard designs that allowed for greater horsepower and higher speeds.
The first example of a 4-4-2 was tested on the New York, Providence
& Boston Railroad (latet part of the New Haven) in 1887 when the
company experimented with an additional axle added to the rear of a
4-4-0. The original purpose of this application by the NYP&B was
simply to more evenly distribute the locomotive's weight over an
additional axle, not to support a larger firebox.
A year later in 1888 the Hinkley Locomotive Works built its own custom
4-4-2, a center-cab design with a double-firebox. This proved
unsuccessful and was soon scrapped. The wheel arrangement truly came of
age a few years later when the Atlantic Coast Line was hoping to
improve upon the ubiquitous 4-4-0 with a larger firebox for increased
steam and power. After approaching Baldwin about the concept the
manufacturer produced the now-common 4-4-2 design in 1894 and named the
new locomotive after the ACL, coining it as the Atlantic Type. The new
4-4-2 proved to be just what railroads were looking for and by the time
production ended over 1,900 units had been built.
While most railroads that came to operate 4-4-2s stuck with the Atlantic
name (more than 50 altogether, excluding subsidiaries) some chose to
give the design its own unique designation; for instance, the Milwaukee
Road's famous Class As were known simply enough as "Milwaukees" while
the Brooks Locomotive Company decided to call theirs Chautauquas. In
the 20th century many Atlantics would receive upgrades such as
superheaters and piston valves with the very last models built perhaps
the most famous. Manufactured by the American Locomotive Company (Alco)
for the Chicago, St. Paul, Milwaukee & Pacific (Milwaukee Road), in
1935 these new Atlantics were very likely the most technologically
advanced and fastest of their kind to roam the rails. Bedecked in
customized streamlining courtesy of Otto Kuhler and the Milwaukee Road’s
own shop forces they were beautiful locomotives clad in a striking
two-tone orange and cream livery.
Capable of speeds eclipsing 100 mph they were used on the Milwaukee only for a few years until replaced for the more powerful Hudson type, a 4-6-4 design. This increase in power is essentially what brought all Atlantic Types into retirement or being bumped from main line status. While the Milwaukee Road's designs are often the most famous for their incredibly high speeds it was actually the Santa Fe that rostered the most, 178. Additionally, by the time CMStP&P built its "Milwaukees" between 1935 and 1937 the 4-4-2 design had predominantly been replaced by more powerful wheel arrangements.
While very fast Atlantics did not have the horsepower or tractive effort of newer designs like Hudsons and Pacifics (4-6-2s) and with the advent of all-steel car construction after 1910, railroads began replacing 4-4-2s with these more advanced wheel arrangements to handle the longer, heavier trains (for instance, the Milwaukee's designs only powered short and lightweight trainsets). Today, a number of Atlantic types have been preserved from coast to coast including two (ex-Pennsylvania) on display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, one (ex-Chicago & North Western) at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, and another (ex-Southern Pacific) at the Travel Town Museum in Los Angeles.
Currently, there are three 4-4-2s known to be in
operation although all of these are custom-built designs used for
entertainment, not originals. These locomotives include 15-inch gauge #400 Buckley Old Engine Show in Buckley, Michigan; 16-inch gauge "Whiskey River Railway" #12 operating at the Little A-Merrick-A Amusement Park in Marshall, Wisconsin; and finally the Milwaukee County Zoo #1916 named the "Harry J. Grant" in service at its namesake attraction. Finally, Pennsylvania Class E6s #460 is reportedly under restoration at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg but the extent of this project is unknown.
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