C&O 4-6-2 Locomotives (Class F)

Last revised: January 20, 2024

By: Adam Burns

Arguably Chesapeake & Ohio's most famous steam class was its fleet of 4-6-2s.  These Pacifics, ranging from the F-15 of 1902 to the powerful F-19 of the mid-1920s, were the mainstay of passenger assignments across its system.   

The heavy Pacifics are often touted as the best ever built and remained in service until the C&O retired steam power during the 1950s.  Alas, none were prerserved.

However, one example of the railroad's Class L-1 4-6-4s does survive, #490, which was rebuilt from a Class F-19.  Today, the locomotive is showcased indoors (after a long-display outside on the parking lot) at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Photos

Chesapeake & Ohio 4-6-2 #446 (F-15), a 1907 product of Alco's Richmond Works.

Development

The following is only a brief synopsis of the C&O's Pacifics.  If you are interested in studying these locomotives in much greater detail two resources are strongly suggested.

First and foremost is the authoritative title on the railroad's motive power fleet during much of the 20th century, "C&O Power: Steam And Diesel Locomotives Of The Chesapeake And Ohio Railway, 1900-1965" by authors Philip Shuster, Eugene Huddleston, and Alvin Staufer.

The other is "Chesapeake & Ohio Heavy Pacific Locomotives" by noted C&O historian Karen Parker who has penned a number of publications over the years thoroughly covering the company.  

This book not only offers a fine collection of written information and photos but also features charts, diagrams, and specific aspects of the various Pacific classes.

The C&O's involvement with the 4-6-2 wheel arrangement began in 1902 when it took delivery of its first examples, classed F-15.   Parker notes in her book the Pacifics, products of the American Locomotive Company's Richmond Works, arrived only a few weeks after the Missouri Pacific's first examples making the C&O's the second-ever to enter service.  

They were assigned to passenger trains along the railroad's more rugged territory, the Allegheny (Hinton, West Virginia - Clifton Forge, Virginia) and Mountain (Clifton Forge - Charlottesville, Virginia) Subdivisions.  

Specifications

Proving quite adept at this task with drivers of 72 inches and tractive efforts ranging around 32,000 pounds the railroad was quite impressed; it eventually rostered a fleet of 27 examples by 1911, all of which were products of Alco.

However, it wasn't long before the C&O was in need of larger, more powerful designs as car sizes and weight increased.  After testing out the first examples of a 4-8-2 "Mountain" the railroad returned for more Pacifics in 1913, this time from the Baldwin Locomotive Works.  

These 4-6-2s, classed as F-16's, also featured 72-inch drivers but were significantly heavier than the F-15's, offering tractive efforts of nearly 44,000 pounds.  It seems that between 1910 and 1920 the C&O was constantly struggling to find designs powerful and efficient enough to meet needed demands.  

Only a year after the F-16's entered service an even heavier class arrived in 1914; the F-17's.  For this batch the C&O returned to Alco; far heavier than any previous Pacific the railroad operated the F-17's weighed 312,065 pounds, offered tractive efforts of 46,500 pounds, and provided greater steaming capacity.

In all the F-17's totaled six units, #470-475, and proved good, reliable engines which could handle the stiff grades and heavier cars with an ability to maintain 25 mph on inclines of 1.51%.  

However, with drivers of only 69 inches the F-17's couldn't offer the same speeds of earlier Pacifics.  Parker points out their arrival allowed the C&O to transfer fifteen older F-15's for other assignments.  

The F-17's were later rebuilt by shop forces in 1934 into F-17a's with such improvements as 74-inch drivers for higher speeds, greater steaming capacity, slightly more tractive effort, roller bearings, increased boiler pressure (200 psi), and a general cleaner exterior appearance. 

It was not until the mid-1920s that additional 4-6-2s entered service when the F-18's arrived in 1923 from Alco.  These six examples, originally numbered 188-193 (later changed to 480-485 in January of 1925), arrived between June 26th and July 7th that year.

F-15

1902

Class
F-15
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
American Locomotive Company
Road Numbers
147-153/430-436
Completion Date
1902
Engine Wheelbase
32' 8 1/32"
Overall Wheelbase
60' 0"
Cylinders: Diameter & Stroke
22" x 28"
Valve Gear
Stephenson
Weight on Drivers
131,000 Lbs
Engine Weight
190,000 Lbs
Tender Weight
119,000 Lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight
309,000 Lbs
Tender Capacity
6,000 Gallons/9 Tons (Coal)
Diameter of Drivers
72 Inches
Steam Pressure
200 psi
Tractive Effort
31,998 Lbs
Factor of Adhesion
4.02
Evaporative Heating Surface (square feet)
3533
Grate Area (square feet)
46.8

1906

Class
F-15
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
American Locomotive Company - Richmond Works
Road Numbers
154-165/437-448
Completion Date
1906
Engine Wheelbase
32' 8 1/32"
Overall Wheelbase
60' 0"
Cylinders: Diameter & Stroke
22" x 28"
Valve Gear
Stephenson
Weight on Drivers
158,000 Lbs
Engine Weight
211,000 Lbs
Tender Weight
119,000 Lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight
330,000 Lbs
Tender Capacity
6,000 Gallons/9 Tons (Coal)
Diameter of Drivers
72 Inches
Steam Pressure
200 psi
Tractive Effort
31,998 Lbs
Factor of Adhesion
4.94
Evaporative Heating Surface (square feet)
3755
Grate Area (square feet)
47.9

1911

Class
F-15
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
American Locomotive Company - Richmond Works
Road Numbers
166-173/449-456
Completion Date
1911
Engine Wheelbase
32' 8 1/32"
Overall Wheelbase
60' 8 17/32"
Cylinders: Diameter & Stroke
23" x 28"
Valve Gear
Stephenson
Weight on Drivers
163,000 Lbs
Engine Weight
221,000 Lbs
Tender Weight
131,000 Lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight
352,000 Lbs
Tender Capacity
7,000 Gallons/9 Tons (Coal)
Diameter of Drivers
72 Inches
Steam Pressure
190 psi
Tractive Effort
33,224 Lbs
Factor of Adhesion
4.91
Evaporative Heating Surface (square feet)
2938
Grate Area (square feet)
46.8

F-16

Class
F-16
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
Baldwin Locomotive Works
Road Numbers
174-181/460-467
Completion Date
1913
Engine Wheelbase
34' 0 31/32"
Overall Wheelbase
75' 2 9/32"
Cylinders: Diameter & Stroke
27" x 28"
Valve Gear
Walschaert
Weight on Drivers
190,000 Lbs
Engine Weight
290,000 Lbs
Tender Weight
245,000 Lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight
535,000 Lbs
Tender Capacity
12,000 Gallons/45.45 Tons (Coal)
Diameter of Drivers
73 Inches
Steam Pressure
185 psi
Tractive Effort
43,970 Lbs
Factor of Adhesion
4.32
Evaporative Heating Surface (square feet)
3785
Grate Area (square feet)
60.4

F-17

Class
F-17
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
American Locomotive Company - Richmond Works
Builder Order
1122
Road Numbers
182-187/470-475 (renumbered January, 1925)
Completion Dates
September, 1914-October, 1914
Builder Numbers
54621-54626
Overall Length (Over Coupler Faces)
87' 2 ¼"
Engine Wheelbase
34' 9"
Tender Wheelbase
28' 4"
Overall Wheelbase
75' 5 ¾"
Height
14' 9 15/32"
Cylinders (4): Diameter & Stroke
27" x 28"
Valve Gear
Walschaerts
Engine Weight
312,605 Lbs
Tender Weight
245,300 Lbs (12-VB tender from an F-19, added in 1931)
Total Engine and Tender Weight
558,505 Lbs
Tender Capacity
12,000 Gallons/15 Tons (Coal)
Weight On Drivers
151,455 Lbs
Weight On Front Truck
56,675 Lbs
Weight On Trailing Truck
84,475 Lbs
Diameter of Drivers
69 Inches
Steam Pressure
185 psi
Firebox (Length x Width)
120 11/16" x 96 ¼"
Firebox (Square Feet)
252
Grate Area
80.7 Square Feet
Heating Surface (Evaporative)
4477 Square Feet
Tractive Effort
46,500 Lbs
Stoker
Duplex-D1
Factor of Adhesion
4.11

F-17a

Rebuilt from the F-17's in 1934.

Class
F-17a
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
Huntington Shops
Road Numbers
470-475
Completion Dates
1934
Builder Numbers
54621-54626
Overall Length (Over Coupler Faces)
95' 6 ½"
Engine Wheelbase
34' 9"
Tender Wheelbase
28' 4"
Overall Wheelbase
83' 5"
Height
14' 9 15/32"
Cylinders (4): Diameter & Stroke
27" x 28"
Valve Gear
Walschaerts
Engine Weight
334,420 Lbs
Tender Weight
300,000 Lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight
634,420 Lbs
Tender Capacity
16,000 Gallons/20 Tons (Coal)
Weight On Drivers
199,830 Lbs
Weight On Front Truck
68,200 Lbs
Weight On Trailing Truck
66,390 Lbs
Diameter of Drivers
74 Inches
Steam Pressure
200 psi
Firebox (Length x Width)
120 1/8" x 96 ¼"
Firebox (Square Feet)
252
Grate Area
80.7 Square Feet
Heating Surface (Evaporative)
4477 Square Feet
Tractive Effort
46,900 Lbs
Stoker
Duplex-D1
Feedwater Heater
Worthingon S-5
Factor of Adhesion
4.25

F-18

Class
F-18
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
American Locomotive Company - Richmond Works
Road Numbers
188-193/480-485 (renumbered 1924)
Completion Dates
June 26, 1923-July 7, 1923
Builder Numbers
64218-64223
Overall Length (Over Coupler Faces)
80' 7 3/8"
Engine Wheelbase
35' 7"
Tender Wheelbase
25' 8"
Overall Wheelbase
71' 11 ½"
Height
14' 9 15/32"
Cylinders (4): Diameter & Stroke
27" x 28"
Valve Gear
Walschaerts
Engine Weight
321,000 Lbs
Tender Weight
188,000 Lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight
509,000 Lbs
Tender Capacity
9,500 Gallons/14 Tons (Coal)
Weight On Drivers
200,000 Lbs
Weight On Front Truck
57,500 Lbs
Weight On Trailing Truck
63,000 Lbs
Diameter of Drivers
69 Inches
Steam Pressure
195 psi
Firebox (Length x Width)
120 1/8" x 96 ¼"
Firebox (Square Feet)
252
Grate Area
80.3 Square Feet
Heating Surface (Evaporative)
4478.8 Square Feet
Tractive Effort
49,000 Lbs
Stoker
Hanna Type H-2
Factor of Adhesion
4.08

F-18a

Rebuilt in 1931.

Class
F-18a
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
Huntington Shops
Road Numbers
480-485
Completion Dates
January, 1931-May, 1931
Builder Numbers
64218-64223
Overall Length (Over Coupler Faces)
95' 6 3/8"
Engine Wheelbase
35' 7"
Tender Wheelbase
34' 4"
Overall Wheelbase
83' 5"
Height
14' 11 15/32"
Cylinders (4): Diameter & Stroke
27" x 28"
Valve Gear
Baker
Engine Weight
334,420 Lbs
Tender Weight
199,830 Lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight
534,250 Lbs
Tender Capacity
16,000 Gallons/20 Tons (Coal)
Weight On Drivers
199,830 Lbs
Weight On Front Truck
68,200 Lbs
Weight On Trailing Truck
66,390 Lbs
Diameter of Drivers
74 Inches
Steam Pressure
200 psi
Firebox (Length x Width)
120 11/16" x 96 ¼"
Firebox (Square Feet)
252
Grate Area
80.7 Square Feet
Heating Surface (Evaporative)
4239 Square Feet
Tractive Effort
47,550 Lbs
Stoker
Duplex
Factor of Adhesion
4.26

F-19

Class
F-19
Railroad
Chesapeake & Ohio
Wheel Arrangement
4-6-2
Builder
American Locomotive Company - Richmond Works
Road Numbers
490-494
Completion Dates
February 22, 1926-February 26, 1926
Builder Numbers
66555-66559
Overall Length (Over Coupler Faces)
95' 8 3/8"
Engine Wheelbase
35' 7"
Tender Wheelbase
34' 4"
Overall Wheelbase
83' 7"
Height
15' 0"
Cylinders (4): Diameter & Stroke
27" x 28"
Valve Gear
Baker
Engine Weight
334,420 Lbs
Tender Weight
199,830 Lbs
Total Engine and Tender Weight
534,250 Lbs
Tender Capacity
16,000 Gallons/20 Tons (Coal)
Weight On Drivers
200,000 Lbs
Weight On Front Truck
87,500 Lbs
Weight On Trailing Truck
84,000 Lbs
Diameter of Drivers
74 Inches
Steam Pressure
200 psi
Firebox (Length x Width)
120 11/16" x 96 ¼"
Firebox (Square Feet)
252
Grate Area
80.7 Square Feet
Heating Surface (Evaporative)
4237 Square Feet
Tractive Effort
47,550 Lbs
Stoker
Duplex D-1
Feedwater Heater
Elesco
Factor of Adhesion
4.26

The new power was quite similar to the earlier F-17's but weighed a bit more (321,000 pounds) with tractive efforts of 49,000 pounds, 69-inch drivers (intended for the western grades), and a boiler pressure of 195 psi as opposed to 185 psi.   

From an outward appearance it was tough to differentiate between the two classes although astute observers would note that the F-17's utilized Alligator crossheads while the F-18's featured Laird crossheads.  

During the F-18's 1931, in which they were reclassed as F-18a's, the locomotives received similar upgrades as the F-17's with 74-inch drivers, a boiler pressure increase to 200 psi, Baker Valve Gear, smaller cab, new Duplex stoker, increase in weight (334,420 pounds), and the now-classic "Flying Pumps" situated on the smokebox giving the locomotive's a "beefier" appearance.  

And then there was the most famous class of all, the fabled F-19's.  Once again the C&O stuck with Alco, receiving these latest heavy Pacifics, #490-494, between February 22nd and February 26th, 1926.  

The locomotives weighed 331,500 pounds (the heaviest the C&O ever operated until the F-18's were rebuilt), featured tractive efforts of 46,900 pounds, and 74-inch drivers.  

As a late-era design they were also equipped with some of the latest technologies such as Elesco feedwater heaters and roller bearings.  Their exterior appearance evoked clean lines and an almost streamlined-like appearance with a rounded tender that nearly sat flush with the cab roof-line.  

They also looked powerful sporting the longest wheelbase of any C&O Pacific (more than 36 1/2 feet) and the "Flying Pumps" (air pumps) situated on the smokebox.

This look became a common identifying feature of C&O steam locomotives.  With 74-inch drivers the F-19's were intended for low-grade, high-speed service and they excelled at this quite well.  

Operation

Over the years the C&O rebuilt or overhauled most of their Pacifics, some to a greater degree than others, which has only been briefly covered here.  Thanks to these efforts the railroad never retired any of its 4-6-2s until steam left the roster between 1951 and 1955.  

As for the F-19's, they were rebuilt between 1947 and 1948 into the Class L-1 streamlined Hudsons, meant for service on the new Chessie (Washington - Cincinnati).  This train was ultimately mothballed before ever entering service but the L-1's nonetheless found a variety of assignments to remain on the roster until 1955.


Chesapeake & Ohio 4-6-4 #490 (L-1) at Huntington, West Virginia on April 17, 1971. These streamlined Hudsons (five in all) were rebuilt from F-19 Pacific's during the late 1940s for service on the never-launched "Chessie." John Corns photo.

And finally, there was the class of Pacifics often forgotten, the F-20's.  These locomotives were not actually C&O designs; with passenger traffic still up following World War II the railroad felt it needed additional power to meet demand and so purchased four examples from the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac.  

These locomotives were 1927 products of Baldwin weighing 342,600 pounds with 48,250 pounds of tractive effort and 75-inch drivers.  On the RF&P they were numbered 325-328, which was changed to 486-489 under the C&O and re-classed as F-20's.  

They were certainly capable machines but as Parker points out, externally looked nothing like a C&O Pacific with a high-mounted headlight, no "flying pumps," and a traditional, square tender among other differences.  They usually found assignments between Ashland and Louisville, Kentucky remaining in service until 1951.

Sources

  • Dixon, Thomas W. Chesapeake And Ohio Railway:  A Concise History And Fact Book.  Clifton Forge:  Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, 2012.
  • Dixon, Thomas W. Chesapeake & Ohio K-4 Class 2-8-4 Steam Locomotives.  Clifton Forge:  Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, 2013.
  • Dixon, Thomas W. Chesapeake & Ohio Passenger Service:  1847-1971.  Clifton Forge:  Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, 2013.
  • Parker, Karen.  Chesapeake & Ohio:  Heavy Pacific Locomotives.  Clifton Forge,:  Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society, 2014.
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