Lima Locomotive Works builder portrait of the USATC 5740 locomotive, 1944. Click to enlarge.

(Didier Duforest, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)



Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 2-8-0 represents the wheel arrangement of two leading wheels on one axle, usually in a leading truck, eight powered and coupled driving wheels on four axles, and no trailing wheels. In the United States and elsewhere, this wheel arrangement is commonly known as a Consolidation, after the Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad’s Consolidation, the name of the first 2-8-0.

The notation 2-8-0T indicates a tank locomotive of this wheel arrangement, the "T" suffix indicating a locomotive on which the water is carried in side-tanks mounted on the engine rather than in an attached tender.

The Consolidation represented a notable advance in locomotive power. After 1875, it became "the most popular type of freight locomotive in the United States and was built in greater quantities than any other single wheel arrangement."


The 2-8-0 Consolidation wheel arrangement. Front of locomotive at left. Click to enlarge.

(Gwernol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Of all the locomotive types that were created and experimented with in the 19th century, the 2-8-0 was a relative latecomer.

The first locomotive of this wheel arrangement was possibly built by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). Like the first 2-6-0s, this first 2-8-0 had a leading axle that was rigidly attached to the locomotive's frame, rather than on a separate truck or bogie. To create this 2-8-0, PRR master mechanic John P. Laird modified an existing 0-8-0, the Bedford, between 1864 and 1865.

The 2-6-0 Mogul type, first created in the early 1860s, is often considered as the logical forerunner to the 2-8-0. However, a claim is made that the first true 2-8-0 engine evolved from the 0-8-0 and was ordered by the United States' Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad, which named all its engines. The name given to the new locomotive was Consolidation, the name that was later almost globally adopted for the type. According to this viewpoint, the first 2-8-0 order by Lehigh dates to 1866 and antedates the adoption of the type by other railways and coal and mountain freight haulers.

From its introduction in 1866 and well into the early 20th century, the 2-8-0 design was considered to be the ultimate heavy-freight locomotive. The 2-8-0's forte was starting and moving "impressive loads at unimpressive speeds" and its versatility gave the type its longevity. The practical limit of the design was reached in 1915, when it was realized that no further development was possible with a locomotive of this wheel arrangement.


Lehigh Valley's Consolidation of 1866, the first 2-8-0 built. Click to enlarge.

(American Industries, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



As in the United States, the 2-8-0 was also a popular type in Europe, again largely as a freight hauler. The type was also used in Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Africa.


Pennsylvania Railroad Consolidation No. 2106, circa 1907. Click to enlarge.

(Andy Dingley (scanner), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Baltimore & Ohio Consolidation No. 2300, circa 1907. Click to enlarge.

(Andy Dingley (scanner), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

United States

In the United States, only a few railroads purchased Consolidation types when Baldwin Locomotive Works first introduced its version. Even the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which eventually had nearly 180 2-8-0 locomotives in regular service by 1885, did not purchase any of this type until 1873. The Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway, which eventually became part of B&O, purchased 15 of this type from Brooks Locomotive Works in 1883.

The 2-8-0 design was given a major boost in 1875, when the Pennsylvania Railroad made it their standard freight locomotive, and 1875 was also when the Erie Railroad began replacing its 4-4-0s in freight service with 2-8-0s. The railroads had found that the 2-8-0 could move trains twice as heavy at half the cost of its predecessors. From a financial standpoint at the time, the choice of the 2-8-0 as new freight locomotive was therefore clear.

The S160 Class of the United States Army Transportation Corps was built by American manufacturers and was designed for use in Europe for heavy freight work during the Second World War. A total of 2,120 of this class was built and they worked on railroads across the world. Production of the 2-8-0 type in the United States totaled more than 23,000 locomotives, of which 12,000 were export versions.


Grand Canyon Railway No. 29, photographed in Grand Canyon Village, Arizona. Click to enlarge. (Photograph by Mike Peel (, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Southern Pacific's No. 2562. Click to enlarge. (Marine 69-71 at English Wikipedia (Tony the Marine), CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Great Northern Railway Consolidation No. 1147 is on display in a park in Wenatchee, Washington.

Great Northern Railway Consolidation No. 1246 is in storage in southern Oregon.

Maine Central class W 2-8-0 locomotives numbered 501 and 519 were officially property of the European and North American Railway (E&NA) as a condition of the lease of that company by the Maine Central Railroad. While all other Maine Central steam locomotives were scrapped when replaced by diesel locomotives, these two survived as a lease obligation until Maine Central purchased E&NA in 1955. The advantages of preservation were recognized by that date, so No. 501 is awaiting restoration to operating condition at the Conway Scenic Railroad and No. 519 was on display at the Steamtown National Historic Site.

Southern Pacific No. 895, a 2-8-0 Consolidation locomotive built by ALCO in 1913 is on static display at Roseland Park in Baytown, Texas. SP No. 895 was retired after 44 years of service and donated by Southern Pacific Railroad to the Robert E. Lee High School Key Club, then towed on temporary tracks to its current location at Roseland Park in April, 1957.

Baltimore & Ohio No. 545 "A.J Cromwell", built in 1888, is preserved at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Southern Pacific Railroad's locomotive no. SP 2562 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1909, serial No. 29064. It is on exhibit in the Arizona Railway Museum in Chandler, Arizona. The locomotive and its tender are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, reference No. 09000511.

The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad's class 759 locomotive No. 761 was built around 1890. When active, it was used on the railroad's mainline between Chicago and the west. No. 761 is plinthed next to the historic Wickenburg, Arizona, train depot that is now the town's visitor center.

Santa Fe class 769 locomotive 769 is currently on static display in Madrid, New Mexico, but is awaiting a future restoration to run on the Santa Fe Southern Railway.

The Colorado & Southern (C&S) narrow-gauge No. 60 is on display in Idaho Springs, Colorado, while C&S No. 71 is in Central City, Colorado.

A Ks1 class 2-8-0, No. 630, is run and maintained in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. In 2014, this locomotive participated in the Norfolk Southern 21st Century Steam program.

In 1962, the Arcade & Attica Railroad purchased an ALCO-build locomotive from the Boyne City Railroad in Michigan. The locomotive, now numbered 18, is billed as the last operating steam excursion in New York State.

Three out of the four SC-1 hogs from the Lake Superior and Ishpeming survived being scrapped. Engine No. 33 has been restored by the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, before being purchased by the Age of Steam Roundhouse in Sugarcreek, Ohio, where it operates today. Engine No. 35 has been on static display at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois since 1985.

In 1991, the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad acquired SC-1 class No. 34. The locomotive was restored to operating condition and cosmetically changed to look like an original Western Maryland 2-8-0. The locomotive was renumbered 734 in honor, so to speak, of the H-7 (701-764) class of 2-8-0 that the Western Maryland harbored and of which none was preserved. Although, it also has an overall appearance of an H-8. As of 2020, Mountain Thunder, as No. 734 is nicknamed, is waiting for a 1,472 day boiler inspection.

In the late 1980s, four ex-LS&I 2-8-0s were purchased by the Grand Canyon Railway based in Williams, Arizona, Nos 18, 19, 20, and 29. Only 29 remains in Williams, undergoing its 1,472-day inspection, while 18 is undergoing a rebuild at the Colebrookdale Railroad in Boyertown Pennsylvania, 19 is on static display in Frisco, Texas, and 20 is on static display in Allan, Texas.

Other preserved Ex-LS&I 2-8-0s include 21, which is being rebuilt in Baraboo, Wisconsin, 22, which is on static display at the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin, 23, which is being rebuilt at the Empire State Railway Museum in Phoenicia, New York, and 24, which is on static display at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

UPRR No. 561 is on static display along US Highway 81 in Columbus, NE.

UPRR No. 423 is on static display on 10th street in Gering, NE.

UPRR No. 6072 is on static display at Wyman park in Fort Riley, KS.

Baldwin Locomotive Works No. 40, built in December 1925 for the Lancaster and Chester Railroad in South Carolina, and later purchased by the Cliffside Railroad in North Carolina, now pulls scenic excursion trains at the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad in New Hope, Pennsylvania, which opened in August, 1966.

Great Western No. 60, built in August 1937 by the American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, New York, is currently operated on the Black River and Western Railroad in Ringoes, New Jersey. No. 60 originally operated on the Great Western Railway of Colorado.

Baldwin Steam Locomotive No. 1702, built in 1942 for the United States Army, was purchased by the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) of Bryson City, North Carolina, in the mid-1990s for use on its scenic railway excursions. After a decade of service, No. 1702 was retired in 2004. In October 2012, a partnership formed between GSMR and Swain County to provide funding to restore the locomotive. In 2013, a complete restoration was launched and the locomotive returned to service during summer 2016.

Pennsylvania Railroad 1187, of the class R, later H3, is on display at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. This class is described in detail in the book Set Up Running: The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman 1904-1949.

The Valley Railroad in Connecticut has one 2-8-0, 97 built in 1923 by the American Locomotive Company’s Cooke Machine Works in Paterson, New Jersey for use in Cuba. It stayed at Cooke until its closure in 1926 and started service on the Birmingham and Southeastern Railroad in Alabama as 200. It ran various excursions on the Vermont Railway and New Haven Railroad in the late 1960s under a private owner. 97 arrived in Essex in 1970 initially operating between 1973 and 2010. It returned to service in October 2018.

Virginia & Truckee No. 29 is currently operational on the Virginia and Truckee Scenic Railroad

Two USATC General Pershing locomotives survive in the United States. Southern Pine Lumber Co. 28 is currently undergoing repair to run again at the Texas State Railroad in Palestine, Texas, and United States Army 101 is on static display at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin.


CP N-2-c no. 3716 at Canyon View

(BC Model Railroading, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) N-2-a, b, and c class locomotives were a class of altogether 182 Consolidation type locomotives, built by Montreal Locomotive Works between 1912 and 1914. They were numbered in the range from 3600 to 3799 and were used almost everywhere around the system. The order for these engines came about when CP needed bigger locomotives for their mainline since their current engines were wearing out and were too small for the loads that were being hauled. Most of the class were converted to oil-firing in later years.

One of the locomotives, No. 3716, is run and maintained in Summerland, BC as part of the Kettle Valley Steam Railway.



Equivalent classifications
UIC class: 1D, 1'D
French class: 140
Turkish class: 45
Swiss class: 4/5
Russian class: 1-4-0
First known tank engine version
First use: 1907
Country: German South West Africa
Locomotive: South West African 2-8-0T
Railway: Lüderitzbucht Eisenbahn
Designer: Orenstein & Koppel
Builder: Orenstein & Koppel
First known tender engine version
First use: c. 1864
Country: United States of America
Railway: Pennsylvania Railroad
Designer: John P. Laird
Builder: John P. Laird
Evolved from: 0-8-0
Evolved to: 2-8-2
Benefits: Better stability through curves
Drawbacks: Poor steaming and limited speed.
First known "True type" version
First use: 1866
Country: United States of America
Locomotive: Consolidation
Railway: Lehigh and Mahanoy Railroad
Designer: Alexander Mitchell
Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Works
Evolved from: 0-8-0
Evolved to: 2-8-2