USRA Light Mikado No. 639 from the Nickel Plate Road. Click to enlarge.

(Moosemilkrailroad1987, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


2-8-2 MIKADO

Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, 2-8-2 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 two trailing wheels on one axle, usually in a trailing truck. This configuration of steam locomotive is most often referred to as a Mikado, frequently shortened to Mike.

It was also at times referred to on some railroads in the United States as the McAdoo Mikado and, during World War II, the MacArthur.

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


The 2-8-2 wheel alignment. Front of locomotive on left. Click to enlarge.

Gwernol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons



The 2-8-2 wheel arrangement allowed the locomotive's firebox to be placed behind instead of above the driving wheels, thereby allowing a larger firebox that could be both wide and deep. This supported a greater rate of combustion and thus a greater capacity for steam generation, allowing for more power at higher speeds. Allied with the larger driving wheel diameter which was possible when they did not impinge on the firebox, it meant that the 2-8-2 was capable of higher speeds than a 2-8-0 with a heavy train. These locomotives did not suffer from the imbalance of reciprocating parts as much as did the 2-6-2 or the 2-10-2, because the center of gravity was between the second and third drivers instead of above the center driver.

The first 2-8-2 locomotive was built in 1884. It was originally named Calumet by Angus Sinclair, in reference to the 2-8-2 engines built for the Chicago & Calumet Terminal Railway (C&CT). However, this name did not take hold.

The wheel arrangement name "Mikado" originated from a group of Japanese type 9700 2-8-2 locomotives that were built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for the 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge Nippon Railway of Japan in 1897. In the 19th century, the Emperor of Japan was often referred to as "the Mikado" in English. The Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Mikado, set in Japan, had premiered in 1885 and achieved great popularity in both Britain and America.

The 2-8-2 was one of the more common configurations in the first half of the 20th century, before dieselization. Between 1917 and 1944, nearly 2,200 of this type were constructed by Baldwin, the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and the Lima Locomotive Works, based on designs by the United States Railroad Administration (USRA). It was also known as the "McAdoo Mikado" in the United States, after William Gibbs McAdoo who was appointed as Director General of Railroads when the United States commenced hostilities during the latter part of the First World War and the USRA was established. Of all of the USRA designs, the Mikado proved to be the most popular. The total American production was about 14,000, of which 9,500 were for local customers and the rest exported.

"Mikado" remained the type name until the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Seeking a more American name, "MacArthur", after General Douglas MacArthur, came into use to describe the locomotive type in the United States. After the war, the type name "Mikado" again became the most common for that locomotive type.


The Light Mikado was the standard light freight locomotive and the most widely built type of the USRA standard designs. Click to enlarge.

(From the 1922 Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Locomotives of this wheel arrangement saw service on all six populated continents. The 2-8-2 type was particularly popular in North America, but was also used extensively in Continental Europe and elsewhere.


Pennsylvania Railroad 2-8-2 number 520 in the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum, Strasburg, in 1993. Photo by Sean Lamb. Click to enlarge.

(Sean Lamb, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


United States

The 2-8-2 saw great success in the United States, mostly as a freight locomotive. In the 1910s it largely replaced the 2-8-0 Consolidation as the main heavy freight locomotive type. Its tractive effort was similar to that of the best 2-8-0s, but a developing requirement for higher speed freight trains drove the shift to the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement. The Mikado type was, in turn, ousted from the top-flight trains by larger freight locomotive wheel arrangements such as the 2-8-4, 2-10-2, 2-10-4 and articulated locomotives, but no successor type became ubiquitous and the Mike remained the most common road freight locomotive with most railroads until the end of steam. More than 14,000 were built in the United States, about 9500 of these for North American service, constituting about one-fifth of all locomotives in service there at the time. The heaviest Mikados were the Great Northern's class O-8, with an axle load of 81,250 pounds (36,854 kg).

Almost all North American railroads rostered the type, notable exceptions being the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac, the Boston & Maine, the Delaware & Hudson, the Western Maryland, the Cotton Belt and the Norfolk & Western. The largest users included the New York Central with 715 locomotives, the Baltimore & Ohio with 610, the Pennsylvania Railroad with 579, the Illinois Central with 565, the Milwaukee Road with 500, the Southern with 435, and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy with 388.

A number of North American 2-8-2s have been preserved as either static display pieces, or steam excursion stars. These include Baltimore and Ohio 4500, Nickel Plate Road 587, Grand Trunk Western 4070, Southern Railway 4501, Grand Canyon Railway 4960, Spokane, Portland and Seattle 539, Southern Pacific 745, Tremont and Gulf 30, Duluth and Northern Minnesota 14, Soo Line 1003, McCloud Railway 18, McCloud Railway 19, and Pennsylvania Railroad 520.



Canadian National (CN) operated a few Mikado locomotives:

One locomotive in the R-1 class, number 3000.
Thirty locomotives in the R-2 class, numbered 300 to 329.
Several locomotives in the S-1 and S-4 classes, numbered in the range between 3200-3524 and 3198-3199 and 3525-3599 and 3700-3757 and 3800-3805 .
Canadian Pacific (CP) used Mikado locomotives for passenger and freight trains throughout Canada. Most worked in the Rocky Mountains, where the standard 4-6-2 Pacifics and 4-6-4 Hudsons could not provide enough traction to handle the steep mountain grades.

The Temiskaming & Northern Ontario (renamed Ontario Northland Railway in 1946) operated seventeen Mikados, all ordered from Canadian Locomotive Company in three batches, the first six in 1916, second batch of four in 1921, and the final seven in 1923 to 1925. They were scrapped between 1955 and 1957 when the Ontario Northland was completely dieselized, except for three wrecked and scrapped in the 1940s. The Temiskaming & Northern Ontario operated its Mikados on both freight and passenger service, and were fitted with smoke deflectors. In 1946 65 out of 199 Canadian Pacific N2 2-8-0's were rebuilt and converted to Class P1n 2-8-2's . However all were scrapped around 1955 and 1958 . No P1n 2-8-2's were preserved however CP no . 5468 is preserved

CP's no. 5468, on display in Revelstoke, British Columbia. And CP's 5361 a Class P2e is preserved Depew New York.


Southern 4501, a 2-8-2, at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, October 4, 2014. Click to enlarge.

(JKlear, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)



Equivalent classifications
UIC class: 1D1, 1'D1'
French class: 141
Turkish class: 46
Swiss class: 4/6
Russian class: 1-4-1
First known tank engine version
First use: 1898
Country: United States of America
Locomotive: Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway No. 101
Railway: Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway
Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Works
Evolved from: 2-8-0
Evolved to: 2-8-4
Benefits: Larger coal bunker.
First known tender engine version
First use: 1884
Country: United States of America
Locomotive: Calumet
Railway: Chicago & Calumet Terminal Railway
Evolved from: 2-8-0, 2-6-2
Evolved to: 2-8-4, 2-10-2
Benefits: Larger firebox aft of drivers