Pennsylvania Railroad class D6 4-4-0 No. 317, built in 1881.

(By Builder's photo by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Public Domain,



A 4-4-0 is a locomotive type with a classification that uses the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives by wheel arrangement and represents the arrangement: four leading wheels on two axles (usually in a leading bogie), four powered and coupled driving wheels on two axles, and a lack of trailing wheels. Due to the large number of the type that were produced and used in the United States, the 4-4-0 is most commonly known as the American type, but the type subsequently also became popular in the United Kingdom, where large numbers were produced.

Almost every major railroad that operated in North America in the first half of the 19th century owned and operated locomotives of this type.

The first use of the name American to describe locomotives of this wheel arrangement was made by Railroad Gazette in April 1872. Prior to that, this wheel arrangement was known as a standard or eight-wheeler.

This locomotive type was so successful on railroads in the United States of America that many earlier 4-2-0 and 2-4-0 locomotives were rebuilt as 4-4-0s by the middle of the 19th century.

Several 4-4-0 tank locomotives were built, but the vast majority of locomotives of this wheel arrangement were tender engines.


4-4-0 Wheel Arrangement. Front of locomotive is at left. Click to enlarge.

(Gwernol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Five years after new locomotive construction had begun at the West Point Foundry in the United States with the 0-4-0 Best Friend of Charleston in 1831, the first 4-4-0 locomotive was designed by Henry R. Campbell, at the time the chief engineer for the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railway. Campbell received a patent for the design in February 1836 and soon set to work building the first 4-4-0.

At the time, Campbell's 4-4-0 was a giant among locomotives. Its cylinders had a 14-inch (360 mm) bore with a 16-inch (410 mm) piston stroke, it boasted 54-inch (1,400 mm) diameter driving wheels, could maintain 90 pounds per square inch (620 kPa) of steam pressure and weighed 12 short tons (11 t). Campbell's locomotive was estimated to be able to pull a train of 450 short tons (410 t) at 15 miles per hour (24 km/h) on level track, outperforming the strongest of Baldwin's 4-2-0s in tractive effort by about 63%. However, the frame and driving gear of his locomotive proved to be too rigid for the railroads of the time, which caused Campbell's prototype to be derailment-prone. The most obvious cause was the lack of a weight equalizing system for the drivers.

At about the same time as Campbell was building his 4-4-0, the company of Eastwick and Harrison was building its own version of the 4-4-0. This locomotive, named Hercules, was completed in 1837 for the Beaver Meadow Railroad. It was built with a leading bogie that was separate from the locomotive frame, making it much more suitable for the tight curves and quick grade changes of early railroads. The Hercules initially suffered from poor tracking, which was corrected by giving it an effective springing system when returned to its builder for remodeling.

Even though the Hercules and its successors from Eastwick and Harrison proved the viability of the new wheel arrangement, the company remained the sole builders of this type of locomotive for another two years. Norris Locomotive Works built that company's first 4-4-0 in 1839, followed by Rogers Locomotive & Machine Works, the Locks & Canals Machine Shop and the Newcastle Manufacturing Company in 1840. After Henry Campbell sued other manufacturers and railroads for infringing on his patent, Baldwin settled with him in 1845 by purchasing a license to build 4-4-0s.

As the 1840s progressed, the design of the 4-4-0 changed little, but the dimensions of a typical example of this type increased. The boiler was lengthened, drivers grew in diameter and the firegrate was increased in area. Early 4-4-0s were short enough that it was most practical to connect the pistons to the rear drivers, but as the boiler was lengthened, the connecting rods were more frequently connected to the front drivers.

In the 1850s, locomotive manufacturers began extending the wheelbase of the leading bogie and the drivers as well as the tender bogies. By placing the axles farther apart, manufacturers were able to mount a wider boiler completely above the wheels that extended beyond the sides of the wheels. This gave newer locomotives increased heating and steaming capacity, which translated to higher tractive effort. Similarly, by placing the leading bogie axles further apart enabled the cylinders to be placed between them in a more horizontal orientation, thereby distributing the engine's weight more evenly when going around curves and uneven track. These advancements, combined with the increasingly widespread adaptation of cowcatchers, bells, and headlights, would give the 4-4-0 locomotives the appearance for which they would be most recognized by railways and people around the world.

The design and subsequent improvements of the 4-4-0 configuration proved so successful that, by 1872, 60% of Baldwin's locomotive construction was of this type and it is estimated that 85% of all locomotives in operation in the United States were 4-4-0s. However, the 4-4-0 was soon supplanted by bigger designs, like the 2-6-0 and 2-8-0, even though the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement was still favored for express services. The widespread adoption of the 4-6-0 and larger locomotives eventually helped seal its fate as a product of the past.

Although largely superseded in North American service by the early 20th century, Baldwin Locomotive Works produced two examples for the narrow gauge Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán in early 1946, probably the last engines of this wheel arrangement intended for general use. A number of individual engines have been custom-built for Theme Parks in recent years, resembling early designs in appearance.


Atlantic, Mississippi, & Ohio Railroad No. 87, delivered 1873-10-27 from the Mason Machine Works of Taunton, MA (their 519th locomotive). This 5' gauge 4-4-0 weighed 65,200 lbs and it had 16 x 24" cylinders and 54" drivers. In this photo it is being delivered from Mason, on flat cars since its gauge differed from the railroads on which it was being carried. Click to enlarge. (Public domain via Wikimedia Commons)


The Eureka is a privately owned 3 ft (914 mm) gauge steam locomotive based in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is one of three preserved Baldwin class 8/18 C 4-4-0 locomotives in the United States, of which it is the only operable example. Click to enlarge. (Narromind47 at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán No. 66, ca. 1953. Click to enlarge. (SMU Central University Libraries, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)

United States

Since the first locomotives in the United States were imported from the United Kingdom, the British 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge was also adopted by the first United States railroads. When new locomotive construction began in the United States in 1831, some new railroads opted for a different gauge, resulting in breaks-of-gauge as railroads began to be joined. Apart from freight reloading issues, another result was that new locomotives for some of these railroads had to be delivered on flatcars.

The 4-4-0 played a major role in the development of rail transport in the United States. Some of the notable 4-4-0 locomotives that saw service on United States railroads are:

The General, built in 1855 by Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor in Paterson, New Jersey, was the fleeing locomotive during the Great Locomotive Chase of the American Civil War.

The Texas, built in 1856 by Danforth, Cooke & Company in Paterson, New Jersey, was the pursuing locomotive during much of the Great Locomotive Chase.

The Jupiter, Central Pacific Railroad’s No. 60, built by Schenectady Locomotive Works of New York in September 1868, was one of the two locomotives to meet at Promontory Summit during the Golden Spike ceremony upon the completion of the First American Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869.

Union Pacific No. 119, built by Rogers Locomotive & Machine Works of Paterson, New Jersey in 1868, was the other locomotive at Promontory Summit on May 10, 1869.

The Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s Dayton, built in 1873 by the Central Pacific Railroad, had the honor of opening the branch line between Carson City and Minden in Nevada in 1906.

The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad no. 999, built in 1893 to haul the railroad's Empire State Express, is believed to have been the first in the United States to travel at a speed of more than 100 miles per hour (160 km per hour).

Walt Disney World Railroad No. 4 Roy O. Disney was built in February 1916 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, originally as No. 66 (later No. 251 in the 1960s) for the Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán in Mexico. It now operates on the railroad circling the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.

By 1910, the 4-4-0 was considered obsolete being replaced by Mikados, Pacifics and other larger engines, although they continued to serve to an extent into the 1950s. The last 4-4-0 to be built was a diminutive Baldwin product for the Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán in 1945. Fewer than forty 4-4-0s survive in preservation in the United States, reproductions excluded.

Between 1959 and 1989, the Crown Metal Products Company of Wyano, Pennsylvania built live steam reproductions of classic 4-4-0 designs for use by amusement parks. The largest of these, of which 18 were produced, ran on 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge track. Most are patterned after 19th-century American designs, but those produced for Busch Gardens have European styling. Many of these continue to see daily operation at parks such as Kings Island, Worlds of Fun, and the Omaha Zoo Railroad at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.


Virginia and Truckee Inyo, No. 22 idling on a siding near Wabuska Station at the Carson City NSRM in September of 2018. Click to enlarge.

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


Operational historic locomotives in North America

There are a handful of full-size 4-4-0 steam locomotives built prior to 1945 that are still operating in the US and Canada. The following is a list of locations with at least one working example and tracks on which to run it.

Location / Address / Road number(s)/Name(s) / Track gauge / Number of 4-4-0s / Year(s) built / Notes
Dan Markoff / private residence / Las Vegas, Nevada, US / 4 Eureka / 3 ft (914 mm) / 1 / 1875 / It retained its original boiler.

Nevada State Railroad Museum / Carson City, Nevada, US / 22 Inyo / 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) / 1 / 1875 / Appeared in over twenty Hollywood Westerns (see image above).

Prairie Dog Central Railway / Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada / 3 / 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) / 1 / 1882

South Simcoe Railway / Tottenham, Ontario, Canada / 136 / 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) / 1 / 1883

Walt Disney World Railroad (Magic Kingdom) / Bay Lake, Florida, US / 4 / Roy O. Disney / 3 ft (914 mm) / 1 / 1916 / Significantly altered from its original appearance to resemble steam locomotives from the 1880s.

Weiser Railroad (Greenfield Village) / Dearborn, Michigan, US / 1, Edison, 7 / 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) / 2 / 1870; 1897 / The steam locomotive built in 1870 was originally an 0-4-0; it was rebuilt as a 4-4-0 in 1932 by the Ford Motor Company.

Wilmington & Western Railroad / Marshallton, Delaware, US / 98 / 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) / 1 / 1909