Soo Line No. 2645 at the MidContninent Railway Museum, North Freedom, Wisconsin, October 10 2004. Photo by Sean Lamb. Click to enlarge.

(The original uploader was Slambo at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



A 4-6-0 steam locomotive, under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives by wheel arrangement, has four leading wheels on two axles in a leading truck and six powered and coupled driving wheels on three axles with the absence of trailing wheels.

In the mid-19th century, this wheel arrangement became the second-most-popular configuration for new steam locomotives in the United States, where this type is commonly referred to as a ten-wheeler. As locomotives pulling trains of lightweight all-wood passenger cars from the 1890 to the 1920s, they were exceptionally stable at near 100 mph (160 km/h) speeds on the New York Central's New York-to-Chicago Water Level Route and on the Reading Railroad's line from Camden to Atlantic City, New Jersey.


A diagram of the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement. Front of locomotive on left. Click to enlarge.

(By Gwernol - Own work, Public Domain,


Tender locomotives

During the second half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, the 4-6-0 was constructed in large numbers for passenger and mixed traffic service. A natural extension of the 4-4-0 American wheel arrangement, the four-wheel leading bogie gave good stability at speed and allowed a longer boiler to be supported, while the lack of trailing wheels gave a high adhesive weight.

The primary limitation of the type was the small size of the firebox, which limited power output. In passenger service, it was eventually superseded by the 4-6-2 Pacific type whose trailing truck allowed it to carry a greatly enlarged firebox.

For freight service, the addition of a fourth driving axle created the 4-8-0 Mastodon type, which was rare in North America, but became very popular on Cape gauge in Southern Africa.


A 4-6-0 Camelback locomotive, the Central Railroad of New Jersey's No. 769, built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1912. Click to enlarge.

(Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)


Tank locomotives

The 4-6-0T locomotive version was a far less common type. It was used for passenger duties during the first decade of the twentieth century, but was soon superseded by the 4-6-2T Pacific, 4-6-4T Hudson and 2-6-4T Adriatic types, on which larger fire grates were possible. During the First World War, the type was also used on narrow gauge military railways.


Missouri-Kansas-Texas, Locomotive No. 347 with Tender. (SMU Central University Libraries, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)

Postcard photo of New York Central locomotive 1910, a 4-6-0 locomotive made by American Locomotive Company, April 1909. (No information re: author on front or back of card., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Narrow-gauge locomotive from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1885. (Anonymous, Unknown author, Public) domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

New York, Ontario and Western Railway locomotive 227, wheel arrangement 4-6-0. (Cornell University Library, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)

El Paso & Southwestern 4-6-0 30 at Providence, Rhode Island, in a builder photo by Alco in October, 1903.

"Apparently this may be the only known photo of these engines. Even Guy Dunscomb was unable to find

one for his monumental A Century of Southern Pacific Steam Locomotives." - Craig Garver

(Craig Garver, Public domain,



United States

The first 4-6-0 locomotive built in the United States was the Chesapeake, built by Norris Locomotive Works for the Philadelphia and Reading railroad in March 1847. There are still conflicting opinions as to who the original designer of this type was. Many authorities attribute the design to Septimus Norris of Norris Locomotive Works, but in an 1885 paper, George E. Sellers attributes the design to John Brandt who worked for the Erie Railroad between 1842 and 1851.

According to Sellers, the Erie's own management didn't feel it in their best interests to pursue construction, so Brandt approached Baldwin Locomotive Works and Norris with the design. Baldwin was similarly uninterested, but Norris liked the idea. James Millholland of the Reading also saw the 4-6-0 design and ordered one from Norris for the Reading. However, Sellers may have misinterpreted some of the information since Millholland did not work for the Reading until 1848, a year after the locomotive was built. Furthermore, Sellers refers to the first 4-6-0 to be constructed as the Susquehanna, which was the Erie railroad's first 4-6-0, not the Reading's.
The attribution to Septimus Norris stems from a patent, allegedly filed in 1846, that many sources cite for this locomotive type. However, such a patent has not yet been found in searches at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Septimus Norris did file a patent in 1854 for running gears, and the patent application showed a 4-6-0 wheel arrangement in the drawing. Norris' wording in the 1854 patent was vague with regard to the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement and the filing did not specifically claim invention of the 4-6-0 configuration.

A few days after William Norris completed the Chesapeake, Hinkley Locomotive Works completed their first 4-6-0 locomotive, the New Hampshire, for the Boston and Maine Railroad. The first 4-6-0 from Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works was the already-mentioned Susquehanna for the Erie Railroad. Baldwin's first 4-6-0 locomotive did not appear until 1852.

Through the 1860s and into the 1870s, demand for locomotives of the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement grew as more railroad executives switched from purchasing a single, general-purpose type of locomotive such as the 4-4-0 American at that time, to purchasing locomotives designed for a specific purpose. Both the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) were early adopters of the 4-6-0, using them for fast freight as well as heavy passenger trains.

There were also two 3 ft narrow gauge 4-6-0 steam locomotives, No. 72 (No. 274) (see image below) and No. 73 (No. 275), built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in May 1925 for the United Railways of Yucatán in Mexico (see below), where they were retired in the 1960s and were eventually purchased by Disney Imagineers Roger E. Broggie and Earl Vilmer for $8,000 each to operate on the Walt Disney World Railroad circling around the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Florida. No. 274 became No. 1 Walter E. Disney and No. 275 became No. 3 Roger E. Broggie.

A notable American ten-wheeler is the Illinois Central Railroad's No. 382, the locomotive driven by Casey Jones in the Vaughan, Mississippi train wreck with a freight train on April 30, 1900, that killed him instantly leaving to be the only person to be dead that was immortalized in Wallace Saunders' song that make Casey Jones an American legend. But after an eventful career, she was scrapped in July 1935 at the age of 37, the same age of her driver Casey Jones when he perished at 3:52 am on April 30, 1900. A Clinchfield Railroad locomotive of the 4-6-0 type No. 99 replaced her in 1956 and is on display at the Casey Jones museum in Jackson, Tennessee.

As far as is known, the heaviest 4-6-0 ever built was Southern Pacific No. 2371. According to R&LHS Bulletin No. 94, its engine weight was 242,500 pounds (110.0 t). The heaviest class of 4-6-0's ever put into series production was the Pennsylvania Railroad class G5 with 90 examples completed in the mid-1920s, which were some 5,500 pounds (2.5 t) lighter.

One of the B&O's 4-6-0s, built in 1869, is preserved at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. Another is at the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis. A third, The Great Northern Railway's GN 1355, built in 1909 as a 4-6-0 but rebuilt to a 4-6-2 Pacific in 1924, is in Sioux City, Iowa.

The Louisiana and Arkansas Railway utilized 4-6-0s on their passenger trains (The Shreveporter and the Hustler) in the 1930s and early 1940s. These passenger locomotives were later adapted to freight service. See the Hustler passenger train for photos.

4-6-0 Ten Wheelers pulled such trains as the New York Central's 20th Century Limited, the Northern Pacific's North Coast Limited, the Southern Pacific's Overland Limited, the Baltimore & Ohio's Royal Blue, and the Great Northern's Oriental Limited, just to name a few.

Nevada Northern Railway's No. 40 a 1910 built 4-6-0 has been preserved on the railroad and is known by the nickname "The Ghost Train of Ely". Due to its long history of operating in the state, in 2009 No. 40 was recognized as the official Nevada State Steam Locomotive.

The only surviving locomotive of the 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (ET&WNC) is No. 12, a coal-fired 4-6-0 built in 1917 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. It was originally used to haul passengers and freight over the ET&WNC's 66-mile (106-km) line running from Johnson City over the Appalachian Mountains to Boone, North Carolina from 1918 to 1940. Since 1957, it has been in operation at the Tweetsie Railroad theme park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.


No. 1551, former Canadian Northern Ten-Wheeler running on the now defunct Ohio Central Railway. Click to enlarge.

(Bruce Fingerhood from Springfield, Oregon, US, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Around 1912, the Algoma Eastern Railway in Ontario, Canada, acquired Baldwin Locomotive Works No. 20272, a 4-6-0, which had been built in 1902. The locomotive was scrapped in 1927.

Besides several of the country's smaller railroads, Canada's two largest railroads, the Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway also rostered examples of 4-6-0s, some of which have been preserved. Among the more modern examples for both railroads were the Canadian National H-6 and the Canadian Pacific D10.


Ferrocarril Mexicano Locomotive No. 3, ca. 1890-1909. The locomotive has a definite European look to it. Click to enlarge. (SMU Central University Libraries, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Baldwin-built Ferrocarriles Unidos De Yucatan, No. 39. Click to enlarge. (SMU Central University Libraries, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Ferrocarril Unidos de Yucatan, Engine 72 in 1925. Click to enlarge. (SMU Central University Libraries, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)


Ferrocarril Mexicano

Ten-Wheelers were used by Ferrocarril Mexicano, which was known for using some exotic locomotives, including the Fairlie 0-6-6-0 Double-ended steam locomotive. Ferrocarril Mexicano (English: The Mexican Railway) (reporting mark FCM) was one of the primary pre-nationalization railways of Mexico. Incorporated in London in September 1864 as the Imperial Mexican Railway (Ferrocarril Imperial Mexicano) to complete an earlier project, it was renamed in July 1867 after the Second French Empire withdrew from Mexico.

The Mexican Railway remained independent of the government-owned Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (National Railways of Mexico) until the government gained control in June 1946 and merged the property in March 1959. Following privatization in the 1990s, Ferrosur acquired the lines of the former Mexican Railway.


Ferrocarriles Unidos De Yucatan

Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán typically used Ten-Wheelers during the steam era.

The Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán (UdeY) was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad that operated in the states of Yucatán and Campeche in Mexico from 1902 to 1975.

UdeY locomotives 72 (see above) and 73 later went to Walt Disney World.