P5a (modified) No. 4786 with streamlined cab. Originally built for passenger service, they were later re-geared for freight service. Photo by Mac Owen. Click to enlarge.

(Audio-Visual Designs, Earlton, NY, Public domain, via W. Lenheim Collection)



The Pennsylvania Railroad's class P5 comprised 92 mixed-traffic electric locomotives constructed 1931–1935 by the PRR, Westinghouse and General Electric, with Westinghouse locomotive assembly at Baldwin. Although the original intention was that they work many passenger trains, the success of the GG1 locomotives meant that the P5 class were mostly used on freight. A single survivor, prototype No. 4700, is at the National Museum of Transportation in St Louis, Missouri.

They had an AAR wheel arrangement of 2-C-2, or 2′Co2′ in the UIC classification system — three pairs of driven wheels rigidly mounted to the locomotive, with a two-axle unpowered truck at each end. This is an equivalent to a 4-6-4 in the Whyte notation. The PRR did not have any 4-6-4 steam locomotives, so the P5s were the only 4-6-4 type locomotives owned by the PRR.

The first P5s were built with box cabs. A grade crossing accident in which the crew were killed led to the substitution of a central cab to give better crash protection, a streamlined steeple type, in later production, a design which was also applied to the GG1.


Pennsylvania Railroad class P5a electric locomotive No. 4761 built 1926 by the PRR Altoona Works and General Electric, ca. 1932. Click to enlarge.

(Pennsylvania Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Table of P5 locomotive production

Year Builder - Bodystyle - Road numbers - Notes
1931 - Altoona - Boxcab - 7898-7899 - Class P5, Renumbered 4700 and 4791 respectively in 1933.
1932 - Westinghouse - 4701–4732 - 4702 rebuilt to P5b in 1937.
1932 - General Electric - 4755–4774 - 4770 rebuilt as Modified in 1945.
1933 - Westinghouse - 4733-4742
1934 - Altoona - Modified - 4780
1935 - Westinghouse - 4743–4754
1935 - General Electric - 4775-4779
1935 - Altoona - Modified - 4781-4790

When the GG1s were put in passenger service, the P5s were re-geared and used in freight service for many years. The last of the class was withdrawn from service in April 1965.


P5 prototypes

Two prototype locomotives were outshopped from the PRR's Altoona Works in 1931. They were essentially the PRR's 2-B-2 O1 design lengthened by adding another pair of driving wheels; while the O1 was an "electric Atlantic" equivalent to the E6s steam locomotive, the P5 was an "electric Pacific" designed to match or better the performance of the PRR's ubiquitous K4s Pacifics.

These prototypes had electrical equipment from both Westinghouse and General Electric; the design was by both companies and the PRR's electrical department, and the equipment from each manufacturer was identical.


P5a production locomotives

Orders were placed for 90 production locomotives classified P5a due to minor changes from the prototypes (notably, larger traction motor blowers). Production was split between General Electric and Westinghouse; the GE examples were assembled at GE's Erie, Pennsylvania facility, still a locomotive assembly plant today, while final assembly for the Westinghouse order was subcontracted to the Baldwin Locomotive Works.


P5a (modified) No. 4780 with streamlined carbody. Click to enlarge

(Pennsylvania Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


P5a (modified) steeplecabs

A fatal grade crossing accident on the New York Division confirmed traincrews' concerns about safety when the crew were killed after colliding with a truckload of apples. A redesign was undertaken, giving the locomotives a central cab, raised higher, with narrower-topped, streamlined "noses" to the locomotive to enable the crew to see forward. The final 28 locomotives were built to this design, which was not given a separate class designation since it was mechanically and electrically identical; they were called class P5a (modified), and colloquially Modifieds.

Documentation published in 2010 disproved the decades long belief that the modified P5's new shell design came first and was then applied to the GG1, R1, and eventually the DD2. Instead, it was revealed that the GG1 project, under the direction of industrial designer Donald R. Dohner, was the first to receive the center cab design, and that soon afterward it was applied to the R1 and P5.

The Modified units (along with the R1 and prototype GG1) were built with riveted carbodies. However, unit No. 4770, rebuilt to a Modified appearance in January 1945 after being wrecked in February 1944, differed from previous Modifieds in having an all-welded carbody, the type of construction famously utilized in the production run of the GG1.


No. 4702, the lone experimental P5b,  rebuilt by the PRR Altoona Works in October 1937. Click to enlarge.

(Pennsylvania Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


P5b experiment

In October 1937, P5a No. 4702 was rebuilt with motors in its trucks to become the only locomotive in subclass P5b. Each truck axle was given a 375-horsepower (280 kW) motor, adding 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) to give a total power output of 5,250 hp (3,910 kW) and a wheel arrangement of B-C-B or Bo′CoBo′. The main drivers had used double traction motors on each axle, but the trucks were a single motor per axle. This modification also meant that locomotive's entire weight was carried on driven wheels. Despite these advantages the experiment was not repeated, however No. 4702 continued in its modified form.

Visually, the class P5b could be distinguished from a boxcab P5a by having a lower row of ventilation grilles on the sides of the superstructure, and by having outside brake cylinders on the trucks.



Type and origin
Power type: Electric
Builders: PRR Altoona Works (13), Baldwin-Westinghouse (54), General Electric (25)
Build date: 1931–1935
Total produced: 92
​• Whyte 4-6-4
• AAR 2-C-2
• UIC 2′Co2′
Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Leading diameter: 36 in (914 mm)
Driver diameter: 72 in (1,829 mm)
Trailing diameter: 36 in (914 mm)
Wheelbase: 49 ft 10 in (15.19 m) (total); 20 ft (6.10 m) (rigid)
Length: 62 ft (19 m)
Width: 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m) (P5, P5a, P5b); 10 ft 8.25 in (3.26 m) (P5a (modified))
Height: 15 ft (4.57 m) over locked-down pantographs
Axle load: 74,000 lb (34,000 kg; 34 t) (P5, P5a); 77,800 lb (35,300 kg; 35.3 t) (P5b); 77,000 lb (35,000 kg; 35 t) (P5a (modified))
Adhesive weight: 220,000 lb (100,000 kg; 100 t) (P5, P5a); 444,700 lb (201,700 kg; 201.7 t) (P5b, all wheels driven); 229,000 lb (104,000 kg; 104 t) (P5a (modified))
Locomotive weight: 392,000 lb (178,000 kg; 178 t) (P5, P5a); 444,700 lb (201,700 kg; 201.7 t) (P5b); 394,000 lb (179,000 kg; 179 t) (P5a (modified))
Electric system: 11 kV AC @ 25 Hz Catenary
Current pickup: Pantograph
Traction motors: 6× 625 hp (466 kW) AC motors; plus 4× 375 hp (280 kW) motors on the trucks on P5b
Transmission: AC current fed via transformer tap changers to paired motors geared (25:97) to quill drives on each driving axle; plus single motors geared to driving axles on end trucks on P5b (gear ratio: 17:50)
Operator: Pennsylvania Railroad
Numbers: 4700–4791
Preserved: 4700
Disposition: One P5 prototype preserved; remainder scrapped.