Virginian 900, prior to its refusal by the Virginian Railway. It (and VGN 901–904) became Norfolk and Western Railway 2000–2004, class Y-3.

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



The USRA 2-8-8-2 was a USRA standard class of steam locomotive designed under the control of the United States Railroad Administration, the nationalized railroad system in the United States during World War I. These locomotives were of 2-8-8-2 wheel arrangement in the Whyte notation, or (1'D)'D1' in UIC classification. A total of 106 locomotives were built to this plan for the USRA; postwar, it became a de facto standard design.


A diagram of the 2-8-8-2 Wheel Arrangement. Front of locomotive on left.

(Gwernol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



While the 2-8-8-2 had been built in the United States since 1909, most development work had gone into making subsequent locomotives larger and heavier. The Norfolk and Western Railway however, had taken development in a different direction. By using smaller cylinders and higher boiler pressure, the result was a locomotive capable of powerful performance, and a turn of speed higher than the 20 mph (32 km/h) maximum of the ‘traditional’ designs.

The USRA 2-8-8-2 drew heavily on the Norfolk and Western Railway’s Y-2 class locomotive design, as their delegate to the 2-8-8-2 design committee had brought a full set of blueprints.


Original owners

USRA originals

Railroad Quantity Class Road Numbers Notes
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad 26 7145–7170 rebuilt to EL-5 class 2-8-8-0
Clinchfield Railroad 10 L-2 725–734
Norfolk and Western Railway 45 Y-3 2005–2049
Virginian Railway 5 900–904 Refused, to Norfolk & Western 2000–2004
Virginian Railway 20 USA 701–720
Total 106


Railroad Quantity Class Road Numbers Notes
Clinchfield Railroad 10 L-3 735–744
Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad 10 L-107 3500–3509
Interstate Railway 2 Class 20 20-21
Norfolk and Western Railway 30 Y-3a 2050–2079
Norfolk and Western Railway 45 Y-3b 2080–2089 Later re-classed as Y-4
Northern Pacific Railway 4 Z-4 4500–4503
Virginian Railway 15 USB 721–735
Total 116


Although no original USRA 2-8-8-2 survives, one of the copies does. Norfolk & Western 2050, a 1923 ALCO product of N&W's Y-3a class, is on display at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.


USRA 2-8-8-2 Overview

Type and origin
Power type: Steam
Builder: ALCO, Baldwin
Total produced: 106 originals, (plus 116 copies)
​• Whyte 2-8-8-2
• UIC (1′D)D1′ h4v
Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Driver diameter: 57 in (1,448 mm)
Adhesive weight: 474,000 lb (215.0 t)
Locomotive weight: 531,000 lb (240.9 t)
Fuel type: Coal
Boiler pressure: 240 lbf/in2 (1.65 MPa)
Cylinders: Four, two LP (front), two HP (rear)
High-pressure cylinder: 23 in × 32 in (584 mm × 813 mm)
Low-pressure cylinder: 39 in × 32 in (991 mm × 813 mm)
Valve gear: Baker
Locomotive brake: Air
Train brakes: Air
Performance figures
Tractive effort: 101,300 lbf (450.6 kN)
Disposition: One copy (N&W 2050) preserved, remainder scrapped