Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Steam Feature for November 2021

Chesapeake & Ohio 2-8-4 “Berkshire” Locomotives in the USA

The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad began with the merger of the Virginia Central and the Covington & Ohio Railroads. It later acquired the Chicago, Cincinnati & Louisville Railroad, the Pere Marquette and the B&O. By 1987 when it was taken over by CSX it also had incorporated the Western Maryland Railroad.During World War II, the C&O turned to the 2-8-4 wheel arrangement to handle the fast freight schedule demanded by the war-time needs. The C & O had watched the development of the 2-8-4 on the Nickel Plate Road and the Pere Marquette through the “Advisory Mechanical Committee” which was common to the four railroads controlled by the Van Sweringens. It based its 2-8-4 design on the NKP and Pere Marquette “Berkshires”. However it chose to name them “Kanawhas” after the Kanawha River, which paralleled its main line.

Between 1943 and 1947, the C & O purchased ninety, Class K-4, 2-8-4 “Kanawhas”, twenty from the Lima Locomotive Works and seventy from the American Locomotive Company. These locomotives were numbered 2700 through 2789. All of these locomotives had 69″ diameter drivers, 26″ x 34″ cylinders, a 245 psi boiler pressure, they exerted 69,350 pounds of tractive effort and each weighed about 292,500 pounds.

By mid 1952, the C & O had received enough diesels that it began to retire even the “Kanawhas”, which still had service time, and by 1957 all were retired. All but the thirteen that were donated to various cities were scrapped by May 1961.

The City of Buffalo, NY received number 2701 and placed it on display near the waterfront where vandals wrecked it and it was scrapped. There are twelve surviving C&O 2-8-4 “Kanawha” type locomotives.


Class Qty. Road Numbers Year Built Builder Notes
K-4 14 2700-2713 1943 ALCO 1
K-4 26 2714-2739 1944 ALCO 2
K-4 10 2740-2749 1945 Lima 3
K-4 10 2750-2759 1947 Lima 4
K-4 30 2760-2789 1947 ALCO 5
  1. The C&O donated 2701 to the city of Buffalo, NY. It was placed on display near the waterfront where vandals wrecked it so bad that it had to be scrapped after being on display for only a few months. Numbers 2700, 2705 and 2707 are preserved. All the others scrapped by 1961.
  2. Numbers 2716, 2727, 2732 and 2736 are preserved. All the others scrapped by 1961.
  3. Numbers 2740-2749 scrapped by 1961.
  4. Numbers 2755 and 2756 are preserved. All the others scrapped by 1961.
  5. Numbers 2760, 2776 and 2789 are preserved. All the others scrapped by 1961.

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class K-4 (Locobase 55)

Data from tables in 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia and from C&O – 4 – 1947 Locomotive Diagrams supplied in May 2005 by Allen Stanley from his extensive Rail Data Exchange. (Thanks to Chris Hohl for the tip about the Baker gear and for catching an error in the 1st built date and his 22 September 2017 email reporting unlikely boiler pressure values for 177 entries. A Locobase macro caused the error .) The first 40 came from Alco in 1943 and 1944, Lima supplied the next 20 in 1945 and 1947, and Alco finished the class with 30 more in 1947.

Firebox had 103 sq ft (9.5 sq m) in two thermic syphons and 19 sq ft (1.75 sq m) in arch tubes. Long-stroke cylinders were served by 14″ (356 mm) piston valves. All axles turned inside Timken roller bearings, feed water heaters were Worthington Type 5 1/2 S SAs, and the coal moved through Standard HT automatic stokers. Called “Kanawhas” by the railroad, “Big Mikes” by the Chessie drivers. Very similar to Pere Marquette N-1s but heavier and pulling immense tenders. In fact, these K-4s were among the heaviest and longest 2-8-4s in service and were known for good performance. Farrington (1976) notes a run from Stevens to Russell (95/4,845 tons), then from Russell to Hinton (61/3,170 tons) in which the engine consumed 49,500 gallons of water and 25 tons of coal.

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Class K-4
Locobase ID 55
Railroad Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O)
Country USA
Whyte 2-8-4
Number in Class 90
Road Numbers 2700-2789
Gauge Std
Number Built 90
Builder Several
Year 1943
Valve Gear Baker
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m) 18.20 / 5.55
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m) 42 / 12.80
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.43
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m) 93.17 / 28.40
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg) 73,800 / 33,475
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg) 292,000 / 132,449
Engine Weight (lbs / kg) 460,000 / 208,653
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg) 388,000 / 175,994
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg) 848,000 / 384,647
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML) 21,000 / 79.55
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / ML/MT) 30 / 27.30
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m) 122 / 61
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm) 69 / 1753
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa) 245 / 16.90
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm) 26″ x 34″ / 660×864
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg) 69,368 / 31464.83
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.21
Heating Ability
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2) 462 / 42.92
Grate Area (sq ft / m2) 90.30 / 8.39
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2) 4773 / 443.59
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2) 1932 / 179.55
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2) 6705 / 623.14
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume 228.45
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena’s Power Computation 22,124
Same as above plus superheater percentage 28,539
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area 146,015
Power L1 33,000
Power MT 996.61

Featured C&O Railway steam subjects this month are 2700 Class K-4s in various Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia locations:

Article courtesy of All photos courtesy of

Rock on Trains © 2021, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

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