This page presents a series of railroad locomotive records including steam, diesel, and electric engines.
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STEAM LOCOMOTIVE RECORDS
What was the world's first steam locomotive?
Richard Trevithick built the world's first steam locomotive to
run on rails. The locomotive was constructed for Penydarren
Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. The locomotive had no official
name but was often referred to as the Penydarren Locomotive. The
Penydarren Tramroad opened on February 21, 1804, and the locomotive
traveled nine miles from Penydarren to the Merthyr-Cardiff Shipping
Canal at speeds of up to 5mph. Although weighing just eight tons,
the locomotive continually broke the cast iron rails. After making
several trips, the locomotive was converted to stationary use.
What was the world's first steam locomotive used in revenue
The first steam locomotive successfully used in revenue
service was the Salamanca, a cog/rack locomotive built by Matthew
Murray (of Fenton, Murray & Wood) in 1812. The locomotive hauled
wagons of coal from the pits to the town of Leeds, UK, on the
Middleton Railway. Steam replaced horse-drawn vehicles which began
operating on the railway in 1758. The Salamanca locomotive operated
from August 12, 1812 until February 28, 1818 when its boiler
exploded, killing the driver.
What was the first steam locomotive to operate in the USA?
The first steam locomotive in the U.S. was the Stourbridge
Lion, tested on August 8, 1829, in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The
locomotive was named for its origin city (manufactured in
Stourbridge, UK) and lion's face painted on its front by builder
Foster, Rastrick & Company. The locomotive was intended to carry
coal for the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company. However, as was the
case with England's first steam locomotive trial 25 years earlier,
the 7-1/2 ton locomotive was too heavy for the track and never used
in revenue service.
What was the first American-built steam locomotive?
The Tom Thumb, built by Peter Cooper for the Baltimore & Ohio
Railroad, was the first operable steam locomotive built in the USA.
It first ran on August 25, 1830, between Baltimore and Ellicott
Mills, Maryland. A race was staged three days later using the Tom
Thumb and a horse-drawn car on parallel tracks. The Tomb Thumb
quickly pulled away from the horse until a belt slipped off its
blower pulley. Although the horse won, the race indicated the
potential of steam locomotive technology. The Tom Thumb was never
used in revenue service and served only in trials.
What was the first steam locomotive used in revenue service in
The West Point Foundry of New York built a steam locomotive
for the South Carolina Railroad in Chareston. The locomotive,
unofficially named the Best Friend of Charleston, made a test run on
December 14, 1830. The locomotive reached solo speeds of 30mph, an
amazing achievement for its time, though loaded trains would be
limited to approximately 12mph. The Best Friend was placed into
revenue service on Christmas Day 1830, hauling passengers along six
miles of track in Charleston, South Carolina. The locomotive
operated for six months until its boiler exploded on June 17, 1831,
seriously injuring the engine crew.
What was the heaviest steam locomotive?
Locomotive weights vary based on water and fuel levels,
meaning published weight specifications are not always comparable.
However, the two classes contending for the heaviest locomotive
title are Union Pacific's 4-8-8-4 4000 class "Big Boy" and
Chesapeake & Ohio's 2-6-6-6 H-8 class "Allegheny" locomotives. Note
that the C&O's Alleghenies were copied by the Virginian Railway as
their AG class "Blue Ridge" locomotives. The Big Boys, Alleghenies,
and Blue Ridge locomotives all weighed in at approximately 1,200,000
pounds (600 tons), full tenders included.
What was the largest (longest) steam locomotive?
The largest (longest) steam locomotives were the Union Pacific 4-8-8-4
4000 class "Big Boys." These engines measured 85'-3" plus a tender
at 47'-6" for a total length of 132'-9".
What was the most powerful steam locomotive in terms of
Baldwin built four "triplex" locomotives, named for their
three sets of driving wheels. Three 2-8-8-8-2's went to the Erie
Railroad as Class P-1 locomotives (built 1914-15), while one
2-8-8-8-4 went to the Virginian Railway as class XA (built 1916).
These locomotive designs were attempts to maximize tractive effort
and set a record 199,560 lbf with the Virginian XA. However, the
boilers were undersized for these six-cylinder locomotives,
resulting in a maximum speed of approximately 10mph for the Erie and
even less for the Virginian. All were short-lived and relegated to
pusher (helper) service where maximum power was required at low
Excluding the experimental triplex engines, Virginian
Railway's 2-10-10-2 AE class locomotives were the most powerful ever
built, generating 176,600 lbf in simple-expansion mode. Alco
produced 10 of these locomotives for the Virginian in 1918.
What was the highest horsepower steam locomotive?
Pennsylvania Railroad's 4-4-6-4 Q2 class locomotives were the
highest horsepower steam locomotives produced, generating 7,987
horsepower as measured by a PRR static test.
What is the world's oldest steam locomotive still in
East Indian Railway's 2-2-2T #22 'Fairy Queen' was built in
1855 and is the world's oldest operating steam locomotive. Since
restoration in 1997, the Fairy Queen leads two-day excursions
between New Delhi and Alwar, India.
What is the oldest American steam locomotive still in
Baltimore & Ohio 4-4-0 #25 'William Mason' was built in 1856
and still operates on select weekends at the B&O Railroad Museum in
Baltimore, Maryland. The locomotive was restored to operating
condition by the Strasburg Rail Road in 1998 for use in the movie
Wild Wild West.
What is the world's largest locomotive currently in operation?
Union Pacific's 4-6-6-4 Challenger steam locomotive #3985 is
the largest operating locomotive in the world. Built in July 1943
and still used by UP for occasional excursion throughout the western
United States, the 3985 weighs 1,073,900 pounds (537 tons).
DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE RECORDS
What was the world's first diesel locomotive?
The world’s first diesel locomotive was built by
Diesel-Sulzer-Klose in Germany and tested in 1912 on the
Winterthur-Romanshorn Railroad in Switzerland. The locomotive ran
for just several months and was not commercially successful.
What was the first diesel locomotive used in revenue service
in the USA?
The first diesel locomotive to be used commercially in the
U.S. was a 200 horsepower General Electric GM50 used by the Jay
Street Connecting Railroad for switching duties in 1918 in Brooklyn,
New York. The locomotive was not a commercial success, however, and
was returned to GE a few months later.
What was the first commercially successful diesel locomotive?
Alco, GE, and Ingersoll Rand formed a consortium to build
diesel-electric locomotives. In October 1925, Central Railroad
of New Jersey took delivery of a 300 horsepower boxcab diesel
locomotive (#1000) for use at its Bronx Terminal in New York. This
was the first diesel to experience a long career, operating for 32
years before retirement in 1957.
What was the most powerful diesel locomotive ever built?
The EMD DDA40X was the most powerful single-unit diesel
locomotive ever built. A total of 47 of these 6600 horsepower
"Centennial" diesels were built by General Motors from 1969 through
1971 for Union Pacific. Most were retired during the 1980s due to
high maintenance costs. One unit, no. 6936, remains in service for
UP business and excursion trains.
ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVE RECORDS
What was the world's first electric locomotive?
The world's first electric locomotive was a battery-powered
locomotive built in 1837 by chemist Robert Davidson of Aberdeen,
Scotland. The first serious test didn't come until 1841, however,
when Davidson built a larger model and operated it at the Royal
Scottish Society of Arts Exhibition. The locomotive could run 1.5
miles at a speed of 4mph. It was further tested in 1842 on the
Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway but limited battery power prevented
What was the world's first generator-powered (non-battery)
Werner von Siemens (founder of today's multinational Siemens
AG) demonstrated an electric locomotive at the Berlin industrial
Exposition in 1879. The locomotive was driven using a 150 volt
direct current (DC) third rail and 2.2 kW motor delivering five
horsepower. The locomotive pulled three cars at a maximum speed of
8mph on a 1,000-foot loop track, carrying nearly 100,000 passengers
during the four month event.
What was the first electric locomotive used in revenue service
in the USA?
In the spring of 1880, inventor Thomas Edison laid 1400 feet
of track at his New Jersey laboratory and operated an electric
locomotive as fast as 40mph. The Northern Pacific Railway contracted
with Edison to build and test larger locomotives with a plan to
electrify NP track in Minnesota. Two prototypes were built in 1882
but the Northern Pacific filed for bankruptcy the following year and
electrification was never pursued.
Meanwhile, inventor Leo Daft was also testing electric
locomotives in New Jersey and New York in 1881-1883. Then, on August
10, 1885, Daft completed the first commercial electric railway in
the USA. The Baltimore and Hampden streetcar, previously powered by
horses, was converted to third rail electric power and would operate
successfully for several years.
What was the most powerful electric locomotive ever built?
The China Railways HXD3B is the most powerful single-unit
electric locomotive ever built. China Railways ordered 500 of these
12,870 horsepower locomotives for heavy freight service, delivered
from Dalian Locomotives and Bombardier between 2008 and 2011.