The most perfect locomotive -- N&W's J -- and Its TOP Speed of 128 mph!!!

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Mon Sep 11 00:57:37 EDT 2006

In one of my Pennsy books I have read about a claim that a T-1 (4-4-4-4
duplex) was clocked at 140 mph on the Chicago-Pittsburgh mainline across the
flatlands of Ohio.

Can anyone confirm this?

Patrick Whalen
pfwhalen at

On 9/10/06, nw-mailing-list at <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:


> Old saying: 'be careful what you ask for - you might get it'. Let's try

> to put the claims about steam locomotive speed accomplishments in proper

> perspective.


> First; as to the LNER Pacific "Mallard". The record, carefully

> documented, was set on a 0.5 percent downgrade and the chart showed 125

> mph was sustained with only a momentary 'blip' at 126 mph. Maybe someone

> bumped the table ? Not usually mentioned is that the inside rod bearing was

> badly damaged during the speed run, and the locomotive was taken off the

> train at the next stop.


> No other claim was as carefully documented. A German Class O-5 'Hudson"

> achieved 124.5 mph on a level run in 1936. With 90 1/2 inch drivers, the

> O-5 was probably capable of higher speed, but that nation's government had

> other priorities at the time.


> In addition to various claims for the N&W's Class J, others exist for the

> NYC's # 999 (112.5 mph in 1893) and PRR's # 7002 (120 plus mph in 1905).

> As these are not fully documented,

> and measurements were crude at best, they remain as 'maybe's'.


> As to frequent claims that two cylinder locomotives with 'small' drivers

> (think the J's 70 inch) were not capable of speed; depends more on ample

> passageways for steam, careful design for exhaust velocity, and springing

> and balancing of the drivers.


> One last point: Sir Nigel Gresley was, IMHO, overrated. I have read

> extensively on the subject; some British authors noted that his valve gear

> designs were often modified behind his back by staff who copied from other

> British designers. And the conjugated valve gear used on the Mallard and

> other locomotive classes had problems. As bearings on the links wore, the

> inside third cylinder assumed as much as one half of the total piston

> thrust. Great idea on paper; flawed in practice.


> Anyway, Mallard does hold the DOCUMENTED steam locomotive speed record.


> Jerome Crosson


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