PRR T1 - 140 MPH??

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Mon Sep 11 15:57:58 EDT 2006

The 140 mph observation for the PRR T1 was published
as part of Bill Withuhn's series, Requiem for a
Heavyweight (Notes on the Final Evolution of American
Steam - Part 13) for the New York Railroad
Enthusiasts' magazine, early 1976. The account goes
like this:

The Franklin spy returned with an amazing record.
"Here, " he said, "You calculate the speeds, with
these timings on these recorded mileposts." Julius
[Kirchoff] and Ray [Delano] both worked out many
sample speeds from the log. With short (8-10 car)
trains and late departures, the record was clear:
T1's were frequently exceeding 140 mph for sustained
periodics! No wonder the [poppet] valves were

When it is recalled that the offical world record for
steam was around 127 mph, and that having been run
under special conditions, 140 seems a bit much. But
recall: the T1 was really two 80"-drivered Atlantics,
back to back, and under a boiler and plant capable of
6500 indicated horsepower, Couple that with the T1's
machine efficiency of nearly 94% and you have the
makings of something special.

end of quote

This story has led to much speculation that Bill W.
has the Franklin book (he never said he did) and that
such exploits were clearly documented.

So it's a believe-what-you-want situation. It's
possible that a T1 with 8 cars could get to 140, at
least on a mechanical basis. The combination of 80"
drivers, short 26" stroke, small cylinders, poppet
valves, lightweight recip parts, and very high
superheat capabilities may have made such high
rotational speeds possible (about 590 rpm, somewhat
higher than a J at 110 mph, 528 rpm). Whether the
track structure would handle such forces is another

But what kind of accuracy can one get with a stopwatch
while passing a mileposts at a speed of 200 ft/sec??
Were all mileposts exactly 5280' apart (yes they can
vary)? Until the Franklin book shows up, we'll never
know. It remains in the urban legend category.

Short answer to the question - the speed can't be
confirmed with available information at this point.

Dave Stephenson

--- nw-mailing-list at wrote:

> 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




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