Newbie Question

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by texaswildcat, Nov 7, 2002.

  1. texaswildcat

    texaswildcat New Member

    Hello everyone!

    I haven't ran a train since I was a teenager, but now at 32 I've decided that I would like to take on the hobby again. This time around I have some resources to actually do something. :)

    I have always liked steam driven anything, but I have a question on trains. I always see a series of numbers with the trains, 0-4-0 or something similar, what does this mean? I've tried to solve this on my own but with out getting to a hobby shop, (going this weekend) I'm lost. My guess is that it has something to do with the wheels. Am I close? Is there a good book out there with the terms I will need to know.

    Thanks for the help!
  2. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    The numbers describe the arrangement of the wheels. The first number is the number of pilot wheels. The last is the number of wheels on the trailing truck. All of the numbers that appear in the middle describe the driving wheels.

    That is called the Whyte System, and it is primarily used in the United States. Other systems are used, too. In parts of Europe, they count the number of axles instead of the number of wheels (so a 4-6-2 becomes a 2-3-1 or 231). Some countries have their own coding system. For example, in the UK "A3" describes a 4-6-2, or Pacific type locomotive. These types of coding systems vary from one place to another, so A3 in the UK has a different meaning altogether in another country...

    It's also a common practice to call all locomotives that use a particular wheel configuration by a single class name. Usually, the name is associated with the railroad or task that the first locomotive of that wheel arrangement was made for. Consolidations (2-8-0) were first made for the Lehigh Valley RR after it and several smaller railroads merged. Northerns (4-8-4) were first made for the Northern Pacific RR. Alleghenys (2-6-6-6) were used to pull coal trains over the Allgheny Division of the C&O RR.

    For more information, visit

    BTW, diesels and electrics have their own numbering systems, too... :)
  3. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Your right on the money!

    leading truck-main drivers-trailing truck

    So, a 2-6-0 has two wheels on the leading truck, six main drivers (powered wheels) and no trailing truck. You would only see half that viewed from one side (one lead, followed by three drivers).

    The NMRA has a nice glossery on their beginners page.

    Welcome home!!!

    :D :D :D
  4. JeffGerow

    JeffGerow Member

    Yes those numbers are related to the wheels -- that is the Whyte system of steam engine classification. Each of the numbers is the number of wheels in each group (leading wheels, driving wheels, and trailing wheels). For smaller steam engines it's pretty easy -- an 0-4-0 would have no leading wheels, 4 driving wheels, and no trailing wheels, while a 2-8-2 would have 2 leading wheels, 8 driving wheels, and 2 trailing wheels. The numbers are the total of wheels, on both sides of the engine.
    The leading wheels, an addition to the original British design, were added in America to help the engine negotiate the curvey right-of-ways here in the States, helping push the front of the engine into the curves. Trailing wheels were added to help support the larger fireboxes of ever larger engines.
    It gets a little trickier as the engines got bigger and atriculated -- a 2-6-6-2 would have two sets of driving wheels (3 on a side, twice).
  5. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Welcome to the gauge ! You got it, it has to do with the wheels. It is Whyte's classification. the first number, is the number of pilot wheels. The last number is the number of trailing wheels. The middle number/s are the driving wheels.
    an 0-4-0...... OO
    a 2-4-0...... o OO
    a 2-6-0...... o OOO
    a 2-6-2...... o OOO o
    The addition of a "t" as in 2-6-0t indicates that the loco has a water tank over the boiler, and no tender.
    a 2-6-6-2 is an articulated locomotive, where the rear engine is fixed to the boiler, and the lead engine, hinged at the rear end, can pivot under the boiler.
    Steam locomotives also have names, specific to wheel arrangements.
    a 2-4-2 is a columbia
    a 2-6-0 is a mogul
    a 2-8-0 is a consolidation
    a 2-8-2 is a mikado
    a 4-6-0 is a ten wheeler
    a 4-8-0 is a mastadon (this name also applies to a 4-10-0)
    a 4-8-4 is a northern
    a 4-6-2 is a pacific
    a 4-6-4 is a hudson
    a 4-8-2 is a mountain
    a 2-8-4 is a berkshire
    a 2-10-4 is a texas
    a 4-4-0 is an american
    a 4-4-2 is an atlantic
    There are variations of this, eg. on the C&O, a 2-8-4 is a Kanawha, and a 4-8-4 is a Greenbrier.
    It's good to see another who like "steam driven anything". There's lots of information here, and lots of good people. If you can't find it, ask.
  6. shamus

    shamus Registered Member

    Hi texaswildcat
    Welcome to the gauge, I cannot expand on any of the above, so good luck and ask as many questions as you require.

  7. texaswildcat

    texaswildcat New Member

    Thanks for the assistance. I really appreciate it!!!

    I plan on heading to the "Great American Train Show" this weekend here in Houston. Hopefully I will be really inspired when I leave, no doubt I will be.

    So if you are wondering how does one fall out of the Hobby:
    You turn 15 and realize you will be driving soon, you love to make models and have dozens used on the 8' x 8' layout you have. You start doing car models, then you start driving. But you Heart is set on a mustang. Well I'm on my 5th Mustang now, a 67 mustang which will be a Shelby Clone...

    Now how to fall back into the hobby:
    Went to a swapmeet looking for Mustang parts and this guy is selling a box of HO everything, track, cars, engines. $30 I couldn't pass it up. I call home and I am chatting with my mother in Kansas and tell her what I bought and then she reminds me oh I still have all your train "Stuff" boxed up in the basement. Got to love MOM's!!!
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    To clarify one of your comments a bit further: an A3 is one class of Pacific locomotive on one railroad. (London & Northeastern) This is similar to the K4 designation on the Pennsylvania or the J3a on the NYC.
    British steam locomotives were decribed by the Whyte system. When they brought in Diseasels and Electrics they started to use the letter & number system where a letter was a number of pwered axles and a number was unpowered axles. There's also an o that tells whether the powered axles are geared together or run from separate motors. (and I can't remember which)
    The Whyte system works well for those who know steam locomotives. Trains magazine tried to establish a variation that accounted for articulated sections but that never left the station.
  9. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    A NYC J3a was a Hudson (4-6-4) NYC pacifics were in the K class

  10. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Many of us, self included followed the same path. Never heard any of hte other guys call the girls "mustangs" though and I wouldn't post her birth year on the net :D :D :D

    Yep, MOM had my train "Stuff" boxed up in the basement and she used the very same words :D :D :D They are great, love 'em while you can. Again, welcome back, and stay tuned here and you can learn all you need!
  11. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    Hey Pete (Mr. Articulated) What happened to 2-8-8-2 et al in your list?

  12. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    I think Pete get's excited about drivers


    So when he sees a 2-8-8-2, I think the response would be:


    BTW: TexWC, I'm the board crazy guy. You'll get used to it once the initial shock wears off. Don't worry, you won't call me anything that my parents haven't already called me a hundred times!
  13. texaswildcat

    texaswildcat New Member

    excited or not the info was appreciated!

    Well board crazy guy, I have a ton of work to do if you would like. Can you drive autocad?

    As far as calling you anything that your parents haven't, well I could get booted for that kind of thing. Be a heck of a first day on the site. :D :D :D
  14. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member


    Welcome aboard. You will learn to love Jon, in spite of what he says. His humor will have you in stitches, some times to the point that we have to find our friend Errol (kettlestack) from over the pond in to send us relief in the form of his infamous "malt" brew.:D :D

    The whole crowd is very knowledgeable and willing to pitch in with help for those questions that you haven't even thought of yet.

    You can also find a wealth of information just reading the information in the archives and past threads in the forum(s) that are in your interest. Click and learn!!!:) :) :)
  15. Vic

    Vic Active Member

    Hey Pete, Saw the Columbia as first on the list. A guy just up the road from me owns 1 of the 2 existing Columbias (operational) Bought it from Ghost Town Amusement Park. Its in Savannah undergoing a rebuild. Plans are to use it next season on the a new tourist line down in Plains, Ga (Jimmy Carter's hometown) They're (persish the thought) using a diesel right now.
  16. t. alexander

    t. alexander Member

    Welcome Texaswildcat
    I just had to pipe in on your Shelby clone. I had a 65 Fastback Shelby clone. Done in the black with gold stripe's scheme. Very cool machine. Wish I still had it.

  17. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Gary, and the 2-4-4-2, 2-6-6-4, 4-6-6-4, 2-8-8-4, 4-8-8-4, 2-8-8-8,
    2-6-6-6, 2-6-6-2t, and all the rest. Had to get moving, so left the list a little short.
  18. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    When it came to articulateds, I think the individual railways had their own names and none were widespread enough to get a general or official name.
    And then there were the Beyer-Garratts (two chasses with a boiler/firebox/cab slung between them.) They were denoted as e.g.
    4-6-2 + 2-6-4

    For locos larger than pacifics, railroads would sometimes give them a name rather than use a rival road's name (CNR called its 4-8-4 s "Northerns", I think NYC called them "Niagaras")
  19. texaswildcat

    texaswildcat New Member

    Definitely a less expensive way to enjoy a Shelby. But my wife is still upset about the cost of the fiberglass. I have made nice returns on the unused parts though. My 67 is a fastback didn't mention that before, Candy Apple on Red deluxe interior. The car is about 50% done... doing some body work now... Fun Fun!
  20. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    David, thanks for the info. I learned something new!

    Texaswildcat, what part of Houston are you from? I live up here in Huntsville. I don't make it down to Houston very often (and, sadly, won't be able to make it to the GATS show), but I've been meaning to make a run down to some of the hobby shops. Do you have a favorite local hobby shop?

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