by Emmett Smith
PRR Fireman, Paul C Dietz, in his 2001 memoir Firing On The Pennsy, writes about the Pennsylvania Railroad 4-cylinder rigid-frame Q2 locomotive and a great beast, indeed! Although today railfans concur that the C & O Allegheny 2-6-6-6, a single-expansion articulated engine, while not as heavy as the UP “Big Boy” 4-8-8-4s was still the most overall “powerful” American steam locomotive ever built to date, the duplex Q2 actually exceeded Allegheny’s drawbar horsepower at 45 mph, producing more horses than the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway’s H8s!
More about the complex problem of deciding which locomotive of the last steam age was “most” powerful can be found on this invaluable page, at steamlocomotive dot com:
About the the Pennsylvania Railroad Q2 locomotive, the webmaster at the above site writes:
“The next duplex on the PRR was also their last fling with the rigid frame duplexes, the Q2. It had a 4-4-6-4 wheel arangement. This is my favorite duplex. It just has the look of power, it’s huge, and has great proportions. Quite an awesome machine! By all accounts, this was the most powerful ten-drivered steam locomotive ever built, nearly 8000 horsepower! It weighed over one million pounds. One superlative after another. It had no major design or performance flaw, unusual for the experimentals and duplex locomotives. Had diesels not come on the scene, the Q2, as well as the T1, would have gone on to prove steam power had come of age!
“When it came down the track, you knew it was a Q2; the shaking of the ground gave it away! The prototype #6131 was built in Altoona in 1944, for a total cost of $428,598, followed by 26 more, all delivered between January and June 1945. This was quite a feat for any locomotive builder when you consider the size and complexity of the machine. But the need for more power to move the war traffic was a huge incentive.
“Since 1927, when the PFtW&C was formally incorporated into the PRR system, Crestline was a passenger engine servicing facility. Inspite of this fact, many Q2s were assigned to Crestline as evidenced by the markings on the pilot. On the engineman’s side, were the letters “WN” which signified the Western Region, and “CR” on the fireman’s side, referring to Crestline.
“By 1955, all of the Q2s would be gone forever. It is a huge shame that none of these magnificent locomotives have been saved. This is also the sad truth for all of the duplexes and experimental locomotives of the PRR. They now exist only in one’s memory and photographs.”
[Emmett R Smith all introductory text-rights reserved & all other rights revert to holders 4 June 2009]