Welcome to the Crestline PRR Engine Facility

The Duplex and Experimental Steam Engines of the PRR:
The Crestline Connection

Last Revision to This Page: August 17, 2006


  1. Intrduction
  2. The S1
  3. The T1
  4. The Q1
  5. The Q2
  6. The S2


What makes the Crestline Engine Facility such a special place? The reasons are many, among them is its geographical location, and therefore home to experimental and production duplex steam engines. Crestline is the eastern most division point facility between Pittsburgh and Chicago on the Ft. Wayne mainline. To the east are the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. To the west are the flat lands of the midwestern plains. This is significant when you think of the large experimental and duplex steam engines of the PRR. Many of these engines, which I affectionately call "the big steam", could not negotiate some of the curves found east of Crestline. Also, the S-1, S-2, and T-1 locomotives achieved some of the fastest running times with heavy passenger trains over the "Ft. Wayne Racetrack" between Crestline and Chicago that simply could not be accomplished in the Eastern territories. For these reasons, and the fact that Crestline could boast having absolutely top-notch mechanics, it became the home terminal for many T-1s and Q-2s, as well as the S-1 and S-2 experimental steam engines. As the home terminal for these unique and one of a kind experimental engines, the Crestline Engine Facility was an extremely important facility on the PRR. It is most unfortunate that none of these engines have been spared the torch, but the roundhouse still stands, and it is most deserving of preservation as a living monument to these once glorious and uniquely special locomotives.

What follows is a short overview of these engines as it pertains to Crestline. There is plenty of detailed information in other readily available sources. Some of these sources include "Pennsy Power I", "Pennsy Power II", and "Pennsy Power III" by Alvin F. Staufer, "The Keystone", official publication of The Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society, and "Pennsy Q Class, Classic Power 5", published by NJ International.

The S1

The first experimental duplex on the PRR was the S1, a huge rigid frame duplex locomotive of the 6-4-4-6 wheel arrangement. This engine was over 146' long! This locomotive was built by the PRR at Altoona in 1939; it was hailed as the largest locomotive ever built. The look of this locomotive was designed by Raymond Lowey, whose first assignment for the PRR was to redesign a trashcan at Penn Station, and later designed the look of the T1. When it was completed, it did not see revenue service right away. It was sent to the New York World's Fair and was put on display along with other railroad's latest motive power to show the world first class, cutting edge technology.

This locomotive had impressive statistics. 84" drivers meant that she could really make tracks! It is said that going 100 mph was not uncommon, even though the speed limit on the Ft. Wayne mainline was 80 mph for passenger trains.

The S1 was completely streamlined, a cosmetic shrouding that many railroads were adding to their locomotives to enhance the appearance and, hopefully, along with other comforts on board, lure riders from their automobiles and back onto the train. As impressive as it looked, this was a huge headache for the roundhouse crews that had to work on these locomotives. The problem was that it interfered with access to the stuff underneath. And when you had a recurring maintenance item, it was most frustrating to waste time removing it, doing the work, and then replacing it.

Turning the S1 here in Crestline was obviously not done on the turntable. It was turned on the "wye" which was just west of the roundhouse and one leg of it crossed Bucyrus St. During the War, Crestline was one of several facilities that were used to train military railroad personnel. One day a clerk was relieved from duty early and was "railfanning" near the roundhouse and came upon the S1. Its hostler saw him and asked if he could throw switches so he could get the S1 to the wye and then into stall #30. After an affirmative response, he climbed up into the cab and went for a smooth ride, throwing switches where necessary. When it first entered the wye, the S1 slipped badly and came to a stop. The hostler is reputed to have said, "Soldier, if this stiff-legged, blank, expletive, blankity blank is on the ground!" The soldier got down to take a look, and sure enough, the rear set of drivers were on the ties. This brought on some more blue language from the hostler. After he cooled down, he said, "Soldier, go tell the house foreman this animal is on the ground again." I've read somewhere that when the S1 was to be turned on the wye, some people from town would go down to the roundhouse to watch the event. If it did happen to come off the rails, it must surely have added to the excitement.

S1 Photos

Raymond Loewy and the S-1
Artist's schetch
Under construction at Altoona
S1 at New York World's Fair, 1939
S-1 waiting for a train at Crestline
"Largest locomotive in the world"
De-skirted, at Englewood
In storage at Crestline

Go to: Index

The T-1

The next duplex to show up was the T1 in early 1942. Two prototypes were built, #6110 and 6111 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The only difference between them was the addition of a booster engine on #6111. These locomotives had what has been called "the Buick front", referring to the three holes on the cowl. Again, the T1, a 4-4-4-4, was completely streamlined when built, but following the "tradition" of removing the shrouding, the T1 was not immune. A total of 50 production T1s were built, the first half by Altoona, #5500-5524, and the rest by Baldwin, #5525-5549. There was a war going on, and the need to place these locomotives in service as quickly as possible was paramount. The "shark nose" of the prototype T1s were more pointed as compared to the production models. This "shark nose" idea would later be found on Baldwin diesels, classified as the BF-15 and 16 and also the BP-20 passenger model on the PRR.

Unlike the S1, which only ran between Crestline and Chicago, the T1 was found as far east as Harrisburg, PA and west to Chicago and St. Louis. However, Crestline was the major T1 servicing facility. In fact, in 1946, the PRR was to make a modification to Crestline's roundhouse because of the T1. The stalls were 115' long, the T1 was 122'. According to an Authority for Expenditure dated 8/27/46, which reads in part::

"T-1 locomotives are used in regular passenger service and are cut off at Crestline for inspection, servicing, repairing, and turning. The present enginehouse is too short to permit the engines to be entirely inside and the doors to be closed. During cold weather considerable trouble is experienced by the freezing of pipes, filters, etc. on locomotives waiting to be serviced or repaired because with so many doors open, the temperature inside the house is very little above the outside temperature. Pipes and stationary equipment in the house frequently freeze and burst. It is proposed to construct a 20 foot extension to 15 stalls, in two units…to permit the complete housing of T-1 locomotives….

It is estimated that…4050 mechanic hours are lost…. 1613 hostler hours are wasted…. a total of 1500 locomotive hours are lost…"

As the document indicates, 15 of the 30 stalls would be extended on the turntable end. They were stalls #2-11, and #25-29. Extending stalls #25-29 gave the T1s access to the drop pit. Stall #30 had already been lengthened on the outside to accommodate the S1. So the type of locomotives serviced here had a profound impact on the roundhouse, which was originally built in 1920, for among other reasons, to accommodate the locomotives of its day as well, namely the N1s and L1. I don't know the exact date, but during this same time period, the turntable, originally 100', was increased to 110', which was just long enough to turn all these big engines except the S1.

These locomotives sported 80' drivers, and could easily pull an 18 car train at speeds at 100 mph and more. There is a story told that a road foreman was riding behind a T1, and clocked it at over 120 mph on the flat lands of Indiana! These engines were the first production engines to utilize the Poppet valve. The Motive Power Department wondered why it was that they were failing way more often than they should have. They were designed to run at 100 mph, but could not withstand the punishment of continued running at 100+ mph.

Another famous problem with the T1 was it was prone to slipping when at speed. With no warning at all, when there was a weight transfer, the front engine would lose its footing. Engineman were constantly dealing with this problem, sometimes having to stop the train to regain control. According to an article in a recent Keystone magazine, the problem was not so much the fault of the T1 as it was with the engineman. If he was sensitive to the T1's behavior, slipping was a minor problem, if one at all.

I've been told that when a T1 was shopped at Crestline, they would go out clean and shiny. The story is that high school students would be hired to clean and polish them. When the T1 was first placed in service, they would pull Pennsy's Varnish, the first class passenger trains of the day. After a few years, they were reduced to mail and express service, being replaced on the name trains by the new E-7, and later, the E-8 diesels.

T1 Photos

#6110 at Baldwin before delivery
T1 #5537
T1 #5533 backing to train in Crestline
T1 backhead
A proud #5501 in storage at Crestline

Go to: Index

The Q1

The next experimental locomotive on the PRR was the Q1 with a wheel arrangement of 4-6-4-4. The PRR was not the first railroad to come up with the idea of an opposing cylinder arrangement. The B&O was the first with this idea with their George H. Harrison 4-4-4-4. Again, this is a large locomotive, just under 123' long and weighing in at 593,500 pounds fully loaded. Like the two duplexes that came before it, the Q1 was also streamlined.

The one major advantage of this radical design concept was that it reduced the rigid wheelbase while at the same time adding the extra power provided by the second set of cylinders. But by placing the second pair of cylinders behind the last driver created a major drawback. The close proximity to the firebox and ash pan was a filthy location, and it also reduced the width of the firebox, reducing the grate area. Both the cylinders and firebox could not occupy the same space.

It is my understanding that the Q1 was assigned to Columbus, and ran mostly on the Panhandle or the Sandusky Branch. But I am including it here because it did occasionally come to Crestline. On those occasions, I've heard tell that the roundhouse crew referred to it as "the queer one"!

This locomotive had a rather short career and it did not run all that much. Between rather lengthy stays in the shop, it did get out on the high iron once in a while and earn the PRR some payback for their investment.

Q1 Photos

Q1 Builder's photo
Q1 in action with streamlining
Sitting in Chicago with all streamlining removed

Go to: Index

The Q2

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.

Q2 Photos

Q2 backhead
Q2 #6181 in Bucyrus
Q2 #6180 passing the station in Crestline
Q2 6182 in Crestline
Dead Q2s at Crestline
Q2 #6196 0n the ready tracks at Crestline

Go to: Index

The S2

There is one more unique experimental steam locomotive of the PRR, and this engine could also call Crestline home: the S2 #6200.

This locomotive was conceived as early as 1937 by Westinghouse and Baldwin, and closely followed the design of an English locomotive for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway known as the "Turbomotive". The wheel arrangement on this engine was a 4-6-2. The wheel arrangement of the S2 was originally to be 4-8-4 when the design was completed in 1941, but since the Second World War broke out, the original idea of using light weight materials for certain components was banned by the Government. So conventional materials were used, resulting in a much heavier locomotive. As a result of this, the need for a larger pilot and trailing truck was essential, and the design was modified to 6-8-6.

Westinghouse, Baldwin and the PRR collaborated on the design. Westinghouse built the turbine and geared drive mechanism; Baldwin actually built the locomotive, while the PRR consulted with both firms to deliver what it wanted.

The design of this locomotive was a radical departure from the normal reciprocating steam locomotive. It utilized direct-drive steam turbines, one for forward motion, and one for reverse. It was completed and placed in passenger service between Crestline and Chicago in 1944.

When the S2 began it's life, it had no smoke lifters, but soon acquired a pair of small lifters, but apparently, these weren't adequate, so a larger pair was added later.

It was much lauded by the PRR and they gave it a lot of publicity. But with all the grand hoopla the PRR threw out to the public, it could not make this into a great locomotive. Early on, it developed problems with the stay bolts breaking due a problem with the firebox's expansion and contraction. Upon starting up from a dead stop, the turbine consumed massive amounts of steam, resulting in a lowering of the boiler pressure from the rated pressure of 310 pounds to as low as 85! This meant increasing the fire to make more steam, stressing the firebox. But once under way, she could maintain 100 mph with no trouble at all. It was a good steamer, and if diesels didn't come along, its shortfalls might have been corrected.

The S2 had a very short life. It was taken out of service in either March or April in 1946, and was stored at Crestline. It was later sent to Conway and was scrapped in May, 1952.

S2 Photos

Builder's Photo
S2 Transmission
Forward Turbine
Cab Interior
S2 with EB Broadway LTD
S2 on Crestline's Turntable
S2 stored at Crestline

Go to: Index

The shortcomings of all the duplexes and experimental locomotives and the consequent short operating life can be largely attributed to the lack of adequate testing. The Pennsylvania RR was famous for performing exhaustive tests on new locomotive designs before putting them into production, not to mention revenue service. Since there was a war on, traffic on all railroads during this period increased dramatically. As a result, the PRR found itself needing more and more powerful locomotives. The need to place them in revenue service as soon as possible either delayed testing, or it was simply not done, relying on the design to fill the need.

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