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Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0) - A Steam Locomotive Profile



Chicago Burlington and Quincy No. 710 is typical of the Ten-Wheelers near the turn of the century. Today it is displayed in Lincoln, Nebraska.

©2013 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Railroads customized the Ten-Wheeler to perform many different roles.

Prototype History

Builder: multiple
Whyte Classification: 4-6-0
Dates Built: 1847 - 1952
Number Built: approx. 16,000

While the nomenclature of some of the steam locomotive classes can be a bit confusing, "Ten-Wheeler" is pretty self-explanatory.

The Norris Locomotive Works built the first 4-6-0 in North America for the Philadelphia and Reading. The design was a natural evolution of the American 4-4-0. Like the American, the Ten-Wheeler was found in both passenger and freight operations.

Although larger on average than their American contemporaries, the Ten-Wheelers remained modest sized locomotives for most of their long tenure. They became the second-most popular design in the US through much of the 19th Century.

By the 1880s, the Ten-Wheeler began to lose ground to the Atlantic (4-4-2) for faster passenger service and the Consolidation (2-8-0) for heavy freight service. But the 4-6-0 occupied that space in the middle that was useful for both lighter and faster freight runs and heavier passenger trains which didn't demand the fastest schedules.

4-6-0s were found all over the world. The largest group were found in Russia. The most famous, or infamous, was probably Illinois Central #382 which engineer Casey Jones rode to his death.

In the 20th Century, the Ten-Wheeler re-emerged as a reliable commuter engine. Its smaller drive wheels were perfect for the frequent and rapid accelerations between station stops. The Pennsylvania built some of the last of the type in North America for itself and its subsidiary the Long Island as late as 1929. The British continued to build 4-6-0s as late as 1952! Very few locomotive designs can lay claim to a construction history spanning more than a century.

These later Ten-Wheelers were much larger than the iconic locomotives of the 19th Century. Many performed well until the very last days of steam, in part because they were such versatile locomotives.

Today many 4-6-0s have been preserved, with some still operational.


Despite the huge numbers and variety of Ten-Wheelers produced, models of this design are far less common than later prototypes. The locomotives are actually well suited for model railroads. Many were colorful, could be found in a variety of roles, and their size would work well on many smaller layouts. Plus the added set of drivers would provide a little more electrical pick-up which should make even smaller versions relatively good runners.

The list of models below includes all known models with a 4-6-0 wheel arrangement. Where a specific prototype is known, it is included. Some models are more toy-like, others beautiful scale renditions, and everything in between. If you know of any that have been left off the list, please send me an email!

Z Scale: Marklin (DB class O38)
N Scale: Bachmann Spectrum (Maryland and Pennsylvania prototype)
HO Scale: Bachmann Spectrum (Maryland and Pennsylvania prototype), Bowser (PRR / LI G5), kit), Mantua
OO Scale: Hornby
S Scale: American Flyer, American Models (USRA Light), River Raisin Models
O Gauge: MTH (Premier - PRR G5, Rogers Loco Works (V&T), Williams
On30 Gauge: Bachmann
G Gauge: Bachmann

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