The Pacific was the passenger locomotive of the early twentieth century. It was the next logical development of the turn-of-the-century 4-6-0 Ten Wheelers and 4-4-2 Atlantics. A four-wheel lead truck allowed the Pacific to track well at high passenger speeds, a two-wheel trailing truck supported a bigger firebox than was possible with a 4-6-0 and, as passenger car construction evolved from wood to steel, six drivers delivered enough power to pull an 800-900 ton train of heavyweight cars. Higher drivers gave a Pacific more speed but less power than a freight engine of similar size.
The first true Pacific, according to most accounts, was delivered in 1902 to the Missouri Pacific, hence the name Pacific. The British version of the story, however, credits New Zealand Railways with ordering the first Pacifics from Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1901, and claims the name derived from their subsequent shipment across the Pacific Ocean. In any case, the 4-6-2 became the dominant North American passenger locomotive, with about 6800 engines built in the U.S. and Canada by 1930. Pick any name train of the 1920s or '30s and the chances are it was led by a Pacific. With the advent of the super power steam era in the late 1920s, larger Hudsons and Northerns came into prominence, especially on the New York Central and in mountainous territory west of the Mississippi. But in much of the country the Pacific remained the primary passenger hauler until the end of steam.
Our RailKing model replicates the USRA Pacific, developed during World War I by the United States Railroad Administration and considered by many to be one of the best-designed Pacifics ever built. (For more on the USRA, see the Premier USRA 0-6-0 writeup on page 79.) Perhaps the handsomest Pacific ever constructed, the Southern Railway's green and silver Ps-4, was based on the USRA design and is today a centerpiece exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Did you know?
The USRA Pacific came in light and heavy versions. Our model is based on the light Pacific, which had about eight tons less weight on the drivers to accommodate lighter-capacity track and bridges.