The 2-8-4 Berkshire inaugurated the last great period of steam locomotive innovation: the Super Power era. It was the brainchild of William Woodard, Vice President of Engineering at Lima Locomotive Works - which in the mid-1920s was the smallest of America's "Big Three" locomotive builders and known largely for its Shay logging locomotives.
In World War 1, Woodard had been on the committee that designed the USRA steamers, which had broken little new ground but delivered the first successful standardized American steam designs. At Lima, he experimented with ways to improve on the 2-8-2 Mikado, the mainstay of American freight power in the early 20th century. His Super Power concept - which he defined as "horsepower at speed," put Lima on the map as a builder of mainline engines.
Outshopped in the spring of 1925, Woodard's A-1 2-8-4 demonstrator barnstormed across the country to demonstrate the virtues of his new design. Because its initial successes were on the Boston and Albany's Massachusetts main line across the Berkshire Hills, the new wheel arrangement was dubbed the Berkshire.
Visually, the most obvious new feature on the A-1 was its four-wheel trailing truck, which supported a larger firebox that could generate more steam. But under the hood was a host of additional innovations that made the Berkshire more powerful and efficient than existing designs: increased superheat, to make hotter steam that could do more work; a feedwater heater to help boil water faster; higher boiler pressure to make harder-working steam; streamlined steam passages to make more efficient use of steam; a booster engine on the trailing truck for increased starting power; and limited cutoff - the length of time that steam was admitted to the cylinders - to prevent engineers from using excess steam at startup. From the NYC's Hudsons to the SP's Daylights to the UP's Big Boys, all the great steam locomotives of the mid-20th century were direct descendants of Woodard's design.
Our RailKing Berkshire is based on the Nickel Plate Berk, introduced in 1934 and called by steam historian Eugene Huddleston "the greatest 2-8-4 ever to take to the rails." Engineers as well as railfans loved the 700-series Berkshires for their looks, speed, power, and wonderful sound. Intended for fast freight, they could also take off with an 18-20 car WWII troop train.
Our Imperial model of this landmark steamer features Proto-Speed Control for steady pulling power at any speed from a crawl to full throttle, plus details that include a real coal load, tender truck safety chains, legible builder's plates, hand-painted crew figures, and LED-illuminated class lights and cab.