CAMELBACK STEAM LOCOMOTIVES
A PORTFOLIO OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF CENTER CAB STEAM LOCOMOTIVES
Reading 4-4-0 Number 269 was built by Baldwin in 1901 and scrapped in 1946
Photographed on August 10, 1940 by Donald W. Furler.
THIS SITE CONTAINS ABOUT THREE HUNDRED FIFTY PHOTOGRAPHS
OF CAMELBACK STEAM LOCOMOTIVES
A conventional steam locomotive has a cab for the engineer and fireman behind the firebox at the rear of the boiler. In 1877, John E. Wootten, Master Mechanic of the Reading Railroad began building locomotives with a wide firebox designed to successfully burn culm, small pieces of anthracite coal resulting from mining that were plentiful and inexpensive because culm had little commercial value. It was impractical at the time to mount the cab behind the very wide firebox so it was mounted astride the boiler before the firebox. A locomotive with this cab arrangement was called a Camelback, or sometimes a double-cab locomotive, center-cab locomotive or a Mother Hubbard. The center cab was inferior to an end cab because the engineer and fireman were separated and not able to easily communicate and the engineer was exposed to the possibility of a broken driving rod. Nevertheless, the ability to use cheap fuel was an overpowering advantage and Camelback locomotives were very popular in the anthracite mining regions and were even tried on roads as diverse as the Union Pacific and Maine Central. Camelbacks were generally smaller locomotives since by the time 2-8-2 or 4-6-2 locomotives became common, the dangers of the center cab had led the Interstate Commerce Commission to discourage construction after 1918. The last new Camelback was built by Baldwin for the Lehigh & New England in 1927. Some Camelbacks were rebuilt with a single cab but many Camelbacks operated until diesels replaced steam locomotives.
I suspect few would consider the Camelback to be a beautiful locomotive but they had a certain charm
and their distinctive appearance made them interesting and for some more appealing than orthodox engines.
Central New Jersey 2-8-0 679 is at Phillipsburg, NJ in October 1948.
ORGANIZATION OF THE SITE
THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE ARRANGED BY TYPE STARTING WITH THE 0-4-0 TYPE.
THE SITE IS DIVIDED INTO PAGES WITH EACH PAGE DEVOTED TO PARTICULAR TYPES. THE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE INTENDED TO PRESENT AN OVERVIEW OF THE CAMELBACK RATHER THAN A COMPREHENSIVE HISTORY OF THE TYPE.
A Central of New Jersey train from Matawan to Freehold, New Jersey is on the trestle just south of the Matawan station
on March 14, 1953. About a month later passenger service ended on this branch when a Camelback 4-6-0
pulled the last train. The 12 mile long branch passed by my home
NAVIGATING THE SITE - PLEASE READ
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For a time I lived within sight of the Central New Jersey Railroad's branch between Matawan and Freehold
although the branch was abandoned very soon after I moved there. CNJ L5 4-6-0 753 was photographed
from the bridge that once carried Route 520 over the branch in Marlboro. The train to Freehold
is only a few hundred yards from my home. Note the two train control boxes.
The Wootten type of wide firebox was designed to burn inexpensive anthracite culm coal. Culm is a fine type of coal left after anthracite mines removed the larger sizes for home and commercial use. The larger sizes of antracite coal could be and were burned in fireboxes narrower than the Wootten type but the culm could only be used successfully in the Camelback. However, roads using the Camelback often used a mix of various grades of anthracite rather than only culm. Also, soft bituminous was also mixed with anthracite. A number of factors including cost and availability determined the type and grade of fuel used. The Lackawanna's experiece is an example. After 1908 stokers developed for industrial use allowed for the use of small pieces of anthracite and consequently the price of culm rose above soft coal. In that year the Lackawanna purchased its last Camelback but continued to order locomotives with wide fireboxes having end cabs. During World War I all anthracite coal was taken by ships to avoid submarines looking for smoke. By the mid 1920's anthracite prices rose to the extent that all Lackawanna locomotives used soft coal. In 1923 the Lackawanna purchased its last locomotive with a wide firebox.
For many years I commuted to New York City on the New York & Long Branch which was a joint operation of the
Central New Jersey and Pennsylvania Railroads. Here is CNJ L5es 4-6-0 173 at Perth Amboy, a station about
seven miles from my station at Matawan. Most of the Pennsylvania's service through the station was electrified.
THE LAST CAMELBACK IN MAINLINE SERVICE
Steam operations ended on the Central New Jersey in 1954 and Number 774 was chosen for the farewell to steam trip
on July 12, 1954. Two additional "last trips" were made in 1955 but the last Camelback to see mainline service was
scrapped in 1956. Don Wood photographed 774 at Communipaw in Jersey City on March 2, 1956.
PRESERVED IN BALTIMORE
On May 1, 1954, Central New Jersey 4-4-2 592, a Brooks product of 1901, was moved to the Baltimore & Ohio
Museum where it resides today. The only other surviving Camelbacks are a Lackawanna 4-4-0 in St. Louis and a
Reading 0-4-0 awaiting restoration at the Strasburg Railroad.
MY OTHER STEAM LOCOMOTIVE SITES INCLUDE:
SITE CONSTRUCTED BY
EDWARD J. OZOG