As our recent “Motive Power Madness” popularity contest on Facebook proved, the Lima Berkshire is one amazing machine. Today, the Berk’s legacy is secured by the many examples of the later production locomotives that have been preserved from the C&O, Pere Marquette and of course the Nickel Plate Road. And the locomotive that introduced “Super Power” has also invited a new generation of rail fans through its role in The Polar Express.
The Lima Super Power concept was a proven mechanical success from the earliest tests of their new 2-8-4 locomotives in the Berkshire Mountains of New England on the New York Central, and Boston and Albany in 1924. By enlarging the firebox, hence the need for a four-wheel trailing truck, the locomotives could generate and maintain greater steam pressure. The 2-8-4 was designed as a replacement for the Mikado (2-8-2). In one test, the prototype locomotive was matched against a Mikado between Selkirk and North Adams. The Berk departed 45 minutes behind with a heavier train – and arrived 10 minutes ahead of its rival. Used in fast freight service, the locomotives were a natural on produce, livestock and mail trains. The extra power gave them what they needed to maintain a tight schedule even over rugged grades. But their design was also compact enough to make them perfect for the tighter clearances of the Northeast.
Despite the famous looks of the later Berks built for the Van Swerigan roads, the first 2-8-4s were a bit less visually balanced. Perhaps the biggest visual change were the feed water heaters on the smokebox fronts. The Coffin feed water heater especially is, frankly, not designed for aesthetics. Still, even if the styling had room for improvement, their service record was impressive from the start.
Lionel’s LEGACY Models
Lionel’s 2012 release of the Berkshire captures the unique look of these earlier locomotives. In addition to the New England Roads, the early orders for the Illinois Central, and Santa Fe are also represented along with the demonstrator itself, so these locomotives will look right at home on railroads anywhere from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The Berkshires are LEGACY equipped, with all of the control, bells and quillable whistles you’ve come to expect. Sounds also include crew dialog including speed and fuel announcements and sequence control to narrate an entire trip. Additionally, they feature both smoke and whistle steam effects, directional headlight and tender back-up light, firebox flicker, lighted number boards and cab interior. These Berks are packed with details including the correct Coffin or Elesco feed water heaters.
The 2-8-4 will negotiate an O-54 curve and retails for $1249.99. Available in the following road names:
- 6-11386 Boston and Maine
- 6-11387 Santa Fe
- 6-11388 Southern Pacific
- 6-11389 Boston and Albany
- 6-11390 Lima Demonstrator
- 6-11391 Illinois Central
- 6-11392 Michigan Central
It’s no surprise that most railroads who saw the Berkshire in action quickly ordered some for themselves – we think you’ll want to do the same!