Canadian Pacific 4-6-2 No. 1278

Builder:Canadian Locomotive Company, Ltd. – Kingston, Ontario
Serial Number:#2435
Wheel Arrangement:4-6-2 Pacific
Driver Diameter:70″
Cylinder Bore x Stroke:20″ x 28″
Boiler Pressure:250 psi
Pulling Power:34,000 lbs. tractive effort
Engine Weight:117 tons
Length:76′ 4″
Capacity:Coal – 14 tons; Water – 8,000 gallons

Former Canadian Pacific 4-6-2 No. 1278 was one of thirty class G-5-d engines built during 1948 at Canadian Locomotive Company in Kingston, Ontario. The G-5 class’s lightweight construction and modern design made the locomotives perfect for light-rail, branch line duty on CP’s passenger and freight trains. Development of the G-5’s – of which 101 were built in four subclasses – allowed CP to retire numerous smaller, older, and less efficient engines. Age of Steam Roundhouse proudly owns two of these wonderful machines; see No. 1293 for more technical information about the G-5 class.

Number 1278 and its sister engines ran until the end of steam on the CP. Along with G-5’s No. 1246 and No. 1293, it was purchased by F. Nelson Blount in 1965 for use at his expanding Steamtown USA museum and tourist train operation in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Blount and his crew modified the No. 1278’s looks by renumbering it No. 127 and adding an Elesco bundle-type feedwater heater mounted transversely across the top of the smokebox. (No. 1278 was built with an Elesco coil type heater identical to the one on No. 1293.) The engine operated on a number of different excursions for Steamtown and others. When Steamtown moved to its new home in Scranton, Pennsylvania No. 1278 was traded to the Gettysburg Railroad for ex-Canadian National 2-8-2 No. 3254, a heavier and more powerful engine better suited to the steep grades Steamtown’s trains would operate on.

On the evening of June 16, 1995 while operating for the Gettysburg, a series of maintenance and operational errors combined to cause the roof of No. 1278’s firebox – called the crownsheet – to overheat and fail. Suddenly, hot steam exploded into the cab and severly burned its three crewmen. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated, determining that the modern design of the firebox with button-head staybolts may have prevented additional injuries (and perhaps deaths) from the incident. The Gettysburg firebox explosion prompted the Federal Railroad Administration to develop and introduce new rules for the maintenance and operation of steam locomotives. Thus, steam locomotive operation is safer today as a result of No. 1278’s bad experience.

Much of the former Gettysburg RR equipment was sold at auction in 1998, and Jerry Jacobson purchased the No. 1278. The engine is repairable and could be rebuilt for safe and reliable operation should the need arise. For now, the No. 1278 sits in the Age of Steam Roundhouse awaiting a major restoration and providing a reminder to all that steam power must be respected and cared for.