PRR K4 4-6-2 Pacific Locomotive 1361

K4 Locomotive 1361: The Path to Power

The Pennsylvania Railroad K4 Pacific locomotive 1361 has a storied history. It was built in 1918 and served the Pennsylvania Railroad for decades before being retired in 1957. The PRR K4s was the largest steam locomotives ever built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, and it is no surprise that they are still popular today with railfans all over North America. This blog post will discuss this Pennsylvania railroad icon’s history, which spans both World Wars I and II as well as peacetime between them.

PRR K4s 4-6-2 Light Pacific

The Pennsylvania Railroad K-series steam locomotive was built by PRR shops from 1914 until 1928, with over 400 examples being produced before all were retired in 1957. The Pennsylvania Railroad had always been a proponent for modernization in its fleet of locomotives and rolling stock since its inception during the 19th century. From the early 20th century onward, they emphasized speed, nicknamed “the Standard Railroad Of The World” due to their reputation for high rates across long distances even when hauling heavy loads. 

It also contributed significantly towards developing new technology among railroads worldwide and bringing about many changes in the way railroads operated, such as the advent of diesel locomotives and streamlined passenger trains. Pennsylvania Railroad also contributed greatly to many technological advances during World War II, which helped them earn a reputation for using their technical expertise in the national defense. 

The Pennsylvania Railroad was known not only for its efficiency but also safety record on the job, which can be attributed to its commitment towards modernization throughout all aspects of PRR business operations at home and abroad. It had established lines from coast-to-coast across North America by 1910 as well as having extensive routes through Pennsylvania mining country that stretched into Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York State. 

By 1939 Pennsylvania Railroad boasted 13,500 route miles within Pennsylvania alone with over 150 round trips daily between Philadelphia & Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Railroad was not only the largest railroad in Pennsylvania but by far its most profitable, with half of all PRR locomotives hauling coal trains to supply steel mills within Pennsylvania’s “Steel Valley” as well as other industrial cities along its line, which also made it one of the heaviest trafficked railroads worldwide during that era.

Pennsylvania Railroad K-series steam locomotive fleet was originally designed for heavy freight service between New York City and Harrisburg on what is known today as Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh Line, where they were intended to replace older ten wheelers built by ALCO & Baldwin after World War I aimed at increasing speed across this busy stretch of track including a tunnel through Blue Mountain resulting in steep grades requiring four of Pennsylvania Railroad’s ten wheelers to pull a train.

In contrast, the Pennsylvania railroad K-series locomotives were able to do so with ease. On another note, The Pennsylvania Railroad was also a proponent for new technology when it came to passenger service and introduced their high speed “Fleet of Modernism” from 1934 onward, which included sleek modern steam locomotive designs such as the PRR Class S-l built by ALCO in 1937 that had been streamlined after winning an industrial design contest held during the mid-1930s. This lead them into the realm of art deco style on top of being very powerful capable of speeds up to 90 mph pulling 700-ton trains at 40–50 miles per hour across flat terrain earning themselves nicknames among railfans including “the Pennsylvania Streamliner” and “The Flying Mountain.” 

Pennsylvania Railroad was known worldwide for its impressive fleet of steam locomotives, consisting of PRR Class K-l, K-ll & T-l Hudson built by ALCO in 1939 on the New York to Washington run between Philadelphia and Jersey City. They had a fleet consisting of over 400 examples before all were retired from service in 1957. During that time, many railroads, including Norfolk Southern, began phasing out gallons of diesel replacing them with new EMD’s and Alco’s, which they acquired along with Baldwin Locomotive Works upon purchasing both companies during the early 1950s.

prr steam
Roger Puta

K4 #1361

PRR 1361 was built in 1941 and was one of the railroad’s final ten steam locomotives to be manufactured by ALCO for PRR. Pennsylvania Railroad 1361 spent significant portions of its career working steep grades on the Pittsburgh Line between New York City & Harrisburg, including Gallitzin Tunnel, which it could handle with ease due to its large firebox that was designed after Pennsylvania Railroad had upgraded Class K-l into the K-ll Hudson. Soon after, the Baldwin Locomotive Works developed the superheater concept developed during the 1930s that allowed the boiler pressure to raise from 165 psi (1234 kPa) to 205 psi (1417 kPa), increase cylinder size, improved valve timing plus other improvements, making these locomote more powerful but efficient enough at the same time. This gave them an edge over smaller railroads which the Pennsylvania railroad had acquired during the early 1940s, including Pittsburgh & Lake Erie at the time.

The Pennsylvania Railroad retired these locomotives in 1957 after providing decades of service for the Pennsylvania railroad before being sold along with many other PRR steam locomotives to be scrapped following dieselization.

PRR 1361 Today

PRR 1361 is currently at the Railroader’s Memorial Museum in Altoona, Pa awaiting restoration. In 2019, FMW, a steam locomotive contractor, performed a detailed evaluation of 1361, including an engineering analysis of the boiler and a CAD drawing. Throughout its analysis, FMW put together a comprehensive plan to restore the locomotive to operating condition, while keeping the original Belpaire boiler intact. It was decided that to restore the locomotive to operating condition, a total of $2.6 million would be needed. If you would like to contribute to the restoration of this iconic locomotive, please consider donating to the Railroader’s Memorial Museum.



Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

Recent Posts