NEB&W Guide to Steam Locomotive Camelbacks

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Also see the camelback section of Steam Locomotives dot Com.Anthracite is a harder form of coal, less hydrocarbons and thus purer carbon. However, while it burns cleaner, it also burns slower. In order to burn it in a loco and have enough horsepower, the firebox was made much wider than the narrow ones of the 19th century. It was felt the engineer couldn't see as well, as the main cab was placed in front of the firebox, astride the boiler, with a small auxiliary one for the fireman to shovel the coal at the rear. These locos were called "camelbacks" because the cab looked like a camel's hump, or sometimes called "mother hubbards" (why, I have to remember).

Railroads that served the hard coal fields of Pennsylvania used anthracite (often in a mix with bituminous) and thus were lumped together as the "anthracite roads". The thing is that anthracite was found in only a very very small region of and around Pennsylvania and so it is hard to justify camelbacks outside this area.

(Some camelbacks were built to burn lignite, a type of coal that is only one step up from peat, which would extend the area you might camelbacks.)

Pretty much roads either had mostly wide firebox locos, or not, so they either had a bunch of camelbacks or none. Roads known to have had camelbacks include:

  • CP (One loco)
  • CNJ
  • D&H
  • DL&W
  • L&HR
  • LNE
  • Erie
  • LV
  • NYS&W
  • P&R
  • RDG

Roads NOT on this list can be presumed to have had NO camelbacks (at least after this list has been "vetted" by all you people out there who know these things).

Walthers claims that some 50 roads got at least one camelback at some point, including PRR, UP, SP, and Katy. The camelback section of Steam Locomotives dot Com also claimed the ATSF, C&EI, Chicago & Indiana Coal, Long Island, Maine Central, NC&StL, Staten Island Rapid Transit, and W&LE.

It is estimated that about 3,000 camelbacks were built.

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe

  • The Santa Fe got no. 738 from Schenectady in 1889, as a camelback. Three years later, 1892, rebuilt as a 4-4-0 and renumbered 40, the only loco in the "40" class, scrapped in 1925.

Baltimore & Ohio

  • Ross Winians built "camels" which in some sense were early camelbacks.

  • According to Steam Locomotives dot com, the B&O got five 0-6-0 switchers in 1906, nos. 1180-1184, and 126 consolidations between 1900 and 1904, nos. 1630-1639, 1766-1779, 1800-1899, and 1939-1940. I didn't realize they got so many.

  • No. 1632 was a camelback 2-8-0. (Despite their early championing of "camels", don't believe the B&O had many camelbacks.)

Canadian Pacific

  • In 1904, the CP converted one of a compound 2-8-0 originally built by Richmond in 1899 to a camelback, no. 1026, a one-of-a-kind on their roster. It may have been rebuilt back in 1911. It was renumbered 3230 in 1913 and scrapped in 1935.

Maine Central

  • In 1912, the MEC's subsidiary, Portland Terminal, got camelback 0-6-0 switchers no. 822-827 from Manchester. I believe one of these, no. 824, was a camelback and would assume all in the series were, but there is a photo of no. 822 and it is NOT a camelback. These locos were scrapped in 1942-'36.

  • I also know that Brooks built two camelback 0-6-0's in 1904, nos. 183-184, which burned hard coal and which later became Portland Terminal nos. 807-808 and were scrapped in 1936-'39. But I believe these were rebuilt to single cab locos to burn soft coal.


  • According to Steam Locomotives dot com, the Katy got four camelback consolidations between 1895 and 1902, nos. 251, 432, 437, and 494.


  • At the end of the 19th century, the Philadelphia & Reading's camelback Atlantics, the so-called Broadway Flyers, were getting publicity for breaking speed records between Philly and the seashore on the Atlantic City RR. At that time, this was a lucrative run. So the PRR got three E-1 4-4-2 camelbacks, nos. 698, 700 and 820, in 1899 to compete. Although the locos ran well, the Pennsy didn't like separating the engineer and fireman. They actually added a speaking tube between the two cabs. The European six-wheel tender also derailed all too easily.

    Within a short time, these three engines were transferred to their subsidiary, LIRR (who had other camelbacks) and scrapped in the late '20's.

Portland Terminal

  • See Maine Central.

Southern Pacific

  • According to Steam Locomotives dot com, the SP got a single camelback, a ten-wheeler, no. 2282, built by Baldwin in 1900. It was intended to burn coal mined in Arizona, which is low grade.

Union Pacific