Shay locomotive
The Shay locomotive was the most widely used geared steam locomotive
Geared steam locomotive
A geared steam locomotive is a type of steam locomotive which uses reduction gearing in the drivetrain, as opposed to the common directly driven design....

. The locomotives were built to the patents of Ephraim Shay
Ephraim Shay
Ephraim Shay designed the first Shay locomotive and patented the type.He was born on July 17, 1839, in Sherman Township, Huron County, Ohio. His parents were James and Phoebe Shay....

, who has been credited with the popularization of the concept of a geared steam locomotive. Although the design of Ephraim Shay's early locomotives differed from later ones, there is a clear line of development that joins all Shays.


Ephraim Shay
Ephraim Shay
Ephraim Shay designed the first Shay locomotive and patented the type.He was born on July 17, 1839, in Sherman Township, Huron County, Ohio. His parents were James and Phoebe Shay....

 (1839–1916), was a schoolteacher, a clerk in a Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 hospital, a civil servant, a logger
Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...

, a merchant, a railway owner, and an inventor. He lived in Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....


In the 1860s he became a logger and wished to devise a better way to move logs to the mill
A sawmill is a facility where logs are cut into boards.-Sawmill process:A sawmill's basic operation is much like those of hundreds of years ago; a log enters on one end and dimensional lumber exits on the other end....

 than on winter snow sleds. He built his own tramway in 1875, on 26 inch (66 cm) gauge track
Rail tracks
The track on a railway or railroad, also known as the permanent way, is the structure consisting of the rails, fasteners, sleepers and ballast , plus the underlying subgrade...

 on wooden ties
Railroad tie
A railroad tie/railway tie , or railway sleeper is a rectangular item used to support the rails in railroad tracks...

. This was much more efficient than his competitors because he could log all year round.

Two years later he invented the Shay Locomotive. In about 1877 he developed the idea of having an engine sit on a flat car with a boiler
A boiler is a closed vessel in which water or other fluid is heated. The heated or vaporized fluid exits the boiler for use in various processes or heating applications.-Materials:...

, gears, and trucks that could pivot. The first Shay only had two cylinders and the front truck was mounted normally while the rear truck was fixed to the frame and could not swivel, much as normal drivers on a locomotive. He mounted the 3' diameter by 5' tall boiler centered on the car with the water tank over the front trucks and the Crippen's engine mounted crossways over the rear trucks. Shay experimented first with a chain drive from the engine through the floor to the truck axle. It is not known if he powered one or both axles, but he soon found that the chain drive was not practical and he next tried a belt drive. It did not take long for the idea to become popular.

Shay applied for and was issued a patent for the basic idea in 1881. He patented an improved geared truck for his engines in 1901.

Lima Locomotive Works
Lima Locomotive Works
Lima Locomotive Works was an American firm that manufactured railroad locomotives from the 1870s through the 1950s. The company took the most distinctive part of its name from its main shops location in Lima, Ohio. The shops were located between the Baltimore & Ohio's Cincinnati-Toledo main line...

 of Lima, Ohio
Lima, Ohio
Lima is a city in and the county seat of Allen County, Ohio, United States. The municipality is located in northwestern Ohio along Interstate 75 approximately north of Dayton and south-southwest of Toledo....

 built Ephraim Shay's prototype engine in 1880.
Prior to 1884, all the Shays Lima produced weighed 10 to 15 tons each and had just two cylinders. In 1884, they delivered the first 3-cylinder (Class B) Shay, and in 1885, the first 3-truck (Class C) Shay. The success of the Shay led to a major expansion and reorganization of the Lima company. When Lima first received the Shay idea it was not impressed, until John Carnes influenced the company to use the idea, resulting in the classic Shay design.

In 1903, Lima could claim that it had delivered the "heaviest locomotive on drivers in the world", the first 4-truck (class D) Shay, weighing 140 tons. This was built for the El Paso Rock Island line from Alamogordo, New Mexico
Alamogordo, New Mexico
Alamogordo is the county seat of Otero County and a city in south-central New Mexico, United States. A desert community lying in the Tularosa Basin, it is bordered on the east by the Sacramento Mountains. It is the nearest city to Holloman Air Force Base. The population was 35,582 as of the 2000...

 to Cox Canyon, 31 miles away over winding curves and grades of up to 6%. The use of a two-truck tender was necessary because the poor water quality along the line meant that the locomotive had to carry enough water for a round trip.

Lewis E. Feightner, working for Lima, patented improved engine mounting brackets and a superheater for the Shay in 1908 and 1909.

After the basic Shay patents had expired, Willamette Iron and Steel Works
Willamette Iron and Steel Works
Willamette Iron Works was a general foundry and machine business established in 1865 in Portland, Oregon, originally specializing in the manufacture of steamboat boilers and engines...

 of Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...

, manufactured Shay-type locomotives, and in 1927, Willamette obtained a patent on an improved geared truck
A bogie is a wheeled wagon or trolley. In mechanics terms, a bogie is a chassis or framework carrying wheels, attached to a vehicle. It can be fixed in place, as on a cargo truck, mounted on a swivel, as on a railway carriage/car or locomotive, or sprung as in the suspension of a caterpillar...

 for such locomotives. Since "Shay" was a trademark of Lima, strictly speaking it is incorrect to refer to locomotives manufactured by Willamette and others as "Shays". Six Shay Patent locomotives, known as Henderson-style Shays, were built by the Michigan Iron Works in Cadillac, Michigan
Cadillac, Michigan
Cadillac is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and is the county seat of Wexford County. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 10,000. The city is situated at the junction of US 131, M-55 and M-115...



Shay locomotives had regular fire-tube boiler
Fire-tube boiler
A fire-tube boiler is a type of boiler in which hot gases from a fire pass through one or more tubes running through a sealed container of water...

s offset to the left to provide space for a two or three cylinder "motor," mounted vertically on the right with longitudinal drive shafts extending fore and aft from the crankshaft at wheel axle height. These shafts had universal joint
Universal joint
A universal joint, universal coupling, U joint, Cardan joint, Hardy-Spicer joint, or Hooke's joint is a joint or coupling in a rigid rod that allows the rod to 'bend' in any direction, and is commonly used in shafts that transmit rotary motion...

s and square sliding prismatic joint
Prismatic joint
A prismatic joint provides a linear sliding movement between two bodies, and is often called a slider, as in the slider-crank linkage. A prismatic joint is formed with a polygonal cross-section to resist rotation...

s to accommodate the swiveling trucks. Each axle was driven by a separate bevel gear
Bevel gear
Bevel gears are gears where the axes of the two shafts intersect and the tooth-bearing faces of the gears themselves are conically shaped.Bevel gears are most often mounted on shafts that are 90 degrees apart, but can be designed to work at other angles as well...

, with no side rods.

The strength of these engines is that all wheels, including, in some engines, those under the tender, are driven so that all the weight develops tractive effort
Tractive effort
As used in mechanical engineering, the term tractive force is the pulling or pushing force exerted by a vehicle on another vehicle or object. The term tractive effort is synonymous with tractive force, and is often used in railway engineering to describe the pulling or pushing capability of a...

. A high ratio of piston strokes to wheel revolutions allowed them to run at partial slip, where a conventional rod engine would spin its drive wheels and burn rails, losing all traction.

Shay locomotives were often known as sidewinders or stemwinders for their side-mounted drive shafts. Most were built for use in the United States, but many were exported, to about thirty countries, either by Lima, or after they had reached the end of their usefulness in the US.


2768 Shay locomotives were built by Lima in four classes, from 6 to 160 tons between 1878 and 1945.
  • Class A: two cylinders, two trucks. Weights between 6 and 24 tons.
  • Class B: three cylinders, two trucks. Weights between 10 and 80 tons.
  • Class C: three cylinders, three trucks. Weights between 40 and 160 tons.
  • Class D: three cylinders, four trucks. Weights of 100 and 150 tons.

Note: Two 15 ton Shays were built with two cylinders and three trucks.

Twenty Class D shays were built. They were no more powerful than Class C, but had greater fuel and water capacity, resulting in improved adhesion.

Four Shays were built left-handed, all special ordered for the Sr. Octaviano B. Cabrera Co., San Luis de la Paz, Mexico.


Only 117 Shays survive today, some a combination of parts of two Shays.

The oldest surviving Shay sn-122, built in 1884, is currently displayed in Redding CA, at Turtle Bay Exploration Park
Turtle Bay Exploration Park
Turtle Bay Exploration Park, located in Redding, California, is a museum complex that interprets the relationship between humans and nature. The attractions include a botanical garden, a natural history and science museum, a "camp" for nature, history and science education programs, and seasonal...


The oldest operational shay is located at the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in West Virginia as Shay locomotive #5. It was first bought in 1905 by the West Virginia Pulp & Paper Co. at Cass. Shay#5 is in fact still running on its original rail since it first ran in 1905.

The Camino-Placerville & Lake Tahoe No. 2, a three-truck Shay, is on display at the Travel Town Museum
Travel Town Museum
Travel Town Museum is a transport museum within Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California.Travel Town was dedicated on December 14, 1952. There is no charge for museum admission or parking...

 in Los Angeles'
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

 Travel Town Museum
Travel Town Museum
Travel Town Museum is a transport museum within Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California.Travel Town was dedicated on December 14, 1952. There is no charge for museum admission or parking...


The Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad
Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad
The Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad is a narrow gauge tourist railroad in California that starts from the Roaring Camp depot in Felton, California and runs up steep grades to the top of nearby Bear Mountain, a distance of 3.25 miles The travel is through a redwood forest.The steam engines date...

 operates the class B Dixiana and the class C Sonora.

Railtown 1897 preserves a class C Shay, Sierra Railroad
Sierra Railroad
The Sierra Railroad Company a privately owned common carrier which has a freight division which handles all track maintenance and freight operations for all branches owned by the Sierra Railroad Company...

 # 2, and occasionally runs it as part of its excursion trains.

The Colorado Railroad Museum
Colorado Railroad Museum
‎The Colorado Railroad Museum is a non-profit railroad museum The museum is located on at a point where Clear Creek flows between North and South Table Mountains in Golden, Colorado....

 holds two Shays, Nos. 12 and 14 which operated on the Georgetown Loop Railroad for about 20 years.

The New Jersey Museum of Transportation at Allaire State Park
Allaire State Park
Allaire State Park is a park located in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States, near the town of Farmingdale, operated and maintained by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry and is part of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route. The park is known for its restored 19th century...

 is currently restoring the 36-inch gauge Ely-Thomas Lumber Company No. 6. This locomotive ran on the Pine Creek Railroad from around 1955 through 2002, when she was taken out of service for boiler work.

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is a historic narrow gauge railway with two operating steam train locomotives located near Fish Camp, California, in the Sierra National Forest near the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park...

 owns and operates two former West Side Lumber Company Shays, Nos. 10 and 15, on its line just south of Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a United States National Park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, United States. The park covers an area of and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain...


The Canada Science and Technology Museum
Canada Science and Technology Museum
The Canada Science and Technology Museum is located in Ottawa, Ontario, on St. Laurent Boulevard, to the south of the Queensway .-Mission:...

 owns one operational engine constructed from two locomotives, numbered engines 3 and 4 built for the Merrill & Ring Lumber Co., Ltd and used in their forestry operations at Theodosia Arm on the British Columbia mainland. This Shay is operated by volunteers of the Bytown Railway Society.

The Graham County 3-truck shay #1925 survives at the North Carolina Transportation Museum
North Carolina Transportation Museum
The North Carolina Transportation Museum is a transport museum in Spencer, North Carolina.The museum is largely devoted to the state's railroad history, however its collection also includes exhibits of automobiles and aircraft....

 in Spencer, NC. It ran at the museum 1997-2005 when the engine needed more boiler work. Since then it has been stored in the roundhouse as a static exhibit, and the universal joints have been removed.

Sn-3345, a class C Shay built for New Mexico Lumber Co. in 1929, survives at the Hesston Steam Museum in Hesston, Indiana
Hesston, Indiana
Hesston is an unincorporated community in Galena Township, LaPorte County, Indiana.The is located just west of Hesston....

. This was the last narrow gauge Shay built. It was acquired by the LaPorte County Historical Steam Society and moved to the Hesston Steam Museum, where it was damaged in an engine house fire in 1985. It was rebuilt and resumed operation in 2006.
West Side Lumber #9 (a Class C Shay) was purchased by the Midwest Central Railroad
Midwest Central Railroad
The Midwest Central Railroad is a narrow gauge heritage railroad operating on the grounds of the Midwest Old Thresher's Reunion in Mount Pleasant, Iowa....

 in 1966, and with a minor refurbishment in the mid '90s, continues to operate at their southeastern Iowa location. The locomotive is used during the MCRR's three operating sessions (the Midwest Old Threshers' Reunion, Midwest Haunted Rails, and the North Pole Express). In January, 2011, the MCRR and the Georgetown Loop
Georgetown Loop
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a narrow gauge heritage railroad located in the Rocky Mountains in Clear Creek County, Colorado, in the United States....

 Railway entered into a 7 to 10 year agreement where the 9 will be refurbished by and reside at the GLRR

Cadillac, Michigan also features a Shay Locomotive in a downtown park, in homage to the city's importance in the locomotive's manufacture.

The last Shay, sn-3354 built in 1945, still operates on the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a State Park located in Cass, Pocahontas County, West Virginia.It consists of the Cass Scenic Railroad, an long heritage railroad that is owned by the state of West Virginia...

. One of the largest Shays built, this 150 ton Class C locomotive was in service only five years when it was retired and placed in the B&O Railroad Museum
B&O Railroad Museum
The B&O Railroad Museum is a museum exhibiting historic railroad equipment in Baltimore, Maryland, originally named the Baltimore & Ohio Transportation Museum when it opened on July 4, 1953. It has been called one of the most significant collections of railroad treasures in the world and has the...

. In 1981 it was removed from static display, in exchange for a smaller Shay and a Porter locomotive
H. K. Porter, Inc
H. K. Porter, Inc. manufactured light-duty railroad locomotives in the USA, starting in 1866. The company became the largest producer of industrial locomotives, and built almost eight thousand of them...

, and placed in service on the Cass Scenic Railroad. It has now served in tourist and enthusiast service for a longer period than it did for its original owners. It is still in near-new condition. The second largest Shay ever built was Western Maryland
Western Maryland Railway
The Western Maryland Railway was an American Class I railroad which operated in Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It was primarily a coal hauling and freight railroad, with a small passenger train operation. The WM became part of the Chessie System in 1973 and ceased operating its lines...

 No. 6, nicknamed "Big 6." Big 6 is Currently in active service at the Cass Scenic Railroad in Cass, WV and is the largest Shay currently in existence. Cass Scenic Railroad is also the home of the largest collection of operational geared steam locomotives in the world


  • Michael Koch The Shay Locomotive: Titan of the Timber World Press; Limited ed edition (1971) ASIN B0006WIHIE
  • Shay Locomotive Works Shay Geared Locomotives and Repair Parts Catalogue Periscope Film LLC (January 26, 2010) ISBN 9781935327929
  • Philip V. Bagdon Shay Logging Locomotive at Cass, West Virginia, 1901-1960 TLC Publishing (December 21, 2001) ISBN 9781883089658
  • The Lima Locomotive & Machine Company Shay Patent and Direct Locomotives: Logging Cars, Car Wheels, Axles, Railroad and Machinery Castings Periscope Film LLC (March 24, 2010) ISBN 9781935700111

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.