Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Sometimes an artifact can convey tremendous information simply by its presence. That is certainly the case with Pennsylvania Railroad Locomotive No. 460, housed at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Lancaster County. Even without a label to read or any other type of interpretation to take in, a visitor will instantly comprehend the power the 243,000-pound steam locomotive is capable of generating and appreciate the countless hours of effort that were devoted to its design, engineering, construction and maintenance. What may not be apparent on first viewing, however, are the 460’s legendary exploits that saved it from the scrapyard and earned it a listing in the National Register of Historic Places as well as a multiyear cosmetic restoration.


The newly restored front of PRR No. 460. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania/Photo by Craig A. Benner

The newly restored front of PRR No. 460. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania/Photo by Craig A. Benner



To set the stage for the 460, we must go back to the beginning of the last century, a time of tremendous economic and social change throughout the world. The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) was among the largest and most powerful corporations in existence, employing approximately 250,000 workers across a vast network of rail lines, stations and maintenance facilities that stretched throughout the Northeast and into the central part of the nation. Formed in 1846, PRR touched nearly every life in the commonwealth and affected travel and commerce throughout the nation. In its constant quest for efficiency and profit, PRR routinely upgraded its infrastructure and introduced new and improved rolling stock that employed advanced technology.

By about 1910 steel was replacing wood as the material of choice for passenger cars and other rolling stock The new cars were stronger and more durable but also heavier. Many East Coast rail lines, particularly PRR, employed a wide variety of steam power, but the staple locomotive for passenger service was an Atlantic model with a 4-4-2 configuration, the numbers designating the wheel or axle setup. Introduced for service in the 1880s the Atlantic class had four lead wheels, four powered and coupled driving wheels, and two trailing wheels. It was a tried-and-true locomotive, but its somewhat dated design left it struggling with the heavier loads. Passenger service often needed to be double-headed, two locomotives working together in tandem, to pull a single consist, all the rolling stock in a train. Such an arrangement was ineffective and costly. The obvious solutions were to either pull fewer passenger cars in a consist or move up to a Pacific model locomotive, which employed two additional powered and coupled driving wheels, a 4-6-2, and was seen as the logical successor to the aging Atlantic class. For PRR, neither choice was particularly appealing. Both were viewed as compromises: One resulted in fewer paying passengers per consist and the other involved an ongoing extra cost over time because the bigger and heavier Pacifics were more expensive to purchase and maintain.

The solution was found by PRR’s General Superintendent of Motive Power Alfred W Gibbs (1856-1922) and his design team. Gibbs saw untapped potential in the existing Atlantic. In a move seen as a step backwards by many in the industry, he married an updated version of the existing 4-4-2 Atlantic chassis with a larger, free-steaming boiler, similar to that found on the newer Pacifics. The prototype was scientifically developed from the start and employed numerous mechanical upgrades, including a superheater for additional power. The design was extremely successful. It was the first locomotive to produce over 1,000 horsepower per drive axle. In testing, it proved both capable and versatile. Running over 40 miles per hour, it equaled or exceeded the speed and pulling power of the larger, seemingly more modern Pacifics. The new Atlantic class locomotive was classified as an E6. Happy with the design, PRR produced 80 between 1910 and 1914. No. 460 was the last E6 to roll out of PRR’s Juniata Shops.


The Lindbergh Special

From their introduction through the early 1920s, the E6s, including No. 460, were used extensively on the passenger corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York City. Light and fast, they excelled at this job, as well as when placed in service for charters and other duties that required sustained speed. On June 11, 1927, No. 460 was given a very special assignment, one that was extremely time-sensitive and would pit its proven technology against one of the age’s current marvels, the airplane.

On that day in Washington, D.C., American aviator and new international hero Charles Lindbergh (1902-74) was scheduled to receive a host of honors from President Calvin Coolidge. On May 20, he had left Roosevelt Field on Long Island in his aircraft the Spirit of St. Louis, bound for Paris, France. In completing this flight of 33 hours and 8 minutes, the 25-year-old U.S. Air Mail captain became the first person to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean by plane. He was pursuing the Orteig Prize of $25,000, offered to the first person to cover the New York-to-Paris route in either direction. Six aviators had previously lost their lives in this endeavor. When Lindbergh touched down in Paris on May 21, he was greeted by an estimated crowd of 150,000 people who immediately embraced the new international celebrity. Lindbergh had planned to remain in Europe, but his newfound fame altered events. He was called home by President Coolidge and traveled on a United States Navy cruiser back across the Atlantic Ocean and to the capital.


The Lindbergh Special and its crew at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

The Lindbergh Special and its crew at Union Station in Washington, D.C. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

In the 1920s, newsreels screened in movie theaters before the feature presentation were the equivalent of today’s breaking news reports on television and the Internet. When Lindbergh appeared in Washington to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross and a promotion to colonel, the nation’s news media was on hand to film the celebration. Each rival company wanted to be the first to debut this footage, especially in the prime market area of New York City. Most of the major press and film agencies had hired planes to deliver their raw celluloid to New York. One exception was International News Reel, which chose the Pennsylvania Railroad for the task.

The distance between the two cities is approximately 225 miles. In a pure race, with no intangibles, the airplane would seem to be the obvious winner. That was as true in 1927 as it is in 2016; however, this was more than just a contest of speed and PRR had a few tricks up its sleeve. It had pulled this off before, most notably in March 1925 with footage of Coolidge’s inauguration. A typical passenger train of this era was not a streamlined, high-speed affair, but when the railroad needed something or someone moved in a hurry it ran a high-speed special. PRR was particularly good at this and it pulled out all the stops for Lindbergh.

On the morning of the ceremony, PRR Locomotive No. 460 sat ready and waiting on Track 8 of Washington’s Union Station. The E6 Atlantic, listed as “Extra 460 East” on the dispatcher’s train sheet, didn’t look particularly important, but looks can be deceiving. The entire consist was the locomotive, a tender, a baggage-express car and a coach. Its polished and shiny exterior hinted at recent service from PRR’s Wilmington Shops and it was surrounded by a small army of railroad workers and officials. The Extra was manned by a hand-picked, all-star crew with reserve manpower strategically stationed along the route. PRR alerted counties in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to apprise them of the train’s mission and obtain authority to exceed the limits in their reduced speed zones. Dispatchers were also cautioned to keep freight traffic out of the way. The rail lines were open and clear. No. 460’s engineer had the order to run when ready and to run fast.

International’s photographers arrived at Union Station by car. They sprinted through the lobby and waiting room and across the concourse, making their way directly to the platform with heavy metal film canisters in their hands. The film was hoisted into the baggage express car and the 460 left the station at 12:14 p.m. with a locomotive’s equivalent of a drag-strip start. The Extra was running at 95 miles per hour as soon as conditions allowed.

A steam-powered locomotive needs coal and water and not always in that order. Long trips required multiple stops for both commodities. The Extra needed water replenishment along the way and planned to fill its tender when passing over track pans via an air-operated water scoop underneath. This worked well on regular routes, but the fast-moving 460 damaged its scoop during the operation and failed to take on the required volume of water. This incident necessitated an unscheduled stop to repair the scoop, followed by a water fill at West Yard near Wilmington, Delaware. This was the only misfortune to befall the Extra during its extended sprint. The train slowed for tunnels and congested urban crossings, but otherwise it was clear sailing.


The tender of the 460 is filled with coal.

The tender of the 460 is filled with coal. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

The crew members of sidetracked freights waved their caps and cheered their colleagues on as the Extra sped toward New York at a pace never matched by another steam-powered train in a dense metropolitan area. Along the route, the 460 was not slowed or stopped by any cautions or signals. As a testament to the forethought behind this special run, no other passenger trains were delayed or negatively impacted. Extra 460 East arrived at Manhattan Transfer at 3:09 p.m. The 216 miles from Washington were covered in 2 hours and 50 minutes, a new record for the route. The average speed was 74 miles per hour with a top recorded speed of nearly 115 miles per hour in Delaware. Amazingly, the 460’s throttle was never wide open.

At one point during the run, a plane commissioned by a rival film company emerged from the sky overhead and temporarily paced the train at about 85 miles per hour. The pilot dipped the aircraft’s wings in salute before climbing out of sight. What that pilot and every rival film executive probably didn’t know was that International and PRR had stacked the deck against them. One or more of the airplanes might edge the Extra into New York City, but the real contest was already decided, because PRR had leased the nondescript baggage-express car behind the 460 to International for conversion into a full-service mobile film-development studio. While the crew made time on the tracks, International employees were in their own race to expose, develop, edit and splice the new footage into 10 complete films ready for immediate distribution. As airplane-delivered raw footage began to arrive in New York, the Extra went through its last stage. The developed newsreels were transferred from the steam-powered train to a PRR electric-powered locomotive for the final jaunt through the tunnel, under the Hudson and into Pennsylvania Station. Within 15 minutes of arrival, Charles Lindbergh was on the screens of the movie houses of New York, an hour or more before the closest competition. It would seem fitting that the news of Lindbergh’s ground-breaking transatlantic air flight should have been delivered to the world by the same new, emerging form of transportation – the airplane. In a minor irony of the era, however, the proven and somewhat dated steam-powered train carried the day. The 460 was known from that time forward as the “Lindbergh Engine.”

On March 4, 1925, PRR and International had previously delivered footage of President Coolidge’s inauguration to New York City by processing the film in one of the train’s cars. This strategy was repeated with the Lindbergh footage.

On March 4, 1925, PRR and International had previously delivered footage of President Coolidge’s inauguration to New York City by processing the film in one of the train’s cars. This strategy was repeated with the Lindbergh footage. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Following its historic run, the 460 continued in service as a regular locomotive on PRR’s East Coast lines. Because of its speed, the E6 was a useful locomotive throughout its career. Ever-changing technology and company needs, however, reduced its role over time. By the 1930s the entire class was used for secondary duties and occasional specials or extras, with newer, larger and more powerful locomotives taking on the main line duties. In 1937 the 460 was loaned to PRR’s subsidiary Long Island Railroad, for which it headed summertime express runs on the Jamaica-Montauk Point main line. During the 1940s and into the early 1950s the locomotive served many different masters, bouncing back and forth among PRR’s New York Division, the Long Island Railroad, and the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. The celebrated locomotive had a final historic run in 1954 when it headed a much-publicized railfan excursion between Newark and Camden, New Jersey. The Lindbergh Engine was specially requested to pull several hundred rail enthusiasts over the line, which included the historic Camden & Amboy Branch, a route covered by America’s original steam engine, the John Bull, some 100 years earlier. PRR No. 460 was retired from active service in October 1955. Diesel-powered locomotives would henceforth power freight and passenger trains in America. Steam locomotives like the 460 were now obsolete. Most have been scrapped; the lucky survivors were employed by tourist railroads or preserved in museums and parks.


Preservation and Restoration

The Pennsylvania Railroad was well aware of its impact on the history of the commonwealth and nation. Much like its modern successor, Norfolk Southern Railway, PRR made a conscious effort to preserve its historic equipment and make it available to the general public through a range of programs. Preserving obsolete steam locomotives and other rolling stock, however, is no small feat. It’s even more challenging for a publicly held corporation with stockholders to satisfy and dividends to pay, especially because the pieces have high scrap value. PRR nevertheless set about its preservation efforts early on; it was a major contributor to the well-attended 1939 New York World’s Fair.

No. 460 was officially removed from PRR’s active equipment roster in 1956. It was then moved to the railroad’s Northumberland facility where it joined a growing group of steam locomotives and historic rolling stock designated for preservation and eventual public display. The locomotive was placed in an unused section of the roundhouse and left to deteriorate. PRR had the foresight to save some of its treasures from being scrapped, but not the resources needed for restoration and long-term preservation.

The 460 in storage at PRR’s Northumberland Roundhouse.

The 460 in storage at PRR’s Northumberland Roundhouse. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania/Photo by Don Wood

By the late 1950s PRR was a financially strapped institution with its most profitable days in the past. In 1968 it merged with its greatest rival, the New York Central, to form the Penn Central Transportation Co., a partnership that lasted only two years before resulting in the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history.

Initially, PRR intended to transfer the bulk of the historic collection to the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. Things changed in 1963 When the Pennsylvania State Legislature passed a bill to create what is now the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, to be administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. After much research and debate, it was decided to build the new museum in Strasburg, adjacent to the Strasburg Rail Road, the oldest continuously operated short line in the United States. Agreements were then formalized to transfer a significant portion of PRR’s historic collection, including No. 460, to the new public museum slated for construction. Complications arose when a group of railfans attempted to persuade PRR to donate No. 460 to a proposed tourist railroad that was planned for construction on Long Island, New York. Their petition was quickly squelched by PRR’s vice president, who told them the company would stick to the original agreement, thus securing the 460’s future in Strasburg.

On October 4, 1969, No. 460 made what was most likely its final over-the-rail journey when it left Northumberland as part of a train of locomotives bound for Strasburg. Accompanying the 460 were several other steam locomotives that comprised the heart of PRR’s historic collection and served as the cornerstone of the Railroad Museum’s initial display. The trip was long and arduous in more ways than one. The locomotive developed an overheated pilot truck journal bearing along the way and had to be removed from the train in Harrisburg, Dauphin County. After repairs, it completed the trip to Strasburg several days later. Other rolling stock made its way to the new museum site piecemeal. The majority of the locomotives came together in the initial move but other rolling stock continued to arrive through 1975, the year the new Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania first opened to the public.

The 460 and its tender, after media blasting to remove heavy corrosion, sits accumulating surface oxidation that helps activate the black rust converter to be applied as the next step in its restoration. Note the signs of previous repairs.

The 460 and its tender, after media blasting to remove heavy corrosion, sits accumulating surface oxidation that helps activate the black rust converter to be applied as the next step in its restoration. Note the signs of previous repairs. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania/Photo by Allan Martin

The collection was stored outside the museum prior to its opening and remained in an exposed location afterward. As a result of Penn Central’s financial difficulties, bankruptcy, restructuring and eventual dissolution, it took until December 1979 before the commonwealth was able to acquire title to the collection. Throughout this 10-year period, the 460 suffered extensive rust damage from its constant exposure to the elements, Ironically, it was at this time that the 460 and the other rolling stock in the collection were listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a designation typically reserved for permanent, immovable structures rather than vehicles.

In 1982 the nonprofit Friends of the Railroad Museum (FRM) was formed, with a mission to support the museum in its many endeavors, including restoration of the collection of rolling stock. With more than 2,500 paid memberships and an annual budget that sometimes nears $1 million, FRM is an active and successful support group. Early efforts saw the replacement of some of the 460’s rusted metal boiler jacketing and structural work on its tender. Over the years, the locomotive has received additional repairs, periodic paint and the removal of the asbestos used to insulate its boiler. In 2008 FRM made a commitment to complete a full cosmetic restoration of the 460 and began raising funds for the project. The engine entered the museum’s Restoration Shop in 2010 for this extensive project, which will return it to its 1950s appearance. Upon completion in mid-2016, the locomotive will be unveiled to the public and then placed on temporary exhibition inside Rolling Stock Hall, where it will await the completion of the museum’s newest capital project, a six-bay roundhouse-style exhibition building scheduled for construction from spring 2016 through fall 2018.

This much-anticipated project will add a new dimension to the Railroad Museum and provide a home for PRR No. 460 and five other steam locomotives from the railroad’s historic collection, bringing this group under roof for the first time in the museum’s 40-year history. The museum’s existing turntable is also being rebuilt to properly service the new exhibition building. The freshly restored 460 will serve as the centerpiece for the exhibition space. As a special touch, the locomotive’s drive wheels will be configured for movement and powered by a motion-activated electric motor. The other five bays will hold No. 7688 (H10 Consolidation Locomotive), No. 1670 (B6sb Switching Locomotive), No. 6755 (M1b Mountain Locomotive), No. 3750 (K4s Pacific Locomotive) and No. 520 (L1 Mikado Locomotive). These five steam locomotives will not be restored prior to being placed in the exhibition space. The sheltering roundhouse will allow the Railroad Museum to stabilize each locomotive while making plans for their proper restoration. Each will require either an individual fundraising effort or a larger centralized campaign to address the entire PRR historic collection. In the meantime, No. 460 will be front and center in this space, a testament to the power of an iconic artifact and a striking preview of what the future holds for the rest of these historic locomotives.


Artist’s conception of the forthcoming roundhouse.

Artist’s conception of the forthcoming roundhouse. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.



Restoration of Pennsylvania Railroad Locomotive No.460

As of December 23, 2015, the Restoration Shop at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has invested 25,921 paid and 6,412 volunteer man-hours on the restoration of PRR No.460.


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The cosmetic restoration of the 460 costs approximately $350,000. All funds were raised from private sources by the Friends of the Railroad Museum. The vast majority of these funds were returned to the local community through purchase of supplies and contracted services.

  • The shop hand-installed 1,425 new hot rivets in repairing the sheet metal of the 460’s tender.
  • The name “J.J. Gority” was found stamped into the crosshead guide of the 460 after the locomotive was sandblasted. Gority had set the timing of the locomotive at some point in its service life and stamped his name as the mechanic doing the work, a traditional practice of PRR.
  • Many repaired cracks were found in the locomotive’s frame. The quality of the repairs deteriorated dramatically over time. It is possible that the 460 was used to train apprentice welders as it neared the end of its service life
  • A leaking super heater unit was discovered during the restoration. It had suffered a major failure and was cut, pinched and welded closed at the end. This locomotive would not have operated at peak efficiency at the end of its career.
  • The inside of the boiler was found to be in good condition with only a light coating of surface rust. It was cleaned and resealed. If kept dry, no internal corrosion will occur.
  • No.460 is the first complete locomotive restoration undertaken by the shop. It was viewed as the test case for subsequent projects. New tools were acquired to cut and shape the metal boiler jacketing, a task formerly sent to an outside contractor. Cardboard templates were used to insure proper fit.
  • The appearance of a locomotive’s original rivets showed surface pitting from a lifetime of outside storage. The shop found a way to duplicate this appearance on the new rivets installed for the restoration.
  • Approximately 20 gallons of paint were used to refinish the 460’s exterior. In addition, numerous cases of automotive spray paint and primer were consumed for detail work over the body and exterior surfaces.


Preserving Pennsylvania’s Railroad Past

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania needed a restoration shop as soon as the first piece of equipment arrived. Metal rusts and wood rots, but locomotive and rolling stock come with what museum professionals call “inherent vice.” Each piece has its own individual set of built-in problems.


Volunteer Bill Cluley, machinist Steve Meola, curator Allan Martin and volunteer Wayne Laepple study the blueprint of the locomotive backhead in the Railroad Museum’s Restoration Shop.

Volunteer Bill Cluley, machinist Steve Meola, curator Allan Martin and volunteer Wayne Laepple study the blueprint of the locomotive backhead in the Railroad Museum’s Restoration Shop. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania/Photo by Craig A. Benner

Initially, the museum performed its own basic restoration work – scraping, metal and wood stabilization, and basic painting – outside in the yard. Staff members and volunteers worked hand-in-hand on select projects. Bigger ventures were farmed out to other organizations, such as the neighboring Strasburg Rail Road, which operates its own maintenance and restoration shops. Construction of the museum’s own Restoration Shop began in January 1998. The first project entered the facility in early 1999. Planning and fundraising for this venture took about 10 years.

Since opening, the Restoration Shop has completed major work on 11 pieces, including PRR No.460. The staff currently consists of two commonwealth employees, Curator and Restoration Shop Manager Allan Martin and Machinist Steve Meola. Their efforts are amplified by numerous volunteers who join them every day except Sunday, when the shop is closed. Projects are meticulously conducted under the guidelines set forth by the secretary of the interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation. The shop is open daily over the noon hour for regular public tours.

For information, visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania website or call 717-687-8628.


Jeffrey Bliemeister joined PHMC in 2012 and is director of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. He has an MA in museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program.