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Steam locomotive profile: 2-6-0 Mogul

Canadian National 2-6-0 Mogul no. 86
Canadian National kept its fleet of Moguls in service the longest, until 1959. No. 86 was built in 1910 by the Canadian Locomotive Co. as Grand Trunk No. 1006, and renumbered twice, before it was photographed leading a mixed train through Ontario in July 1957.
Herbert Harwood, Jr.
The 2-6-0 was an outgrowth of the 0-6-0 (in its first incarnation as a road engine in the 1840s and 50s). The 0-6-0 was too rigid for the undulating track of the period, so in the early 1860s, a radial lead truck was added to the locomotive, creating a 2-6-0. (Earlier model 2-6-0s appeared in 1852, but the lead wheels were attached to the rigid locomotive frame and did not pivot on their own truck. Only a few were built.)

The swiveling lead truck was self-centering, and it was equalized in such a way that, together with the driving wheels, a three-point suspension system was created. This allowed the locomotive to traverse uneven track.

A 2-6-0 had 50 percent more adhesion than a 4-4-0, and cost less than a 4-6-0. Thus it became a popular freight engine on many railroads. It acquired the name Mogul, presumably because it could produce more power than a 4-4-0, the standard locomotive of the day. The Central Railroad of New Jersey had named a 2-6-0 it received in 1866, Mogul.

Over 11,000 Moguls were built. However, because its development peaked in the late 1800s, it never really became a modern locomotive. Only the last ones built benefited from technological innovations such as superheating, piston valves, etc. Furthermore, the Mogul was always overshadowed by the 2-8-0, which arrived just a few years later in 1866. With its greater adhesion, the 2-8-0 went on to become America's favored freight locomotive by 1900.

It was common practice in steam days to design and build locomotives that could perform very specific tasks. The Mogul filled the role of a freight engine that could handle modestly sized trains in level territory.

Prior to the turn of the century, Moguls could be found on the main lines and branches of railroads as diverse as Southern Pacific, Pennsylvania, Illinois Central, Great Northern, Boston & Maine, and Canadian National.

Moguls were light of foot, which allowed them to operate on tracks with light rail and minimal ballast, making them popular with short lines. And by and large, it was the short line railroads that ordered 2-6-0s after the turn of the century, operating them into the diesel era.

Ironically, it was the 2-6-0s owned by Class 1s that were most visible as dieselization advanced. Boston & Maine's turn-of-the-century Moguls from Alco wound up in commuter service and several survived until 1955 - almost the very end of B&M steam - hauling open platform wooden coaches in the Boston suburbs. Four Wabash 2-6-0s from 1899 lasted until 1956, due to bridge weight restrictions on an Iowa branch line. They were the last steam engines on the railroad.

Canadian National - which owned a large fleet of Moguls - operated several on branch lines in Ontario until 1958. They were the last 2-6-0s to operate in regular service.

Perhaps the most amazing fleet was the 440 engines amassed by the Southern Pacific, including the largest of the type built. They were used both on branches and on main-line local freights. In the San Joaquin Valley, they earned the nickname "Valley Malley" because of their ability to haul long trains across the flat central California terrain. The last 2-6-0s built were assembled by Southern Pacific at its Houston Shops in 1929.

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