A Three-Truck Shay at the Colorado Railroad Museum. These geared locomotives came in a wide range of sizes, the smaller versions having only two powered trucks. Like Climaxes and Heislers, these locomotives could navigate narrow curves and pull heavy loads up sharp inclines, but to do so they chugged along at only five or seven miles an hour. Photographs and text by George P. Landow.

A Three-Truck Shaw in the Collection of the Railroad museum of Pennsylvania.

Like Climaxes, Shays had three classes labelled A, B, and C, but whereas Climax assigned locomotives to a particular class solely according to weight, manufacturers of Shays did so according to truck and cylinder arrangement: a Class A Shay, some of which were tiny, had two powered trucks and two cylinders, the B had the same wheel arrangement but three cylinders, and the C, such as we have here, had both three cylinders and three trucks, the additional one appearing beneath an added tender that others did not have. Shays, which have a following among railfans and modellers far out of proportion to the number built, had about the strangest appearance any modern locomotive: because the cylinders were placed on the engineer's side of the machine, the boiler was off-center, creating an odd assymetrical effect.

Left to right: (a) The Shay's characteristic gears. (b) The Shay's cylinders. [Click on these images for larger pictures.]


Labbe, John T., and Vernon Goe. Railroads in the Woods. Berkeley, California: Howell-North, 1961, p. 110.

Koch, Michael. Steam and Thunder in the Timber: Saga of the Forest Railroads. Denver: World Press, 1959.

Last modified 21 July 2015