ASME-Landmark:Geared Locomotives of Heisler, Shay, Climax


Roaring Camp Railroad—a narrow gauge tourist railroad that runs up Bear Mountain from Felton, California—is home to three of the oldest and most authentically preserved narrow gauge steam engines still providing regular passenger service in the United States.

All three are representative of geared locomotives. The Shay locomotive, designed in 1872 and patented in 1881, and its two variants—the Climax and the Heisler—employ small high-speed steam engines geared down to axles on four-wheel trucks. They were suited to slow and heavy hauling with high-tractive effort on the rough and temporary tracks of the lumber and mineral industries. They hauled heavy loads through difficult terrain from about 1890 to 1960 until replaced by highway trucks. Roaring Camp's "Dixiana"—a two-truck, 42-ton Shay locomotive, originally owned by Alaculsy Lumber Company—served on six shortline railroads in the Smoky Mountains before moving west. It built in 1912 and was named for a narrow-gauge mining railroad out of Dixiana, Virginia.

The Heisler locomotive was built by Stearns Manufacturing Company (Erie, Pa.) in 1899. It is a 37-ton locomotive regarded as powerful for its weight, economical on fuel, and easy to maintain. Heislers often burned sawdust waste from sawmills. The "Tuolumne," Roaring Camp's Heisler Engine No. 2, is the oldest Heisler type operating, having worked for the Hetch Hetchy & Yosemite Valley Railway during the Gold Rush days and then at the West Side Flume and Lumber Company in Tuolumne, Calif. It was originally called the Thomas S. Bullock.

Roaring Camp's two-truck Climax locomotive was last of its type built by Climax Manufacturing Company in 1928. It was purchased from the Carroll Peak and Western Railroad. See ASME website for more information