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Geared Steam Locomotives

MTH Shay

This is the MTH scale model of a Shay geared locomotive.  The Shay-type steamer was designed by Ephraim Shay for use in logging.   For normal locomotives, a grade of 2% is very severe; in the mountains of West Virginia, where logging was taking place, grades of up to 8% were common.  The Shay-type is geared -- three vertical pistons drive a crankshaft that is connected to universal joints that in turn are connected to gears that drive the wheels (these have to be seen in operation to be believed!).  The number of powered trucks varied from 2 to 4; even the trucks on the tender were powered.  Though these locomotives travelled slowly, they could make the grade!  As you can see in the photo, the drive train extends under the tender.  While slow, a Shay locomotive was inexorable.  The model is of a 4 truck Shay; in the prototype photos below, 2 and 3 truck Shays are shown.

3 Truck Shay

3 truck Shay

2 truck Shay

3 truck shay

3-truck shay

3 truck shay

Shay #1 is preserved at the Railroad Museum of PA.

Shay #1

Shay #1

Not all geared steam locomotives were of the Shay design.  The one shown below is the MTH model of a Climax geared locomotive, which used a set of  pistons set at a diagonal to the main drive train.  You will note, when comparing it with the prototype photo that follows, that it's a pretty good model of the real thing!

Here's a close-up of the diagonally offset piston and valve-gear.

Here are a few photos of the prototype.

Climax geared locomotive

This climax is preserved at the Railroad Museum of PA.


Yet another type of geared locomotive is the Heisler, which has the piston protruding from the side of the locomotive.  This one is also preserved at the museum in PA.


In June of 2003, MTH brought out a second model of the Shay, this one decorated for the C&O.  Here are some photos.

Here's a photo taken with my new camera; click on the photo to see it full-sized.

Last updated: 24 Feb 2023

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