The Nonpareil – List of Citations


Construction of the 0-6-0 Nonpareil  locomotive by the Beaver Meadow R.R. & Coal Company shops in Beaver Meadows Township in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania has often been cited as a landmark feat in the early development of steam locomotives. Unfortunately, no drawings of the engine survive, nor do any records of its construction details.


The engine was built in 1837-38 under the direction of Hopkin Thomas, Master Mechanic of the fledgling Beaver Meadow R. R. (In 1852, the Beaver Meadow R.R. was acquired by the Lehigh Valley Railroad.)  Its 0-6-0 configuration and greater power were chosen for the purpose of hauling trains of empty coal cars on the lengthy return trip from the Parryville to Penn Haven and then  up the inclines to the planes at Weatherly above the Lehigh River Valley. All of the engine weight was supported by the drivers to maximize traction. Six wheels were used for the purpose of distributing the engine weight over a greater length of track than would be achieved by the more common 0-4-0 configuration.


The major engineering challenge to be overcome in an 0-6-0 configuration would be the design of a suspension system that would allow each driver to develop traction with the rail. We know that Thomas was a principal engineer at Garrett & Eastwick (later Eastwick & Harrison) where suspension system improvements, necessary to negotiate the rough railways of the early railroad roadbeds was of prime concern.


Another engineering achievement were features of the engines firebox , furnace grates and exhaust stack which would make practical the use of anthracite coal in locomotives. Indeed, all of the locomotives developed by Garrett & Eastwick for the Beaver Meadow R.R. had the requirement for burning “hard” coal. Hopkin would have been intimately familiar with this technology. In fact, the Beaver Meadow R.R. routinely utilized anthracite fuel for more than 25 years before most of the major railroads completed the switchover to that fuel.


As of this date, no records of the utilization of the Nonpareil  have been uncovered, nor details of its design. It was, however, considered to be a first-of-its-kind. Below are citations found in the literature.


Franz Anton Ritter von Gerstner in his 1842-43 publication on  Early American Railroads gives specific information on the driving wheel and cylinder sizes.


John White in The American Locomotive refers to the Nonpareil  as the first 0-6-0 constructed in America.


Robert Archer in his treatise on the Lehigh Valley Railroad makes note of the “homemade” locomotives of the LVRR.


Earl Heydinger in his exhaustive compendium of Anthracite Railroads gives the rated power of the Nonpareil as 26 HP.


M. S. Henry, in his 1860 history, gives the date of construction as 1838 – 1839.


Matthews & Hungerford in their 1884 history state that the Nonpareil was a ten-wheeled locomotive. There are other instances of this description in the histories. Such a configuration would have been a 4-6-0. The preponderance of the citations would indicate that it would have been an 0-6-0.


Fred Brenckman in his 1913 History of Carbon County also refers to the Nonpareil as a ten-wheeled locomotive. 


Return to the Hopkin Thomas, Master Mechanic Page


About The Hopkin Thomas Project


Rev. June 2010.