GOWAN & MARX, 1839


From Angus Sinclair

In 1839, Eastwick & Harrison, as the firm was now called, received an order from the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad for a big locomotive to weigh all of eleven tons, not less than nine tons  to be on the four drivers, and it was specified that the engine must burn  anthracite coal in a horizontal boiler. The engine built upon this order was known as the "Gowan & Marx" which became one of the most famous locomotives ever built.


The engine was of the eight wheel type, and in order to properly distribute the weight, the rear axle was placed under the firebox, just as it is now placed under six and eight coupled engines. The boiler had a Bury dome firebox 5 feet diameter. Two-inch tubes  9 feet long nearly filled the cylindrical part of the  boiler. 


The cylinders were 12-1/2 x18 inches, and the driving wheels were 42 inches diameter. A blower for stimulating the fire was first used on this engine, and it was the first to be equipped with Harrison's equalizers.


When put in service the "Gowan & Marx" developed such extraordinary tractive power that the whole railroad would become interested and many individuals were incredulous. On one of its first trips in February, 1840, it hauled from Reading to Philadelphia a train of 104 4-wheel loaded cars, at an average speed of 9.82 miles per hour. The road had a descending gradient of nearly 4 feet per mile, 27 miles level, 9 miles of it in one place, and only one ascending grade, 26.4 per mile for 2,100 feet. This train weighed 423 tons, and, including, the weight of engine and tender, equaled forty times the weight of the engine.


From John H. White

An extensive chapter in White’s treatise on Early American Locomotives may be found here.


From The American Railroad Journal.

A report on the details of the performance of the Gowan & Marx can be found here.


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Rev. April 2010