In 1914 the Erie Railroad accepted delivery of a gigantic Baldwin-built 2-8-8-8-2 Triplex steamer. The P1-class tipped the scales at 853,050 pounds, and the third set of eight drivers, placed under the tender, meant that 89 percent of that weight was available for adhesion. When the Erie saw plans for the Triplex, they thought it represented the perfect solution to their primary operating problem: hauling heavy freight over Susquehanna Hill, a route where a short, steep grade significantly reduced the capacity of most road steamers. The Triplex eliminated the need for additional pushers to help a load top the hill. The engine's articulation also meant that of the total driving wheelbase of 71' 6", only 16' 6" was rigid - ideal for the winding track over Susquehanna Hill. Best of all, because it distributed its weight over such a large number of wheels, it combined high tractive effort with moderate axle loads, which meant it ran well on reasonably light track. It was so successful on the Erie's tricky Susquehanna route that the railroad ordered two more Triplexes in 1916. The difficulty of maintaining full steam pressure combined with the cost of maintenance on what was essentially three engines in one led to the Triplex's retirement in 1927.
This extraordinary O Gauge die-cast locomotive returns to the MTH lineup in 2003 in Virginian livery. The Virginian Railroad actually utilized a 2-8-8-8-4 version of the Triplex, however this beautifully detailed Premier model can still be the king of any working freight line.
Did You Know? The Triplex was engineered to haul 640 fifty-ton cars in a train almost five miles long, but because the draft gears of the early twentieth century could not have handled such a load, the 2-8-8-8-2 was never put to a full test.