Heisler Geared Steam Locomotives

Geared Steam Locomotive Works ©

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photo by  DJ Van Scoyk

3tk-heis.gif (9708 bytes)

Animated Heislers courtesy of Rick Henderson's   PC-Rails





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Converted to IC


The Heisler consisted of 2 steam cylinders positioned in a "V"  under the boiler about 3/4th the way back from the front .  In the photo above, the left side cylinder can be seen below the brass bell. The piston rods came out of the cylinders and attached to a "crank shaft" located under the center of the boiler.  Attached to either end of the crank shaft were drive shafts.  The drive shafts were located below the center line of the engine.   On the two truck models, the drive shaft attached to a gear box  located on each truck's wheel set that was located furthest from the center of the engine frame.  Power was then supplied to the other wheel set on the truck with an outboard  side rod connecting two wheel sets together.  This side rod is readily visible in the picture above.  

In terms of speed, it was the fastest of the 3 most prevalent geared steam locomotives.  It also had the fewest numbers manufactured of these type of locomotives.


The engines were manufactured with two cylinders.
Models with either two or three truck sets were manufactured.  The three truck models were used on those engines that required more power and more fuel.   The third truck was powered and carried a tender (similar to those on "rod" engines) to carry additional fuel and water.
In contrast to the alphabet letter codes utilized on the Shay and Climax locomotives, the Heisler Company utilized a 3 number coding scheme to differentiate each of its model types.  Like the Shay, however, each  model type was also assigned a code name.     A total of eleven model sizes were available.
The number coding system consisting of three numbers separated by a dash.  The first  number was the  weight of the locomotive in tons when   it was "in average working order".  A dash was applied to the sequence. Then the second number denoting the quantity of  driving wheels or "drivers" the locomotive had.  This was followed by a dash and the final number which represented the driving wheel diameter in inches.   The code words (Argil, Arian, ...) associated with the number codes were "cable codes".  These typically shorter (in length) words  allowed for easier and cheaper telegraph or wire cable communication.   They  were a simple way to break numbers and letters down into words that were easier to work with by all involved.   
To illustrate the code application,  the model coded Ascend had a number code of 65-8-40, meaning it weighed 65 tons in normal working order, it had 8 drivers, and those drivers were 40" in diameter.
Class 24-8-30 28-8-30   32-8-30 36-8-33 42-8-33 50-8-36 55-8-38 65-8-40 70-12-36 80-12-38 90-12-40
Code Argil Arian Arithmetic Armill Arouse Arsenal Artful Ascend Ascribe



The above table is from the 1923 Heisler marketing catalog.  At that time, only 11 models or classifications were being built.  Over the company's history, many additional models ranging from a 14 ton unit built in the late 1890's to a three truck model weighing close to 95 tons were also produced.  The additional models were dropped from their offering due to lack of customer popularity. 


1891 ......................     - Dunkirk Engineering Company, - Dunkirk, New York  
August 1894 - 1904   - Stearns Manufacturing Company  - Erie, Pennsylvania  
1907 - 1941 ..........     - Heisler Locomotive Works - Erie, Pennsylvania

The first locomotive of the Charles Heisler design was built in 1891 by the Dunkirk Engineering Company for F. A. Addington.   At the time,   Charles was an engineer and personal assistant to Dunkirk's president, Edward Nichols.  Heisler's design departed in several ways from the typical Dunkirk / Gilbert Class "B" being built at the time.   Two changes of note were the placing of the cylinders under the boiler outside the crew cab and the use of side-rods on the wheels.  For some unknown reason, Dunkirk never adopted the design and Heisler later left the company before it's closure.      

Heisler Locomotive Works also manufactured a single diesel-electric locomotive in its twilight years utilizing their trade-mark side-rods on the outside of each truck's wheelsets. 

As of 1998, the buildings composing the former factory complex were still standing.

Geographic Use:

Although some engines were exported, the vast majority were used from coast to coast in the United States.


Approximately 625 were manufactured.

When Manufactured:

August 1894 - 1941 
The first locomotive of the Heisler design was built in 1891 by the Dunkirk Engineering Company.  Frequent and dedicated production begin in 1894 when Heisler's design was adopted by the Stearns Manufacturing Company.  It is thought,   Stearns discontinued the locomotive's manufacture in 1904 because of lack of profitability and its desire to focus on other more important endeavors.   After the "panic of 1907", the locomotive manufacturing works were reorganized into a new company, the Heisler Locomotive Works.  This company continued the design until 1941.              


Over the company's history,   well in excess of 11 model sizes were manufactured  ranging from  14 - 95 Tons  with from   2 - 3 Trucks - See Classification         


Wood, coal, and oil were the predominate fuels used.

Invented by:

Patented by Charles L. Heisler of Wapakoneta, Ohio, in 1892.


Jeff Saxton - Missouri, USA

The Willamette Locomotive

"Why you can haul at least 30% more per ton of locomotive with the modern Heisler" - 1923 marketing catalog

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