Above, No. 153 at the museum in December 2010. Photo courtesy
No. 153 pulled President Calvin Coolidge's train to Miami when he was traveling to Havana, Cuba to give the opening address at the 6th Pan American Conference in January 1928.
During the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, No. 153 pulled the last train out of the Florida Keys. It then took the “first look” train that assisted the rescue effort out of Marathon, Florida. As a result, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 21, 1985.
The 1935 hurricane was one of the most intense to make landfall in the United States in recorded history. A storm surge of approximately 18 to 20 feet, winds reaching 200 mph, and flying debris killed more than 400 people, including 259 World War I veterans employed on highway construction and federal relief work. More than half the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway was destroyed. The line was never rebuilt.
Another view of No. 153 at the museum in December 2010. Photo courtesy
No. 153 was built in 1922 at the American Locomotive Company’s Schenectady, NY works. It was one of 17 “Light Pacific” type locomotives delivered to the Florida East Coast between 1920 and 1922 (Nos. 141-157), bringing the total roster to 87.
A “Pacific” type locomotive has a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement. The designation of “light” and “heavy” locomotives was formalised by the United States Railroad Administration during the final years of WWI. The USRA was formed in March 1918 to establish federal control over the railroad industry and ensure efficient operation during the war emergency. Terminals, facilities and shops were shared, uniform passenger ticketing was introduced, and competing services on different railroads were cut back. Standard locomotive and railroad car designs were instituted, and 1,856 steam locomotives and over 100,000 railroad cars were built to these designs before the USRA was wound down in 1920.
The USRA defined “light” and “heavy” in terms of railroad track's ability to withstand weight. Excessive axle weight could damage rails, loosen fastenings, and cause damage to the locomotive, and the USRA deemed a maximum of 54,000 pounds per driver axle as a “light” locomotive. Anything over that was designated “heavy.”
No. 153 fired up and getting ready to haul a weekend excursion at the Miami
Naval Station a few months after arriving at the museum.
Photo by James G. La Vake, Trains Magazine, vol 12, 1957.
No. 153 was in service on the Florida East Coast Railroad until 1938, hauling passenger and freight trains. In 1938, shortly before the FEC took delivery of its first diesel-electric locomotive, it was sold to the United States Sugar Corporation, where it was used to haul train loads of sugarcane from the company's fields to its mill in Clewiston, FL.
In February 1957, the engine was donated to the University of Miami. Dr. Jay F. W. Pearson, President of the University, accepted it at a ceremony held on the airship-landing pad of the old Naval Air Station, Richmond, which at that time was the University's South Campus. Our museum was founded that same year by a group associated with the University, the Miami Railroad Historical Society, who were dedicated to saving pieces of Florida's railroad history before they disappeared.
No. 153 was steamed up every Sunday in Miami from March 1957 until November 1966, when the Gold Coast Railroad Museum was forced to move to Fort Lauderdale for a period. In those days, $3.00 would buy members 30 minutes at the throttle!
MRHS President Bill Godfrey backing No. 153 at the Miami Naval Station
a few months after arriving at the museum. Photo by James G. La Vake,
Trains Magazine, vol 12, 1957.
In 1966, No. 153 received a $10,000 overhaul. The boiler was retubed, cleaned, and inspected, new superheater units were installed, the injectors were overhauled, staybolt caps were removed and specially designed “Gold Coast” staybolt sleeves were machined, a new “dry-pipe” and new firebrick lining were installed. The locomotive also got its original passenger type pilot back as well as new running boards and a new headlight bracket. When all the work was done, the engine was inspected and subsequently certified by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
Due to the never ending fight against time and deterioration, as well as damage from hurricane Andrew in 1992, No. 153 is currently out of service, although it received a cosmetic overhaul between 2000 and early 2002. However, you can read about firing up No. 153 on our "How to Boot a Steam Locomotive" page.
No. 153 in December 2010. Photo courtesy www.rgusrail.com.
Status: On display, cosmetically restored, not Operational.
Acquisition Date: 1957.
Built: 1922, American Locomotive Company, Schenectady, New York.
Construction No: 63262.
Fuel: Oil burner (steam atomizing, FEC design).
Grate area: 47.1 sq feet.
Firebox area: 160 sq feet.
Number of boiler tubes, 2 inches diameter: 146.
Number of superheater flues, 5⅜ inches diameter: 21.
Boiler diameter at front course: 61 inches.
Total heating surface: 2,551 sq feet.
Evaporative heating surface: 2,111 sq feet.
Superheater heating surface: 440 sq feet.
Cylinders (diameter x stroke): Two 20 inches x 26 inches.
Piston valves diameter: 11 inches.
Working steam pressure: 180 psi.
Tractive effort: 28,314 lbs.
Factor of adhesion (weight on drivers/tractive effort): 4.47.
Top speed (approximately): 80 mph.
Injectors: Two Nathan Simplex Type "R".
Valve gear: Walschaert.
Power reverse gear: ALCO.
Lubricator: Nathan "Bullseye" 5 feeds.
Cab size: 10 feet 1 inch high x 8 feet 6 inches wide.
Height to top of stack: 14 feet 3⅝ inches.
Overall wheelbase (engine and tender): 63 feet 6½ inches.
Engine wheelbase: 32 feet 7 inches.
Driver wheelbase: 12 feet 4 inches.
Total weight, engine and tender in working order: 371,500 lbs.
Engine weight (empty): 204,000 lbs.
Driving wheels: 68 inches diameter.
Weight on driving wheels: 129,000 lbs.
Pilot truck wheels: 33 inches diameter.
Trailing truck wheels: 42 inches diameter.
Weight on trailing truck: 37,500 lbs.
Tender weight (empty): 162,000 lbs.
Tender capacity, oil: 3,500 US gallons.
Tender capacity, water: 7,338 US gallons.
Click on the following link to order books about the history of the Florida East Coast Railway and locomotive 153's rescue effort after the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane:
A portion of the sale price every book purchased from AMAZON.COM through this link is donated to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum.