Northern California Railroad Resources

A supplement to the
Identification of Steam Locomotives
A Family Project by
Jared Sinasohn and Family
Kindergarten, Room 105

These resources were compiled as part of a family project to teach others how steam locomotives are identified using the Whyte notation.

On March 12, Jared's elementary school held a family project fair. Our family, fresh from a visit to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, Nevada, decided to share the system of identification used to indicate the size and configuration of steam locomotives. Here is Jared's explanation of the system:

Steam locomotives are identified by the number of wheels they have. Here's how you figure it out

First you count the pilot wheels. The pilot wheels are in the front of the engine. You have to count the wheels on both sides. Next you count the driving wheels. The driving wheels are in the middle. The driving wheels are what make the train go. You have to count these wheels on both sides. Then you count the trailing wheels. These wheels are in the back of the engine. You have to count these wheels on both sides.

When you have counted all three sets of wheels put the numbers together in order from front to back and the you get the type of train. Remember to put hyphens between the numbers. I will teach you using these train pictures.

As an adjunct to the project, we compiled a list of museums, model railroad layouts, and full-size passenger trains in the Northern California area. We've provided that list here, along with the relevant links. If you would like to download a printable (pdf) version of the list, click here.

Photos of the project -- click on the thumbnails for a larger version