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Public Service Electric Company 6816
Public Service, Electric and Gas Company 6816

Whyte System Type: 0-6-OF "Fireless" switcher

Builder: H.K. Porter
Date Built: February 1923; also reported as July 1923
Builder's Number: 6816

Cylinders (diameter x stroke in inches): 30 x 28
Boiler Pressure (in lbs. per square inch): Storage: 190; Working: 60
Diameter of Drive Wheels (in inches): 52
Tractive Effort (in lbs.): 24,300; also reported as 24,000

Tender Capacity:
    Coal (in tons): Not applicable
    Oil (in gallons): Not applicable
    Water (in gallons): Not applicable

Weight on Drivers (in lbs.): 125,000

Remarks: A "fireless" locomotive No. 6816 was charged with live steam from a stationary boiler, it used no fuel.

Public Service Electric and Gas Company 0-6-0F Locomotive No. 6816

History: One of the strangest aberrations in the long history of steam locomotive technology was the fireless steam railroad engine. Carrying no fuel and having no means to heat water to create steam, its engineer periodically connected it to a stationary steam boiler and charged the engine with steam, then operated it until the steam pressure diminished to a point of ineffectiveness, and then recharged it again from a stationary steam boiler.

A Dr. Lamm supposedly invented the type, and engines of his design entered service on the Crescent City Railroad in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1875. A French inventor, Leon Franque, introduced an improved version in 1876 on a tramway that ran from St. Augustin, Paris, to the Boulevard du Chateau at Neuilly. Franque's design used a reducing valve and also featured an atmospheric condenser on top of the reservoir to collect exhaust steam. He also conceived the idea of injecting high-temperature steam into the reservoir instead of emptying and refilling it after each run.

That same year Theodore Schaffer further improved the design in the United States, and eight locomotives of his design were built at Paterson, New Jersey, for New Orieans's Crescent City Railroad. Schaffer patented a valve gear that consisted of a main valve working to control the exhaust and an auxiliary valve on top to govern the admission of steam to the cylinders. These Crescent City locomotives received steam from stationary boilers at a pressure of 220 pounds per square inch. The engines then operated until the pressure dropped to 100 pounds, at which time they would recharge, and could operate 3-1/2 miles in the interim. Still further technical improvements were necessary to make the "fireless" locomotive, as these were called, readily marketable. But by the end of the 19th century, both Baldwin and H.K. Porter were in the business of manufacturing fireless locomotives, principally for use as industrial switchers at industrial plants, although some common carrier railroads used fireless locomotives themselves, generally as shop switchers.

Generally 0-4-0, 0-6-0, or 0-8-0 wheel arrangements, fireless locomotives looked superficially like a saddle tank engine because their extra fat steam reservoir gave them the appearance of a boiler with a saddle tank on top of it, and like saddle tankers, they lacked a tender, although they also lacked a fuel bin or tank behind the cab which many saddle tankers had. Although an article in Trains magazine in 1945 proposed the use of fireless locomotives as "road" or main line locomotives, the railroad industry never considered them for the purpose, and indeed a rebuttal to that article by an anonymous but reportedly prominent railway mechanical engineer in the same issue of the magazine stated that fireless locomotives would not be practical in the role of road engines. The fireless locomotive was destined to remain nothing more than an industrial switcher throughout its history.

One industry to use one was the Public Service Electric Company of New Jersey. Incorporated on June 13, 1910, the company commenced operations on July 1, 1910, and took over the leases of a number of subsidiary electric power firms that previously had been held by the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey. The leased firms included eight local firms, such as the Bordentown Electric Company and the Middlesex Electric Light and Power Company as well as another six combined gas and electricity companies. The Public Service Electric Company also shared leases with a sister firm, the Public Service Gas Company, such as with the Gas and Electric Company of Bergen County and the South Jersey Gas, Electric and Traction Company. Actually, the Public Service Electric Company was established as a subsidiary of the Public Service Corporation of New Jersey in order to consolidate management of these various subsidiaries. The Public Service Corporation of New Jersey had been incorporated on May 6, 1903, and by 1918, through its myriad subsidiaries and sub-subsidiaries, controlled almost all of the gas, electric, and street railway business through the larger cities and more populous suburbs of New Jersey, with the exception of the seashore resorts and a few other localities. As of 1918, the electric business served 2,196,081 people, the gas business of the firm served 2,033,027 individuals, and the street railway branch claimed a patronage of 2,126,889.

In 1925, the Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice illustrated a fireless 0-6-0 locomotive built by the H.K. Porter Company for the Public Service Electric Company of New Jersey which appears to be Engine 6816 of the company's successor, Public Service, Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey.
Colorado Railroad Museum Library

In 1923, the Public Service Electric Company of New Jersey ordered an 0-6-0F fireless locomotive from the H.K. Porter Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for use at its Newark, New Jersey, coal burning electricity generating plant. The locomotive was to have cylinders 30 inches in diameter with a 28-inch stroke, 52-inch diameter drive wheels, and would weigh 125,000 pounds on drivers. The engine would be 29 feet, 6 inches in length, and with the center pair of drivers without flanges, could turn in a 200-foot radius, or on a 28.5-degree curve. The engine was equipped with Stephenson valve gears. The locomotive was to be capable of hauling a 180-ton train up a 4 percent grade with an effective pressure of 50 pounds per square inch, and a 230-ton train up a 4 percent grade with a 60-pound effective pressure. Oddly, the Public Service Electric Company assigned no number to this locomotive, so its H.K. Porter shop number, 6816, became the only number by which employees ever knew it. As outshopped, it had the words Public Service Electric Co. on each side of its steam reservoir, a rectangle of white pinstriping on the cab, and two horizontal lines of white pinstriping around the single dome. It also had a white "grabiron" forward of the cab door on each side, white driver tires, a white edge to the running board, and a white reverse lever. The body color is not known, but was not black. It may have been gray or some other color that appeared gray in a black-and-white photograph.

At that time the Public Service Electric Company operated four generating plants: the Essex plant in Newark, built in 1915, where this particular engine operated; the Marion plant in Jersey City, constructed in 1905; the Burlington plant in Burlington, constructed in 1914; and the Perth Amboy plant in Perth Amboy, built in 1911.

On July 25, 1924, the year following purchase of this locomotive, the Public Service Electric Company and the Public Service Gas Company merged to form the Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey, which then proceeded in December to merge with seven other companies, and between 1937 and 1940 absorbed 13 more. To its electric streetcar lines, it added motor bus companies. The enlarged concern produced, purchased, and distributed electricity and manufactured gas from northeastern New Jersey southwest across the state to Trenton and Camden, its empire thus extending from the Hudson River to the Delaware. It sold gas and electricity to cities such as Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Trenton, Camden, Elizabeth, Bayonne, Hoboken, Passaic, Perth Amboy, and a dozen more. Among improvements over the years, it added a final unit to the Newark generating plant in 1947, which brought its total effective productive capacity to 330,500 kilowats.

At this time little is known of the operational history of Locomotive No. 6816, but it is believed principally to have switched incoming carloads of coal at the Essex plant in Newark, and to have switched outgoing empty coal cars. It carried a storage pressure of 190 pounds per square inch and a working press of 60 pounds. The 1925 edition of the Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice included on page 925 an H.K. Porter Company builder's photograph that is believed to be this particular locomotive. A copy of its original specifications from H.K. Porter, together with instructions for operation, are to be found in the Steamtown files.

At least four 0-4-0F fireless locomotives, five 0-6-0F, and one 0-8-0F are known to survive in the United States in addition to No. 6816, and there may be more. As far as is known, No. 6816 is the only one that represents the Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey. The other five 0-6-0F locomotives consist of three used by Cleveland Electric in Ohio and two used by Pennsylvania Power and Light.

Condition: Locomotive No. 6816 is believed to be in operable condition, and has been operated since owned by the Steamtown Foundation.

Recommendations: The National Park Service should preserve this locomotive because of the technology it represents. A small report should be prepared and should deal especially with the operational history of the locomotive. The report should include a map of trackage at the Essex plant, photos of the Essex plant, and, if obtainable, photographs of this particular engine at work at the Essex plant, as well as a description of its operations. A former engineer should be located and interviewed. The report needs to focus also on the physical history of the locomotive, documenting any changes to it and especially how the locomotive was painted when built, which may involve physical analysis of paint layers at various locations on the locomotive to ascertain its original body and lettering colors. The reports should also document the pattern of its painting and lettering after the merger in 1925 that created the Public Service Electric and Gas Company. For example, was the locomotive then repainted with the new name, and if so, in what style and color of lettering and at what locations? The completed report should include recommendations as to which period the locomotive should be restored to represent. This special history study leans toward restoring this particular locomotive to represent its as-built appearance of 1923.


Hilton, John J. "Fireless Locomotives Extant in the U.S." The Short Line, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 1975): 10-11; Vol. 3, No. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 1975): 11.

"Is the Fireless Road Locomotive Practical?" Trains, Vol. 5, No. 9 (July 1945): 34. Johnson, R.K. Fireless Locomotives." Baldwin Locomotives, Vol. 4, No. 1 (July 1925): 34-39.

Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice, 1925. New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp., 1925. [See p. 952. Lower right of four illustrations of fireless engines is believed to be No. 6816.]

Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice, 1944. New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp., 1925. [See pp. 1040-1042. Additional examples of fireless engines built by the Heisler Locomotive Works, the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and the H.K. Porter Company.]

Locomotive Cyclopedia of American Practice, 1947. New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp., 1947: 1046, 1047. [On p. 1046 is a cutaway sketch illustrating the internal workings of an H.K. Porter fireless engine.]

Moody's Manual of Investments, American and Foreign: Public Utility Securities, 1950. New York: Moody's Investors' Service, 1950: 348, 349.

Ohlson, Kevin. "Steam Without Smoke." Rail Classics, Vol. 4, No. 6 (Nov. 1975): 16-2 l.

Poor's Manual of Public Utilities, 1918. New York: Poor's Publishing Company, 1918. See pp. 197-224.

Sagle, Lawrence W. "Steam Locomotives Without Fire." Trains, Vol. 5, No. 9 (July 1945): 34-38.

Steamtown Foundation files, Locomotive 6816, including H.K. Porter Company Locomotive Specifications for No. 6816, instruction manual for the locomotive, and invoices and correspondence regarding repair parts. [Includes all original documents obtained from the Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey along with the locomotive.]

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Last Updated: 14-Feb-2002