The Whyte Classification System for Locomotives

This post is to answer oft asked questions from visitors to our layout (The Mendocino Coast Railroad & Navigation Co.) – how are locomotives classified and who invented the system. Last question first:

The Whyte notation for classifying steam locomotives by wheel arrangement was devised by Frederick Methvan Whyte, and came into use in the early twentieth century following a December 1900 editorial in American Engineer and Railroad Journal.

A related question that I received a while back was, “Is the Whyte system used worldwide?” I hadn’t a clue as to the answer until last week when an old club member, John Skinner, kindly donated a bunch of very useful historical materials into my eager mitts. Amongst the materials was this chart which shows how the classification system works and that not only is there an American system but also a French and German.

Whyte Classification System for Locomotives

Whyte Classification System for Locomotives

Every day something new learned.