A Dive in the Archive: The Heisler Locomotive and Campbell Limestone #9

by Paul Grether

Charles L. Heisler was the inventor of the Heisler Geared Locomotive. He was a mechanical engineering genius and enjoyed inventing things; he was by no means a railroader. After graduation from Cornell University, he worked for the Dunkirk engineering Company in Dunkirk, NY. At Dunkirk, Heisler learned of the need for geared locomotives. His design benefited from the improvements over existing designs such as the Lima Shay, the Climax and the Gilbert. After the death of an associate at Dunkirk, Heisler looked for another producer, ending up with the Stearns Manufacturing Company which manufactured logging equipment and felt a geared locomotive was a natural addition to the line. Heisler then disassociated himself from the design, going on to other projects at Alco, GE, the Army and Navy with some teaching and consulting at Penn State. At the time of his death in 1931, he had secured over 60 patents. Heisler’s interest was inventing and not financial gain.

Campbell Limestone #9 was donated to the chapter at the Christmas banquet in 1979. It was donated by Vulcan Materials, the successor company to Campbell Limestone. (Southern E8A #6901 also came to the Chapter at the same time.)  #9 is one of 35 Heislers left out of approximately 625 built. It was built in 1923 by the Heisler Locomotives Works, who had taken over the Stearns’ locomotive business.

Specifications for Campbell Limestone #9
Class: 55-8-38*
Code Word for size of Locomotive: Artful**
Weight with full tender: 121,000 lbs.
2 cylinders-Dia. & stroke: 15 1/2″ x 14″
Number of Drivers: 8
Diameter of Drivers: 38″
Rigid wheel base: 61″
Total wheel base: 27’1″
Total Length: 36’6″
Total Height over Rail: 11′ 10 1/2″
Extreme Width: 9′ 11″
Capacity-Water: 1800 gals.
Capacity-Coal: 7300 lbs.
Capacity-Wood: 2 cords
Capacity-Oil: 716 gals.
Sharpest practical curve: 85′ Radius
Sharpest advisable curve: 95′ Radius
Advised weight of rail: 50 lbs. per yd.
Minimum weight of rail: 45 lbs. per yd.
Maximum Boiler Pressure: 200 p.s.i.
Working Pressure: 180 p.s.i.
Tractive Force: 24,160 lbs.
* Class represents weight in tons, averaging working order, number of drivers and size of drivers.
** Every class of Heisler had a marketing name that started with the letter “A”.


  1. The “Hot Box” as edited by George Weber, Jan. 1963, May 1964 & Jan. 1980
  2. Library File – “Campbell Limestone Heisler #9”
  3. Book – “The Heisler Locomotive 1891-1941” Author Anonymous; published by Benjamin F.G. Kile, Jr., 1982