Cumberland Valley Railroad Steam Locomotive, Pioneer

The Pioneer is a steam locomotive made in 1851 by Seth Wilmarth, owner of a large machine shop in Boston who made few locomotives. Pioneer is an early type of steam locomotive on U.S. railroads and used only on a very few of them. This locomotive is significant only because of that rarity. Its age is also unusual among preserved locomotives; Pioneer was built just two decades after America’s first domestically made locomotive. Its general type was obsolete on almost all railroads in the U.S. by 1850.
Pioneer served the Cumberland Valley RR, connecting Harrisburg, Pa. with Hagerstown, Md. and Winchester, Va. The locomotive was designed specifically to pull two-car passenger trains. Pioneer was one of several locomotives badly damaged by fire during the Civil War, during a Confederate raid on the CVRR roundhouse at Chambersburg, Pa. The CVRR rebuilt the engine, operated it on light, one- and two-car passenger trains till the mid 1880s, and then saved and exhibited it as an historic relic. The Pennsylvania RR (then one of the nation’s largest) absorbed the CVRR soon after. The PRR entirely repainted Pioneer in 1947 for the 1947-48 Chicago Railroad Fair. The lettering on the fenders, “PIONEER,” is inauthentic. A replica headlight was added by NMAH (then NMHT) in Dec 1965.
In the standard type nomenclature for steam locomotives, Pioneer is a “2-2-2T” type, meaning that it has an unpowered leading pair of wheels; a single powered axle (the larger-diameter wheels, driven by the steam cylinders via connecting (or “main”) rods; and another unpowered pair of wheels at the rear. The “T” stands for “tank engine,” meaning one that has no separate tender for carrying its fuel (wood) and water for the boiler; fuel and water is carried on the same single chassis as the boiler, cab, and running gear.
Currently on loan
Object Name
locomotive, full size
date made
used date
Seth Wilmarth
Union Works
overall: 11 3/16 ft x 26 ft x 7 1/4 ft; 3.41376 m x 7.9248 m x 2.2098 m
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
United States: Maryland, Hagerstown
United States: Pennsylvania, Harrisburg
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Steam Engines
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Railroad
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.