The Prussian P8 Steam Locomotive

The Prussian P8 Steam Locomotive

By Roger Heid


Let’s take a look at the venerable Prussian P8 steam locomotive, a true classic.  She was first introduced in 1906 by the Berliner Maschinenbau Company for the KPEV (Prussian Railroad Authority).  She was to take the place of the P6 which turned out to be inadequate for the intended purpose. During the following years, twelve more German manufactures produced this locomotive.


Between 1908 and 1926, approximately 3,700 examples were built. Wow! After the initial bugs were shooed away, this locomotive proved to be very successful. During her life span, she wound up being put to use all over Europe. Within the confines of this blog, I cannot cover all the intrinsic details of her whereabouts and ‘whenabouts’. She was omnipresent. After WW I and the German railroad unification, she lived on designated Class or BR 38.



As you can see, she was a 2’C0 (UIC) or 4-6-0 (Whyte). The typical forward speed was about 62 mph. While running her backwards, she could only do about 30 mph. This was later improved by employing a newer style tender, namely a tub tender. Now she could handle about 53 mph, running tender first. One thing that sticks out about her appearance is the gap between the 2nd and  3rd  drive axle. Don’t ask me why that is; maybe someone out there can explain this. I think it has something to do with the way the boiler was designed.

Initially, she was intended for fast passenger service, but she proved her ability to haul freight just as well. She turned out to be a reliable and economical workhorse. That’s why so many of them were built.

Both, engineers and maintenance crews loved her. She was simple to operate and easy to maintain. One thing, though, the ride was never smooth and comfy, no matter what the design engineers tried, throughout the years. I can testify to that. I rode on them a couple of times when I was a teenager.

Overall, the last specimen was retired from routine service in 1974, maybe 1975. It is unclear. The last ones retired had seen about 50 years in service. Some examples survived in museums, in various places. Some may still be used for occasional excursion trains.


Maerklin currently offers a true KPEV P8 model, as seen below.


Maerklin 37028

Roco offers three different DC 2-rail models, but they are designated Class 38. They do lack wind deflectors, therefore resembling the original P8.


Roco 72123

Myself, I have a recent Maerklin BR 38. It has Witte type wind deflectors. It is a great performer, and it is in the top ten of my favorites.


Maerklin 37035  with ‘Tub Tender’ . Take note of the difference in tender design.

A P8 needs to be had on an Era I layout. A BR 38 is a must on layouts covering either Era II or III. You can use them for just about any train consist, without having to worry if it is style or period correct.

If you have any questions, please, post them on the Forum. The Blog System is not designed to give answers.

Thank you.

2 Responses to The Prussian P8 Steam Locomotive

  1. Jeffrey Pecka says:

    Nice writeup. The axle spacing was part of the ” formula” like Formula 1 race cars. Of course they had to support the boiler and all appurtenances, but other considerations involved (especially) the valve motion, and even whether the drive wheels would “hammer the rail” at high speed. Some formulas would “hammer the rail” and therefor governors were em placed to keep the trackwork intact. One of the fascinating aspects of older European railroads, was the weight limits imposed by decrepit Roman bridges.


  2. Luke Barber says:

    Note: The Roco engine depicted is not a P8. Under the Reichsbahn, the class number 38 referred to a variety of different 4-6-0s; the P8 was of the subset 38 10-40. The Roco engine in the above picture shows what looks like an ex-BBÖ design that the Reichsbahn added to its roster after the 1938 annexation (Anschluss).

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