|The Atlantic designation refers to the engine's wheel arrangement (4-4-2 - four leading wheels, four coupled driving wheels, and two trailing wheels), a development from the mid-1890's that, while ideal for the fast hauling of light wooden trains, proved to be unsuitable for the far heavier steel rolling stock beginning to be adopted in the increasingly longer trains of the same period. The type was swiftly downgraded from express service. Only five other examples remain of the approximately 1900 built for mainline service.
This Atlantic was built by the American Locomotive Company at their Schenectady plant in New York State, and was delivered in 1902 to the Michigan Central Railroad as number 254. It was renumbered twice, first to 7953, then to 8085. Initially used for high-speed service between Detroit and Chicago it would have been relegated to lighter passenger duties and ultimately (at least judging by its condition) freight service.
Withdrawn from service and due for dismantling, 8085 surprisingly was purchased in April 1926 by the Detroit Toledo and Ironton Railroad Company. It is intriguing that a freight railroad with minimal passenger service would acquire a virtually obsolete turn-of-the-century passenger locomotive, but the DT under Henry Ford's leadership had a reputation for rigorous and sometimes idiosyncratic maintenance and up-grading policies. An extensive rebuild was undertaken at the Rouge Plant's Fordson shops that not only included a new firebox and the addition of superheating to the repaired boiler but also the addition of a cast aluminum chair for the engineer and nickel-plated appliances throughout. Of these latter DT hallmarks nothing remains - before donation to the museum in 1930 the locomotive was restored cosmetically to appear as originally built. Only the running gear's unmarred high polish (especially evident following the recent restoration by the Michigan Central district of the New York Central System Historical Society) remains as testament of Henry Ford's insistence on the highest standards of workmanship and up-keep.
The locomotive is newly located in the operational Marshall roundhouse in Greenfield Village - visitors can now descend beneath the engine to view its hidden complexities and from the mezzanine the design's balance of massive scale and graceful proportions can be better appreciated.