The Northern Pacific ordered 21 “Challengers” from the American Locomotive Company in 1936 and took delivery of them during 1936 and 1937. These 4-6-6-4s were designated Class Z-6 and were assigned road numbers 5100 through 5120. They had four 23 x 32 cylinders, 69” drivers, a 250 psi boiler pressure, exerted 104,500 lbs of tractive effort and weighed 624,500 pounds. In 1941, another six “Challengers” came from ALCO. These were designated Class Z-7 and they carried road numbers 5121 through 5126. They had four 23 x 32 cylinders, 70” drivers, a 260 psi boiler pressure, exerted 107,000 lbs of tractive effort and weighed 644,000 pounds. The last steam locomotives bought by the Northern Pacific were the 20 “Challengers” it purchased from ALCO during 1943 and 1944. This group designated Class Z-8 was assigned road numbers 5130 through 5149. The Class Z-8 locomotives were virtually identical those of Class Z-7. Two oil-burning Z-8s were also delivered to the SP&S.
This class was essentially identical to the 1941 Z-7s these locomotives were produced under a wartime mandate to replace certain high-strength steel components with similar items produced with more common and heavier steel. Even so, the NP’s diagrams show no difference in the adhesion weight and just a 1,000 lb difference on engine weight.
The firebox heating surface included 136 sq ft in eight circulators. These also featured a bearing design that permitted smooth riding at higher speeds.
There are no surviving Northern Pacific “Challengers”.