Frederick Methvan Whyte

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Frederick Methvan Whyte
Born (1865-03-02)March 2, 1865
Died 1941
Occupation mechanical engineer of Dutch
Employer New York Central

Frederick Methvan Whyte (March 2, 1865 – 1941 Athens[1]) was a mechanical engineer of Dutch background who worked for the New York Central in the United States. He is most widely known as the person who developed Whyte notation to describe the different wheel arrangements of steam locomotives in 1900.

In some railroad literature, he is referenced as "F. M. White," using the Anglicized spelling of his name. Further, some references also spell his middle name as "Methven."


Education: Franklin Academy, 1889. Entered railway service May 1, 1889, since when he was consecutively to January 1, 1890, draftsman, Motive Power Department, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway; January 1, 1889, to February 1, 1892, Testing Department and Drawing Room, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at Baltimore, Maryland; February 1, 1892, to June 1892, special testing work, Mexican Central Railroad, Mexico City; June 1892, to December 1894, general railroad engineering in Chicago, chiefly with Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit Railroad and in railway newspaper work; July 1895, to September 1896, draftsman, Northwestern Elevated Railroad, Chicago; July 1, 1897, consulting engineer, Chicago; July 1, 1897, to August 10, 1899, mechanical engineer, Chicago and North Western Railway and secretary, Western Railway Club; August 15, 1899, to November 1, 1904, mechanical engineer, New York Central and Hudson River Railroad; November 1, 1904, to 1910, general mechanical engineer, same road; Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, Boston and Albany Railroad, Lake Erie and Western Railroad, and Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Railroad; September 15, 1905, to 1910, also general mechanical engineer Rutland Railroad; November 1, 1911, to 1913, vice-president, Hutchins Car Roofing.

Whyte visited Australia in 1921 as one of three members of the Royal Commission on the matter of Uniform Railway Gauge, whose report was presented on 12 October 1921. (See for a list of Australian Royal Commissions. The report is available in most large Australian libraries.) He was greeted on arrival in Melbourne (then the Federal capital) by Prime Minister William Morris Hughes and travelled widely throughout the country by train. (See reports in the Melbourne Argus, 13 February 1921 and 13 May 1921. Online at The other Royal Commissioners were R.K. White, a British engineer from India, and John Joseph Garvan (chair), a Sydney businessman. (See the Australian Dictionary of Biography: The Commissioners suggested five options for standardisation of Australia's railways. The two concrete results were (1) the construction of the standard gauge railway from Grafton to South Brisbane, opened in 1930 and (2) the extension of Commonwealth Railways' standard-gauge Trans Australia Railway from Port Augusta to Port Pirie in 1937. Both these railways eliminated sections of narrow-gauge (3 ft 6 in or 1,070 mm) railway between Australia's capital cities.


  • Lane, Harold Francis, editor (1913). The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America, 1913 Edition. Simmons-Boardman, New York. p. 588. 
  • Riches, Dave, "Locomotive wheel arrangements" (PDF). The Steam Locomotive Society of Victoria. Big Wheel News. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2005. Retrieved 25 March 2005. 
  • White, John H. Jr. (Spring 1986). "America's most noteworthy railroaders". Railroad History. 154: 9–15. ISSN 0090-7847. OCLC 1785797.