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Baldwin Locomotive Works builder's plate, 1922
The Baldwin Locomotive Works was an Americanmarker builder of railroad (railway) locomotives. It was located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker originally, and later in nearby Eddystone, Pennsylvaniamarker. Although the company was very successful as a producer of steam locomotives, it was unable to make the transition to diesel power and went out of business in 1956.


The Baldwin Locomotive Works had a humble beginning. Matthias W. Baldwin, the founder, was a jeweller and silversmith, who, in 1825, formed a partnership with a machinist, and engaged in the manufacture of bookbinders' tools and cylinders for calico printing. Mr. Baldwin then designed and constructed for his own use a small stationary engine, the workmanship of which was so excellent and its efficiency so great that he was solicited to build others like it for various parties, and thus led to turn his attention to steam engineering.

A 1945 print advertisement for Baldwin Diesel-Electrics.
In 1831, at the request of the Philadelphia Museum, he built a miniature locomotive for exhibition which was such a success that he that year received an order from a railway company for a locomotive to run on a short line to the suburbs of Philadelphia. The Camden and Amboy Railroad Company (C&A) had shortly before imported a locomotive (John Bull) from Englandmarker, which was stored in Bordentown, New Jerseymarker. It had not yet been assembled by Isaac Dripps (under the direction of C&A president Robert L. Stevens) when Baldwin visited the spot. He inspected the detached parts and made notes of the principal dimensions. Aided by these figures, he commenced his task.

The difficulties attending the execution of this first order were such as our mechanics now cannot easily comprehend. Tools were not easily obtainable; the cylinders were bored by a chisel fixed in a block of wood and turned by hand; the workmen had to be taught how to do nearly all the work; and Mr. Baldwin himself did a great deal of it with his own hands.

It was under such circumstances that his first locomotive, christened Old Ironsides, was completed and tried on the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad on November 23, 1832. It was at once put in active service, and did duty for over 20 years. It was a four-wheeled engine, weighing a little over five tons; the driving wheels were 54 inches (1.37 m) in diameter, and the cylinders 9½ inches (24 cm) in diameter by 18 inches (45.7 cm) stroke. The wheels were of heavy cast iron hubs, with wooden spokes and rims, and wrought iron tires, and the frame was made of wood placed outside the wheels.

Zerah Colburn was one of many engineers who had a close association with the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Between 1854 and the start of his weekly paper, the Railroad Advocate and 1861, when Colburn went to work more or less permanently in London, Englandmarker, the journalist was in frequent touch with M. W. Baldwin, as recorded in Zerah Colburn: The Spirit of Darkness. Colburn was full of praise for the quality of Baldwin's work.

Initially, Baldwin would build many more steam locomotives at its cramped 196 acre (0.79 km²) Broad Street Philadelphia shop but would begin to shift production to a 616 acre (2.5 km²) site located at Spring Street in nearby Eddystone, Pennsylvaniamarker, by 1906. By 1928, the company moved all locomotive production there. Baldwin was very soon the largest locomotive builder in the United States, perhaps in the world.

Baldwin was an important contributor to the Allied war effort in World War I. Baldwin built 5,551 locomotives for the Allies including separate designs for Russian, French, British, and United States Trench railways. Baldwin built railway gun carriages for the United States Navy and manufactured 6,565,355 artillery shells for Russia, England, and the United States. From 1915 to 1918, Remington Arms subcontracted the production of nearly 2 million Pattern 1914 Enfield and M1917 Enfield rifles to the Baldwin Locomotive Works.

During World War II Baldwin was one of the manufacturers of the Sherman tank.

Steam locomotives

Baldwin built a huge number of 4-4-0 "American" type locomotives, an example of which is the Countess of Dufferin, but was perhaps best known for the 2-8-2 "Mikado" and 2-8-0 "Consolidation" types. It was also well known for the unique cab-forward 4-8-8-2 articulateds built for the Southern Pacific Company and massive 2-10-2 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Baldwin also produced one of the most powerful steam engines in history, the 2-8-8-4 "Yellowstone". Yellowstone could put down over of tractive force. One of Baldwin's last new and improved locomotive designs were the 4-8-4 "Northern" locomotives. Baldwin's last domestic steam locomotives were 2-6-6-2s built for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1949. Baldwin 60000, the company's 1926 demonstration steam locomotive, is on display at the Franklin Institutemarker in Philadelphia.

On a separate note, the restored and running 2-6-2 steam locomotive at Fort Edmonton Parkmarker was built by Baldwin in 1919.

Baldwin Locomotive Works built steam engines for narrow-gauge railways as well.

Baldwin works photo of Lyn', May 1898
A 6-ton, 60-cm gauge 4-4-0 built for the Tacubaya Railroad in 1897 was the smallest ever built by Baldwin for commercial use. The Baldwin works built a 2-4-2T tank engine - Lyn - for the gauge Lynton and Barnstaple Railwaymarker in England in 1898. The loco was shipped in crates and assembled at the line's Pilton Yard.

In the same year two 2-6-2T 'Prairie' tank engines were built for Victorian Railways (VR). They were used as a trial on the new narrow gauge railways. Fifteen more NA class locomotives were built by VR. Unfortunately only six have survived and both of the original Baldwin engines were among those scrapped.

The Welsh Highland Railwaymarker in Walesmarker borrowed a 4-6-0 WD pannier tank engine from Baldwin during World War 1. Unfortunately this locomotive was scrapped in the 1940's due to being prone to rough riding and derailments. But the Welsh Highland Railwaymarker is planning to build a full-scale replica of this locomotive numbered 794.

Baldwin also built three engines for the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway, which were delivered in 1890. A fourth was delivered in 1892. These engines featured steeply inclined boilers and used the Abt rack system to propel them up the average 16% grade. Over the years the engines were scrapped or rebuilt. The last Baldwin engine was taken out of regular service in 1955. During the following years the engines were used as back-up engines and for snow removal. Three of the engines are currently on static display around Coloradomarker. One (No. 1) is located at the Colorado Railroad Museummarker in Golden, Coloradomarker. The other two on display are located in Manitou Springs, Coloradomarker: one (No. 2) near city hall and the other (No. 5) at the Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway depot. The fourth engine (No. 4) is still in limited operation for photo opportunities and special events. However it no longer completes the journey to the top of Pike's Peak due to the fact that many of the water tanks along the line have been removed.

Electric locomotives

From the early years of the 20th century Baldwin had a relationship with the Westinghouse Electric Company to build electric locomotives for American and foreign markets. The electric locomotive was increasingly popular; electrification was expensive, but for high traffic levels or mountainous terrain it could pay for itself, and in addition some cities like New Yorkmarker were banning the steam locomotive because of its pollution and the propensity for accidents in smoke-choked terminals. Baldwin built or subcontracted out the bodywork and running gear, and Westinghouse built the electrical gear.

Baldwin built the famed EP-1 (1906), EF-1 (1912) and EP-2 (1923) box cab electric locomotives for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Baldwin also delivered the EP-3 box cab electric locomotives to the Milwaukee Road for use on their line between Harlowton, Montanamarker and Avery, Idahomarker.

Baldwin built several electric locomotive types for the Pennsylvania Railroad as well including the P5A, R1 and the famed GG1. Baldwin built the first GG1 prototype electric locomotive for use on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s electrified line, which was completed in 1935 between New York and Washington, D.C.marker

Steam-turbine locomotives

In the waning years of steam Baldwin also undertook several attempts at alternative technologies to diesel power. In 1944 Baldwin outshopped an S2 class 6-8-6 steam turbine locomotive for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Between 1947 and 1948 Baldwin built three unique coal-fired steam turbine-electric locomotives, designed for passenger service on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O). The units, which were equipped with Westinghouse electrical systems and had a 2-C1+2-C1-B wheel arrangement, were 106 feet (32 m) long, making them the longest locomotives ever built for passenger service. The cab was mounted in the center, with a coal bunker ahead of it and a backwards-mounted boiler behind it (the tender only carried water). These locomotives were intended for a route from Washington, D.C.marker to Cincinnati, Ohiomarker but could never travel the whole route without some sort of failure. Coal dust and water frequently got into the traction motors. These problems could have been fixed given time, but it was obvious that these locomotives would always be expensive to maintain, and all three were scrapped in 1950.

In May 1954 Baldwin built a steam turbine-electric locomotive for freight service on the Norfolk and Western Railway (N&W), nicknamed the "Jawn Henry" after the legend of John Henry, a steel-driver on a track crew who famously raced against a steam drill and won, only to die immediately afterwards. The unit was similar in appearance to the C&O turbines but very different mechanically; it had a C+C-C+C wheel arrangement, and an improved watertube boiler which was fitted with automatic controls. Unfortunately the boiler controls were sometimes problematic, and (as with the C&O turbines) coal dust and water got into the motors. "Jawn Henry" was retired from the N&W roster on January 4, 1958.

Diesel-electric locomotives

In 1939 Baldwin offered its first standard line of diesel locomotives, all designed for yard service. Two years later America's entry into World War II destroyed Baldwin's diesel development program when the War Production Board dictated that ALCO and Baldwin produce only diesel-electric yard switching engines. Electro-Motive Division (EMD) was assigned the task of producing road freight diesels (namely, the FT series), which gave the latter an advantage over its competitors in that product line in the years that followed World War II.

Business declined drastically in the postwar years as EMD and ALCO seized the bulk of the diesel market from Baldwin, Lima-Hamiltonmarker and Fairbanks-Morse. Baldwin switchers were well known for their haulage ability, but the company failed to make the jump to building reliable road units. Baldwin also misjudged the market, remaining fond of steam power and concentrating on products of little interest to railroads. In July 1948 Westinghouse Electric, which had teamed with Baldwin to build diesel and electric carbodies, purchased 500,000 shares, or 21%, of Baldwin stock, which made Westinghouse Baldwin's largest shareholder. Baldwin used the money to cover various debts. Westinghouse vice president Marvin W. Smith became Baldwin's president in May 1949.

In a move to diversify its operations Baldwin merged with Lima-Hamiltonmarker on December 4, 1950, to become Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton. However market share continued to dwindle. In 1953 Westinghouse discontinued building electrical traction equipment, and so Baldwin was forced to purchase electrical equipment from General Electric. Over 70,500 locomotives had been produced when production ceased in 1956.

Baldwin diesel locomotives, though fairly successful in the marketplace, did not do so well as others. Baldwins, thanks to their robust Westinghouse electrical gear, were excellent haulers, but the diesel prime movers were less reliable than comparable EMD and ALCO products.

See also


  1. Hexamer, Ernest. "Baldwin Locomotive Works," Hexamer General Surveys, v. 9, plates 756-758. Philadelphia, 1874.

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