Steam Locomotive Builders

Page Contents: [American Locomotive Company] [Baldwin Locomotive Works] [Lima Locomotive Works] [Builder Pages on the Web] [Locomotive Builder Reference]

The art of steam locomotive design and manufacturing in North America was concentrated in three very successful companies; the American Locomotive Company, the Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Lima Locomotive Works.

These companies had roots back to the earliest days of the steam era and were dominant right up to the demise of the market in the late 1940"s. Ironically, not one of these superb steam locomotive builders was able to make a commercial success in the diesel dominated railroad market, and each has ceased manufacturing locomotives.

All three of these locomotive builders acquired unique characteristics such as the shape of their builders plates. They also became known for their unique accomplishments: ALCO, for developing 3-cylinder steam locomotives; Lima, for developing 2-8-4 "Super-Power" locomotives; and Baldwin for designing duplex drive locomotives and for being the largest, longest-lived, and most successful of the steam locomotive builders.

American Locomotive Company

Rectangular Shaped ALCO Builders Plate

American Locomotive Company (ALCO) was formed in 1901 when seven smaller locomotive builders merged with the Schenectady Locomotive Works (Schenectady, NY) in order to compete against the largest locomotive builder of the day, the Baldwin Locomotive Works. The seven locomotive builders were:

In 1902, the Locomotive & Machine Co. of Montreal, Ltd. located in Montreal, Canada joined and later changed its name to the Montreal Locomotive Works. The Rogers Locomotive Works in Paterson, NJ was merged into the company in 1905.

In 1955 the company became known as ALCO Products, Inc and in 1964 it was bought by the Worthington Corp.

Over all of its time (prior to merger and after), ALCO produced about 75,000 locomotives with more than 63% of them built in Schnectady, NY. In fact, all of the locomotive manufacturing (except in Canada) was consolidated in Schectady by 1931 and continued until 1968.

Of the smaller works, Rhode Island was the first to be closed in 1907 having been founded in 1866 and after producing 3400 locomotives. Dickson opened in 1862, built 1400 locomotives and was closed in 1909. Rogers, the oldest of all of the builders opened in 1837, produced 6300 units and closed in 1913. Manchester started as Amoskeag in 1849, made 1800 locomotives and closed its doors in 1913. Pittsburgh opened in 1867 made 2700 locos and closed in 1919, Cooke (originally Danforth-Cooke) opened in 1852 and closed in 1926 after manufacturing 3000 steam locomotives (NOTE: Some sources state that Richmond only built 1000 locomotives starting at CN 1600 and then included gaps in their numbering scheme). In 1927 Richmond was closed after building 4500 units over the 41 years it was in business. The last of these smaller works to close was Brooks having produced 4200 locomtives since it opened in 1869.

The Montreal Locomotive Works, Ltd was opened only two years prior to its merger with ALCO and continues today.

ALCO has had a lot of first throughout its history including:

In 1906 ALCO entered into the automobile business and exited after only seven years because it proved to be unprofitable.

During World War II, ALCO produced army tanks (7,362 of them), tank destroyers, shells, bombs, gun carriages, gun mounts and 4,488 locomotives. Employment increased three fold to over 15,000 people by 1945.

The American Locomotive Company was known for its steam locomotives of which the 4-6-4 Hudsons and the 4-8-4 Niagras built for the New York Central and the 4-6-6-4 Challengers and the 4-8-8-4 Big Boys it built for the Union Pacific were its finiest examples.

Most of the general files, technical manuals and ALCO designs are located in the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University. The Buider's Photos and many of the Erecting Cards (photographs of the drawings) and Painting Diagrams are in the possession of the Mohawk & Hudson Chapter of the NRHS. This group of volunteers is known as the "ALCO Historic Photos Project" and is preserving over 32,000 ALCO negatives.

ALCO Historic Photos
P. O. Box 655
Schnectady, NY 12301-0655

Baldwin Locomotive Works

Circular Shaped Baldwin Builders Plate Circular Shaped Baldwin Builders Plate

Baldwin Locomotive Work in Eddystone, PA The Baldwin Locomotive Works was founded in 1831 by Matthias Baldwin. The original plant was on Broad street in Philadelphia, PA where the company did business for 71 years until it moved in 1912 to a new plant in Eddystone. Various partnerships during this period resulted in a number of name changes. It was known as Baldwin, Vail & Hufty (1839-1842); Baldwin & Whitney (1842-1845); M. W. Baldwin (1846-1853); and M. W. Baldwin & Co. (1854-1866). After Baldwin's death in 1866 the firm was known as M. Baird & Co. (1867-1873); Burnham, Parry, Williams & Co. (1873-1890); Burnham, Williams & Co. (1891-1909); it was finally incorporated as the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1909. Westinghouse Corporation bought Baldwin in 1948. In 1950 the Lima-Hamilton Corporation and Baldwin merged. In 1956 the last of some 70,541 locomotives was produced. An arial view of the Baldwin plant is shown on the right. Today, F. W. Hake's Trucking Co. occupies this land.

Baldwin made its reputation building steam locomotives for the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.and many of the other railroads in North America and for overseas railroads in England, France, India, Haiti and Egypt.

In the late 1940's it was very clear that the steam locomotive days were over and each of the big three steam locomotive builders were far behind EMD with diesel designs and customers. Lima merged with engine builder Hamilton in an effort to get a foot hold in the diesel market but made little progress. In despiration Lima-Hamilton merged with Baldwin in 1950 to become the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation. However, by 1956 BLH ceased production of common carrier size locomotives.

In the later days of the steam era, Baldwin was in the forefront of locomotive construction with the many 2-8-2 Mikados it built and its ability to build small quantities of unique designs, such as the Cab Forward 4-8-8-2's it built for the Southern Pacific. Also it was envolved with its various railroad customers to develop new and improved locomotive designs the last being the 4-8-4 Northerns.

Most of the records of Baldwin were destroyed in 1954. What survived has found its way to the DeGolyer Library at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. [Details] A few drawings are located at the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg, PA. The Builders Photos are located at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA.

Lima Locomotive Works

Diamond Shaped Lima Builders Plate

The Lima Machine Works was establised in 1869 and produced agricultural and sawmill equipment. In the 1870s a Michigan logger, Ephraim Shay, developed a geared locomotive for use on wood-railed loggin tramways. In 1878 Lima Machine Works built a locomotive to Shay's design. In 1891 the company reorganized and became the Lima Locomotive & Machine Company. The company began building locomotives for Class 1 railroads in 1911: 23 0-6-0 switchers for the Southern and Mobile & Ohio. In 1912 the company again reorganized into the Lima Locomotive Corporation. In 1916 it was bought by Joel Coffin and became the Lima Locomotive Works. In 1947 Lima Locomotive Works merged with General Machinery Corporation of Hamilton, OH to form Lima-Hamilton Corporation. In 1951 it was merged with Baldwin Locomotive Works to form the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton was making construction cranes (the kind on crawler tracks or rubber tires). Some time in the 1970s, Clark equipment bought BLH and continued to use the site to make their biggest (220 ton capacity) crawler cranes in Lima. A very large (Billion Electron Volt) X-ray machine was installed in a free-standing building to test frames for cracks. In the late 70s or early 80s, Clark pulled out of Lima. The X-ray facility was sold to a private company that does some hull testing for the tank plant (M1 Abrams was Chrysler, then General Dynamics, not sure who runs the place for the Army now) just a few miles up the road. If you look around when you're driving, you will still see cranes with BLH, LIMA, CLARK or some combination on the counterweight where bridges are being re-built. In fact, there's one on a job site on I-75 just south of OH 725 exit with BLH LIMA on the back.

The Lima Locomotive Works The Lima Locomotive Works was located in Lima, OH between the B&O's Cincinnati-Toledo line and Nickel Plate's main line and shops.

Lima Locomotive Works is most famous for developing the Super Power 2-8-4 design. Around 1920, the railroads and locomotive builders were trying various techniques to increase the speed of freight trains. Some approaches used high-pressure boilers, three-cylinders, water-tube fireboxes, or all three (Baldwin 60,000). William Woodard of Lima Locomotive Works experimented in increasing the grate area to greatly increase the steaming ability of the locomotive. A locomotive with a 100 sq. ft. grate area (very large for a locomotive of that day) was constructed. The firebox was so large that it required a four-wheel trailing truck to support it. The 2-8-4 wheel arrangement was born. This demonstrator locomotive also had a booster on the rear axle of the trailing truck. It was designated number "1", class A-1 and was so successful from the start that a number of railroad lines soon placed orders for more of this type. Lima Locomotive Work became famous for developing this design.

The old Lima Shay shop and the heavy erection sheds were demolished during the spring of 1998. They had been left to rot for 20 years before they were taken down. The Lima Locomotive Works records including builder's drawings are stored at two places. Most of them are stored on the Second Floor of the Big Four Building at the California State Railroad Museum Library in Sacramento, CA.

California State Railroad Museum Library
111 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-323-8073
Ellen Haltman, Librarian

Some of the drawings and the Builders Photos are at:

Allen County Museum
620 West Market St.
Lima, OH 45801
Phone: 419-222-9426
Charles Bates, Asst. Curator

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Much thanks to Richard Duley who has helped to provide a great deal of the information found on this page.