06 Dec 1998
Copyright © 1998-2010 by owner.
22 Jan 2018

B A L T I M O R E   A N D   O H I O


(Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Railroad Club collection)
Class P7d, the famous Cincinnatian streamlined Pacific


In 1947, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad rebuilt four of its class P7 "President" series Pacific 4-6-2 passenger locomotives (numbers 5301-5304) for service on a new high-speed daytime run between Washington and Cincinnati.  The modified engines had streamlined shrouds (designed by Olive Dennis), and were equipped with larger tenders to reduce the number of stops needed for fuel and water.  There were two streamlined heavyweight train-sets of five cars each, strikingly painted in gleaming royal blue, light gray, and black, with yellow striping and lettering.  Train length was strictly limited so that the P7d would not require a helper to maintain speed while crossing the Alleghenies.  To assist in maintaining its tight 12.5-hour schedule, the Cincinnatian's stops were limited.  The train was routed via the Patterson Creek cutoff, and also via the Magnolia cutoff, a line otherwise devoted exclusively to fast freight traffic.

Although the spectacular Cincinnatian attracted much attention, ridership was disappointing on this route.  After less than two years' service, the daytime Washington run was dropped from the timetable, and in June 1950 the trains were shifted to the Cincinnati - Detroit corridor.  Because this route was relatively flat, mail and express cars could be added.  Though this detracted from the original train's sleek, all-streamlined appearance, ridership and revenues increased to acceptable levels.

In 1956, the four streamlined Pacific locomotives were shifted to a relatively short run between Cincinnati and Louisville.  However, the Cincinnatian continued in daily service between Cincinnati and Detroit powered by EMD diesel-electrics, the train being dropped from the timetable only at the beginning of the Amtrak era.

Class EM1, largest steam locomotive on the B&O roster


The EM1 class comprised thirty locomotives (numbered 7600-7629) built for the B&O by Baldwin in 1944 and 1945.  These articulated1 engines maintained 235 psi steam pressure, and had 24×32" cylinders (4) and 64" disk drivers.  They exerted 115,000 pounds of tractive effort, and weighed 1,010,700 pounds (including tender) in working order.  The 12-wheel tenders held 25 tons of coal and 22,000 gallons of water.  EM1s had roller bearings on all axles, a feature which made them so free-rolling that, with the cylinder cocks open and on level track, one of these behemoths could be pushed by three men.

The EM1 was among the smallest of the Yellowstone (2-8-8-4) type ever built, but nothing larger would have conformed to the Baltimore and Ohio's tight clearances.  Except for some minor staybolt problems, arising from the uneven distribution of water in the long boiler on steep grades, the EM1 was an exceptionally fine running and reliable locomotive.

The last "new" steam power built for the B&O, EM1s were initially assigned to the mountainous Cumberland and Pittsburgh divisions.  Later, as diesel-electric power displaced steam in the Alleghenies, they were shifted west to the ore-hauling region in northern Ohio.  Though designed primarily for heavy freight service, they were versatile machines, and in the early years were even used as passenger power on occasion.  As a group, the EM1s lasted until the end of steam power on the B&O.  Their ranks began to thin in 1958, however, when the decision was made to cease all major expenditures for steam locomotive repairs.  Overhauls in progress were halted, and EM1s due for major maintenance were slated for scrapping instead.  By 1960, all of these magnificent giants had gone to the torch; not a single one was spared.



Because of its relatively steep grades in Appalachia, the Baltimore and Ohio was among the first American railroads to experiment with (and benefit from) diesel-electric motive power—especially well suited to low-speed lugging—in main-line service.  But because much of its revenue derived from coal-hauling, the B&O was one of the last to eliminate steam power from its roster.  Even after the mountainous Pittsburgh and Cumberland divisions had been dieselized, steam continued in widespread use in the relatively flat country west of the Alleghenies.  Until the mid 1950s, the EM1 was accompanied in the B&O's ranks of articulated locomotives by classes EL5 (2-8-8-0, of 1920 vintage) and KB1 (2-6-6-4, a very successful hand-me-down from the Boston and Maine).

Among rigid-wheelbase steam locomotives, the class S1 "Big Six"2 2-20-2 engines were regularly used in pairs as helpers on the Pittsburgh division.  Class T3 and T4 "Mountain" 4-8-2 locomotives were extensively employed in fast freight, express, and passenger service. The tireless Q3 and Q4 "MacArthur"2 2-8-2s and many E27 "Consolidation" 2-8-0s held on until the last, powering local freights, serving branch lines, and performing yard switching service.  And the various P1, P5, P6, and P7 classes of the "Pacific" 4-6-2 type continued to be used on lower priority commuter and mail runs after being nudged out of "name train" service by EMD diesel-electrics.



A Brief History of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

Founded in 1827, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was the first railway in the United States chartered for both freight and passenger service.  It was intended to compete with the Erie Canal, which was drawing business away from Baltimore.  The railroad's name derived from the initial objective of its founders, to provide a rail route over the Allegheny Mountains to the banks of the Ohio River.  The B&O's carriages were initially pulled by horses, but by 1829 the steam engine—the tireless "iron horse"—had proved too formidable a competitor, especially once the rails left the coastal plains and began to wind upward into the mountains.

As the railroad grew, it developed an east coast corridor between Washington and Jersey City (eventually with bus service to New York).  Westward from Baltimore, the railroad diverged at Cumberland, Maryland.  The first line continued westward through Cincinnati to Saint Louis.  The other swung northward to Pittsburgh, and from there westward once again, past Cleveland and Toledo to Chicago.  Both lines encountered stiff grades in excess of two-percent in the mountains of Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  Over the longest and steepest of these—Cranberry, Sand Patch, and Seventeen-Mile Grades—all but the shortest trains were run with one or more helper locomotives, either shoving on the rear in the case of freight trains, or coupled to the front on passenger runs.  Farther west, a major north-south line was created over the relative flat of western Ohio, connecting Detroit and Cincinnati, through a combination of new construction and the acquisition of existing lines.  Other lines brought the B&O to Springfield (Illinois), Indianapolis, Columbus, and Louisville.

In the 1920s, the B&O acquired the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad, with the aim of building a short bridge route from that line eastward to the Reading Railroad (which the B&O controlled), thus creating a more direct route to the metropolitan northeast.  This would permit the B&O to compete effectively with the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads between New York and Chicago.  However, the Great Depression put a stop to such plans for expansion; yet the former BR&P fit nicely into the B&O's scheme as a major hauler of iron ore from the Great Lakes to Pittsburgh.

Following World War II, the Baltimore and Ohio found itself still mired in debt incurred during the 1930s.  Yet it struggled valiantly onward with ambitious modernization projects, including the replacement of its steam motive power with diesel, and the upgrading of its passenger fleet from standard heavyweight cars to streamliners.  To its credit, the Baltimore and Ohio maintained its policy of treating its passengers royally.  This, in a time when the airlines were drawing long-distance passengers away in increasing numbers, and other railroads were actually discouraging passenger traffic to cut their losses.

By 1970, the Baltimore and Ohio was drowning in red ink.  It was compelled to merge with its long-time competitor, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, to form the Chessie System.  The Chessie subsequently acquired the Western Maryland and other lines, becoming one of the nation's largest rail companies, second only in the east to the government-operated Conrail.  Yet the Chessie still emblazoned its rolling stock with the familiar and historic "B&O" and "C&O" reporting marks of its two primary lines.  In the 1980's, though, following a national trend toward corporate acronymic ambiguity, the management of the Chessie System decided to change the company's name to CSX Transportation.  After a century and a half of service, the once proud Baltimore and Ohio was no more.





[1] Articulated locomotives are essentially two engines under a single boiler.  While the rear engine is rigidly attached, the front engine is pivoted so that it can swing left and right, allowing the locomotive to negotiate curves which would be far too sharp for it otherwise.  Articulation got around the limitation of steam locomotive performance dictated by a practical maximum of five pairs of driving wheels in a rigid wheelbase.  (While it's true that the Union Pacific operated a few 4-12-2's, the front drive wheels on those engines were flangeless.)

[2] In some instances, the B&O's practices varied from the White standard classification of steam locomotives by wheel arrangement.  Whereas most railroads which used engines of the 2-10-2 configuration adopted White's "Santa Fe" designation, the B&O referred to engines of this type as "Big Sixes"—because they were big (by the standards of the day), and because they occupied the 6000 numbering series.  Also, during World War II the B&O officially reclassified its 2-8-2 "Mikados" as the "MacArthur" type; nevertheless, railroad men and railfans alike continued to call them "mikes."

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