American Locomotive Builders


March/April 1983
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An illustration from American Locomotive Builders.
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John H. White, curator of transportation at the Smithsonian Institution, has written a valuable new book which can make good reading for all persons interested in steam as a source of power.

Its short title is AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE BUILDERS Its long title is A SHORT HISTORY OF AMERICAN LOCOMOTIVE BUILDERS IN THE STEAM ERA. It is full of wonderful old pictures and information on the engine makers.

This is White's eighth book. He is America's leading expert in the field, and bases the book on 20 years of collecting notes and railroad souvenirs. The reader gets the benefit of his ability to assemble and present his knowledge.

Some people say that collectors and restorers of steam traction engines the engines used primarily on the farms do not care a lot for steam locomotives, which were mainly for use on railroads.

There is, however, a relationship which is very important between the two kinds of engines. Both sprang from the idea that steam could power almost anything, during the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. Steam locomotives came first, but both were strong economic forces adding to the growth of the American nation.

In some cases, companies that made locomotives also manufactured traction or stationary engines. And, along the line, many companies in both fields started, produced engines, and then faded into history.

The best known locomotive builders, of course, are Baldwin, Alco and Lima. But there are many others also, in all parts of the U.S., whose story is told in the book. Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pa., was the largest and most successful of them all, throughout the steam locomotive era. It was founded by Matthias W. Baldwin, a jeweler who became a machinist, in 1831, when the rail era was just dawning. The Baldwin firm built 70,500 locomotives before production ended in 1956.

Alco was the short name for American Locomotive Co., founded at Schenectady, N. Y., in 1901 by eight companies that joined to compete with Baldwin. It completed 70,000 locomotives ending in 1969.

Lima Locomotive Works, at Lima, O., started as the Lima Agricultural Works before going into locomotives. It entered the industrial locomotive market in 1878. A big boost was its production of the Shay geared logging locomotive. Making of locomotives ended in 1951.

Locomotive makers that made steam traction engines included Blandy's Steam Engine Works, of Zanesville, O., (see illustration) and Bucyrus Foundry and Manufacturing Co., of Bucyrus, O.

The book is published by Bass, Inc., Washington, D. C.








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