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