Locomotive Building in the United States (1902)

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The following was digitally scanned from "Railway and Locomotive Engineering," Volume 15, Number 2, February 1902, and Volume 15, Number 3, March 1902

(Source: Google Books)


Few of us realize the struggles which marked the locomotive industry in this country or the number of locomotive works which have been in existence at one time and another. We think of the present works, numbering less than a dozen and their output of between three and four thousand locomotives a year, and can hardly believe that the past seventy years have seen nearer a hundred than the present number.

Many were small, building but a few engines--possibly but one--and with their failure fell the hopes of towns, as well as individuals who, seeing the field for them, dreamed of large industries as the future for themselves. Nor should the failures be dismissed too lightly, for we must remember the odds against which they contended--the unknown paths they were obliged to tread, and which made deep inroads on their all too limited capital. Our success is largely due to their efforts--to their failures if you will--and we should give due credit to the work they did and the assistance it has been to us.

Then, as now, one of the main causes of failure was the lack of business qualities in connection with the mechanical ability. Those works which possessed both made money and survived--some of them being in active existence to-day.

This is not presented as a complete list--but rather as a collection of notes from various sources--partly from the old papers of the '40's, '50's and '60's, and it is hoped they will bring out additional facts in order that due credit may be given the pioneers in this line of work. If you have any new information or any corrections, it will be appreciated if you send it along at your early convenience.

The honor of building the first locomotive in the United States must be credited to the West Point Foundry. This was the "Best-Friend," built in 1830 from the plans of Edward L. Miller, of Charleston, S. C., to run between Charleston and Hamburg, and Charles E. Detmate made the drawings. The next engine was the "West Point," for the same road as the first, and was designed by Horatio Allen, who was chief engineer of the company. The "South Carolina" was also built in the same year.

The Baldwin Locomotive Works were founded by Matthias W. Baldwin in 1831, when, after building a working model, he received an order from the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad Company. It was not until November 23, 1832, however, that the "Old Ironsides" was tried on the road. This was a four-wheel engine, the two 54-inch drivers being at the rear. Cylinders were 9-1/2 x 18 inches. Wheels had heavy cast-iron hubs, wooden spokes and rims and wrought-iron tires; frame of wood, outside the wheels. Boiler was 30 inches diameter and had seventy- two copper tubes, 1-1/2 inches by 7 feet long. The contract price was $4,000, but after some controversy $3,500 was finally paid.

The second engine was the "E. L. Miller," for the Charleston & Hamburg Railroad Company, and was completed February 18, 1834. This was for the same road as the "Best Friend," "West Point" and "South Carolina," mentioned in connection with the West Point Foundry.

This engine (the "E. L. Miller") had cast-brass wheels but they soon wore out. The cylinders were 10 x 16 inches, the single driving wheels were 54 inches, and the front end was carried on a four-wheel truck.

Five engines were built in 1834, and in this year a part of the present site (Broad and Hamilton streets, Philadelphia) was chosen.

It is impossible to trace the interesting development of the Baldwin engine in this brief sketch, but it is interesting to note that in May, 1848, Mr. Baldwin filed a caveat for a four-cylinder engine, which was never built. In 1880--forty-one years later--these works began the building of what is now the best known four-cylinder locomotive in the world.

The New Castle (Del.) Manufacturing Company was incorporated January 25, 1833, to make cotton, woolen and metal goods, by Thos. Janvier, James Cooper, James Rogers, James Smith and Charles L Dupont. A year later they built a factory to build locomotives. Mr. W. H. Dobb was master mechanic for a number of years and built locomotives for the New Castle & Frenchtown Railway.

Ross Winans was very intimately connected with the motive power of the Baltimore & Ohio, and in 1831 he built the first eight-wheel passenger car--"Columbus" in the company's shop, from his own drawings.

In 1834 he resigned from the railroad's employ, and together with a Mr. Gillingham he took the company's shop at Mount Clare, with a contract to supply locomotives at a stipulated price and to give the Baltimore & Ohio work preference over all other.

In 1836 they turned out the "Mazeppa" type, which retained the vertical boiler of the "grasshopper" and converted it into a "crab"--to use the language of the railroad men. This weighed 12 tons. They supplied a number of these to Eastern roads, all of them burning anthracite coal.

The "Carroll of Carrollton" was built in 1843, with single drivers, 7 feet in diameter. This had a "traction increaser which shifted the weight from trucks to drivers," as in our latest engines. This engine had remarkable speed.

Again in 1844 he brought out a new plan in the "Buffalo," an eight coupled engine with a vertical boiler in the center. This was affectionately termed the "Mud Digger."

The famous "camel" was produced in 1848, and had eight coupled wheels, 43 inches in diameter, wheel-base 11 feet 3 inches. The cylinders were horizontal and outside. Cams were used for cut-off instead of eccentrics. A wide firebox overhung the back drivers, and the cab was midway of boiler. The Winans works continued until the civil war, when they were seized by the government, owing to Mr. Winans' refusal to give their work the preference.

Lowell Locks & Canal Company, Lowell, Mass., built the "Patrick" for the Boston & Lowell Railroad in 1834. Having cylinders 11 x 16 inches, drivers 60 inches, 36-inch leading wheels and a 34-inch boiler, it was very close to the English "Planet" type. This was followed by the "Concord," "Nashua," "Medford" and "Suffolk"--all wood-burners.

Garrett, Eastwick & Harrison built the "Hercules" in 1837, but it is not certain that this was their first locomotive. In it the designer, Joseph Harrison, Jr., used equalizers between the drivers for the first time in history. The firm soon became Eastwick & Harrison, and their "Gowan & Marx" and other engines are well known. This burned anthracite coal.

In 1831-2, under the firm name of Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor, Mr. Thomas Rogers established what is now known as the Rogers Locomotive Company.

The first engine was the "Sandusky," built in 1837 for the New Jersey Transportation Company, but sold to the Mad River Railroad after much persuasion. This engine weighed under 10 tons. It had six wheels, two of them being drivers. It had counterbalanced wheels and four fixed eccentrics, both innovations in locomotive building.

Rogers was also one of the first to advocate using the link motion, beginning in about 1850, and his wisdom is shown in its general use today. In 1842 they built he "Stockbridge," an engine with outside cylinders. The driving axle was in front of the firebox and a pair of trailers behind. In front was a full truck, making an engine of the "bicycle" type. Rogers adopted the American or eight-wheel design (patented by Henry R. Campbell, of Philadelphia) in 1844, and of course others did the same at various dates.

In 1848 they built some ten-wheel locomotives for the Savanilla Railroad of Cuba, with 15-1/2 x 20-inch outside cylinders. These are supposed to be the first ten-wheelers with outside cylinders.

Mr. W. S. Hudson, who was one of the best designers we have had in locomotive work, became superintendent of the Rogers works in 1852, and remained in that position until his death, in 1881, at the age of seventy-two. His many patents are interesting to study and embody many of the ideas in use to-day.

This company is one of the few survivors and is now making extensive additions and improvements.

The Wm. Mason Locomotive Works, Taunton, Mass., became well known in the early fifties, and to Mr. Mason belongs much credit for artistic taste in locomotive designing. The "Enterprise" is usually given as his first engine, but in reality it was the "James Guthrie," for the Jeffersonville road in Indiana, and it was one of the most graceful eight-wheelers built at that time.

There is more to be said about these works in a later issue.

The Taunton Locomotive Works commenced business in the early forties. W. W. Fairbanks was the general agent and was later agent of the Grant Locomotive Works. P. I. Perrin was draftsman, and B. F. Slater foreman. The early Taunton locomotives were inside connected. Frames were made by riveting together two bars of iron 5 x 5/8 with one 2 x 2 between them at the top. The pedestals were of cast iron. The tops of them were reduced in thickness and entered the groove in frame, and were held in place by turned rivets. Castings to hold flanges of cylinders were fastened in the same manner. Valve gear had drop hooks, and the point of cut off was constant. Driving wheels were four-coupled, with a four-wheel truck under the smoke-box. Boiler was of iron; firebox, copper or iron, as directed; tubes, copper. Wood being the fuel, the chimney was double, with a large bonnet of fine wire. No steam gages or injectors were known. Water was supplied by pumps driven from the cross-heads. Tender was mounted on three pairs of 33-inch wheels; no swiveling trucks. Later they applied the V-hooks to the valve gear; still later a variable cut-off driven by a half crank or forward crank pin, and a V-hook working on a rocker. Steam pressure, 100 pounds, The time made by these locomotives between Boston and Providence was 1 hour 15 minutes, which has been reduced but 15 minutes in fifty years.

Hinkley Locomotive Works were established in about 1843, being first called the Hinkley & Drury Company. The "Lion," their first engine, has become historic, and for years a "Hinkley" was noted for its speed and other good qualities. They built the "C. P. Williams" for the Stoningtor Steamboat Express--an engine that made many fast runs. They also built two 6-foot single-driver engines, with 4-foot trailer, and 16 x 20-inch cylinders for the Erie. They met with several business reverses and finally built the "Shaw" balanced locomotive, "Henry F. Shaw," and one of Strong's freaks. The combination was enough to cripple a healthy locomotive works, and in this case it was fatal.

The Schenectady Locomotive Works, with one of the Norris family as president, were incorporated in 1848, and consequently rank among the oldest establishments of their kind in the United States. The history of their long and successful operation contains many items of interest and would not be complete without a reference to Walter McQueen, the first superintendent. As was customary in those days, the engines were known as McQueen locomotives. He had been with Seth Wilmarth and was a good designer. Later, in about 1874, he endeavored to start a locomotive works in Schenectady, but the panic prevented its successful existence. The works proper occupy 12-1/4 acres, compact, with no streets dividing, while 23 acres in all are owned by the company for all purposes. The works are connected by switches to the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad, also the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company's Railroad, and have docks on the Erie Canal. The general plan of the works is arranged on the principle of the modern freight yard, so that material and complete locomotives and tenders are readily handled from one shop to another with switching locomotives. The works are at present employing over 2,250 men, and are one of the leading works of the American Locomotive Company.

The Nashville Locomotive Works were located in Nashville, Tenn., early in the fifties by some mechanics from R. Norris' shop, and built what few engines were turned out there on the same lines as the "Norris" engine of Philadelphia.

The Seth Wilmarth engine "Fury," built in Boston in 1849 for the Boston & Worcester road, was famous in that part of the country. Inside-connected cylinders, 55 x 18 inches, 66-inch drivers and 48-inch boiler made up the main dimensions of this eight-wheeler.

In 1852 he built two for the Cumberland Valley road, having 12-/12 x 16-inch cylinders, for cast-iron wheels with chilled rims, 3-1/2 feet in diameter and 16-1/2 feet center to center.

Moore & Richardson were located in Cincinnati, O. They built a large number of engines in their time. Most of them were fitted with the "Gooch" link, as it was considered by them a strong point to have a uniform lead for the valve. They also used a "bell stand" of same pattern as now in universal use by all builders. They were in the flood tide of their business in the fifties, having great hopes of holding out against the Eastern shop.

Danforth & Cooke, of Paterson, N. J., were well known among the early builders, and, after several changes, became the Cooke Locomotive & Machine Company, now one of the eight plants of the American Locomotive Company. Established in 1851, they were very prominent for many years, and a "Cooke engine" was often recommendation enough to a railroad man.

The Erie Railroad Company, soon after the opening of its road from Hornellsville, N. Y., to Dunkirk, N. Y., in 1852, constructed in Dunkirk a locomotive repair shop. In 1869, when Jay Gould, then president of the Erie Railroad, had completed extensive shops at a more central location on the line of that road, he ordered the Dunkirk shops to be permanently closed and the machinery removed to other localities. Mr. Horatio G. Brooks, then superintendent of motive power and machinery of the Erie Railroad, whose home was at Dunkirk, and whose interests were identified with its welfare, made a proposition to Mr. Gould for a lease of the shops and machinery for the purpose of establishing the business of locomotive building. The lease was consummated in November, 1869, and before the close of the year the first two locomotives of the new Brooks Locomotive Works were turned out.

The Essex Locomotive Works were established in Lawrence, Mass., prior to 1853 (the exact date is in doubt). Mr. Charles Hastings was chief draftsman, and they built at least two locomotives, the "Essex" and "Lawrence," for the New York Central, which had independent cutoff valves. Little else is known of these works.

The Detroit Locomotive Works were at Detroit, Mich., in [1853-1857], etc. They built a number of engines which the boys called the "Wolverines." They were mostly for the Michigan Central and Great Western of Canada. Mr. Carpenter was foreman, afterwards master mechanic of the Detroit & Eel River road.

Smith & Perkins were at Alexandria, Va., and their engines were quite well known in some localities in about 1853. Thatcher Perkins was superintendent, formerly master mechanic of the Baltimore & Ohio. Only a few engines were built there, all of which were designed by Mr. Perkins. Some of the first engines were for the Orange & Alexander and the Manassas Gap Railroads.

The Cuyahoga Steam Furnace Company were in Cleveland, O., and have quite a history, if it could all be written. Mr. E. T. Sterling was superintendent; Mr. Rogers, foreman, in 1853. A patent cut-off by Rogers was a strong feature of the many engines built then.

Breese, Kneeland & Co. were at Jersey City, and one of their old engines, the "Superior," was shown in our issue of November, 1898. Mr. E. P. Gould was superintendent. Some of the special features of the engines were a solid forged "slab frame," short travel of valve, some of which was only 3-1/2 inches. A Mr. Hamilton was mechanical engineer of the works. They commenced building engines in 1853.

The East Bridgewater works are described as follows in a letter to the author by Mr. George Duckworth, who is familiar with their history:

"The Matfield Manufacturing Company, of East Bridgewater, was formed in 1853 by James Brown, Wm. Bates, Franklin Keith and others, to engage in building locomotive engines. The stockholders were mostly residents of East Bridgewater. Mr. Brown was agent and general manager. The master mechanic was Elias Woodworth, who had held a like position in the repair shops of the Old Colony Railroad in South Boston, also at John Souther & Co.'s Globe Works. For the wheels, frames and other heavy work and the erection of the engines, Bradbury E. Randall and his two sons, Samuel A. and William B.. from Wm. Mason Locomotive Works, were employed. They were previously at Hinkley & Drury's. Eben J. Lothrop and Stephen Cairns built the cylinders, pistons and connecting rods; they were formerly employed at Southers. Stephen A. Morse, formerly of Hinckley & Drury's, made the lighter running work, employing his brother, Rufus W., from Colts Armory, as toolmaker. Mr. Morse subsequently established a twist drill manufactory at New Bedford. He died December, 1898. The boilermaker, Charles Gibbs, and the blacksmith, Jeffrey Cole, were from Boston shops. Each of these 'job hands' hired his own help, and executed his part of the work at a fixed price per engine. Probably not more than fifty men were employed at one time. There were six engines built. The first was called 'Charles Phelps' and was sold to the Providence & Stonington Railroad. The second was named 'Daniel Webster' and went to the Cape Cod Railroad. On the tender was painted an enlarged copy of a popular picture, called 'Webster at Marshfield,' representing the great statesman sitting under a large tree. The third was not named by the builders. but was by 'the boys' as the 'Know Nothing,' a popular political word of that day. On the tender of the other, that was intended to be named the 'Amazon.' was portrayed a beautiful though scantily attired woman bestride a most noble horse. The fourth engine was built to fill an order that Mr. Woodworth had obtained from his native city, Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was named the 'Mayflower,' and when finished, the company having exhausted their resources of capital and credit, he decided to go with it as its engineer. The company soon afterwards went out of business, leaving two unfinished engines in the shop, that were completed under direction of the assignees and sold to the Old Colony & Fall River Railroad, and named 'South Boston' and 'New York.' The unnamed engine caused the instant death of Stephen Woodworth, and the 'Mayflower' jumped from an ice-covered track into the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean, carrying to his death her ill-fated constructor. Among the more pleasant memories of Matfield was the trial trip of the 'Charles Phelps,' when three carloads of jubilant citizens of the village were given a free excursion to Plymouth, hauled by the newly completed 'iron horse,' of which all were proud. The dates and other points were given me in this matter by the courtesy of Herman S. Morse, Esq. I am and have been continuously employed on this railroad since 1847, and well recall the movements of this company, being engineer on the locomotive 'Pawtuxet' in 1855. I am reminded of moving the 'Webster' and other engines mentioned."

Swinburne is another name which is well remembered, but little actual knowledge can be obtained. It started as Swinburne & Smith, but the former soon withdrew and started Wm. Swinburne & Co., Paterson, N. J. This was short-lived, however, being crushed by the panic of 1857.

The White River Junction Locomotive Works, at White River, N. H., were also in the field in about 1857. They built engines very much like the Taunton. One of them was the old No. 5 on the Toledo, Peoria & Warsaw road. Only a few were built before they became one of many failures in the field.

The Dickson Works, of Scranton, Pa., now a part of the American Locomotive Company, were started in 1857 by William Cooke & Co. and known as the Cliff Locomotive Works. They built three locomotives. The first one was a 4-wheel connected passenger with a 4-wheel truck, and is called "C. P. Wurts, No. 1," and was for 4-foot 3-inch gage, to be used on the old Delaware & Hudson gravity, which was abandoned in the spring of 1899. The other two locomotives built by this company are still in existence at Honesdale, owned by the same company. In 1858 they rebuilt a lot of engines, known as the "cabbage cutters" for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. Their first standard engine was the "Erie," which was No. 16 on the Lackawanna & Bloomsburg road. This was delivered early in July, 1863. It was a ten-wheel, 17 x 24-inch engine, with 54-inch drivers, and had a pump on one side and injector on the other. In 1862, the Dickson Manufacturing Company, which began in 1856 as Dickson & Co. and was incorporated in 1862, purchased the works of Wm. Cooke & Co. and began the manufacture of locomotives, which they have continued ever since.

The Risdon Iron and Locomotive Works, San Francisco, Cal., were organized in about 1859 under the firm name of Coffee & Risdon, who started in as boiler makers. Their business grew to such an extent that they formed a stock company known as the Risdon Iron & Locomotive Works. During the first few years of the corporation's existence, they constructed some three or four locomotives for logging purposes, also a few dummies for small suburban roads. The last locomotive was built in about 1884, for a firm in Alaska. It was of the geared type and ran on wooden rails. The company failed and the builders did not get paid for the engine.

The firm of H. K. Porter & Co. began business in 1866, under the name of Smith & Porter, with a shop of one rented room in Twenty-eighth street, Pittsburgh, Pa. There were a man and a boy, besides the "firm." They grew fast, however, and soon built a shop of their own. On March 4, 1867, the first locomotive was contracted for, and shipped on Thanksgiving Day. It was a four-wheel saddle-tank engine, 42-inch gage. In February, 1871, the shop was burned, and on rebuilding the firm name changed to Porter, Bell & Co., which lasted until the death of Mr. Arthur W. Bell, in 1878, when the present firm name was adopted. They have built everything from 18 to 72-inch gage and from 4 to 45 tons, and for all parts of the world.

The New Jersey Locomotive & Machine Company was changed to Grant Locomotive Works, 1866.

The Lancaster Locomotive Works, Lancaster, Pa., were also Norris works, as they were run by James Norris. They built the "Ant" and the "Bee," the first decapods, for Alexander Mitchell, master mechanic of the Lehigh Valley, in 1867. J. A. Durgin, "constructor," also built engines for the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The National Locomotive Works at Connellsville, Pa., were run by Dawson & Bailey in 1870. They were started for the purpose of building narrow-gage locomotives, a "mania" just getting hold of the railway world at that time.

Kentucky Locomotive Works, Louisville, Kentucky, were run by Messrs Olmstead, Tenney & Peck. Exact date is not known.

Richard Norris & Brother had quite a shop in Philadelphia, but their engines are now only a memory. The Norris Brothers, however, left their mark on the locomotive business of the United States, and deserve much credit.

The Trenton Locomotive Works, Trenton, N. J., were organized by Van Cleve & McCann. Afterwards Mr. Isaac Dripps left the Camden & Amboy Railroad to join them and became one of the firm. They built the "Monster" class of engines for Camden & Amboy and Belvidere & Delaware Railroads, also standard eight-wheelers, with valve motion outside. Mr. Adams was superintendent in the later part of its existence.

The Niles Locomotive Company were in Cincinnati, O., but did not build locomotives very long. They are now at Hamilton, O., and the tools of the Niles Tool Works have a world-wide reputation. Two of the engines built by them had four cylinders and were fitted with "Walschaert" valve gear, for outside cylinders. Some of their 15 x 22 engines had steam ports 18 inches long, 1-3/8 inches wide--a "hobby" with them.

Among the works about which little or nothing has been learned are: John Souther & Co.'s Globe Works, Boston, Mass.; Hawood & Bartletts, Baltimore, Md. ; Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Va.; Portland Company, Portland, Me.; Palm & Robertson, St. Louis, Missouri; Menominee Locomotive Works, Milwaukee, Wis.; Ballardvale Locomotive Works, Ballardvale, Mass.; Springfield Locomotive & Car Works, Springfield, Mass.; Corliss & Nightingale, Providence, R. I.; Mt. Savage Locomotive Works, Mt. Savage, Md.; Dawson & Bailey, Connellsville, Pa.