The Baldwin VO660 was the builder's first diesel switcher model,
debuting in 1939 along with its more powerful cousin the VO-1000. It
somewhat resembled models being produced by both the American Locomotive
Company (its S series) and the then Electro-Motive Corporation (which
produced models like the SC, SW, NC, and NW). The Baldwin Locomotive
Works was never a particularly strong manufacturer of diesels. Moreso
than even Alco, Baldwin continued to hold on to the belief that steam
would never be replaced in main line freight and passenger service.
Because of this philosophy the company never bothered to seriously
research and develop such a locomotive despite the fact that EMC had
already successfully demonstrated its EA and FT models. Today, a few
examples of the VO-660 remain preserved; Wyandotte
Terminal #103 is located at the Illinois Railway Museum while Standard
Steel #6712 is currently being put back into operation by short line SMS
Lines (which loves Baldwins and rosters several in active service).
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern VO660 #270 sits parked next to the shops in Joliet, Illinois with DT-6-6-2000 #118 on August 23, 1964.
Baldwin VO660 began production in April, 1939 as the company's first
true diesel model. The company was able to produce its own line of
diesels only after it had acquired the I.P. Morris & De La Vergne
company, which specialized in the design and construction of diesel
engines. Interestingly, Baldwin's purchase of the company was more to
diversify its holdings in offering switcher and light duty diesels, as
it saw no need to develop a main line freight or passenger locomotive.
This can also be seen in its 1929 purchase of the Whitcomb Locomotive
Works, which dated back to the late 19th century. Whitcomb had begun
specializing in electric/diesel-electric
locomotives as early as 1914 and after Baldwin's purchase continued to
release small, industrial size switchers that actually sold relatively
Despite Baldwin's later issues of remaining competitive in the
diesel market, like Alco it actually found quite a bit of success with
small switchers. The company built three demonstrators to give railroads
an idea of what the VO660 had to offer which included #335, #336, and
#337. The model was a four-axle (B-B) design that was just 46 feet in
length and weighed 122.25 tons. Also like Alco, Baldwin relied on
Westinghouse for many of the switcher's internal components such as its
model WE362 traction motors and air equipment (brakes and compressor).
With a starting tractive effort of 49,625 pounds and 34,000 pounds
continuous the Baldwin VO660 was quite adept at pulling almost anything
asked of it. The classification Baldwin gave for the VO660 was rather
Santa Fe VO1000 #2258 is tied down in Vaughn, New Mexico during July of 1962.
The "VO" was the designation De La Vergne gave to the
prime mover used in the
locomotive and the "660" simply regarded the horsepower. The company
kept this setup through the VO1000 but soon after changed its
classification system to a complex set of numbers and letters.
While Baldwin only sold a little over 100 VO660s railroads tended to
favor the design, as could be seen in later models that sold several
hundred units. Class I railroads like the Denver & Rio Grande
Western, Chicago & North Western, New York Central, Northern
Pacific, Western Maryland, Reading, Wabash and others all purchased at
least a few units of the VO660. The relatively good reliability of the
small switcher and its rugged pulling power made it a real favorite
amongst crews and railroads.
The locomotive also found an interest with
industrial settings as companies like the Iowa Ordnance Plant, American
Smelting and Refining Company, American Steel and Wire Company and even
the US Navy and Westinghouse itself purchased the VO660. For Baldwin
its real successes with switcher designs came
later with models like the VO-1000, S12, and DS-4-4-1000. These
locomotives offered much greater horsepower and tractive effort, which
made them more marketable (as railroads could employ them in a number of
different applications, not just switching and shuffling cars).
Finally, for more information about the VO660s please refer to the