Baldwin "VO-660" Locomotives

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).

La Salle & Bureau County Railroad VO-660 #6, purchased new in 1946, is seen here at Monon's yard in Hammond, Indiana on November 26, 1965. Roger Puta photo.

The 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 well.

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 straightforward.

Seen here is Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company VO-660 #607 on June 2, 1984, preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. L.S. Melin photo/Arnold Morscher collection.

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 among crews and railroads.   

Baldwin VO-660 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Akron & Barberton Belt Railroad2511942
American Smelting & Refining Company1950-195341945
American Steel & Wire Company1, 11, 23-131941-1942
Baldwin (Demo/Plant Switcher)29911939
Basic Magnesium, Inc.10111942
Central Of Georgia511940
Central Railroad Of New Jersey (CNJ)1040-104341942
Chicago & Eastern Illinois11011942
Chicago & North Western1237-1246101945
Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha (C&NW)58-6031945
Denver & Rio Grande Western66-7491941
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern270-27231940-1941
Kansas City Southern115011946
LaSalle & Bureau County Railroad611946
Long Island Rail Road40311945
Louisville & Nashville20-2341941
Milwaukee Road163511940
Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern60011940
Minnesota Western Railroad111942
Missouri Pacific9009-9010, 9012, 920641940-1941
Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis1011941
New Orleans Public Belt41-4331941-1942
New York Central501-502, 752-761121941-1945
Northern Pacific128-13031940-1942
Patapsco & Back Rivers Railroad63-6541941-1942
Pennsylvania5907-5909, 5932-5937, 5941-5943121942-1945
Pickens Railway211945
Proctor & Gamble12511945
Reading36, 61-70111939-1942
St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco)600-60121942
Seaboard Air Line120211941
Southern Pacific1021-102221941
Standard Steel671211940
Terminal Railroad Association Of St. Louis (TRRA)531-53441940-1942
Union Terminal Railway Of Memphis (MP)9090-909121942
U.S. Army2-10011941
U.S. Navy10-11, 15-16, 18, 3161944-1945
Upper Merion & Plymouth51-5221941-1942
Wabash Railroad20011941
Warner Company1111945
Western Maryland101, 103-10541941-1942
Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company1011942
Wyandotte Terminal101-10331945
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company600-60781945

Standard Steel VO-660 #6712 is seen here at the company's plant in Burnham, Pennsylvania on July 20, 1976. Purchased new by the manufacturer in 1940 she is the oldest preserved Baldwin, currently owned by SMS Rail. Doug Kroll photo.

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 chart above.

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

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