Baldwin Locomotives (BLW), By Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

If you have a great interest in steam locomotives and the history of Baldwin Locomotive Works (whose reporting marks were BLW) then you may very much want to consider a copy of Baldwin Locomotives by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. This is not a typical book in the sense that it reads like a story or details a certain subject. Instead, it is primarily filled with technical data and related information covering many of Baldwin's steam locomotives it was constructing at around the turn of the 20th century such as 2-6-0 Moguls, 4-6-0 Ten Wheelers, 2-6-2 Prairies, and other wheel arrangements. Also included are some of foreign designs such as Double-Enders. Additionally, the book offers dated papers released around the same time from such notable names as Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt and S.M. Vauclain that discuss various subjects relating to the latest steam designs and how particular components had advanced through that time including the firebox and main boiler.

Baldwin Locomotives begins with no introduction or preface. Instead, it opens with a simple paragraph from Baldwin itself describing what you will see and read, which includes a catalog-like format of steam locomotive designs that it had constructed up through roughly 1901. To get an idea of this, when you turn to page five you will see a drawing of a 2-8-0 Consolidation design built for the Victorian Railways of Australia and its specifications including such things as its firebox specs, driving wheels, tender size, weight, wheel base, gauge, what type of service it was intended to see, and so forth. It continues on here by looking at several other Ten Wheelers, Consolidations, Moguls, and standard switchers. You will also read about the odd Double-Enders built for both domestic and commercial uses.

Beginning on page 34 the catalog goes into more detail about the Double-Ender. It begins with general specifications such as those mentioned above with a photo of one built for the McCloud River Railroad of California. It also provides a basic description of the locomotive along with how it operates. Other details include its reverse lever mechanism, cab setup, fuel, and the design's advantages. Moving on to page 59 the book presents the first of several historic papers. This one was written by the Commodore himself and dated to January 8, 1901 when it was presented to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. While the paper is quite long it essentially describes the history of the boiler and how its technologies had changed up to that time such as the development of the Belpaire Boiler and Wootten Firebox.

The paper also presents many engineering drawings, which are also featured throughout other areas of the book. As someone who only has a general background and understanding of steamers and how they operate much of the technical information presented is beyond my knowledge but nonetheless interesting to see and read about. So, for those out there who may be well versed on the steam locomotive you should find it all quite enjoyable! After this there is another large block of BLW locomotive designs such as a Lehigh Valley Camelback and several models built for foreign countries such as Natal and New Zealand. As one area of the catalog states, the reason so many railroads outside the United States purchased locomotives from America was due to their overwhelming reliability but were relatively cheap to buy.

On page 119 another paper is presented by Samuel M. Vauclain to the New England Railroad Club in February, 1901. As an engineer, Mr. Vauclain is well known for the development of the Vauclain compound locomotive around 1900. The design was meant to have greater fuel efficiency and lower water usage although constant design problems precluded it from becoming regularly implemented into newly manufactured locomotives. Essentially, his paper spoke of the overall history of steam technology up through the early 20th century and the many wheel arrangements that had been developed since the first Tom Thumbs, Rockets and others such as the 4-4-0 American, 2-8-0 Consolidation and 4-4-2 Atlantic.

In all Baldwin Locomotives is more than 300 pages in length and a hardcover. Without becoming repetitive, much of the rest of the book is presented in the same manner as has already been mentioned; various BLW designs with papers discussing other subjects such as the firebox, cylinders, and how the company actually manufactured their locomotives at its plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along Broad and Spring Garden Streets. Just as a quick note, however, this area of the book is rather fascinating for the historic photos taken within the plant showing early steamers under construction and how they were built. For instance, the images present a new locomotive from a simple boiler to its various stages of construction, and finally after it has left the shop completed (in this case the design was a Camelback).

If you are looking for a book about specifications related to BLW's early steam locomotives from 1900 or earlier than you should definitely enjoy this title from Schiffer Publishing's. However, just be aware that, as mentioned above, it is almost entirely filled with technical data, aside from the handful of papers on various subjects. For instance, if you are an avid modeler, steam locomotive aficionado, or simply want to learn a little more about the history of the topic I would certainly recommend picking up the book. If not, though, you may want to look for another title regarding BLW steamers. 

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Loyd Lowry Photography
Wade Massie
Ron Flanary

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