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B&O's 2-8-0 Locomotives


Last revised: February 7, 2024

By: Adam Burns

Like most railroads the Baltimore & Ohio found the ubiquitous and rugged 2-8-0 very useful in all types of applications from heavy freight service to secondary passenger assigments.

The wheel arrangement offered just the right blend of speed and power to find work just about anywhere. 

If you were a railfan in the 1940s or '50s, and exploring one of the railroad's numerous branch lines, there was a good chance you would have seen one of these locomotives in operation. The B&O went to on roster hundreds either purchased new, rebuilt, or acquired via a predecessor.

As David Mainey points out in his book, "Baltimore & Ohio Steam In Color," the B&O had an odd way of classifying its Consolidations; sometimes a lower subclass was actually a newer and more advanced design. 

Such characteristics only added to the B&O's already confusing system that was often a dizzying array of rebuilds, additions, or some other change.  Alas, no examples of the railroad's modern Consolidations were preserved although an early example is on display at the B&O Railroad Museum.


One of Baltimore & Ohio's husky Class E-27b's, #2771. These Consolidations could be found in all types of freight service.


The B&O's 2-8-0s are far too numerous to cover in great detail here and only a brief overview will be provided.  The Consolidation was quite a leap in power for the industry following its 1865 introduction as its heavier frame and larger boiler provided increased tractive effort and horsepower. 

The B&O took delivery of its first 2-8-0 in 1873 and soon found them ideal for freight assignments.  Previously the railroad had predominantly relied on any number of then-common wheel arrangements - such as 4-6-0s, 2-6-0s, and 4-4-0s - although its preferred locomotive was the 0-8-0 "Camel" (eventually rostering more than 130 examples). 

Class E

In 1884 the B&O began using a simplified classification system and the 2-8-0s fell under Class E.  It remained in use until steam was retired in 1958. 

By the 1890s the B&O had dozens of 2-8-0s in service either purchased new or via rebuild of older 0-8-0s.  Some of these early examples were tiny in comparison to the beefier and robust late-era examples. 

For instance, the first Consolidations weighed just 100 to 120-tons, carried 57-inch drivers, and carried tractive efforts of 25,000-35,000 pounds.  However, as car sizes grew, and freight demand increased, the B&O fielded much more powerful models by the early 20th century. 

Its last 2-8-0s - built through World War I - weighed anywhere from 150 to 175-tons, sported up to 63-inch drivers, and offered tractive efforts of 40,000-50,000 pounds.  Most of these engines were products of either Alco or Baldwin although a few arrived from other manufacturers.


The B&O also acquired many Consolidations from predecessors roads, most notably the Buffalo & Susquehanna; Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh; Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton; Coal & Coke; and Morgantown & Kingwood. 

The size, girth, and outward appearance of these engines varied considerably, making it difficult to tell variants apart unless one was a studious follower of B&O steam. 

However, for the more-general observer the railroad's own 2-8-0s were much easier to distinguish; they tended to feature a lengthened wheel base, larger boiler, and larger drivers. 

(The table below does not include B&O's many classes of articulated steamers.)

Steam Classification System

Designation Wheel Arrangement Type
Class A4-4-2Atlantic
Class B4-6-0Ten-Wheeler
Class C0-4-0Switcher
Class D0-6-0Switcher
Class E2-8-0Consolidation
Class F, G, H, I, J4-4-0American
Class K2-6-0Mogul
Class L0-8-0Switcher
Class M4-4-0American
Class N4-4-4-4Duplex
Class O0-6-6-0Mallet
Class P4-6-2Pacific
Class Q2-8-2Mikado
Class R2-4-4Forney
Class S2-10-2Santa Fe
Class T4-8-2Mountain
Class U0-10-0Switcher
Class V4-6-4Hudson
Class Y2-10-0Decapod


The most advanced Consolidations were the Class E-27's built between 1905-1910 by Alco.  These were the largest single class the B&O ever owned (more than 300) and required 80+ pound rail.  The engines featured 62-inch drivers and offered nearly 41,000 pounds of tractive effort.

The B&O would later rebuild some of these into Class E-27ca's that could produce an even better 50,934 pounds of tractive effort, almost as much as a Class Q Mikado.  After 1911 the railroad began upgrading its motive power fleet with even more rugged 2-8-2s. 

The Mikado - or "MacArthur" on the B&O - was well-liked by crews and tended to handle most road assignments throughout the late steam-era.  However, Consolidations continued to find their niche in branch and yard work.  Even through the 1950s one could find them switching cars in Chicago or handling coal trains on tucked away branches in West Virginia.


Color photographs of 2-8-0s are rare but Mr. Mainey's book provides a nice selection of these locomotives during their final years of service.

The 1950s found the railroad rapidly retiring its remaining steamers, replaced by newly arriving diesels.  In 1956 the B&O renumbered its remaining fleet to a three-digit system to make room for the new motive power. 

Mr. Mainey notes that just 26 Consolidations made the cut although as the author points out its unknown how many actually saw service after this time. 

Today, just one 2-8-0 survives, an early Class E-8, #545, named the A.J. Cromwell.  The railroad constructed the Consolidation at the Mt. Clare Shops in 1888 and is currently preserved at the B&O Railroad Museum. 


  • Edson, William D. Steam Locomotives Of The Baltimore & Ohio: An All-Time Roster.  Potomac: William D. Edson, 1992.
  • Mainey, David. Baltimore & Ohio Steam In Color. Scotch Plains: Morning Sun Books, 2001.
  • Morrison, Tom. American Steam Locomotive In The Twentieth Century. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2019.
  • Reynolds, Kirk and Oroszi, David. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Osceola: MBI Publishing, 2000.
  • Withers, Bob. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad In West Virginia, The. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.


Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website. 

It is quite staggering and a must visit!