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B&O 2-8-8-0 Locomotives (Class EL)

Last revised: January 3, 2024

By: Adam Burns

The Baltimore & Ohio was well-known for its prolific use of large, articulated, and Mallet designs. These massive steamers were generally assigned to the stiff grades of its West End main line as well as the infamous Sand Patch Grade in Pennsylvania.

One of these wheel arrangements was the 2-8-8-0 Consolidation Mallet, listed as Class EL.  These locomotives, particularly later sub-classes, offered very high tractive efforts making them ideal for the drag service in which they were assigned. 

The B&O originally purchased the design new from its favored manufacturer, the Baldwin Locomotive Works.  However, as was so often the case in the steam era the railroad also rebuilt 0-8-8-0s and 2-8-8-2s into 2-8-8-0s.

Many could still be found in service through the mid-1950s until they were finally retired in favor of diesels.

If you were a railfan during this time these big compounds could be found anywhere in coal country, from northern West Virginia to the B&O-controlled Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh. 


Baltimore & Ohio 2-8-8-0 #7154 leads an eastbound coal drag near Cumberland, Maryland on May 15, 1952. Bob Collins photo. Author's collection.


The Santa Fe was often involved in the development of many now-classic large wheel arrangements, from the 2-10-2 to the 2-10-4, as it sought evermore powerful and efficient locomotives. 

The 2-8-8-0 "Consolidation Mallet" was another result of this innovative nature.  In 1911 the Santa Fe's own shop forces took a pair of standard 2-8-0s and combined them to form a 2-8-8-0.

The first was given number 3296 and the railroad eventually built four similar engines numberd 3297-3299.  However, it was never satisfied with the results and converted them back into 2-8-0s by 1923.

0-6-6-0 "Old Maude"

The B&O was the very first North American line to place an articulated steam locomotive into service.  This 0-6-6-0 - built in 1904 with the assistance of American Locomotive - was listed as Class DD-1 #2400 and given the name "Old Maude." 

Like the Santa Fe, the B&O was constantly advancing steam locomotive technology.  In an effort to move larger and heavier freight trains over its steep West End - where some grades were greater than 2% - the railroad sought high adhesion designs. 

First Examples

In 1916 it acquired its first 2-8-8-0s from Baldwin, and continued receiving new examples from the builder until 1920.  Eventually, the manufacturer delivered eighty-six of these engines to the railroad, listed from Class EL-1 through EL-5.  

The B&O's 2-8-8-0s were impressive machines.  As originally delivered the locomotives weighed more than 462,000 pounds and offered nearly 92,000 pounds of tractive effort with their 58 inch drivers. 

Additionally, with a wheelbase of greater than 82 feet, they were then the largest locomotives on the B&O roster.  During 1923 the railroad added more to its fleet.  In addition, as it aimed to bolster its drag service fleet the railroad had acquired sixteen 2-8-8-2s from the Seaboard Air Line - classified as EE-1 - in 1922.

However, after only a year in service the B&O was displeased with their performance.  As a result, Mount Clare shop forces were tasked with removing the rear axle and in the process created another batch of Consolidation Mallets. 

After the conversion these locomotives were designated Class EL-6a and numbered 7300-7315.  They also boasted the greatest tractive effort of all 2-8-8-0s on the railroad at 121,429 pounds.


Model Builder Road Number(s) Date Built Disposition
Class EL-1/aBaldwin7100-71141916Scrapped, 1955 (?)
Class EL-2/aBaldwin7200-72141916Scrapped, 1955 (?)
Class EL-3/aBaldwin7115-71441917Scrapped, 1955 (?)
Class EL-4B&OFormer Class LL-1 0-8-8-0s1920Scrapped, 1955 (?)
Class EL-5/aBaldwin7145-71701919-1920Scrapped, 1955 (?)
Class EL-6aB&O7300-7315 (Former Class EE-1 2-8-8-2s)1922Scrapped, 1955 (?)

Around the same time the B&O added ten more, also thanks to the work done at its Mount Clare Shops.  In his authoratitive book, "Steam Locomotives Of The Baltimore & Ohio: An All-Time Roster," author William Edson notes the railroad acquired thirty 0-8-8-0s from Alco's Schenectady Works between March, 1911 and August, 1913.

Listed as Class LL-1 these big engines were originally numbered 2401-2420 and 2422-2431.  In 1916 they were renumbered 7020-7049.

Between 1919-1923 it took a third of them - specificaly 7020, 7023, 7026, 7032-7033, 7036, 7038-7040, and 7049 - and rebuilt the locomotives as 2-8-8-0s, listed as Class EL-4.  In their new configurations the engines weighed between 472,300-482,500 pounds.

In 1927 the B&O embarked on a rebuild program of the Mallets, changing most from the more complicated compound expansion to simple as mentioned above. 

- To read more about compound steam and its differences in regards to simple expansion please click here. -

Once out-shopped the EL's designation was appended with an "a" to denote the locomotives' conversion to simple expansion.

92834236526135325782869893478.jpgBaltimore & Ohio 2-8-8-0 #7145 (EL-5) and a 2-8-2 work hard in helper service shoving on an eastbound manifest at Sand Patch, circa 1955. Photographer unknown. American-Rails.com collection.

Final Years

Virtually all of the Baltimore & Ohio's fleet of large, articulated steam locomotives could be found battling the grades somewhere along the West End.  Many could still be witnessed in service here well after World War II and into the 1950s, giving railfans of this era a spectacular show. 

In David Mainey's book, "Baltimore & Ohio Steam In Color," photographers such as Bob Collins, Emery Gulash, and Don Ball all recorded these behemoths in action (many in color) allowing future generations to see steam from that era. 

As the B&O continued acquiring new diesels during the 1950s its steam fleet was slowly retired.  The Class EL's remained in service until the mid-1950s.  Mr. Edson notes the final example, #7127 (EL-3) was retired in February, 1955.  Unfortunately, with the railroad in financial straits at this time none were preserved.


  • 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.
  • Simpson, Walter. Steam Locomotive Energy Story, The.  New York: American University Presses, 2021.
  • Withers, Bob. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad In West Virginia, The. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.

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