Last revised: May 4, 2023
By: Adam Burns
For many railroads the Consolidation became a standard bearer from the time it was widely put into service during the late 19th century virtually until the end of the steam age.
The design, with its eight main drivers, offered good tractive effort and was often used in freight assignments but also found itself occasionally called upon for passenger consists.
Interestingly, the Rutland did not own many 2-8-0s, rostering a small fleet it acquired during the early 20th century as well as a few hand-me-downs from subsidiary Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain.
True to their form, however, the Consolidations served out long lives on the "Green Mountain Gateway," pulling freight until the railroad ended all steam operations during the early 1950s following the arrival of new road-switchers from Alco.
The Rutland's first use of the 2-8-0 Consolidation came via its acquisition of the O&LC in 1901.
This little road provided a western extension through New York State, running from Alburgh, Vermont to Ogdensburg situated along the mighty St. Lawrence River, which gave it an important port terminal in which freight arrived to and from Chicago over the Great Lakes.
During 1897, a few years prior to the takeover, the O&LC acquired a trio of new 2-8-0s from the Schenectady Locomotive Works (American Locomotive Company after 1901).
They were numbered 339-341, weighed 123 tons, and provided tractive efforts of roughly 31,000 pounds. When the Rutland came out with its new classification system in 1913 these three units were renumbered 10-12 and given Class G-14.
While competent steamers they were the first retired, pulled from the roster during early 1934. The other Consolidations were all acquired between 1907 and 1913, numbered 14-31 and listed as Class G-34a/b/c/d.
These were the most powerful on Rutland's roster, weighing more than 179 tons, requiring rail of at least 79 pounds, and providing tractive efforts of nearly 40,000 pounds.
They were certainly big brutes, normally assigned heavy freight work alongside the newer 4-6-0s purchased around the same time. Starting in 1910, and through the late 1920s, Rutland embarked on a program to upgrade several of its steamers with superheaters.
Its Consolidations purchased between 1911 and 1913 (#24-31), already featured the technology, but the other units did not (#14-23) and were overhauled between May of 1915 and January of 1926.
The arrival of new Consolidations and Ten-wheelers also marked perhaps the greatest period of prosperity for the Rutland, sans World War II.
At that time the railroad was under control of the mighty New York Central (owning slightly more than half its capital stock outstanding), which infused the road with financial backing and increased traffic by sending significant tonnage through the interchange at Chatham, New York.
From there the freight moved across the entire Rutland system, going north to Alburgh, Vermont and then west to Ogdensburg where ships of the Rutland Transit Company (a Rutland subsidiary) continued on towards Chicago. This practice was likewise repeated for eastbound shipments.
According to Jim Shaughnessy's book, "The Rutland Road: Second Edition," by 1906 the company was showing accounts in excess of $1 million, allowing it to pay off newly purchased rolling stock and locomotives as well as additional equipment bought a few years later, including the 2-8-0s and 4-6-0s.
Times were so good and profits so high that the Rutland even began paying dividends in 1909. That same year an express, milk train was inaugurated, running the length of the system where it picked up shipments along the way.
At Rutland the consist normally included more than 40 cars, some of which went east towards Boston via the Boston & Maine interchange at Bellows Falls while most traversed southward over the Corkscrew and on to New York City over the NYC.
Unfortunately, the prosperous years were short-lived. The Rutland was simply one of many subsidiaries then owned by the NYC.
Its involvement, and financial support, was slowly withdrawn after selling half its interest to the New Haven in early 1911. A few years later in 1915 the Panama Canal Act made it illegal for a railroad to essentially compete against itself using water transportation.
In this case it was the Rutland Transit Company and since NYC had a stake in the entire affair this was deemed illegal. The result was that Rutland lost a substantial amount of through traffic and the docks at Ogdensburg virtually dried up.
The Consolidations plied on, however, and continued hauling freight throughout the steam era. The last unit was not retired from the roster until September of 1952.