Recognized as the birthplace of American Railroading, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum is the largest collection of historic railroad artifacts in the western hemisphere. Located in the original Mount Clare Roundhouse, the museum is home to the largest collection of 19th century locomotives and rolling stock in the country. The mile of track outside the museum is considered to be the most significant and historic stretch of track in the country, as the very first revenue passenger train traversed its rails in the 1830s. The Mount Clare station area is also the location that the first telegraph message was sent and received by a neighboring building.
Included in the museum is a gift shop that sells various railroad memorabilia and resources such as books, apparel, media, holiday ornaments, as well as toys and stuffed animals for young rail enthusiasts. Additionally, there are various model railroad layouts throughout the museum, including an outdoor G scale layout, and an HO scale layout inside the museum.
Like many railroads of its time, the Baltimore & Ohio collected historic artifacts for public relations purposes. Originally, these artifacts were scattered around the system, and did not have a permanent home. The railroad began to seek out a facility where their artifacts could be stored and shown to the public. Because of the historical significance of the Mount Clare site, this was the chosen spot for the collection. After much preparation, the museum opened to the public in 1953.
After the Baltimore & Ohio came under the control of the Chessie System, and later CSX Transportation, the museum continued to flourish and attract thousands of visitors annually. In 1990, CSX passed the museum onto a non-profit organization, who currently runs the museum today, and as of 1999, the museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
The museum consists of three buildings, the Mount Clare Station, the Museum Annex building, and the Passenger Car Roundhouse. The Mount Clare Station is the oldest, with its Georgian style and striking exterior, it is one of the most attractive buildings at the museum. Also striking is the museum annex building that was built in 1891. This two-story building was planned and engineered by Ephraim Francis Baldwin. Perhaps the center stage of the entire museum is the roundhouse, which was also designed by Baldwin, where the historical 19th and early twentieth century locomotives are on display.
The museum continued to flourish, albeit, not without its hardships. On February 16, 2003, a record breaking snowfall pummeled the northeastern part of the country, causing the roof of the roundhouse to collapse, damaging many of the historic artifacts in the museum’s collection. The roof collapse caused the museum staff to question the integrity of the original structure built by Baldwin, and facilitated many structural improvements to the facility. Work on restoring the museum began soon after the collapse, as a successful fundraiser was conducted. In just 22 months, the museum re-opened with updated and expanded facilities, including a repair facility for the historic collection.
Due to the improvement to the facilities, the museum is more popular than ever before, and flourishes by teaching the public about the country’s rich railroad history.
History of the Mt. Clare Facilities
Due to the Baltimore & Ohio’s rapid expansion in the early 1800’s, a repair and maintenance facility was needed, as well as a facility to store the horses before the advent of the steam locomotive. As a result, the railroad engineered the Mt. Clare Shops, which consisted of a machine shop and foundry, which employed over 1,700 workers. With the expanding railroad, more land was purchased, now stretching up to 40 acres. Many modern improvements were added to the shops in the coming years, including many safety upgrades such as fireproof buildings.
Many aspects of modern railroading were developed at these facilities, including locomotive design and operation. The likes of Phineas Davis and Ross Winans developed their designs at these facilities.
Phineas Davis is known for competing with Peter Cooper’s innovation, the “Tom Thumb” locomotive, which was the first American built steam locomotive. As a result, Davis developed his own locomotive called the “York”, which featured a vertical boiler design and was similar to Cooper’s design. Additionally, Davis built the “Grasshopper” locomotive for a price of $4,500, which was sold to the Baltimore & Ohio, and named the “Atlantic”. This design proved successful, as the railroad ordered 20 examples of the type.
Ross Winans, known for engineering a concept for the railway wheel, which was used for over one-hundred years, was one of the most prominent early locomotive builders. He became the assistant engineer of machinery on the Baltimore & Ohio, and continued innovating for the sprawling new rail industry. He patented an improved and re-engineered axle assembly for rolling stock, and put this new invention to work creating the first double axle railcar called the “Columbus”. In 1835, Winans leased the Mt. Clare shops from Phineas Davis, and used the advanced facility to build his locomotives. Winans was also a pioneer in replacing wood with more efficient coal, for fueling locomotives.
For many years, the Mount Clare Locomotive Shop built various locomotives both for the B & O and other railroads in the sprawling industrialized northeast. With the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives, steam locomotive production ceased in 1948. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the erecting shop in 1962, thus, the only active facility at Mt. Clare was the car shop. During 1962, the Chesapeake and Ohio purchased the Baltimore and Ohio, as a result, locomotive repairs were now transferred to the Cumberland, Maryland shops.
At the museum, there are many iconic locomotives in the collection that built the foundation of the American railroad. Artifacts featured at the museum range from the earliest steam locomotives to the beginnings of the diesel-electric locomotive. From the “Tom Thumb”, the first locomotive manufactured in America, to the Chesapeake and Ohio 2-6-6-6 “Mallet” type locomotive, that tackled the steep Allegheny Mountains, there is something for all enthusiasts and tourists to enjoy.
Baltimore and Ohio 0-4-0 “Tom Thumb” 1927 Replica
The “Tom Thumb” was developed by avid railroad mechanical engineer and inventor, Peter Cooper. This locomotive was the very first steam locomotive manufactured in the United States, and proved to be popular design, as examples of the type operated for over 60 years before retirement. This locomotive ultimately replaced horses, providing safer and quicker transportation.
The unique design of this locomotive included a vertical boiler and cylinders, powering the wheels. Testing of the locomotive commenced on the stretch of track between Baltimore and Ellicot Mills, Maryland. Unfortunetly, the locomotive was not preserved, as it was built as a test bed, and was never meant for revenue service. The replica at the museum was built by the B&O in 1927 for the “Fair of the Iron Horse”.
Baltimore & Ohio 0-4-0 #8 “John Hancock”
Built in 1836 by the locomotive manufacturing team of Ross Winans and George Gillingham, this locomotive was assembled at the Mount Clare Shops. Designed to be an enhanced version of sister unit the “Atlantic”, the “John Hancock was the first locomotive in the B&O fleet that was designed with a cab. Further enhancements included dual powered axles, increasing tractive effort significantly. Later in its service life, this locomotive was assigned to light duty yard switching, and was assigned #8, amidst the B&O ceasing to name their locomotives, it was no longer known as the John Hancock for the reamainder of its service life. The unit was retired in 1892.
Baltimore & Ohio 4-6-0 “Thatcher Perkins”
Built in 1853, the Baltimore & Ohio built its first 4-6-0 “10 wheeler”. Designed by Perkins himself, this locomotive was meant to tackle the steep mountain ranges of West Virginia. Demonstrating the versatility of the locomotive, it was later used during the Civil War transporting Union troops and other war time cargo. This locomotive was fitted with 60 inch drivers and had a tractive effort of 10,350 lbs.
In the roundhouse collapse in 2003, this unit was among the most severely damaged, and was restored to its former glory in 2010. Today, this unit wears a striking paint scheme including a dark blue boiler and red driving and pilot wheels.
Chesapeake & Ohio 4-6-4 Hudson # 490
Originally built as a 4-6-2 “Pacific” type locomotive by ALCO in 1926, C&O #490 is the sole surviving rebuilt streamlined C&O F-19 4-6-4 “Hudson” locomotive. No. 490 was one of five Pacifics rebuilt into L1 Hudsons in 1946. The original Pacifics were designed for passenger service around Charlottesville, on Chesapeake & Ohio trains such as the “Sportsman” and the “George Washington”.
Entering the post war era, the C&O planned to upgrade their passenger services with a luxury train called the “Chessie”, which was slated to run between Washington D.C. and Cincinnati. As a result, it was decided to upgrade 5 of their “Pacific”type locomotives, which were rebuilt at the C&0’s Huntington Shops in West Virginia, resulting in the L1 Hudsons. However, due to the expansion of road and air travel, this luxury train never came to fruition, and these rebuilt locomotives were assigned to various passenger trains around the system.
Baltimore & Ohio 0-4-0 “Grasshopper”
Built in 1832, and designed by Phineas Davis, this Grasshopper locomotive named “York” is among the oldest locomotives in North America. This locomotive was the result of a contest for locomotive designs held by the Baltimore & Ohio. The railroad saw the potential of the “Tom Thumb” and was increasingly confident in the success of steam motive power. This locomotive won the competition, as it was a reliable and versatile design.
The locomotive was groundbreaking during this time, as it was able to burn anthracite coal, and haul passenger services on the B&O between Baltimore and Ellicott City, Maryland. The locomotive was not preserved, however, the replica at the museum was built in 1927 by the B&O.
Baltimore & Ohio 4-6-2 #5300 “President Washington”
Built in 1927, this P-7 4-6-2 “Pacific” type locomotive was first presented to the public at the “Fair of the Iron Horse” in 1927. The Baltimore & Ohio designed these striking locomotives for their premier “Blue Line” route, which ran between New York and Washington, and were considered to be the pride of the fleet during this time. Advancements instilled in this locomotive included the ability to fill water without the need to stop, and being equipped with numerous safety devices, including an automatic stopping feature, in the event the engineer passed a red signal.
These locomotives called the “Presidents Class”, operated the Blue Line trains for well over 25 years, as they were retired in 1957. No. 5300 was saved from the scrappers torch, and was the only example of the class to be preserved.
American Freedom Train 4-8-4
Originally built in 1923 by Baldwin Locomotive Works as a class I-10a 2-8-0 “Consolidation” type locomotive no. 2101, it was rebuilt by the Reading in 1945 as a 4-8-4 “Northern”, and had the honor of being one of three locomotives to haul the “American Freedom Train”. The locomotive saw 10 years of faithful service after rebuild, and was retired in 1955, however, was put into storage until 1967, and later sold to a scrap yard.
However, Ross Rowland, who was a broker on Wall Street, saved the unit and chartered it for his American Freedom train, and was re-numbered AFT #1. Afterwards, the unit was used on the Chessie Steam Special, which celebrated 150 years since the B&O was chartered, where it made its runs for two years, before being donated the B&O museum in 1979.
Central Railroad of New Jersey 4-4-2 #592
Built in 1901 by ALCO, #592 is a 4-4-2 “Camelback” locomotive, named as such because of the cab being placed in the center of the locomotive, on the side of the boiler. This design was needed in order to fit the locomotive with a larger firebox that was designed to burn anthracite coal.
These locomotives were used on express trains, as they were capable of speeds of up to 90 mph. However, these units were not popular among train crews, as the cab was uncomfortable and not practical. Eventually, the Camelback design was outlawed due to safety concerns. After almost 50 years of service, 592 was retired in 1949, and brought to the museum in 1954. No. 592 is one of only five Camelbacks preserved.
Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-6 #1604
Built in 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works, the 2-6-6-6 “Allegheny” was one of the heaviest and most powerful locomotives ever built in the United States. This locomotive was assigned to haul heavy unit coal trains over the Allegheny Mountains, hence the locomotive’s namesake.
Articulated locomotives, referred to as “Mallets”, are steam locomotives with two sets of cylinders, driving wheels, and frames, which are connected using a pivot joint. The front wheel sets are intended to pivot so the locomotive can round curves more efficiently, especially through the rough terrain of the Allegheny Mountains. The Allegheny locomotives were beginning to be replaced by diesel power in the early fifties, with the 1604 being saved from the scrappers torch, it was donated to the museum in 1986. No. 1604 is one of two Alleghenies preserved, the other being 1601, which is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Baltimore & Ohio GP7 #6405
Built in 1953 by the Electro Motive Division (EMD), 6405 began its life as No. 915, and served the Baltimore & Ohio routes in the Midwest. The GP7 was a versatile and reliable locomotive, completing any task it was assigned with ease. The GP or General Purpose locomotives became popular with railroads for their efficiency and ease of maintenance.
A contributing factor to the GP7, and diesel-electric locomotives in general is the ability for multiple unit operation, in which a string of locomotives could be controlled by a single engineer. This was accomplished through a series of pneumatic and electrical hoses on each of the locomotives. The 6405 was donated to the museum after retirement in 1984.
Pennsylvania Railroad No. 4876 GG-1
Built by General Electric in 1940, the GG-1 was one of the most iconic locomotives on the Pennsylvania Railroad roster. This locomotive was designed for high speed operation on the congested Northeast Corridor, shuffling commuters from the heart of New York City, to Washington, D.C.
This particular GG-1 was involved in an accident at Washington Union Station due to an air brake failure, causing the locomotive to crash into the station sliding across the middle of the terminal. The weight of the locomotive caused the floor to collapse, and 4876 fell into the basement of the station. Luckily, there were no fatalities in this incident. Due to President Eisenhower’s inauguration, a temporary floor was built above the locomotive so the station could be utilized. After the inauguration, 4876 was removed from the station by being disassembled into three pieces, and was later sent to Altoona to be rebuilt. Afterwards, 4876 ran in revenue service for 30 more years until being retired by NJDOT in 1983.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is one of the most significant railroad landmarks in the United States, and serves as tool to learn about the past and how it shaped the future of transportation. To keep up to date on the happenings at the museum, be sure to check out there website here. If you would like to visit the museum, address and phone number is listed below.
Address: 901 W Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21223