Riding the rails of history at the B&O Railroad Museum – CNET


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B&O Railroad Museum


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The museum’s roundhouse dates back to 1829, It was rebuilt to its stunning current condition after a partial roof collapse in 2003.


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In the round

The oldest and rarest locomotives are displayed inside the roundhouse.


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Formed in 1830, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was the earliest railroad in the US.


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NJ classic

This is one of the five surviving 4-4-2 “Camelback” locomotives of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.


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“4-4-2” means there are four wheels in a front bogie (on the far left in this photo), four driving wheels and two trailing wheels. The number combination remains a shorthand for classifying steam locomotives of different sizes and capabilities.


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This is one of more 2,000 “Shay” locomotives built by Lima Locomotive Works. They weren’t fast, but they were strong, well built and able to handle the sharp curves and steep grades they encountered when hauling cars with timber, their typical cargo.


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Home built

This is B&O’s No. 545, a 2-8-0 built right here in the Mount Claire Shops. This class of locomotive was heavy, powerful and in service from the 1880s to the 1920s.


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The big 2-6-0 freight locomotive No. 600 was built here in 1875.


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10 wheeler

Built in 1863, the 4-6-0 locomotive No. 147, or “Thatcher Perkins,” was built for the steep grades of West Virginia. This is the only surviving B&O locomotive of its type.  


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This unusual design is nicknamed “camel,” for obvious reasons. The cab is on top of the boiler to make room for the huge firebox at the rear. They were powerful, but crew safety and comfort weren’t considerations. The engineer was unlikely to survive a derailment, and the fireman rode unsheltered in the tender. 

During the Civil War locomotives of this type transported Union troops and supplies.


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One of five surviving locomotives used during the Civil War, the Memnon is a 0-8-0 design built in 1848. With eight driving wheels, they had a lot of power for their size. Union soldiers nicknamed it “Old War Horse” for its reliability.   


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This 4-4-0 was the first of its type for B&O. It’s called the “William Mason” and was built in 1856 at the Mason Machine Works in Taunton, Massachusetts. The design would become extremely common in the US over the following decades.

Like the Memnon, it served in the Civil War, with some evidence indicating it was derailed several times by Confederate raiders. More recently, it was used in several films, including 1998’s Wild Wild West.


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Old Number One


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20th century steam

The 4-6-0 remained in service in 1968, when it was restored and used for passenger excursion trips until 1979.  


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Tunnel checker

As the size of locomotives increased, some couldn’t fit through the existing tunnels. A clearance car was slowly pushed through a tunnel. If any part of the tunnel was too small, it would push down the metal splines. The crew would then record then in the tunnel this happened.


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Though the museum has predominantly locomotives, it has are several coaches on display as well. This rebuilt Royal Blue Line coach was built in 1890.


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Outside the roundhouse are some more modern trains. This EMD F7 was built in 1951 and rebuilt in 1981. 


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Rolling rolling stock

This EMD GP38 still runs, and takes visitors on a 20-minute trip on a mile of track.


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First class

B&O’s No. 908 “John T. Collinson” was primarily a luxury coach for railroad executives. It was built in 1917 and remained in service until 1967.


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Streamlined steam liner

This art deco masterpiece is the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway No. 490 “Hudson.” Though it looks like it should be a more modern diesel, it’s actually steam powered. Under the stylish streamlined shell is a fairly traditional 4-6-4 wheel arrangement.


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The 490 is the only survivor of its kind, and is in pretty good shape for a nearly 100-year-old vehicle. Hopefully, the museum has the time and money to further restore it, as it would be great to be able to explore this unique train more.


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Changing times

The early 20th century was a time of rapid development in train tech. The 4-6-2 “President Washington” on the left was built one year after the underlying machinery of the 490 locomotive on the right. The streamlining would come later, however.


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The Baltimore & Ohio 5300 “President Washington” is the only survivor of the P-7, 4-6-2 class of locomotives. 


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Prime movers

B&O used the 20 P-7 locomotives to pull passenger trains. Each was named after a former president.


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30 years

The 5300 was in service for 30 years starting in 1927.


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This bruiser is the huge 2-6-6-6 “Allegheny,” the most powerful American steam locomotive ever built. 


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War brute

Built in 1941, the Allegheny locomotives were capable of speeds of 70 mph or more, and had around 7,500 horsepower. All were retired by 1956.


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No. 51

This is the first streamlined diesel-electric train in the world. Numbered 51 by B&O, the EMC EA was built in 1937. The museum recently finished a five-year restoration of No. 51, and it looks fantastic.

B&O was an early adopter of the diesel-electric trains, and quickly adopted the more efficient, lower-maintenance locomotives across its entire fleet.


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Rail checker


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This Pepco Fireless is a steam locomotive without a firebox. Instead, it stored steam in a huge tank at 250 psi. These were ideal for locations like factories and mines where open flames could be dangerous. It had a range of 30 miles.


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Cabooses were living quarters for a train’s crew over long hauls. The only surviving B&O caboose of its type was built by the B&S Railroad in 1907.


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Cabooses gave the crew a warm place to eat, relax between duties and, perhaps most importantly, keep an eye on the rest of the train from the raised cupola. 


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A GE 70-ton “switcher” locomotive. These were used in train yards to move locomotives and railcars around a rail yard. 


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Mount Clare roundhouse

The first telegraph transmission in the US was sent from Washington DC to Mount Clare Station. The telegraph lines followed the B&O Railroad’s right-of-way. 


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Waiting for restoration

Like most museums, the B&O’s collection is larger than it has space for. In the parking lot there are more railcars and locomotives, all with an aged patina that has a different feel than the pristine restorations inside the museum.


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B&O blue

This is a 1966 EMD GP40. These had a 3,000hp 16-cylinder engine.


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Bluish switcher


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Big Budd

This is a 1961 Budd Rail Diesel Car, also known as a self-propelled DMU. Though not as common in the US, self-propelled railcars are quite common elsewhere in the world, especially in more rural or less-populated areas.


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Ike returns home

This is the baggage car that carried President Eisenhower’s body from Washington DC back to Kansas after his death. It was unadorned, per his instructions.


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An ALCO RS-3 looks its age but is no less cool for it. 


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Out of time

To be honest, I liked wandering around these aging behemoths of steel almost as much as the museum itself. But then, I like plane boneyards too.


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This EMD SD35 started service with B&O in 1964 to help other locomotives haul their loads over the Allegheny Mountains.


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The caboose of the gallery

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