Baltimore & Ohio Railroad: Lady Baltimore Locomotive Improvements – Baltimore MD


In 1934, the Public Works Administration (PWA) lent $900,000 to the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad, which used it to buy 16 streamlined, lightweight train cars and a new diesel locomotive (see our project page, “Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Locomotive No. 50 – St. Louis MO”), with, “The remainder… set aside to rebuild a steam engine to develop an exceptionally high speed… covered with a streamlined jacket to cut down wind resistance” (The Bangor Daily News, 1934).

The rebuilt locomotive was the Lady Baltimore, which played a prominent role in the B&O’s experiments during the 1930s to determine whether the company’s future would be diesel or steam, as the Baltimore Sun reported:

“Work on a revolutionary streamlined steam engine which is expected to rival the Burlington Zephyr and attain record high speed is near completion in Baltimore… A war between steam and Diesel engines in the development of the new streamlined trains was forecast… The new locomotive will be named the ‘Lady Baltimore’… In spite of the confidence of the Baltimore & Ohio officials that steam engines will surpass the Diesel type, the railroad’s engineers are not ignoring the Diesel design and are experimenting with that type too” (Baltimore Sun, 1934).

Precise details on the Lady Baltimore’s redesign are hard to come by, but they appear to have mainly involved the use of lighter materials, installation of a somewhat unusual 4-4-4 wheel configuration, and very large drive wheels. The “streamlined jacket” was never fully attached; it “had been partially installed when [Daniel Willard, president of the B&O] saw it and emphatically ordered it removed”; instead, the Lady Baltimore was designed “with a clean, lean English appearance” (Harwood, 1990). She was rebuilt—and perhaps initially built, too—in the B&O’s Mt. Clare shop in Baltimore.

The Lady Baltimore, along with a sibling steam engine, the Lord Baltimore, performed well and “easily bettered the planned running time between Washington and Philadelphia” while pulling the B&O’s new streamline train, the Royal Blue (another PWA-funded project) (Harwood, 1990). However, the lighter Lady Baltimore sometimes slipped in rainy weather, and both locomotives proved to be underpowered when more cars were added to accommodate increased ridership on the B&O’s popular trains – the Royal Blue, Ann Rutledge, and Abraham Lincoln (the latter two ran between Chicago and St. Louis for the B&O’s subsidiary company, the Alton Railroad). The engines were also too light and underpowered for the B&O’s older trains.

Lady Baltimore and Lord Baltimore moved from place to place in the B&O system, but never quite found their niche. Soon, “The Diesel—fast proving its worth—made them obsolete” (Sagle, 1952). Both were scrapped in 1950.

Source notes

“More Streamline Trains As Result Of PWA Funds,” The Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine), October 29, 1934, p. 5.

“B. & O. Building Engine To Meet Speed Rivals,” The Baltimore Sun, October 18, 1934, p. 24.

Herbert H. Harwood, Jr., Royal Blue Line, Sykesville, MD: Greenberg Publishing Company, Inc., 1990.

Lawrence W. Sagle, A Picture History of B&O Motive Power, New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation, 1952.

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on July 29, 2022.

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Location Info

B&O Railroad Headquarters (Former)
Baltimore, MD 21201

Coordinates: 39.289793 , -76.615321

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