BALDWIN LOCOMOTIVE WORKS COLLECTION (ENGINE REGISTERS AND
ORDER BOOKS) 1833-1956
(7 Cubic feet: 17 Volumes)
by: Robert S. Harding, 1985
The Baldwin Locomotive Works was the largest and most successful locomotive building firm in the world. It was begun as a machine shop owned and operated by Matthias W. Baldwin in 1831. Baldwin turned out its first locomotive engine from its shop in Philadelphia in 1832; within a few years the company was producing two a month and employed 240 men. By 1852, 500 engines had been produced; by 1861, 1,000; and by 1868, 2,000. At that point, the company employed between 1,600-1,700 men, and was one of the very largest machine works in the nation. In 1906 Baldwin began construction of a large auxiliary plant in the Philadelphia suburb of Eddystone. In 1928 the Broad Street plant was closed and all work transferred to the Eddystone Plant.
Baldwin had been forced by hard financial times to take on a series of partners between 1839 and 1846, and the firm's name changed repeatedly as a result. It was known as Baldwin, Vail & Hufty (1839-1842); Baldwin & Whitney (1842-1845); M. W. Baldwin (1846-1853); and M. W. Baldwin & Co. (1854-1866). After Baldwin's death in 1866 the firm was known as M. Baird & Co. (1867-1873); Burnham, Parry, Williams & Co. (1873-1890); Burnham, Williams & Co. (1891-1909); it was finally incorporated as the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1909.
The company's phenomenal growth ended with in the mid-1920s as the U.S. railroad industry began its long decline. Despite various mergers and acquisitions--and an increased attention to the development of diesel engines--a slow but sure decline set in. Baldwin declared bankruptcy in 1935. World War Two brought a temporary respite, but after the war the steam locomotive was obsolete and orders rapidly diminished. The Westinghouse Corporation bought Baldwin in 1948 but was unable to turn the company around. In 1950 the Lima-Hamilton Corporation and Baldwin merged but in 1956 the last of some 70,541 locomotives was produced.
Sources: History of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1831-1902, (1902); A Short History of American Locomotive Builders in the Steam Era, John H. White, (1982).
Scope and Content:
This collection consists of Engine Registers and Engine Order Books. The Engine Registers list all locomotives built by the company from 1833 through 1956. They provide information on the purchasing railroad, date of trial, engine name, construction number, class, track gauge, number of wheels, size of cylinders, number of valves and fuel type. The Order Books, dating from 1854-1900, provide the same sort of information on specifications, as well as prices and delivery. The records in both sets of books are arranged chronologically and the information within each is arranged numerically by construction number.
These volumes were donated to the Museum's Division of Transportation by the Baldwin-Hamilton Corp. in 1976. They were on loan to the Museum's Dibner Library from January 1979 until March 1985, when the Dibner transferred them to the Archives Center.
A six reel microfilm edition of this collection is located in the NMAH Library (mfm-720). Archives Center collection #353, the Baldwin Locomotive Works Drawings, consists of builder's drawings of locomotives and tenders, 1870-1890. Photographs relating to Baldwin can be found in the Railroad and Firefighting History Photographic Collection in the NMAH Division of Transportation. The DeGolyer Library of Southern Methodist University has a collection of 8,500 original Baldwin engineering drawings; the library has published three guides to their records.