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(9 cubic feet: 4 map case drawers of 223 drawings)

by: Robert S. Harding & Craig Orr, 1991


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 on Broad Street, 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 1903 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). After Baldwin's death in 1867 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 the Great Depression of 1929. 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 Lima Corporation and Baldwin merged but in 1956 the last of some 70,500 locomotives was produced and the company's long history came to an end.

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 contains 223 drawings of the Baldwin Locomotive works. Included are drawings of locomotives and tenders, prepared to check the clearances and major component parts of the locomotive. When work was slow, draftsmen hand-colored the drawings.  They were not used in the shop but were retained for engineering reference.  A Container List is located in the repository.

Related Collections

Archives Center collection #157, the Baldwin Locomotive Works Collection, consists of Engine Registers and Order Books for locomotives, 1833-1956. In addition, a six reel microfilm edition of collection #157 is located in the NMAH Library (mfm-720). 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.


Revised: June 5, 2002