Facebook Page
The Baltimore and Ohio

The Baltimore and Ohio

In 1829 George W. Whisterl ordered a Stephenson 0-6-0 locomotive for the Baltimore and Ohio (from now on known as the B&O). The locomotive was constructed and shipped, but the railroad was denied it's first steam loco when the ship carrying the engine sunk in the Irish Sea. This unfortunate accident led to one of the most interesting developments of eraly American locomotive history:that of Peter Cooper and his Locomotive.
Peter Cooper was a successul New York glue maker with investmenst in the growing port of Baltimore and an interest in mechanics. (a glue maker made train engines??) Following the unsuccesful import Cooper saw an oppurtunity to begin a domestic locomotive building endeavour.
Cooper designed an original locomotive, considerably smaller and lighter than British designs, and contracted its construction with the local manufactureers in Baltimore. The resulting locomotive reatured a very short wheel base and weighed one ton, therefore better suited to the B&O's relatively tight curvature and light track. To power the locomotive, Cooper designed a multitubular boiler that was coneptually similar to the one used by John Stevens in Hoboken five years earlier. The difference was that Stevens emplyed a water tube design and Cooper used fire tubes. The firebox was designed to burn anthracite coal with a mechanicalblower for draft, and the boiler operated at about 100 psi-roughly twice the pressure of its British counterparts. It featured a single small 3.25x13.5 inch cylinder which produced an estimated 1.5 horsepower.
On August 28, 1830, Peter Cooper publicly demonstrated his diminitive locomotive. It successfully hauled 15 tons at four miles per hour, and reached speeds in excess of 15 miles per hour. Many years later it was compared to a circus figure named Tom Thumb.
The B&O's directors were impressed. But rather than immeditaly giving Cooper all their locomotive buisness, the company planned a locomotive competition similar to the Rainhill Trials of 1829. FIve locomotives were entered into the competition between Janurary and June of 1831. Coopers was not one of them however. The winning locomotive was designed by Phineas Davis, this four-wheeled, vertical boiler locomotive was similar to Cooper's, but featured two vertical cylinders. These cylinders drive vertical main rods that connected to horiizontal side rods, which powered the wheels.
In september 1831, Cooper propsed building six locomotives of his own design for use on the B&O. The railroad agreed to his proposal, but when Cooper failed to deliver on schedule he sold his patent to the B&O. Phineas Davis then adopted Coopers ideas and improved upon his York design. Aided by Ross Winans, Davis constructed a second locomotive far more successful than the first. This was the Atlantic-which employed Cooper's vertical firetube boiler. The Atlantic weighed about seven tons and had two vertical cylinders. The grasshopper degin proved reasonably successful, and 20 such locomotives were constructed at B&O's Mount Clare shops. Some operated for more than 60 years, and were finally retired in the 1890's, a very impressive service life. Phineas Davis was killed in an early railroad accident, but Ross Winans went on to develop a line of locomotives incorporating Davis' and Cooper's designs.

Back to main page Facebook Page