B&O Railroad Museum (Baltimore, MD)
Articles, Blog

B&O Railroad Museum (Baltimore, MD)

August 13, 2019


female narrator: THE RAPID GROWTH OF AMERICA IN THE 19TH CENTURY CAN, IN PART, BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE EXPANSION OF ITS RAILROAD NETWORK. THIS MAP SHOWS THE LAYOUT OF THE BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAILROAD, WHICH, WHEN CONSTRUCTION BEGAN IN 1828, PROMISED TO LINK UP THE FAST-GROWING PORT OF BALTIMORE WITH THE WESTERN STATES. BALTIMORE IS NOW HOME TO THE B&O RAILROAD MUSEUM, AN IMPRESSIVE COLLECTION OF ENGINES AND HISTORICAL ARTIFACTS HOUSED IN AN ENORMOUS ROUNDHOUSE. BUT IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE TO BE A TRAIN SPOTTER TO ENJOY THIS MUSEUM, THEN THINK AGAIN, BECAUSE WHAT LIES WITHIN TELLS A FAR GREATER STORY ABOUT THE GROWTH OF A NATION. Mr. Wilson: I LIKE TO CALL THE RAILROAD SORT OF THE FIRST INTERNET, BECAUSE IT CONNECTED PLACES WHERE PEOPLE COULDN’T GET TO BEFORE, AT LEAST NOT EASILY, AND CERTAINLY IT CHANGED THE WAY PEOPLE HEATED THEIR HOMES. IT CHANGED THE WAY PEOPLE COMMUNICATED WITH ONE ANOTHER. IN THE EARLY DAYS OF AMERICA, MOST PEOPLE NEVER VENTURED MORE THAN 50 MILES AWAY FROM WHERE THEY WERE BORN. SO, REALLY, THE RAILROADS, AS THEY STRETCHED ACROSS THE COUNTRY, GAVE PEOPLE MOBILITY IN A WAY THAT HAD NEVER EXISTED. narrator: NOW, HAVING A LOOK AT SOME OF THE OTHERS, THERE’S A MARKED TRANSITION. I MEAN THAT, TO ME, IS A BEAUTIFUL-LOOKING THING. Mr. Wilson: WELL, WE FIND THAT TRANSITION, IF YOU GO BACK TO THE EARLIER STEAM LOCOMOTIVES, WHERE THE BOILER WAS STANDING UPRIGHT. WELL, IN ORDER TO GET MORE POWER, THEY FOUND OUT THAT A LARGER BOILER WAS NECESSARY. SO, THEY LAID THEM DOWN IN A HORIZONTAL FASHION, AND THEN LOCOMOTIVES BEGAN TO GET LARGER AND LARGER, BECAUSE THEY WERE CARRYING MORE AND MORE PEOPLE, MORE AND MORE FREIGHT, AND ACTUALLY HAD TO TRAVERSE MOUNTAIN RANGES. AND THE ONE YOU’RE REFERRING TO ACTUALLY DATES FROM THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR PERIOD, AND ENGINES AT THAT TIME WERE ACTUALLY A THING OF BEAUTY. THEY WERE DESIGNED TO BE SLEEK, AND ATTRACTIVE, AND DECORATED IN A VERY HIGH FASHION. THE CIVIL WAR ACTUALLY WAS A BREAKTHROUGH IN RAILROADING, AND THEY BECAME, ACTUALLY, A STRATEGIC WEAPON FOR THE ARMIES, NOT ONLY CARRYING MUNITIONS AND HEAVY EQUIPMENT VERY QUICKLY, BUT TROOP MOVEMENTS OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF TROOPS ON BOTH SIDES COULD GET TO THE FRONT OR TO THE BATTLE LINES IN A TIME PERIOD THAT WAS MAYBE FIVE TO SIX TIMES FASTER THAN EITHER MARCHING OR GOING IN A WAGON TRAIN. narrator: AND THAT WAS STEAM. NOW, WHAT IS THIS? I MEAN, THIS IS A CAR THAT BASICALLY APPEARS TO BE A TRAIN?>>WELL, IT’S A CAR THAT WAS CONVERTED TO RUN ON RAILROAD TRACKS, AND IT WAS A TRACK INSPECTION CAR AND ALSO USED BY THE EXECUTIVES OF A RAILROAD. THEY WOULD OFTEN GO OUT ON THEIR LINE, AND INSTEAD OF THE EXPENSE OF RUNNING AN ENTIRE TRAIN TO TAKE AN EXECUTIVE OUT TO INSPECT THE LINE, OR TO GO VISIT HIS PEOPLE SOMEWHERE, THEY CONVERTED THESE AUTOMOBILES WITH FLANGED WHEELS, AND THEY RODE JUST LIKE A CAR, BUT THEY RODE RIGHT ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS. narrator: AND NOW THIS ONE HERE, THE 592, IS MY FAVORITE ONE, BECAUSE IT’S ENORMOUS. I MEAN, TELL ME ABOUT THIS ONE. FOR SURE, I CAN’T IMAGINE IT GOING ANYWHERE. IT JUST LOOKS SO CUMBERSOME. Nr. Wilson: THIS IS ONE OF THE, ACTUALLY, THE FASTEST STEAM LOCOMOTIVES THAT EVER RAN IN AMERICA. narrator: WOW. Mr. Wilson: THIS LOCOMOTIVE, IN ITS DAY IN THE 1920S, WAS CAPABLE OF RUNNING AT MORE THAN 100 MILES AN HOUR. AND SO, THE TIME IT TOOK TO GET FROM DC TO NEW YORK IS ABOUT THE SAME AS IT DOES ON AMTRAK TODAY. narrator: WOW, SO THIS– I MEAN, THIS IS PROGRESSIVE, ISN’T IT? Mr. Wilson: YES, IF YOU LOOK AT EUROPEAN TRAINS, THEY DON’T HAVE THAT V-SHAPED, WHAT WE CALL A PILOT.>>OKAY.>>BUT ITS NICKNAME IS A COW CATCHER, AND SO THAT V-SHAPED GRILL IN THE FRONT THAT’S DOWN BY THE TRACKS WAS MEANT TO PUSH OBSTRUCTIONS OFF THE TRACKS, AND COW CATCHER BECAUSE LIVESTOCK IN THE EARLY DAYS OF AMERICA WOULD JUST WANDER ACROSS THE RAILROAD TRACKS. AND AS THE TRAIN CAME DOWN, IT WASN’T STOPPING. IT WAS JUST GOING TO PUSH THE COW OR THE SHEEP OR WHATEVER WAS STANDING ON THE TRACKS TO THE SIDE. narrator: WHAT DID THE RAILROAD MEAN TO BALTIMORE? I MEAN, WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED HERE IF THE RAILROADS HADN’T COME ABOUT?>>WELL, IT’S VERY INTERESTING, BECAUSE THIS IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF RAILROADING IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE, AND IT WAS A REACTION TO THE CANAL TECHNOLOGY UP IN NEW YORK. SO, THE ERIE CANAL THAT WAS BUILT AND OPENED TWO YEARS PRIOR TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE B&O RAILROAD HERE IN BALTIMORE, THREATENED THE COMMERCE OF BALTIMORE’S PORT, BECAUSE IT REACHED INTO THE MIDWEST, WHERE A LOT OF GOODS WERE BROUGHT EAST. SO, IT WAS REALLY THE FATHERS AND THE MERCHANTS OF THE CITY GOT TOGETHER, AND THEY ACTUALLY WENT TO THE UNITED KINGDOM, KIND OF STOLE RAILROAD TECHNOLOGY FROM THEM, BROUGHT IT BACK TO AMERICA, AND LAID OUT AMERICA’S FIRST LONG DISTANCE COMMERCIAL RAILROAD WHICH WENT FROM BALTIMORE TO THE OHIO RIVER. narrator: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A TRAIN SPOTTER TO NOTICE THIS ONE, IT’S ABSOLUTELY HUGE. AT 126-FEET LONG, IT’S THE LONGEST LOCOMOTIVE HERE. AND IF YOU DIDN’T THINK THAT A RAIL MUSEUM WAS FOR YOU, WELL, LET ME TELL YOU, IT’S REALLY HARD NOT TO BE IMPRESSED BY THE SHEER SIZE OF THESE VEHICLES. AND, OF COURSE, IF THE RAILROAD HADN’T EXISTED, THEN AMERICA WOULDN’T BE WHAT IT IS TODAY.

No Comments

Leave a Reply