Wednesday, September 24, 2008

St. Elizabeths No. 4 Steam Locomotive

On October 4-5, 2008 the Museum’s excursion train will be powered by St. Elizabeths No. 4 steam locomotive. “St. E”, as it is popularly known, was the last steam locomotive built by the H.K. Porter Company for domestic use in 1950. The locomotive was ordered by St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. to shuttle coal from the mainline to the hospital’s giant heating plant. St. Elizabeths was a Federal mental hospital that opened in 1855. One might wonder why the hospital chose a steam locomotive when diesels had eclipsed steam power by this date. It was a nod of the head to their longtime heating plant supervisor who simply wasn’t ready to tackle diesel technology when he knew steam engines inside out.

St. E was built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by the H.K. Porter Company--America’s largest steam locomotive manufacturer. Between 1866 and 1950 this company built nearly 8,000 locomotives. This locomotive, known as a 0-4-0T or “tank engine” carried its water in a saddle tank wrapped around the top of the boiler instead of employing a tender. This reduced the size of the locomotive for tight operations, and the extra weight over the driving wheels provided better traction to carry heavy loads. As constructed by Porter it has 44” drivers, 16” x 24” cylinders and an operating pressure of 180 lbs.per square inch.
In 1958, when St. Elizabeths converted their heating plant to fuel oil, the locomotive was transferred to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and then to the U.S. Army as a training locomotive in Newport News and Fort Eustis, Virginia. The B&O Railroad Museum acquired the locomotive in 1980; it was restored to operating condition in 2001, suffered damage from the Roundhouse roof collapse in 2003, restored and returned to service in 2005.

Enjoy your ride!
Courtney B. Wilson
Executive Director