Wednesday, October 31, 2012

B&O Railroad Unveils Restored No. 545 "A.J. Cromwell" 

By Dave Shackelford, Chief Curator

On Saturday, October 20th, Museum Director Courtney Wilson, welcomed the 545 back into the historic Roundhouse. Built in 1888, at the B&O’s Mt. Clare shops, the No. 545 “A.J. Cromwell” is a fine example of the “no frills,” work horse intended to replace slow and outdated freight engines such as the distinctive Camel locomotives. Known as a "Consolidation" type locomotive, the 545 and engines similar to it were the backbone of late 19th century rail service because they were heavier, more powerful, and extremely utilitarian.  By 1885, the B&O had 180 in service and used the 545, and locomotives like it, for hauling coal trains and as its universal freight engine. Many of these “Late Victorian Workhorses” continued to work into the 1920s despite more modern designs, until the 2-8-2 Mikados and Mallets began relegating these engines to secondary service. Today, the 545 is the only B&O Consolidation in existence.

The 545 served well into the 1920s until it was retired and preserved by the B&O in 1926 for the railroad’s 100th anniversary celebration known as the Fair of the Iron Horse. During the Fair, the 545 was renamed “A.J. Cromwell” in honor of Andrew J. Cromwell, the B&O’s Superintendent of Motive Power when the locomotive was built. Following the Fair of the Iron Horse, the engine remained in storage in the Hall of Transportation located on the Fair’s site in Halethorpe, Maryland. In August, 1935, a major storm caused the roof of the building to collapse, marking the first time, but not the last; it would be involved in a roof collapse. It was repaired and removed to storage and eventually placed on display at the B&O Railroad Museum in the early 1950s. It remained on display in the historic roundhouse and was damaged in the roundhouse roof collapse during the President’s Day snowstorm of February, 2003.

The Cromwell sustained significant damage during the roof collapse in 2003. The engine, including wooden cab, and tender suffered varying degrees of damage due to falling roof trusses, stringers, and debris. Overall, the left side of the locomotive suffered the most serious damage with deformation to the boiler jacketing, handrail and stanchions, and running boards. Asbestos insulation was found underneath the boiler jacketing and cylinder covers and was abated. The cab and roof sustained shifting, loosening, deformation, and/or cracking of wooden components. The left rear portion of the cab, rear doors and windows on all sides were broken or significantly damaged. The entire roof needed to be replaced.

During restoration work, it was discovered that much of the cab had been totally rebuilt and historic fabric removed. Based on this and a lack of detailed documentation on cab design and obvious modifications made to the locomotive, the decision was made to return the locomotive to its 1926 configuration as repaired for the Fair of the Iron Horse prior to renaming it "A.J. Cromwell."  The museum used paint sampling, early photographs, and the discovery process to determine the final appearance. The newly restored 545 will allow the museum to tell the story of the B&O and growth of railroading in America during the late 19th and early 20th century.


fourthhorseman said...

Thank You for restoring the locomotive and preserving an important piece of railroad history.

Adam L from NJ

SPSteamBuff said...

Was the condition of the boiler evaluated while under cosmetic repair?