Big Four after 1897

Eastern bondholders were getting nervous at all the unusual goings-on out in Ohio on their Indianapolis, Cincinnati, & Lafayette (original Big Four), and well they should because a rather unholy man named Henry C. Lord had everything in a topsy-turvy state of confusion. It was dear only that the Railroad was getting poorer and Lord richer. The man they selected to head west and get a seat on the R.R. board was a young (twenty-eight) Massachusetts attorney named Melville E. Ingalls. He grew a beard to disguise his youthful appearance, and set out to do one of the best jobs in railroad history. Lord was dispensed with two years later (1871) along with his weird agreements with other area railroads.

Elkhart, Indiana, Feb. 4, 1939. Black enamel glistens on bell ringing, recently shopped H–6a. 1852 was built by Lima in 1918 as No. 5152 and received this number in 1936. Al Staufer collection

The Vanderbilts, who had controlling interest in the BeeLine, recognized the genius of young Ingalls and took him in as an ally. On June 7, 1889, the BeeLine and Big Four merged to form a new Big Four. Just like the Lake Shore, the Big Four was a Vanderbilt’ Line from its inception.

1853 built as 5153, was the only H-6 to receive booster engine and Elesco feedwater heater. This 1949, Toledo, Ohio photo shows that the heater remains but the booster engine is gone. β€” Ed May collection

The initial roster consisted of 324 locomotives, including 160 from the C.C.C. & I. 15 β€” C. & S.; 76 β€” C.I.St.L. &C.; 48 β€” I. & SE. L., and 25β€”C.V. & C. The astronomical
growth of the area was reflected in locomotive purchases, with over 900 added to the roster in twenty-five years. This indudes major rebuildings that changed wheel arrangements. In 1905
all Big Four power was renumbered into N.Y.C. Lines 6000 – 7499 series, and classified with suffix in the 60’s and 70’s. After 1905 there were no new Big Four designs. From 1890 to 1900 tender lettering read “C.C.C. & St.L.,” then, surprisingly, it was changed to BIG FOUR around 1900. This burst of local pride expired after about five years when “NEW YORK
CENTRAL LINES” took over. However, the small letters “C.C.C. & St. L.” persisted on the tender coal boards till 1936.

Nice pre4940 shot of Firemares side view of-R-6a No. 1780 in Hillsdade, Michigan area. Al Staufer collection

Switcher acquisitions, as expected, were rather large with orders totaling fifty-six, delivered by Brooks and Schenectady between 1889 and 1898. That is not many switchers for the
early growing rate the Big Four was experiencing, so we must assume plenty of older locos were rebuilt into switchers in the company shows. These 0-6-0’s became classes B-63 to B-71. There was an increase in overall weight during the period from about 95,000 to 110,000 lbs. Pressure went from 150 to 160 and cylinders from 18″ x 24″ to 19″ x 24″. Drivers remained 51″ on all fifty-six engines. The B-66’s had Belpaire fireboxes. The Big Four tried this type from time to time but never had them built in quantity, which was in keeping with their general philosophy of following the “main stream” in the builder’s art.

Muncie Belt No. 1, built by Brooks in 1895 with 51″ drivers and weight about 53 tons.

B-10q, Schenectady, 1910: 21×28-57-180-166,000-33,140. #7348 has inside valve gear.

B-11n, Brooks, 1915: 21×28-57-180-171,000-33;140. Note space Between first and second
set of drivers.

B-11d, #6823 was built by Lima in
1913. Always a couple of re-railing
frogs hanging from tender. Al Staufer collection

Between 1901 and 1903, twenty-four more six-wheel switchers were built by Schenectady and Dickson. These became classes B-73 and B-74 and two were later sold, one to Louisville & Jeffersonville Bridge and another to Muncie Belt. The Big Four really got serious about switchers when in 1905 they received the first of 123 0-6-0’s, the last of which were built in 1918. These were class B-10 and B-11 with weight around 180,000 and 57″ drivers. Thirteen were later leased to the Cincinnati Union Terminal, one to Muncie Belt and three to P&E. One became Beech Grove shop engine X7338. Like all switchers they were long-lived, many lasting till the end of steam in 1957. A pair of 0-10-0’s (class M-1) was built by Brooks in 1907.

The influence of the Lake Shore must have been stronger than that of the N.Y.C. & H.R. because the first passenger power built new for the Big Four was fourteen ten-wheelers by Brooks between 1890 and 1893. They were rather large machines, weighing about 140,000 with driver size ranging from 67″ to 69″. They later became classes F-62, F-63, and F-65 in the N.Y.C. Lines classification.

By the 1890s it was generally concluded that the ten-wheeler was a better and more adaptable machine than the 4-4-0, but in a surprise move the Big Four switched back to 4-4-0’s in 1893. Perhaps the N.Y.C. & H.R.’s Bill Buchanan had traveled west, took the boys aside, and explained the facts of life to them. We make this statement with “tongue-in-cheek” but after viewing the similarity of these 4-4-0’s to Buchanan’s “I”s β€” well, we honestly wonder. Each motive power department pretty much had its own say, but each road did influence the other. Compare these dimensions with those being built at the same time for the N.Y.C. & HR.: weight, about 130,000; 20″ x 24″ cylinders; 73” drivers; and 180# pressure. Built by Schenectady in 1893-95 they were later classed C-75, C-76, and C-77. Two of this group were rebuilt to 44-2’s for a while. Twenty of the C-75’s and C-76’s were sold to the Lake Erie & Western.

Two 4-4-0’s were built by Schenectady in 1895-96 for the St. Lawrence & Adirondack but wound up on the Big Four instead. Classed C-78, they were similar to Big Four C-75 class.

The last 4-4-0’s for the Big Four were a quartet built by Schenectady in 1898 and later classed C-79. They had cylinders 20″ x 26″, 79″ drivers, I70# pressure, 130,000 wt. and 19000 tractive effort. All turn-of-the-century power was clean and beautiful but the myriad of later gadgets changed all that. See photos comparing C-79’s as built and later.

In 1900, six 4-6-0’s were built by Baldwin and later classed F-69. These large engines with 79″ drivers and 201/2″ x 28″ cylinders were the last ten-wheelers built for the Big Four. Two were built as compounds. Clear evidence of close association between the Big Four and N.Y.C. & H.R. was when the former ordered thirty-seven 4-4-2 Atlantics from Schenectady and Brooks, built from sixty ten-wheelers in 1892-93. Big Four must have wanted more tractive effort as these had larger cylinders (19 3/4″ x 24″), smaller (57″) drivers, and Belpaire fireboxes. These became class F-67 except for the few cross-compounds that were to be F-67A. Two were sold to Central Indiana and many more to the National of Mexico. Incidentally, these ten-wheelers were the last of their type for Big Four freight

Next came the usual fleet ( for the time) of 2-8-0 Consolidations. Their first purchase appears to have been a careful approach to the situation. Four were built by Richmond in 1898-99 and each one was different. One became G 63, and it had 20″ x 26″ cylinders, 51″ drivers, 190#
pressure and weight 150,000 . The G-64 dimensions were 20″ x 28″, cylinders-57″-190#-156,000#. A compound (G-64a) had specifications much like the G-64 and the last (G-65) had 22″ x 30″-57″-195#-183,000#, specilazions. We must assume the road kept careful tabs on these locos to see which best suited its needs. It wouldn’t take much of a detective to surmise which of the four was triumphant. As expected, the largest and simplest G-65 became the prototype for their quantity purchases.

In 1899-1900, ten were built by Rhode Island that later became G-66. Dimensions were almost identical to G-65, perhaps a little larger. These early Big-Four Consolidations were brutish machines for their day, most prominent feature being a massive wagon-top boiler. These were yeoman performers as were practically all of this wheel arrangement. Brooks and Schenectady built sixty-two more between 1901 and 1903 which later became G-67 to G-71. Dimensions were much the same as G-65 but weight was now over 100 tons and boiler pressure 200 lbs. Seven were later sold to the and boiler A.C. & Y., four to T.P. & W., and seven to the C. & LM.

A huge fleet of 219 G-5 and G-6 classes were built by Brooks and Schenectady between 1905 and 1911. Average dimensions were 23″ x 32″ cyl., 63″ drivers, 200# pressure, weight from 220,200 to 246,000 and tractive effort 45,680#. They were large (N.Y.C. Lines design) locomotives with just about as much weight and power as was practical to pack into that wheel arrangement. Seventy-nine were rebuilt to H-5 2-8-2’s. Ten were sold to Missouri & North Arkansas, four to Toledo, Peoria & Western and two more to Algers, Winslow & Western. Shortly after the last of these were built, the 2-8-2 took over the high-iron freight, but the Consolidation remained valuable secondary power until 1936.

G-67 Brooks, 1901: 22×30-57-200-188,000-43,300. Whether or not the flare stack was functional or ornamental is still debatable. The stacks were usually painted red, and old-timers recall that the lower part of the flare stayed red. — History Center Scenectady

Last 2-8-0’s for the Big Four were thirty 2-8-0’s (G-46h) by Brooks and ten (G-46i) for the P&E, also by Brooks. All were built in 1911-12. These were somewhat similar to the G-5’s and G-6’s except the drivers were 57″ and weight varied [ from ,240,000 to 253,000 pounds. Tractive effort was correspondingly higher at 50,300, but they were heavier by about 10,000 lbs. Chief difference, of course? was. internal with superheaters. The_K-3 Pacific became the reliable workhorse on passenger runs from then till the end of steam. They were bumped from the better runs by the famous Hudson type that made its appearance in 1927.

G-71 Brooks, 1902: 22×30-37-200-191,800-40,400. Locomotives are getting bigger.

Freight locomotives, as expected, were predominantly 2-8-0’s with over 400 being built between 1899 and 1911. With these locos it was the usual story of larger size and ever increasing machine refinements. Average specifications for an 1899 Consolidation were: cylinders 201/2″ x 28″, drivers 56″, pressure 180 lbs., weight of 162,000 lbs. and tractive
effort of 32,700 lbs. By 1911 things had increased, on the average, to this: cylinders 23″ x 30″, drivers remained 57″, weight up to 253,000 lbs., pressure 200 lbs. and tractive effort
about 50,000 lbs.

G-46 Northbound tonnage train (Harrisburg to Danville, Ill.) shown leaving Mt. Carmel on Feb. 28, 1924, pulled by Big Four Engine 6874. Slatted pilot is standard for Four freight power. — J. H. Westbay

F.- Brooks built fifteen in 1899 which became class G-41. These were transferred to the L.E. & W. in 1903. Brooks built fifty more (almost all L.S. & MS. 2-8-0’s were by Brooks) in 1899-1900. These were later classed G-42 and nine were eventually sold to Norfolk Southern. Next came a group of 120 with very large cabs built in 1901-03 and later classed G-43. Fifteen were sold in 1916 to the Nickel Plate; ten more to Wheeling & Lake Erie in 1923, and twenty to St. Louis & Hannibal which resold six to K.C.M. & O. The wealthy Central always bought the latest in motive power, and the smaller midwestern roads eagerly picked up their discards. Brooks, again, built seven in 1903-04 that became class G-46a and G-46b. Sounds like Lake Shore pretty well had a monopoly on Brooks production when they and Schenectady turned out 200 2-8-0’s between 1904 and 1911. These became N.Y.C. Lines G-5 and G-6. Thirty-eight of these were rebuilt in 1912-13 to class H-5, 2-8-2 Mikados. Five others were sold to Nickel Plate and twenty-five more transferred to the Michigan Central. Brooks, turning back to an old design, produced thirty-five class G-46’s for the Lake Shore in 1909-11. In 1915-16, twenty were transferred to the Toledo & Ohio.

Cincinnati Northern Section

Grim, rugged-looking fireman and engineer stand with rest of crew. These short, one-car trains were the reason gas cars were developed.

Si Herring Collection

Front of Cincinnati Northern 7036 at Cincinnati, May 5, 1921.

J. H. Westbay

Cincinnati Northern 6384 was built by Brooks in 1891 with dimensions as follows: 19×24-63-180-128,200-21,060.

J. H. Westbay



Editors note: Crewmen used to stand on the front running boards until accidents were reported. Railroads disallowed that practice.

C.N.R.R Locomotive 6582 at Van Wert OH Billie McMannis; Lee Craig, Engineer; Cliff Long, Fireman
— Tom Wise


This road was formed in 1897 from part of the Cincinnati, Jackson & Mackinaw. In 1883 Brooks built five 4-4-0’s for the Michigan & Ohio, which later became C-61. The following year Brooks delivered eight Moguls for the same road. They later became E-60. One of these engines caused quite a stir up in Dunkirk, New York. Seems like it bore construction No. 1,000. Yep! their one-thousandth locomotive was turned out for the Michigan & Ohio. Now this event wasn’t going to slip by unnoticed. Red, white and blue crepe adorned all her handrails and beneath the headlight hung a picture of Brooks’ president. Her M. & 0. number was 26 but, for the moment at least, the huge number 1,000 graced her sand dome and tender. Seven of these Moguls were later assigned to the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee, then scattered to the Cincinnati Northern (4), Michigan Central (2), and one to the L.S. & M.S.

Those same years saw Pittsburg deliver five 4-4-0’s for the Cincinnati, VanWert & Michigan. Brooks built another for that road in 1886.

The C.J. & M. contributed fourteen locomotives to the Big Four roster. Four 4-4-0’s in 1887 from Rhode Island became Central class C-62. Five Baldwin Moguls of 1890 were later E-68 and five ten-wheelers by Brooks (1896) became F-60.

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