Kevin’s Komments 02/24/2023

Ross Winans – Camels

A while back, we reviewed camelback locos and distinguished the difference between a camelback and a camel locomotive.  Camels were early steamers designed by the B&O in the early to mid 19th century, while camelbacks were late 19th century steamers designed around wide Wooten style fireboxes which burned the dregs of anthracite coal.  I wanted to dive further into the camel steamers since they were very early in the development of the steam locomotive.

One of the more interesting characters during the early years of American railroad development was Ross Winans. Winans (1796 – 1877) was an young mechanic/engineer hired in the early days by the B&O. In 1928, Winans developed a flanged friction wheel with outside bearings for the B&O which became the model behind the modern flanged railroad wheel. Here’s a generic rendering of a modern RR wheel. Winans’ wheel would likely have been spoked – a steel tire on a wood wheel with spokes and a wood axle.

His next effort was mounting these wheels on a wagon to demonstrate a model rail wagon.  The rail wagon was then loaded with 500 lbs of steel and two men.  It was then pulled with a single line of twine to demonstrating the low friction of the wheels.  Here’s a pic of the steam locomotive De Witt Clinton (1831), built for the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, New York state.  It’s pulling wagons (coaches) with wheels designed prior to the Winan wheel – the bearing is similar to a stage coach bearing where the wheel rotates on the fixed axle with a hub to hold the wheel in place.

Winans’ wheels were fixed to the axle with the bearing on the axle outside the wheel.  They were similar to the wheels on the wagons/coaches show in this rendition of “The Express Train.”  This was a lithograph by Nathaniel Currier completed in 1840 featuring railroad operations as they would have appeared at that time. collection.  The only difference would have been that the model wagon probably only had two axles – The two truck system came later.

Peter Cooper is credited for the creation of the Tom Thumb for the B&O, 1830 – the first steam locomotive in the US. Winans was tasked by the B&O to help Cooper in the design.

This painting shows the famous race between the Tom Thumb and a horse drawn rail wagon. Note that the wagons had traditional wheel bearings while the Tom Thumb had the WInans axle bearing outside the wheel. The iron horse won.

As Winan became more involved as a locomotive designer, the B&O experimented with a number of Winans’ designs that were drifting into the camel locomotive. Here’s a rendering of Winan’s “Centipede”. Note the lower drawing – this is how the locomotive was first delivered in 1855. The 1855 version had a cab forward design where the engineer road in a cab box in front of the boiler. In 1864, it was modified to the upper rendition where it clearly fits into the Winans’ camel locomotive style. Another unique feature that Winans introduced into railroad locomotive design was the separate tender. By 1855, the Winans locos were competing with the first Americans (4-4-0). The Winans had more horsepower and greater tractive effort – 8 drivers were a common feature on Winans’ designs. And with the cab on top, weight was evenly distributed over the drivers.

Also note that the tenders are showing two pivoting trucks rather than two fixed axles.  Winans is credited with patenting the first two truck rail car (the “Columbus”) in 1931, though it’s said he stole the design from the original designer who failed to patent it himself. 

Winans, through a partnership with George Gillinham, took over the B&O company shops at Mount Clare in 1935.  The Mount Clare shops were at the location of the current day B&O museum in Baltimore.  The roundhouse where the museum is housed didn’t exist in Winan’s day.  This was the earliest pic I could find showing the interior of the locomotive erecting shop, 1897 (well after Winans and Gillinham).

B&O #189 shows the classic original WInans 0-8-0 camel design.  The difference between the Winans camels and the Americans (4-4-0) was that the camels were great low speed haulers, while the Americans pulled lighter trains at higher speeds.  It’s said that one of these 0-8-0 camels could pull a 110 car train of loaded coal hoppers on level ground – but only at 10 to 15 mph.  (This tractive effort was in the mid 19th century! – Of course a coal hopper in the 1850’s was a gondola that was much smaller than even 2-bay hoppers.)

In 1941, Winans opened his own shop next to the Mt Clare shops and continued to produce locos and equipment for the B&O.  In the early 1840’s, WInans is credited with tying 8 driving wheels together (via side rods) for the first heavy freight haulers.  (Which explains why the original camel design was an 0-8-0.)

As Ross Winans introduced more and more important inventions into railroading, his ego grew a bit. When the B&O remained open to locomotive designs other than the new Winans camels, Winans started selling locomotives to other lines. There is quite a story around the feud between Winans and John Work Garrett of the B&O BOD. Between Garrett’s snub of Winans, and Winans ego, it’s said that the feud destroyed the B&O as one of the world leaders in locomotive development. The “Seneca” is a Winans camel that was sold to the PRR. This pic of PRR #131 was taken in 1862.

Here is a great pic of a Winans camel. B&O #111 was a Class D built in 1852 in the shops next to St Clare.

B&O #316, an 0-6-0T was built at the Mt Clare shops in 1865. Though not directly a Winans, it shows the influence of the Winans’ designs at the Mt Clare shops

B&O #264, is Class A, 4-6-0, Winans style Camel steam locomotive, probably built in the early 1870s.

B&O #80 was a classic Winans 0-8-0 camel, built in 1851.

B&O #77 0-8-0, a Class D Winans, was built in 1851.  Check out the early bridge structure below the loco!

B&O #55 0-8-0, a Class D “Camel” built by Winans in 1848, was named “Camel”.  It is believed to be the first of officially named Winans “camels”.

In searching for a few representative Winans camels, I found the “Idaho”. It’s styled like the Winans, but I can’t find anything on it – blank on who the owning RR is! But one of the things the camels allowed was the widening of the firebox. In this pic, you can see that the firebox has been widened to nearly the full width of the locomotive. This led to the Wooten firebox and the evolution to camelbacks / mother hubbards.

I got this pic of a Winans camel during the Civil War from a blog where they could not identify much about the train. However, one of the bloggers suggested that the spark arrestor looked to be one of Winans’ patented designs.

This postcard, while not depicting a camel, the caption mentions Winans railroad (probably either referring to the B&O, or the St Petersburg RR in Russia). I tried to blow up the print, but couldn’t get it clear enough to see what is written.

Here’s another camel not built by Winans, but built in the Mt Clare shops in 1873. B&O #217 is one of the camels preserved at the B&O museum.

Winans ended up building over 300 locomotives for 26 different railroads, most built between 1843 and 1863. He’s credited as being the first American to export locomotives to Europe. He built locomotives and railroad equipment for the Czar of Russia.

Another great shot of a Winan camel – B&O #217 in 1869.

The influence of Winans on railroading is still seen today.  While the camels were replaced, they were revolutionary in their design.  Part of the story of the camels goes beyond the slow heavy hauling capability – they were also enduring machines.  Most of them lasted 30 to 40 years on the railroads with fewer catastrophic failures, and less need for maintenance and part replacement than their counterparts.

I started this study knowing very little about Ross Winans and his camels, but now the two are on my list for further research.



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2 thoughts on “Kevin’s Komments 02/24/2023

  1. Kevin: great site. I hate having to make corrections, but I believe it is necessary. In discussing Winans Camel locomotives of the B&O, there were three types built, differing only in the firebox: Long, Medium, and Short. As you see, #65 is a short firebox, while #189 is a long firebox. The short firebox engines were found to not produce enough heat to provide steam on the hills. The long firebox engines had structural problems with the firebox coming loose. All the Winans Camels were originally 0-8-0 configuration, although you show the “Seneca” with the second set of drivers removed, and at least one Camel was rebuilt with a cab behind the boiler. All the other Camel locomotives you show are not Winans but Davis Camels, 4-6-0.
    #217 is a Davis Camel, as is #264. Hayes also built 4-6-0 Camels for the B&O briefly, these being distinguished by the close-set wheels of the leading truck. As far as I know, all Winans Camels had blind drivers on the center two axles, allowing them to go around quite tight curves.

  2. Darrell,

    First – thanks much for the comments & corrections. Sometimes I make these pic studies off of an in depth research project I’m working on. Other times, like this topic, I see something interesting, and try to pick up some quick info. Thanks much for correcting me on the Davis Camels. (Another interesting topic for a future pic study!) Also, thanks for looking at my study a year after it was first released. I don’t always get a chance to go back this far to look for comments. Glad I took the time today.


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