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Matthias William Baldwin

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Matthias William Baldwin (1795–1866) was an American inventor and machinery manufacturer, specialising in the production of steam locomotives.

Baldwin's small machine shop, established in 1825, grew to become Baldwin Locomotive Works, one of the largest and most successful locomotive manufacturing firms in the United States. The most famous of the early locomotives was "Old Ironsides", built by Matthias Baldwin in 1832.[1]


Mr Baldwin's first locomotive was the Old Ironsides, completed in 1832 to the order of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railroad. It was by no means a failure, and it continued in use on one railway or another for over twenty years. During its initial trials a speed of from 28 to 30 miles an hour was attained. On tho occasion of its first trip to Germantown with a passenger train, however, one of the driving wheels worked loose on its axle, causing the wheel to drop inside the rail, at the same time disarranging the valve gear so that it would not operate in backward motion. Another trouble arose owing to the valves of the feed pumps being defective, the pumps failing to supply the boiler with water. Everything was put right in & few days, and the engine afterwards ran some efficiency trips to Gerrnantown, but it was held by the railroad company to be too light for the work required from it and not to have complied with the conditions of purchase; consequently, Mr. Baldwin had difficulty in getting paid for it. The agreed price was 4000 dols.; in the end he compromised the matter by accepting 3500 dols. Rightly or wrongly, Baldwin was considerably discouraged, and he went so far to express the determination that it was his first and last locomotive.

Fortunately, circumstances soon caused him to take up a different attitude. A Mr. E. L. Miller, seeking about for a locomotive for the Charleston and Hamburg Railroad, went to Philadelphia, and there inspected the Old Ironsides. Before coming to a decision, he and Baldwin examined a number of English engines, and, in particular, one then on the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad. This engine, built by Robert Stephenson and Co in 1831, and originally of the 0-4-0 type, after being at work about a year, had had the front pair of wheels removed and replaced by a " Jervis " four-wheeled swiveling truck.

As altered, this type served as a model for Baldwin's second locomotive, the E. L. Miller, in which, however, he introduced several improvements. It was a great success, and with certain differences in power and details, Baldwin adopted it as his standard type of engine for passenger service for several years. The late Angus Sinclair, in fact, in 1907 said that "the American locomotive of today was developed directly from the E. L. Miller, just as certainly as a huge oak tree grows up from the small acorn.

Certain it is that that engine led Mr. Baldwin to continue in business, and, in a sense, it may be said to have laid the first foundations of the now world-famous Baldwin Locomotive Works. From The Engineer 1922/07/28.

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