'Last Baldwin,' Western Maryland Scenic No. 1309, makes first move under own power

Live coverage planned on Trains Facebook page as internet access permits
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Western Maryland Scenic No. 1309 is now under steam.
TRAINS: Jim Wrinn

RIDGELEY, W.Va. — The Last Baldwin is running again.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad’s former Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309 made its first move under its own power in 64 years on Dec. 31. It was the start of test runs for the world’s largest operating Mallet (which uses its steam twice) following a six-year, $3.5 million restoration by the non-profit preservation railway. No. 1309 was the fabled Baldwin Locomotive Works’ last domestic product in 1949 and is thus a major landmark in U.S. steam locomotive manufacturing.

Crews from railway preservation came from across the U.S. to assist in the final weeks of reassembly, a painstaking and difficult process for a locomotive that received little maintenance in its working life, spent years on display in a humid environment, and was disassembled by a different restoration crew. Its restoration was slowed earlier by an employee’s theft of parts, significant funding challenges, and the immensity and complexity of such a large locomotive.

When it begins regular operations, No. 1309 will be the only articulated rod engine in action in the eastern U.S., and the largest steam power in the East. Union Pacific’s Big Boy operates on UP tracks and is a simple articulated, meaning it feeds high-pressure steam to all four cylinders. No. 1309 will be operated on 17 miles of  the former Western Maryland Railway main line from Cumberland, Md., via famous Helmstetter’s Curve, to Frostburg, Md.

Stalled for funding at the end of 2019, the project was at a standstill. In February 2020, Trains Magazine launched the “Steaming the Last Baldwin” campaign to raise money to restart the project. Readers responded with more than $275,000 in donations, and the John Emery Rail Heritage Trust made a special mid-year grant of  $50,000 to keep work moving forward. The engine  was set on its drivers in June, and final reassembly began.

Trains will cover test runs live on its Facebook page this evening — live streaming is planned for about 7 p.m. CST — and Friday, Jan. 1, as internet access is available. You can read about the final restoration efforts and test runs in Trains’ March issue as well as a special issue available in March, “Steaming the Last Baldwin,” and a companion DVD. All are available online at the Kalmbach Hobby Store.

Donations for final reassembly, testing, and upfitting of No. 1309 are still begin accepted at www.wmsr.com/1309 or P.O. Box 1168, Cumberland, MD 21503.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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