MM8 Baldwin Gas Mechanical

Brave Little Engines of the WW1 Trenches

Scale = 4mm to the foot (1:76.2)

Gauge = 9mm (009)


France 1917 – 1918

The Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, USA constructed well over a 1’000 locomotives, both steam and I/C engined, for the British, French, Russian and American Governments. Of these where a 126 50HP Gas-mechanical in 1917 for the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) for use in France, in addition a number of dimensional smaller 35HP versions were also built. The French Army had around 600! 50HP locos built to the same design for use on its Artillery railways in mainland France and its colonies. Also the Imperial Russian Government had 350 76cm gauge locos built to a very similar design. The locos were fitted with 4 cylinder petrol engines driving the 4-coupled wheels via a two-speed gearbox and rod coupling. Speed was a stately 4 mph (6.4 kmph) in bottom gear and 8 mph (12.9 kmph) in top gear. The locos weighed in at 14,000 lb (6350 kg). Fuel carried in the 30-gallon (113.6 litre) tank was used up at 3 miles per gallon (12 km per litre) Quite thirsty!!

Like the British Simplex locos the Baldwins were used on the frontline areas of the supply networks constructed by the engineers in the AEF sectors, mainly in the Argonne region of the southeastern France. Quite at home on roughly laid track their main job was the delivery of ammunition and troops and the return of empty rolling stock to interchange yards. With the cessation of fighting in 1918 much of the remaining locos, including steam, and rolling stock were left in Europe to be stored and disposed of. Some never made it to Europe and saw use in the US Army bases.

War Surplus

Available cheaply from disposal boards and via war-surplus dealers locos were bought up in the 1920’s by industrial railway owners of quarries, brickworks and timber lines throughout France. A number where also converted to run on standard gauge by placing the driving wheels outside of the frames. When their gas engines wore out or through a lack of available spare parts re-engining with diesel units took place The large number that survive to this day on the ‘touristique’s’ and preserved lines is a tribute their rugged design which has made them popular with the enthusiast and restorers.

The Uk Connection

Baldwin 45hp 0-4-0PM 49604/1918 by Adrian Gray, Honorary Archivist Ffestiniog Railway.

Built under subcontract to Baldwin by the Pittsburgh Model Engineering Co. in 1918, to an order from the French Govt. Artillery Light Railways. It is probable that the tractor never reached France, being delivered straight into one of the surplus stores established in England soon after the Armistice.In 1928 it was bought, for £375, by the Festiniog Railway from E.W.Farrow & Sons, Spalding, Lincs., through the agents Honeywill Bros. Before being put to work as a shunter, mainly at bottom end of the line between Minffordd and Portmadoc, the tractor had to be modified to fit the FR’s loading gauge, particularly a low bridge at Rhiw Plas, just above Boston Lodge. The cab roof was lowered about six inches by simply cutting the angle iron corner posts; the extra angles riveted outside the originals to make the joint can be clearly seen in photographs. The sliding windows in the front were also reduced to fit and the fuel tank was moved from its position on top of the bonnet to the frame around the bevel drive, in front of the radiator; its orientation was also changed, from longitudinal to transverse. The exhaust stack appears to have lost slightly more height, possibly as much as twelve inches. Photo evidence shows the tractor shunting slate wagons around Portmadoc and working vans loaded with flour from the Snowdon Mill, presumably as far as the bakery at Penrhyn .In 1928 vacuum brake equipment was fitted for an experimental winter passenger service on WHR. The service did not materialise, whether because passengers were not forthcoming or because the tractor could not maintain vacuum, or even both, is a matter for speculation. In the 1930s the tractor was photographed carrying FR No.11 but this conflicts with the numbering of steam locos during the FR/WHR joint period.

Revival of the FR started in 1954 and the tractor was returned to work on the August Bank Holiday in 1956, as the US petrol motor was beyond repair a rebuilt Gardner 3LW diesel engine had been fitted, along with electric starting and effective vacuum brake equipment. The tractor was named Moelwyn, a punning translation of Baldwin (Welsh ‘moel’ = bald) and a reference to the mountains that overlook the upper reaches of the FR. During the winter of 1957/8 a leading truck was added under an extension of the frame at the front and a Meadows 4-speed gearbox fitted; this gave eight gear combinations with the existing high/low box.

By 1966 the 3LW was worn out so, during the winter period, it was replaced with a Gardner 4LK. It was at this time that the tractor lost its original, chimney-like, exhaust and was fitted with twin, automotive style, pipes rising in front of the cab and a replacement ‘radiator’ made by Boston Lodge. A full height back sheet was fitted to the cab; over the next year or so it was fully enclosed as Moelwyn was transferred to P.Way duties and had to provide protection for drivers on winter works trains. Another engine was fitted in 1980 but this had to be extensively repaired after frost damage during the spring of 1981.

In 1982 Moelwyn headed the first train of coaching stock into the new station at Bleanau Ffestiniog. In 1985 a crack in the driving axle caused withdrawal from service and the tractor languished in Minffordd yard until the mid-1990s when it was taken to Rotherham as a private restoration project by the, then, FR Co. Chairman, Mike Hart. The work involved far exceeded the most pessimistic estimates and probably represented the first general overhaul the tractor has ever had.

Moelwyn returned to Wales in August 199x for painting. The rebuild had restored many original features of the tractor. It now has an open cab with full width back sheet and the ‘chimney’ exhaust stack; the ‘mudguards’ over the flycrank have also been replaced even though, strictly speaking, they were removed when the pony truck was fitted. The external fuel tank also disappeared early in the preservation period and has not been replaced.

MM8 Baldwin Gas Mechanical

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