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Columbus & Greenville Railway

Baldwin Road Switchers

Because of the age of the [steam] locomotive fleet, conversion to diesel power had been discussed as early as 1938. The success of the Brill gas-electric cars had been encouraging, and clearly new locomotives would soon be required as the current roster required an increasing amount of maintenance. The acquisition of good used [steam] locomotives from 1938 to 1940 eased the immediate problems and then the war put all further acquisitions out of the question. But when the war was over, Master Mechanic W. A. Trayler again began to consider new locomotives.

Louis R. Saillard, Delta Route - A History of the C&G, 1981

The unflappable Columbus & Greenville survived the steam era on a large stable of second and third-hand steam kettles, and as such, the transition to diesel-electric power begun in 1945 represented the first time the Mississippi shortline was able to acquire first-hand motive power. Limited in production on the heels of the war, no Alco or General Motors designs suited the railroad. It turned instead to Baldwin for a locomotive of appropriate weight and power. By the end of 1946, a total of five Baldwin road switchers were in service on the railroad -- each one 1500 horsepower, and each one equipped with six axles for easing the strain on the shortline's feeble track and bridges. Five years later, an additional Baldwin of nearly identical design and power was purchased to round out the stable. Though not perfect, the Baldwins nevertheless brought a level of dependability and service previously unknown on the east-west mainline. Except for #602 -- wrecked in a 1961 derailment -- the entire Baldwin roster stayed in service on the Delta Route well into the 1970s, with the first and last units remaining in service into the 1980s.

Spotlight: Philadelphia Firsts

The Columbus & Greenville's first order of five units from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Philadelphia, turned out to be historic in the world of diesel-electric locomotion, in that no. 601 to 605 were the first Baldwin road switchers produced for a stateside customer and the first to be put in operation anywhere. #601 was shipped to the Delta first, unpainted and unlettered, followed by sisters #602 and #603 two months later. Shown here are builder's photos for #601 (in Columbus, after painting and lettering onsite) and #603 (at the Baldwin factory). A rare shot of an unlettered #601 from the fall of 1946 and a subsequent Baldwin publicity photo follow.

Columbus & Greenville #601

#601 builder's photo / Columbus, Ms / c. 1946

Columbus & Greenville #601

Columbus, Ms / c. 1946

Columbus & Greenville #603

#603 builder's photo / Philadelphia, Pa / c. 1946

Columbus & Greenville #603

Philadelphia, Pa / c. 1946

Columbus & Greenville #601

#601 break-in runs / Columbus, Ms / c. 1946

Columbus & Greenville #601

#601 publicity photo / Columbus, Ms / c. 1947

All Baldwin images above from JCH collection, with assistance from Louis Saillard