George Washington was the nation’s first President, and the first of a new class of steam locomotives for the B&O Railroad. President Washington, the steam locomotive, not the President, now hangs out at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.
Founding Father George Washington passed away 30 years before the B&O Railroad was born, but the railroad evoke his memory during their centennial celebration by debuting B&O #5300, nicknamed ‘President Washington’, the first of the B&O’s new “President” class of steam locomotives. Much like the first President, the locomotive helped pave the way for B&O’s future.
The President Class
Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1927, the President Class consisted of 20 locomotives, numbered #5300-5319, all named to honor the first 21 Presidents of the United States, with “President Adams” being used for both John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, who served as the 2nd and 6th Presidents respectively.
The coal burning locomotives, also known as the P-7 class, featured a 4-6-2 (Pacific type) wheel arrangement with 80″ diameter wheels. The locomotives were designed to haul passenger trains and were seen as the B&O’s answer to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s K4 locomotive. Since the locomotives had somewhat similar looks, the B&O chose to debut the President class with a Green and Gold paint scheme instead of the common simple black paint job.
The President class was extremely successful for the railroad, leading passenger trains across the B&O system in the the Eastern and Northeastern United States through the 1950s. With a top speed of 85 mph, the locomotives were used extensively in high speed service on the ‘Royal Blue’ run between Washington DC and Jersey City, New Jersey, right across the Hudson River from New York City.
Part of the President class success can be traced to the water scoops installed on the locomotive. Water scoops allow for locomotives to refill water in the tender while in motion using water collected in troughs in-between the rails. This allowed the steam locomotives to travel longer distances without needing to make as many water stops. Steam locomotives generally could carry much more coal than water.
The Career of President Washington (the locomotive)
Completed in February of 1927, one of #5300’s first appearances came at the “Fair of the Iron Horse”, B&O’s 100 year celebration. The locomotive was an immediate hit and was used in service between Chicago and New York City as well as NYC and Washington.
#5300 underwent a rebuild in 1944 which included an updated paint scheme to the B&O’s solid blue livery and removal of the President Washington name from the cab. Twelve years later, she would be renumbered as #100 when B&O repurposed the ‘5300’ series for diesel locomotives.
After a career that ran three decades, B&O retired #5300 in 1957. Although she originally seemed destined for the scrapper’s torch, #5300 and a Q-3 Mikado built in 1918 were purchased by Baltimore businessman Edward Striegel. Striegel, who owned a railroad supply company, was known for purchasing and preserving steam locomotives.
Eventually Striegel donated the #5300 and Mikado to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. The museum returned President Washington to original green and gold livery appearance before the locomotive went on static display in 1968.
Restoration for #5300
For nearly 40 years, President Washington was subjected to the elements as the locomotive was kept outdoors. However, the locomotive was moved to an indoor display in 2006, and also received an updated coat of paint.
In 2021, the locomotive was removed from display so that she can undergo a cosmetic restoration. Although she is not likely to steam again, the restoration should help ensure that visitors to the museum will be able to see and learn about the President class.
As the only remaining President class locomotive, and lone B&O Pacific type at that, it is clear that the museum is going to great lengths to preserve the President Washington. To follow the restoration progress and learn more about the museum’s roster, be sure to visit the B&O Museum website.