Sharknose & Babyface Baldwin Locomotives

By the late 1940s, the railroad industry was starting to change.

The days of steam power were drawing to a close, with diesel-electrics from Alco and General Motors’ EMD division taking their place. By 1950, steam locomotives were accounting for a tiny percentage of sales to railroads.

Baldwin had been a leading builder of locomotives since the 19th century, but it was time for them to adapt to market changes and start developing their own line-haul diesel locomotives. Considering how dominant GM was, it was up to Baldwin to play a catch-up game; after all, GM/EMD’s E and F series locomotives had already been in service since the late 1930s.

Baldwin Locomotive Works Centipede Baldwin Locomotive "Centipede""PRR BH50 x2" by Via Wikipedia

In 1945, Baldwin rolled out the DR-12-8-1500/2 “Centipede” unit. The Centipede’s nomenclature breaks down as “Diesel/Road/12 axles/8 powered,” with two turbocharged 608SC engines of 1500 horsepower apiece. The carbody styling was roughly similar to GM’s E or F unit designs, except with a rounder contour, lower hood line and larger windows and windshield, which came to be called “Babyface.” The Pennsylvania Railroad, Seaboard Air Line Railroad and National Railways of Mexico were early adopters of the Centipede.

Baldwin Locomotive Works Babyface "Mopac-Babyfaces" by Via Wikipedia

While the Centipede could generate tremendous tractive effort, it was a mechanical nightmare. Baldwin engineers designed it with internal wiring running through metal conduits, a carryover from steam locomotive designs and a real maintenance headache. The design of the articulated trucks caused them to jackknife on hills and curves, and their tremendous weight wreaked havoc on tracks and roadbeds. Inside of ten years, all Centipedes were pulled from service and scrapped; no examples exist today.

Baldwin continued with the DR-4-4-15, a more conventional four-axle locomotive powered by a single 1500 horsepower 608SC prime mover; this locomotive retained the “Babyface” carbody styling. Only 22 were built, along with 11 cabless booster B-units. They were never well received or especially popular; the oddball styling was perceived as being too derivative of GM’s designs. No examples of the DR-4-4-15 “Babyface” locomotives exist today.

Facts About the Baldwin Centipede Locomotive

  • Model Designation: DR-12-8-1500/2
  • Gross Weight: 595,000 lbs.
  • Motive Power: Two 608SC V8 diesels
  • Years in Productions: 1945 - 1948
  • 55 Centipedes produced; all scrapped