Box-Cab Electrics

Somebody's Large Digital Image Here

Milwaukee Road E36 poses for photographer at Deer Lodge, Montana on 2 August 1965. (Matt Herson)

The Steeple-Cab Electric has held center focus here at The Diesel Shop during the past four months, and it is time to shift the attention. This month, the Box-Cab Electric rolls into spotlight, followed next month by the modern-day electric.

There are substantial differences between the box-cab and steeple-cab electric, and they go way beyond just their physical profiles / contours. One of the biggest factors is the steeple cab's domain was largely short lines and interurbans, with a few notable industrial exceptions. In contrast, the box-cab was much preferred by main-line railroading, as well as a few heavy industry buyers. As such, the box-cab was more powerful and offered appreciably greater tractive force.

Additionally, the number of box-cab builders was understandably smaller; the list did not go much beyond the Baldwin-Westinghouse and General Electric-Alco partnerships. There were also a few examples of home-built box-cabs. One other not so subtle difference was all of the mechanical equipment, controls and operator station in the box-cab were located within a single fabricated shell. In the steeple cab, the controls, operator station and machinery were often situated in separate compartments.

* * * Baldwin Photo Gallery * * *

Great Northern 46-Tonner

The Seattle Couer D'Alene & Palouse #701 was an early Baldwin-Westinghouse collaboration. Rated at 360 horsepower, the locomotive was built in 1907 and was one of 13 electrics owned and operated by the Great Northern affiliate. (Don Ross collection)

Great Northern Z-1

Great Northern #5004B (ex-5005) was one-half of a semi-permanently coupled 1-D-1 electric set. Built in 1926 by Baldwin-Westinghouse, the elongated box-cab produced 2160 horsepower and tipped the scales at 185 tons. (Bill Volkmer colection / courtesy of Don Ross)

Milwaukee Road EP3

Milwaukee Road's EP3s were designed as dual-cab passenger locomotives; Baldwin- Westinghouse built a total of ten units delivered in 1919. Rated at 3400-hp, the passenger haulers employed a 4-6-2+2-6-4 wheel arrangement. The Milwaukee EP3 model featured an unusual "geared-quill" drive system, which was also found on similar New Haven units. In addition to being massive, they were also problem prone. The E11 depicted here was photographed at Butte, Montana on 21 October 1952. (JC Weirich photo /Greg Weirick collection)

New Haven EF1

New Haven's purchase of Baldwin-Westinghouse electric locos nearly doubled those of rival General Electric, and the Eddystone-built EF-1 was the most popular model. The 1-B+B-1 units featured the geared-quill drive, as had many NH electrics. (Craig Garver / Digital Rail Artist collecion)

New Haven 56-Tonner

New Haven #6 closely resembles a box-cab electric; however, Baldwin-Westinghouse classied the unit as a B-1 Steeple cab. The NH owned two of the 56-tonners, along with two 30-ton electrics. It is assumed the smaller units handled yard and work train duties. (Photographer and location unknown)

Pennsylvania RR P5a

Built during the early 1930s, the P5a was the backbone of the Pennsy passenger service until arrival of the GG1. Sixty-two were box-cabs; another 28 weregiven a streamline treatment. The 4716 was photographed in Kearney, New Jersey; the locos's B-C-B wheel configuration is clearly evident. (Matt Herson photo)

Pennsylvania RR L6

Pennsy #5939 was one-of-three switchers built by Baldwin/Lima with Westinghouse supplying electrical equipment and controls; it typically worked the busy Penn Station in New York City. The 2500-hp electric was built in 1933 and employed a 1-D-1 wheel arrangement. (Photo was taken at Suunyside, NY in 1967 by Matt Herson)

Virginia EL-3A

At first glance this Baldwin-Westinghouse electric appears to be representative of most elongated box-cabs of its era; however, the side-rod driven trucks say otherwise. The BLW team built 12 of the three-unit sets for the coal-hauling railroad; each 1-B-B-1+1-B-B-1+1-B-B-1set had a continuous tractive rating of 94,500 lbs at 28 mph. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit News)

* * * General Electric Photo Gallery * * *

Butte Anaconda & Pacific 80-Ton (Toronto) #1

BA&P #63 pictured here (at Anaconda on 23 August 1972) was one of 28 General Electric-built 80-ton electric motors on the mining railroad's roster. Built between 1913 and 1917, all of the box-cabs were retired and scrapped. The #47 was the only exception, and is now a static exhibit in Butte, Montana. (Ray Mueller photo / R. Craig collection)

Canadian National 87-Tonner

Canadian National #6710 (ex-Canadian Northern #600) was retired in 1995 after nearly eight decades of celebrated service in and around Montreal. Owned by the city of Deux- Montagnes, the four-axle locomotive underwent a much-needed cosmetic restoration, during the Fall of 2020. (Michael Berry photo)
Chicago South Shore & South Bend R2

CSS&SB #705 originally wore the colors and banner of the New York Central. Built by the Alco/GE team in 1931, the R2 model featured 66,000 lbs tractive force and C-C truck arrangement which became an industry standard. The # 705, along with nine stable mates, was acquired by the South Shore in 1955/56. After being rebuilt, the 3000-hp freight hauler served the railroad until retired/scrapped in 1976. (R. Craig photo)
London & Port Stanley 60-Tonner

Built by General Electric in 1915, the #L2 was the second of three box-cab electrics purchased new by the Canadian interurban short-line. Interestingly, 37-foot unit had an output of 1000 horsepower. Retired in 1962, a permanent home was not found until 1997 at the Halton County Radial Railway Museum. (Robert Farkas photo)
Milwaukee Road EF1

By 1920, Milwaukee Road's electrification program had been deemed a remarkable success; 112 steam engines had been eliminated, along with their associated high maintenance and operating costs. Mainstay of Milwaukee Road's electrical fleet were the 30 EF1s and 12 sister EP1s which toiled an amazing 58 years prior to retirement. Designated as the "Harlowtown: switcher, the E57B (above) was one of the last remaining 2-B+Bs in service. (Matt Herson photo)
New York Central P-2b

The GE-Alco team enjoyed an exclusive relationship with NYC when it was time to purchase electric locomotives. The railroad's roster consisted of a dozen or more different electric loco models, all of which had a GE builder plate. Pictured here is #223, one of 21 80-foot- long 2-C+C-2 locos originally built in 1929. It was re-built in 1955 for third rail operation and transferred from Cleveland to handle passenger trains between Grand Central Station and Harmon, NY.(Matt Herson photo at White Plains, NY in September 1963)
Penn Central T-1b

Penn Central on merger day 1968 inherited an eclectic roster of electric motors, freight as well as passenger. The group included 14 ex-New York Central T-Motors; the oldest of which was #4655. Built in 1913, the B-B+B-B loco was ex-NYC #255, and it was equipped with third-rail and overhead pick-up shoes. The 57-year-old motor was photographed working the yard in Harmon, NY on 20 September 1970. (Bob Wilt photo /R.Craig collection)
Piedmont & Northern 63-Tonner

Piedmont & Northern was one of the few electrified short-lines in the Southern U.S., and the only one to be freight first, passengers second. Its roster consisted of seven 250-hp GE box-cabs, and a like number built by rival Baldwin. A comparable number of home- builts also existed. The only survivor, GE 67-tonner #5103, found a permanent home at the Spencer RR Museum in North Carolina. (R. Craig photo)
Great Northern Y1 & Y1a


The General Electric-Alco partnership produced eight mammoth-looking Y1 electrics (#5010-5017) between 1927 and 1930 for the Great Northern. Built to haul trains through the Cascade Tunnel in Washington, the 1-C+C-1 locomotives delivered 3000 horsepower to the rail. A heavily damaged #5011 received a new cab and car-body in 1945. The units were all scrapped prior to 1968. (Both photos courtesy of Don Ross)

* * * Home-Built Photo Gallery * * *

Illinois Terminal Articulated

Illinois Terminal's Decatur shop had the engineering talent and construction know-how to build an entirely new locomotive or undertake major repairs, and they often did so. One interesting example is this 80-ton articulated freight motor finished in 1928(?). It is the lone survivor of a dozen similar locomotives.(Jim Strain photo at National Transportation Museum)

Pennsylvania RR B-1

Electric locomotives of the 1920/30/40s were expensive. Consider this 570-hp electric B1 switcher built by PRR's Juniata Shop in concert with Westinghouse -- the cost $60,000. A 600-hp Alco or EMC switcher could be built for a fraction of the price. (Jim Strain photo at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasberg.)

Piedmont & Northern 78-Tonner

Piedmont & Northern #5600 is another home-brewed box-cab electric; it was built in 1918 along with two copies (#5601 and 5602). Equipped with Westinghouse traction motors and controls, the locomotives had 26,000 lbs of tractive force. None survive. (Steve Meyer photo / Don Ross collection)

South Brooklyn

The first locomotive ever lettered for the South Brooklyn Railway was this small home-bred box-cab electric #4. It is believed the trolley pole-equipped loco was built in 1907 by the Brooklyn Heights railroad. (Matt Herson photo in January 1961 at Brooklyn, NY)

Notes & Credits:

Reference sources:

  • Encyclopedia of Trains & Locomotives edited by David Ross; 2003.
  • Pennsy Power II by Alvin Staufer & Bert Pennybacker; 1968.
  • Extra 2200 South: "Great Northern Roster," January-February 1971 (Issue 27)
  • Robert W. Lynn, Graduate study(University of Montana: "The Chicago Milwaukee Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad's choice of electrical motors over steam engines in Montana 1914-1974 "
  • Norman Carlson, managing editor "First & Fastest," Shore Line Interurban Historical Society
  • Don Ross' Don's Depot website
New: 1 January 2022 Formatted by: R. Craig

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