William Mason (locomotive)

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"William Mason"
B&O no. 25.jpg
Baltimore and Ohio number 25 at the 1939 New York World's Fair.
Power type Steam
Builder Mason Locomotive Works
Serial number 46
Build date August 1856
Configuration 4-4-0
UIC classification 2′B′ nt
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Driver diameter 60 in (1,524 mm)
Weight on drivers 40,500 lb (18.4 tonnes)
Locomotive weight 56,000 lb (25.4 tonnes)
Fuel type Wood
Boiler pressure 75 lbf/in2 (517 kPa)
Cylinders Two, outside
Cylinder size 15 in × 22 in (381 mm × 559 mm)
Valve gear Stephenson
Valve type Slide valves
Tractive effort 6,225 lbf (27.69 kN)
Railroad(s) Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Class F
Number 25(second), renumbered 55 in 1882
Official name William Mason
First run November 1856
Retired 1892
Current owner Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum
Disposition restored to operating condition

"William Mason" is a 4-4-0 steam locomotive currently in operation at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It was built for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, carrying that railroad's number 25. The locomotive is named in honor of its builder, William Mason, who built around 754 steam locomotives at his Mason Machine Works firm in Taunton, Massachusetts from 1853 until his death in 1883. The engine is one of the oldest operable example of the American Standard design, and the fourth oldest Baltimore and Ohio locomotive in existence, the oldest being the 0-4-0 no. 2, the "Andrew Jackson" from 1836, second oldest is the no. 8 0-4-0, "John Hancock" built later that same year, and the third being the 0-8-0 no. 57, "Memnon" of 1848 (the preserved "Tom Thumb" and "Lafayette" engines are replicas built by the road for exhibition purposes in 1926 and 1927, respectively).

History and career[edit]

The engine was built by William Mason for the Baltimore and Ohio in 1856, most likely for passenger service. The engine, while not given a name (the road had ended the practice of naming locomotives at the time no. 25 was built), was the road's second engine to be numbered 25, replacing an earlier 4-4-0 of that number built by William Norris in 1839. Among the engine's notable features is the "three-point suspension," where unlike most earlier locomotives(i.e. the road's Lafayette), which the front bogie has its wheels closely spaced, the number 25's bogie had its wheels spread apart, with the cylinder mounted horizontally between them. While the engine was not the first to have this design, it represented a major improvement in locomotive design which would come to define the "American Standard" locomotive. Another, similarly revolutionary design was the engine's smokebox. Unlike earlier designs, such as that of the General, built a year earlier, the number 25 had its smokebox sitting on a "saddle" which carried the cylinders. This design further lowered the engine's center of gravity and made re-boilering easier. The number 25 was the road's first engine to have this smokebox design, as well as the road's first engine to have Stephenson link motion valve gear.

Retirement and exhibition[edit]

William Mason next to a Pennsylvania Railroad K4 streamliner at the 1939 New York World's Fair

The number 25 served on the Baltimore and Ohio for nearly forty years. The locomotive is one of the engines that pulled the train which carried Abraham Lincoln from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration in 1861.[1] It was renumbered to 55 in 1882 and was retired in 1892 when it was placed in storage. Fortunately, the Baltimore and Ohio had greatly favored its locomotives, and preserved its best examples, including number 25. The engine was displayed at the Chicago's World Fair of 1893, then at the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. In 1927, the number 25 was given the name "William Mason" in honor of its builder, and was exhibited at the railroad's own Fair of the Iron Horse, then at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and finally in 1948 at the Chicago Railroad Fair. When not being exhibited, it remained in storage until 1953, when it was placed on display in the newly opened Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum, where it currently remains.

William Mason in film[edit]

Typically, when a locomotive is placed in a museum, it becomes a static exhibit there, often never to operate again. Such was not the case with the William Mason. It had remained operable during the 1950s, when it was used in movies, most notably The Great Locomotive Chase in 1956, and Raintree County a year later. After these performances it returned to the museum, seemingly never to operate again. However, in 1998, the locomotive was restored once more to operating condition for use in the movie, Wild Wild West. After that, it continued to appear in films such as 2002's Tuck Everlasting and 2003's Gods and Generals. In February 2003, the roof of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum's roundhouse, where the Mason was usually displayed, had collapsed from a major snowstorm. While many engines and rolling stock sustained considerable damage from the collapse, the Mason was not in the roundhouse at the time, having been removed for inspection by the Federal Railroad Administration, and thus escaped damage.

Current Status[edit]

In November 2004, after the roundhouse was rebuilt, the museum reopened, with the Mason returning to display in the roundhouse shortly thereafter. Although the William Mason has returned to being displayed in the roundhouse, the museum has the engine operating on select weekends.


  1. ^ A picture of the engine with this information is on display at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.