C&O Hudson #490 Occupying a prominent spot in the B&O Museum's car shop exhibit hall is this odd-looking steam locomotive from the post-World War II "streamliner era." You are looking at C&O Hudson #490, a machine that little resembles its original builder's photos. She was built in 1926 by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) as a class F-19, 4-6-2 Pacific for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railway. That's right, she was a conventional-looking steam engine with a different wheel configuration than you see now. She served the railroad for 20 years, first operating on premier passenger trains such as the "Sportsman" and the "George Washington", and later on regular passenger runs.
After World War II, the railroad decided to significantly upgrade their passenger service. Given that their bread and butter business was hauling coal, they focused on steam locomotives vs. the newer technology diesel-electrics. The C&Os shops rebuilt a number of 4-6-2s into 4-6-4 Hudsons, incorporating as many improvements as possible, including streamlining, roller bearings, a front-end throttle, a booster engine, and the Franklin Steam Distribution System. The intent was to run them on a new, high-end service called "Chessie." Alas, with automobiles starting to dominate personal transportation after the war, the market for "Chessie" just wasn't there and these kit-bashed Hudsons spent the last decade of their careers running regular passenger trains. They must have been something to see!
Retired in 1953, the #490 was stored in the C&O's Huntington Roundhouse until 1968, when she was donated to the B&O Museum. Unlike most of the pieces occupying the hall you see here, this engine is at least in a position in which it can be photographed. I am grateful to the museum docents, who kindly consented to temporarily moving a display sign for me, so I could show you this grand machine, the way she may have looked in the shops 70 years ago.