Milestone-Proposal:Mainline Electrification of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 1895

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Docket #:2011-02

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old?

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy.

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity?

Was it of at least regional importance?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)?

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony?

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated?

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

The design and construction work took place in the period leading up to 27 June 1895 when the mainline electrification first went into service. It remained in service until 1952.

Title of the proposed milestone:

Mainline Electrification of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, 1895

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

The Milestone resides in the IEEE Baltimore Section.

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Baltimore Section
Senior Officer Name: Anna Romaniuk

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Baltimore Section
Senior Officer Name: Anna Romaniuk

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Baltimore Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Alan Pressman

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Anna Romaniuk
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

The Milestone achievement took place in the City of Baltimore, MD.

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The Howard Street Tunnel still exists but is not suitable for the location of the Milestone plaque. The intended site for the plaque is the B&O Railroad Museum, located at Pratt and Poppleton Streets (901 West Pratt Street), Baltimore, MD 21223. the Museum is on the site of the historic Mt. Clare shops, considered by many to be the birthplace of American railroading. The Museum is comprised of five historic buildings located on approximately 40 acres and houses one of the world's finest and most comprehensive collections of railroad locomotives, rolling stock, and other artifacts. The Museum has been granted National Historic Landmark status by the U.S. Deartment of the Interior. The Museum's centerpiece building is the original B&O roundhouse built in 1884 and in continuous railroad use until 1953. Courtney Wilson, the Museum's executive director, has indicated that the Museum would be honored to be the location of the plaque.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The approximately 40-acre site is appropriately fenced and is a secure site. It is accessible to all members of the public who visit the museum. The proposed specific location of the plaque is at the Education Station building on the site. this location is the centralized repository for other plaques acquired through the years. The GPS coordinates of the proposed site of the plaque are: (39 deg.17'07.81"N), (76 deg.38'00.42"W).

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

In 1990, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum became an independent nonprofit education institution controlled by a board of directors.

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

The Baltimore & Ohio Belt Railway electrification marked the first time that electric propulsion was applied to mainline freight and passenger operation. Smoke free propulsion was mandated by local ordinance which forbade smoke flues or vents in the Howard Street Tunnel that passed under a fashionable area of Baltimore. An electric locomotive provided the sole propulsion to a train that consisted of standard passenger and freight rail cars plus an idle steam locomotive.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

The technical challenges were two fold. First, movement of mainline trains at normal speeds required the design and construction of a locomotive with 1,000% greater power than any constructed previously. Second, the provision of adequate propulsion power required concentrated power generation that exceeded the total capacity of utilities such as the Edison Electric Illuminating Co. of NY which comprised five stations. The required locomotive performance was achieved with a scheme that coupled large motors to the wheels by a steel "spider," the arms of which were fitted with rubber blocks that engaged the spokes of the driving wheels. Power was provided by large (for that time) 500-kW compound dynamos connected to permit a voltage increase of as much as 25% to meet peak demand. In view of the unprecedented high current involved, power distribution initially used a steel overhead contact system. Likewise, the integrity of return current conduction was assured as the usual running rail path was supplemented with a bonded cable to mitigate possible stray current issues.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

All prior application of electric power to rail operation involved the use of street railways, elevated lines (Chicago), subways (London), or was limited to the movement of freight cars at slow speeds over street railway or privately-owned spur trackage to industrial plants located thereon.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.