During World War I, the federal government took control of the nation's railroads and formed the United States Railroad Administration (USRA) to efficiently mobilize troops and supplies. The USRA oversaw the mass production of standardized locomotives and operations of all privately owned railroads. Consisting of representatives from ALCO, Baldwin Locomotive Works, and Lima Locomotive Works, the USRA Locomotive Committee designed over 1,800 locomotives using the best of current technology. USRA control ended on March 1, 1920 but its durable locomotives continued to have a lasting influence on the railroad industry.
The USRA Light Mikado was one of the standard steam locomotives designed under the control of the United States Railroad Administration. This was the standard light freight locomotive of the USRA types, and was of 2-8-2 wheel arrangement in the Whyte notation. A total of 625 light Mikados were built under the auspices of the USRA, with a further 641 copies built after the end of the USRA's control. The first, for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, was completed in July 1918 and given #4500. The locomotives were considered well designed and modern, and were popular and successful. Large numbers remained in service until replaced by diesel locomotives.
With later copies, over 50 railroads used the type.
Constructed in just 20 days by Baldwin Locomotive Works, the B&O No. 4500 was the first USRA locomotive produced under federal management. The No. 4500 was equipped with the latest technology of its time, including a superheater and stoker. The weight of the versatile locomotive was considered "light" by most standards, yet it was quite powerful.
In the later years of its life, the No. 4500 operated on the B&O's Ohio, Newark, St. Louis, and Ohio River divisions. In 1957, the No. 4500 was renumbered as No. 300 to make room on the B&O roster for four-digit diesel locomotives. That same year, the No. 300 retired from service, and was sent to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.
There it was restored to its original number. In 1990, the No. 4500 became a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
While building this engine my main goals were to make this a sturdy design able to be handled roughly with out falling apart, and to have a 100% reliable Power Functions drive with a good balance of pulling power and speed. All while maintaining a high standard of detail. I think I've done pretty well in acheiving those goals and this engine has quickly become one of my favorites.
This is the first time I've built an engine as it apeared fresh of the erecting shop floor. All my previouse steam engines have been depicted as they apeared later in their carears. Here is #4500 in a USRA publicity photo.