SLIM RAILS - 00-02-19
Locomotive Numbers and Renumberings on the N-C-O Ry.
by Tom Armstrong

    Locomotives often seem to occupy center stage in the eyes of railfans. Surely locomotives characterize railroads more than any other feature, and fascination with the "iron horse" is one of the minor obsessions of Western Civilization. This article is an attempt to sort out some of the "nuts and bolts" of this obsession as it relates to the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway. The "facts" presented here are drawn from several sources and only present a tentative picture of the events outlined. However, until additional documents surface, this description of the N-C-O'' locomotive roster and numbering scheme will have to suffice.

    The first locomotive on what was to become the N-C-O Ry. was a second-hand Porter-Bell 0-6-0 that arrived in August, 1881. It had a checkered career, serving five or six railroads before it was scrapped. It's tenure on the N-C-O was short and unrecorded by photographers (or so it seems so far). It was known as the "Santa Cruz" and apparently did not figure in later numbering schemes, being sold about January, 1885.

    The N-C-O purchased all its new locomotives from the Baldwin Locomotive Works, having acquired 14 new locomotives over the years. The two second-hand Schenectady locomotives purchased from the F&CC retained their numbers on the N-C-O, Nos. 22 and 23. Two Porters from the Sierra Valleys line were possibly renumbered by the N-C-O, as Nos. 20 and 21. It is the Baldwin locomotives that are the main concern of this article.

    The first two Baldwins, 4-4-0's Nos. 1 and 2, arrived in January, 1885. No. 3, a 4-4-0 essentially the same as the first two, arrived in September, 1887. The next year (August, 1888), No. 4 arrived, a husky 2-8-0. The locomotive roster did not change until September, 1899, when Nos. 5 and 6 were delivered. These small 4-6-0's were followed by larger 4-6-0's Nos. 7 and 8 in April, 1903. At this point the railroad had a roster of eight locomotives, neatly numbered from 1 to 8.

    In 1904 the interesting changes began. No. 4 was sold to the Tonopah Railroad, reportedly in February, 1904, leaving a gap in the numbering system. This gap lasted about three and one half years, until July, 1907, when a new No. 4 was received. Logically, this new locomotive was numbered to fill in the empty space in the numbering scheme. However, this system did not make sense by 1909, because two additional locomotives were ordered, being essentially identical to the locomotive then numbered 4.

    In order to keep locomotives of similar classes numbered consecutively, some changes had to be made. First off, the new locos were Nos. 9 and 10. In October, 1909, No. 9 arrived, and No. 10 was received in May, 1910 (they had been ordered several months apart, but were covered by the same construction specifications). In order to get the earlier locomotive (No. 4) in sequence with these two, some renumbering took place. No. 4 became No. 8, the number which it carries to this day. That left a gap in the numbering system.

    Rather than just moving all the older locomotives down one number, necessitating a change to four locomotives, only two other changes were made. No. 6 became No. 4, and No. 8 became No. 6. That way, only two additional number plates had to be changes and only two domes, tenders, cabs etc. had to be renumbered. Nos. 5 and 7 retained their original numbers, and each class of locomotives was grouped together and numbered consecutively.

    In later years, the rest of the Baldwins arrived. Nos. 11 and 12 were received in January and March, 1912, respectively, and No. 14 arrived in May of 1914.

    The following chart shows the numbering sequence over the years:

-- - 1904 1904 - 1907 1907 - 1909 1909 - --
1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2
3 3 3 3
4 (sold'04) - 4 (new'07) 4 (former No. 6)
5 5 5 5
6 6 6 6 (former No. 8)
7 7 7 7
8 8 8 8 (former No. 4)

    In December, 1909, after the arrival of No. 9 but before the arrival of No. 10, the following locomotive class designations were used on the N-C-O:

Class Locomotive Number
A 1, 2, & 3
B 4 & 5
C 6 & 7
D 8

    This list comes from what appears to be an official N-C-O Ry. document. Since No. 9 was supposedly delivered in October, 1909, its absence from the list is a mystery. It should be listed along with No. 8 as a Class D locomotive.

    Having written all this, it is appropriate to comment on other published reports regarding these locomotives. It has been previously written that the original locomotives numbered 6 and 8 had their numbers changes to Nos. 4 and 6 respectively, in 1904. This would seem to make sense, as first No. 4 was sold in that year. However, if that had been the case, then second No. 4 would not have been so numbered when ordered. There are two documents that shed light on the matter. The first is a memo from the railroad (on file at the Bancroft Library) that deals with number changes and locomotive classifications. The hand-written date on the document is unclear, being either Dec. 1904 or Dec. 1909. It is from this document that the above-cited alphabetic classification was copied. The memo also gives the order in which the renumbering was to take place, and it clearly indicates that No. 6 will become No. 4, No. 8 will become No. 6 and No. 4 will become No. 8. Since the memo dictates that No. 4 is to become No. 8, that tells us that indeed the switch could not have been made before that engine was on the roster. It had been delivered in July, 1907. Since No. 4/8 was not on hand in 1904, the renumbering could not have taken place in that year.

    The other document that helps in this matter is the specification sheet from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. This document (housed at the DeGolyer Library but available on microfilm), clearly indicates that the locomotive was to be numbered "4". There is nothing on the sheet to indicate that this specification was changed before the locomotive was delivered, although other specifications were changed.

    There may be more to the story, but I believe that this is the essential part of it. The evidence is clear that the changes were actually made. Now if there were just some photographic evidence to prove it all.

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