3¢ BALTIMORE & OHIO RAILROAD - February 28, 1952
Sc. 1006 - 3¢ Ultramarine - issued 2/28/52
125 YEARS OF RAIL TRANSPORTATION
This stamp celebrated the 125th anniversary of rail transportation in the US,
as exemplified by the B&O Railroad, the first railroad to be chartered in the
US as a common carrier of passengers and freight, and the one that survived
longest under its original name. Initially its trains were powered by horses,
but in 1830 Peter Cooper asked that its owners let him demonstrate his new
steam-powered rail engine, and the famous "Tom Thumb", the first successful
U.S-built steam locomotive, ran its first public trials on B&O tracks.
The trains pictured on the stamp are the horse-drawn "Pioneer Car" (May, 1830);
the 0-2-2 locomotive "Tom Thumb" (August, 1830); and a pair of B&O type F3 diesel
locomotives with passenger cars (1948). Replicas of the "Pioneer" and "Tom Thumb"
are in the collection of the
B&O Railroad Museum at Mt. Clare, MD, recently reopened after recovery from
catastrophic damage in the heavy snow storms of February, 2003.
The F3's shown were two of seven (numbered 82 through 88)
built by EMD for the B&O in 1947, beginning service in 1948, presumably dismantled
For more about the equipment on this stamp
There were 13 US commemorative stamps issued in 1952 - the others honored Betsy Ross, 4-H
Clubs, the American Automobile Association, NATO, the Grand Coulee Dam, LaFayette, Mt
Rushmore, Civil Engineers, Women in the Armed Forces, the Gutenberg Bible, Newspaper Boys,
and the International Red Cross. The B&O stamp was designed by C R Chickering, and
engraved by C A Brooks, and J S Edmondson. Over 112 million copies were printed, making
it still plentiful in mint condition, and worth basically its face value. There are no
significant plate varieties or errors.
The table below, edited to highlight what are for my purposes
here the key events in B&O history,
was extracted from
Scott Dunlap's excellent "B&O Timeline" site
February 27, 1827 - B&O chartered by Maryland Legislature.
July 4, 1828 - First Stone of B&O laid at ceremony in Baltimore, with massive
parade which nearly very resident of Baltimore either participated in or witnessed.
May 22, 1830 - B&O Directors ride the horse drawn car "Pioneer" from Mt.
Ellicott's Mills on the newly finished double tracked line.
August 24, 1830 - Inventor Peter Cooper runs "Tom Thumb" (the first railroad
locomotive built in the US) for the first time from Mt. Clare Depot to Relay (about
seven miles distant) on the B&O tracks. The little engine achieved speeds of 12 to 14
miles per hour.
January 1, 1838 - The B&O becomes the first Federal Government Contract
Carrier of United States Mail
1904 - B&O roster: 1,769 steam locomotives; miles of track: 4,400
1945 - B&O roster: 137 diesels, 1,968 steam locomotives, 9 electric
1948 - B&O's last steam locomotive #5594, Class T-3C rolls out of Mt.
1951 - B&O roster: 423 diesels, 1,275 steam locomotives, 9 electric
1960 - B&O roster: 1,129 diesels, 0 steam locomotives.
1963 - C&O officially takes control of the B&O.
1967 - Post Office removes most first class mail from the railroads.
1970 - Congress creates National Railroad Passenger Corporation.
1971 - Amtrak takes over most of the nation's inter-city passenger business,
all of the B&O's.
1987 - B&O merges into C&O and ceases to exist.
ESSAYS FOR SCOTT 1006
Photos of essays for Scott 1006
Above are photos of essays (other proposed designs) for the stamp. The three
on the right are simply variations on the accepted design, while the two on
the left must be earlier ideas, both with the same basic elements, but with
the trains less prominent. I like the one on the far left, but can see why it was
rejected - too
(My thanks to Henry Gitner
for permission to reproduce those images from his stock.)
The big question in my mind, of course, is
How did the B&O get all that free publicity? There were still a fair number of
railroad companies in this country in 1952, and favoring one so blatantly must have
annoyed the others. Unfortunately, there was no philatelic reporting such as that
provided by George Amick today, so the behind-the-scenes story of this stamp may never be
known, but B&O was the first, and while never the largest (that honor belongs to the
PRR), it was the longest-lived of the major US railroads, and deserved the honor, in my
Railroads were, however, very much on the
decline in 1952 - it had been 24 years since American railroads had made a profit on their
passenger business, and even railroad freight was increasingly unable to compete
effectively against its concrete and air competitors. So perhaps this stamp was
intended as a sop to the rail industry, a gesture to suggest compensation for the blatant
favoritism being shown to rail competitors in those years, through open government
subsidization of highways, airports, and airlines.
Above is Dorothy Knapp's fabulous First Day Cover for this stamp.
Oddly, she chose to paint the locomotive in gold and black,
a color scheme that was never to my knowledge used on this engine.
One of my favorite FDCs for this issue is the one above, not so much for its cachet,
which is fine, but for the letter it contains, signed by the B&O's Vice President of
Traffic, H. E. Simpson. It reads as follows:
Today we are 125 years of age -- a century and a quarter, but frankly, we "don't feel a
day older!" No indeed - we feel quite young and vigorous, though we are the oldest, and
one of the largest railroads in the Nation.
Yes, this is our 125th Anniversary, for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad charter was
granted on February 28th, 1827. This date marked the beginning of commercial railroads
in the United States.
We feel honored that Uncle Sam says, "Birthday Greetings." To do this our government
issued a special postage stamp to commemorate the event. Believing you would like to
have one, we send you this letter on a "first day cover," a collector's item.
Our 125th birthday, however, is not just an occasion for recalling past achievements.
It is rather, we think, an opportunity to dramatize the B&O's established position in its
many communities and in the Nation.
Confidently we head toward our next milestone, dedicated to the same tradition of
service founded in our charter. Our program of progress can be achieved by our
willingness to serve to the best of our ability. Only as we fulfill such a role are we
worthy of the continued patronage of our passengers and shippers.
I wonder how many copies of that letter were sent out - my copy appears to be a hand-
typed, hand-signed original, but even in 1952 it must have been possible to mass-produce
an item like this. Certainly the B&O Marketing Department would have been fools to pass
up the opportunity to cash in on the free advertising the stamp represented.
Sadly, today there is no longer a B&O Railroad - In 1963 the B&O was acquired by the
Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company, which in 1980 became part of CSX Corporation. Next
year I presume Bill Gates will buy that.
Finally, I like the cover above, which provides some interesting additional data and
Sources - there are thousands of excellent books and web sites about railroad
Here are a few of the ones I found most useful in preparing this article:
Poor's Manual of Railroads, 1904
Linn's World Stamp Almanac, 2000
Railroads in America, by Oliver Jensen, 1975