Every class I railroad built before the turn of the century had a sizeable roster of 4-4-0's. These were the standard locomotive for early railroads and were used for both freight and passenger service. The more modern 4-4-0's were usually designed for passenger duty. The 4-4-0's lasted nearly until the end of steam operations on some railroads, usually because they were used on a branch operation where a lightweight engine was needed.
The Great Northern had a sizeable number of 4-4-0's. Many of these early engines were acquired when smaller railroads were purchased or otherwise absorbed into the GN. There were a number of classes of 4-4-0's on the GN and many classes contained only a few engines. Many of these classes had been vacated by the 1920's and many more were retired in the next 20 years. For example, engine assignment rosters for 1936 list 29 active 4-4-0's, but only six were listed in 1942. That last 4-4-0, except for one on display in the St. Paul, Minn., station was B-21 number 214, which was built in 1887 and scrapped in 1949. Being used for 62 years is an excellent endurance record.
The GN 4-4-0's were somewhat a typical of most GN steam engines, since none of them, from the photos I've seen, had Belpaire fireboxes. As an anachronistic touch, most retained their original fluted domes and slide valve cylinders until they were scrapped in the 1940's.
This article is intended to be a short survey of the GN classes that were in service in the 1930's or later. Classes B-9, B-13, B-15, B-19, B-20 and B-21 will be discussed.
The ten engines in class B-9 were built by Pittsburgh in 1881. They were originally St. Paul, Minneapolis & Manitoba (StPM&M) Nos. 67 and 78 through 86. The StPM&M was later reorganized to form the Great Northern. These engines were renumbered 187 to 196. A photo of 192 appears on page 387 of Wood's THE GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY. Nos. 190 and 196 were sold to the Baltimore & Ohio in 1900 and the remainder were given new boilers in 1905. Nos. 189 and 191 received new boilers again in 1910 and 1907 respectively. Nos. 187, 189 and 194 were the last of the class to be scrapped in 1941.
Class B-13 contained fifteen engines which were built by Baldwin in 1882 for the StPM&M and numbered 100 to 114. Three were sold to the B&O and one was scrapped in 1900. A photo of 103 taken shortly after it was built appears on page 385 of Wood's book. A photo of 113 taken in 1898 is on page 70 of the same reference. In 1916, ten B-13's were scrapped. No. 103 received a new boiler in 1908 which extended its life far beyond that of the others in its class. It was renumbered 219 in 1944. It was converted to an oil burner in later years and scrapped in 1947.
The nine engines in class B-15 were built by Schenectady in 1882 for the StPM&M and numbered 125 to 133. A photo of 125 appears on page 386 and a photo of 127 taken in 1900 appears on page 51 of Wood's book. Four B-15's were scrapped in 1916. Nos. 125 and 126 got new boilers in 1907 and were retired in 1929. Nos. 130 and 131 got new boilers in 1910 and were retired in 1937. No. 132 got a new boiler in 1911 and was retired in 1937.
Class B-19 had 35 engines that were built by Brooks in 1882 and 1883 for the StPM&M. These engines were numbered 152 to 186. A photo of 155 taken in 1887 appears on page 41 and a photo of 185 is on page 387 of Wood's GN book. The life of several of these locomotives was extended by adding new boilers built by either the GN or Baldwin. Nos. 159, 163 and 186 received new boilers in 1908. Others to receive new boilers were 156 in 1910, 168 and 185 in 1911, 183 in 1914 and 171 in 1923. The remaining B-19's were scrapped between 1918 and 1927. Nos. 156, 159 163, 171, 183 and 185 were scrapped in 1939, 1938, 1932, 1938, 1939 and 1937 respectively. No. 186 was renumbered 220 in 1944 and scrapped in 1947.
The eleven engines in class B-20 were built in 1882 and 1883 by Rhode Island for the StPM&M and numbered 197 to 206. A photo of 204 appears on page 386 of the Wood GN book. No. 206 received a new boiler in 1916. The next year 197, 199 and 204 received new boilers. The remainder of these engines were scrapped between 1923 and 1927. Engines 197, 199, 204 and 206 were retired or sold for scrap in 1937, 1941, 1938 and 1932 respectively.
The 19 engines in GN Class B-21 were built by Rogers in 1887 for the StPM&M, numbered 207 to 225. Nine of these were scrapped between 1926 and 1929. Six more were scrapped between 1934 and 1939. Nos. 208, 216 and 218 were scrapped in 1947 while 214 wasn't scrapped until 1949. A photo of 207 taken shortly after it was built appears on page 385 and a photo of 221 taken in 1911 appears on page 56 of Wood's GN book.