Last night in my final class of Transportation Management my teacher pointed out the wallpaper photo on the computer we used to give slideshow presentations. The train is notable because of its nickname, “Little Joe.”

The amazing Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois, has a Little Joe the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend converted to Standard Gauge (4 feet, 8.5 inches). The unit is operational.

Long story short: General Electric (GE) built twenty electric locomotives to fulfill an order the Soviet Union made in 1946. The Cold War “happened” and GE couldn’t ship them out. The engines were built for a 5-foot gauge track. Two American railroads (Milwaukee Road and South Shore) and a Brasilian railroad bought up the stock.

Little Joe is named after Joseph Stalin, Generalissimo of the Soviet Union at the time.

The Wikipedia entry on the Little Joe locomotive doesn’t mention the relationship, but High Iron Illustrations, an aviation and railfan art store, confirms my teacher’s story. The Illinois Railway Museum has more on its history, after the jump.

1949 “Little Joe” Electric Locomotive

The South Shore provided service between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana. Unlike most interurban lines, the South Shore handled considerable freight, including traffic to the industries and mills on the Indiana shoreline.

After World War II, the Soviet Union ordered 20 massive locomotives for its Trans-Siberian Railroad. Each had four idler and eight powered axles, to meet loading restrictions on the relatively lightweight line. Delivery to Russia was embargoed as Cold War tensions rose, and fifteen units were rebuilt for U.S. service; three went to the South Shore, and twelve to the Milwaukee Road. The “Little Joe name derives from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

IRM obtained 803 in 1983, after the road [sic] dieselized [sic] its freights. It is the most powerful, heaviest, and longest electric locomotive at IRM, and is operational.*

Builder: General Electric
Motors: 8
Power: 1500 Volt DC
Horsepower: 4750 (continuous)
Weight: 545,600 lbs [pounds]
Collectors: Pantographs (2)

See the Illinois Railway Museum’s roster page on Little Joe.

*This last paragraph could use a rewrite. How about: IRM obtained 803 in 1983, after the Milwaukee Road switched to diesel locomotives. It is the heaviest, longest, and most powerful electric locomotive at IRM, and is operational.