Wednesday, October 5, 2011

American Electrics: The Little Joe, A Direct Current Monster

South Shore Little Joe #803 at the Illinois Railway Museum. Photo by Sean Lamb/Courtesy Wikimedia
South Shore Little Joe #802 (MTH Model) at Dunes Junction
If Pennsy's mighty GG-1 is an artifact of the era of classic art deco design and New Deal mega-projects, the Little Joe is a souvenir from the interlude between WWII and the Cold War.  GE began construction on 20 of these 300-ton direct current monsters as part of WWII lend-lease, while the Soviets were still America's friend.  By the time GE finished construction of these 2-D+D-2s in the late 40s, the Cold War was in full swing and the Soviets had dropped their iron curtain across Europe.  GE never shipped them to Mother Russia; instead, the locomotives were re-purposed for use on US and Brazilian railways.  Milwaukee Road got 12 for its electrified mountain routes in the US northwest, and the South Shore received three.  Brazilian FEPASA took delivery of the remaining five.  All had originally been built to run on Soviet 5' gauge track and were regauged for their new homes (4' 8 1/2" for Milwaukee Road and South Shore, 5' 3" for the FEPASA).  South Shore's Little Joes, or 800s, lasted into the early 80s; by that time they were little more than very large switchers, working local freights in Gary and East Chicago, Indiana.