I never had the privilege of seeing Alton Route steam. The already dieselized GM&O quickly retired all former Alton steam after officially merging the road in June 1947. It would have been exciting to see the Alton's distinctively liveried Pacifics at the head of fast main line varnish, or to watch more mundane freight power laboring across the prairie.

The last steam locomotives built new for the former Chicago & Alton Railroad were five 2-8-2s delivered by the American Locomotive Company in 1921. Under Baltimore & Ohio ownership, however, the railroad operated some experimental B&O power on its crack passenger trains (see below). The B&O renumbered and reclassified the Chicago & Alton's locomotives, and they kept these identifications after the Alton Route became independent again, and in some cases even into the GM&O era.

All former Alton Route steam locomotives were scrapped by 1950. An article in LIFE magazine on October 10, 1949, entitled "Dieselization of a Railroad," contained photos of GM&O steam locomotives awaiting scrapping, or in process of being cut up, at Bloomington. Here is a photo from that article in the LIFE archives.

The images on this page have been collected from several sources. Thanks go to Gary Thompson, Richard Millinger, William Anderson, and the late William K. Dunbar for supplying material from their collections, the work of various photographers who are credited where known. The late Marc Liberta, of the GM&O Historical Society, provided me with information on the rebuilding and renumbering of the Alton's P-16 Pacifics.

Click on the selections below to view a larger image, with commentary, or page through the collection sequentially. At the bottom of the page are links to Alton Route steam photos on other sites.

The thumbnails below are direct links to images (or pages of links to images) of Alton Route steam power. The link under the thumbnail will take you to the home page of the site where the image is found. You may find other Alton locomotives on these sites.

Here are some notes on the locomotives featured in the thumbnails above:

  • Consolidation No. 2993, of class E-49, was delivered in 1909 by Alco's Brooks Works as Chicago & Alton No. 433.
  • Mikado No. 4342, a member of class Q-5B, was built by Alco's Brooks Works in 1910 and would have been the Chicago & Alton's No. 812.
  • Pacific No. 5287 was a member of a group of 10 class I-5A engines built by Alco's Brooks Works in 1910 for the Chicago & Alton. The Alton Railroad, following the B&O designation, classed them as P-15.
  • Chicago & Alton No. 658 was the first of its class to be rebuilt, and later became the Alton Railroad's No. 5299.
  • In 1935, the Baltimore & Ohio sent its experimental 4-4-4 No. 1, the "Lady Baltimore," to its Alton subsidiary to power the newly streamlined Abraham Lincoln, but it quickly proved too light an engine for this fast train.
  • The B&O sent the "Lord Baltimore," lightweight 4-6-4 No. 2, to haul the Alton's Ann Rutledge in 1937, and it remained in service on the Alton Route until 1942.

Click here to view a Railroad Magazine news item on the scrapping of the two B&O locomotives.