Journal-News Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Hamilton's GMC sought locomotive partner
By Jim Blount
The end of World War II in 1945 relieved railroads and their customers of war regulations that limited civilian travel and gave priority to people and freight related to the military and defense contractors. Peace also permitted railroads to resume their transition from steam-powered to diesel-electric locomotives.
Hamilton-based General Machinery Corp. -- with subsidies from the government -- had succeeded before and during the war in developing diesel engines, mostly for maritime use. GMC planned to capitalize on its experience in the late 1940s when railroads shopped for more efficient diesel locomotives to replace old and overworked steam units.
During the war, the War Production Board (WPB) decided priorities for industry and allocation of raw materials to companies. GMC had started experimentation with diesel locomotives in the 1930s, but the WPB assigned other missions to the Hamilton company as the U. S. prepared for World War II.
In February 1940, the Journal-News said, "a revolutionary new development for transmission of power from an internal combustion engine has been perfected by Heinrich and Adolf Schneider, and engineers of the newly-formed Hydro-Transmission Corp., an affiliate of the General Machinery Corp. of Hamilton."
The article said the hydro-transmission "is installed in a switching engine, powered with a 400-horsepower Hamilton Diesel engine. The engine is now undergoing tests in the yards of the General Machinery Corp. on North Third Street, and has been demonstrated to many industrialists, including officials of the Hamilton Coke and Iron Co., New Miami, and the American Rolling Mill Co. in Middletown."
At the same time, GMC was working on a $3.9 million contract for diesel engines for U. S. submarines, plus a variety of armament for the U. S. and its allies.
In 1941, the company's emphasis changed when the British government -- fighting Germany since 1939 -- designated GMC to build 1,500-horsepower vertical triple expansion engines, later called Liberty engines. The job involved redrawing English metric plans to standard U. S. measures in Hamilton.
The U. S. Maritime Commission contracted with GMC and 13 other U. S. companies to build Liberty engines for 10,500-ton cargo ships. The Hamilton plant turned out the first Liberty engine July 1, 1941-- five months before Pearl Harbor. The last of the 826 was completed here March 9, 1945. Hamilton built more than 31 percent of the 2,623 Liberty engines produced by the 14 U. S. companies.
During World War II, GMC shops covered 30 acres along North Third Street. The complex employed about 4,500 men and women, many working 11-hour shifts five to seven days a week. GMC also sub contracted to other local factories.
War work wasn't new for GMC and its predecessor companies, which traced their corporate histories in Hamilton to the 1840s. They included the Hooven, Owens, Rentschler Co. (HOR) and the Niles Tool Works. The latter had moved from Cincinnati to Hamilton in 1872. Both companies had supplied hardware for the U. S. military in the Spanish-American War and World War I.
In 1928, HOR and Niles had merged to form the General Machinery Corp. In 1940, on the eve of World War II, GMC was described as "one of the largest manufacturers of machine tools in the world, and a builder of diesel engines."
In 1945 -- with Germany and Japan defeated -- 0GMC sought new domestic users for its technology. Adapting its diesel know how to railroading was a logical choice, but GMC lacked experience in building and selling locomotives to railroads.
GMC executives sought a partner to complement the Hamilton company's strengths. Several firms had been successful in marketing steam locomotives. Considered the "Big Three" in the business were the American Locomotive Company (Alco), Baldwin Locomotive Works and Lima Locomotive Works, the latter about 100 miles north on the same Baltimore & Ohio Railroad line that served Hamilton.
GMC made its move in 1947, agreeing to a merger that put the Hamilton-based company in the expanding diesel locomotive business.
# # #
Journal-News Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Lima-Hamilton seemed a perfect marriage in 1947
By Jim Blount
It seemed a perfect marriage in 1947 when two Ohio companies combined to form the Lima-Hamilton Corp. The prestigious firms had long histories of success in their respective lines of business, including stellar work recently during World War II.
The most notable war product of Hamilton's General Machinery Corp. (GMC) was Liberty engines. It built 826 of the engines that propelled ships transporting troops and supplying and feeding Allied forces and civilians in war-ravaged areas. The assembled engines were 23 feet long, 17 feet wide and 23 feet high. Liberty ships were called "the shopping baskets of World War II" by a former crew member.
During World War II, Lima employed a peak of 4,300 people on its 65-acre site. In addition to steam locomotives for domestic and military uses, it manufactured M4 Sherman tanks for the U. S. Army. When the war ended, it also was producing cranes and shovels for the construction industry.
Steam locomotives remained Lima's forte in 1947. It hadn't ventured into diesel power. Its prime competitors, Alco and Baldwin, who would exit the steam business in 1948 and 1949, respectively, had started producing diesels before World War II.
"Lima, the youngest and smallest of the 'Big Three' steam builders, was synonymous with steam at its best, and it upheld the steam standard to the bitter end," said Greg McDonnel in Diesel Victory, a 2006 Trains magazine publication. "Even as legions of steam-killing diesels were rolling off the erecting floors of five competitors, Lima Locomotive Works was espousing the advantages of modern steam power from its hometown of Lima, Ohio."
The Lima firm produced farm and sawmill equipment before becoming a locomotive builder in 1878. After expansions and a few owner and name changes it became Lima Locomotive Works in 1916.
By the 1920s, when steam powered U. S. railroads, Lima was considered among the "Big Three" in building locomotives. Others in the elite group were the American Locomotive Company (Alco) and Baldwin Locomotive Works. Alco and Baldwin began building diesel locomotives before World War II while Lima concentrated on steam.
In October 1947, the GMC and Lima boards approved the merger that created the Lima-Hamilton Corp. "The Hamilton company has been making diesel engines and the Lima company has been making steam locomotives," a newspaper reported. "The two companies have the two important parts of the diesel-type locomotives that are now being used extensively by American railroads."
In 1948, as Lima-Hamilton, the Lima plant built 36 steam locomotives and was still taking orders. The last of 7,548 steam locomotives built by Lima left the shop in May 1949.
Lima-Hamilton (L-H) started with two diesel-electric switching locomotives -- 750 horsepower and 1,000 horsepower. Later, their power was increased to 800 and 1,200 horsepower, respectively. The diesel engines -- based on GMC marine models -- were produced in Hamilton. The 47-foot, 10-inch bodies for most of the locomotives were built in Lima. Some components came from other companies.
Between November 1949 and October 1950, only six 750-horsepower switchers were sold -- all to Cincinnati Union Terminal. From September 1950 to June 1951, L-H built 800-horsepower models for the Chicago River & Indiana and the Rock Island railroads.
The 1,000-horsepower locomotives were produced between May 1949 and March 1950. Local buyers included Armco Steel, Baltimore & Ohio and New York Central. Units also were sold to the Erie; Nickel Plate; Toledo, Peoria & Western; and the Wabash railroads.
The 1,200-horsepower switchers were assembled from December 1950 to May 1951. Customers included Armco, Baltimore & Ohio, Nickel Plate, Wabash and the Terminal Railroad of St. Louis.
About 170 diesels were built under the Lima-Hamilton name before another merger. Nov. 30, 1950, L-H joined the Baldwin Locomotive Works to become the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corp. Baldwin's interest, it was reported, was diversification and acquiring Lima's construction equipment business.
BLH -- which ended diesel locomotive production in 1956 -- closed Hamilton operations by January 1960. Later that year, Champion Papers acquired the majority of the former GMC property on North Third Street, including four factory structures, a steam plant and two office buildings.
Several L-H switchers eventually worked for Armco Steel, operating in yards and between New Miami and Middletown, including powering the hot metal trains between the plants. Three Lima-Hamilton diesel switchers survive nearby in Indiana -- as part of the motive power of the Whitewater Valley Railroad that operates excursions between Connersville, Laurel and Metamora.
# # #
Journal-News Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Armco Ambulance Corps first to enter World War I
By Jim Blount
They were Butler County's first response to United States entry into World War I. They weren't drafted and they didn't intend to fight the Germans. The 15 volunteers were employees of the American Rolling Mill Co. in Middletown who formed the Armco Ambulance Corps.
"No industrial organization in any city in the country is known to be doing a patriotic service in any way resembling what this unit and its backers have set out to accomplish," said a Middletown newspaper. "The corps will be equipped and maintained by the Armco Association with the company's backing."
The volunteers were James E. Bryan, Victor S. Collard, Sidney E. Graef, Captain Newman Ebersole, Schenck Simpson, Vaughan Horner, John B. Marshall, J. Morace Beard, Albert P. Preyer, Raymond P. Myers, Lieutenant Horace W. Rinearson, Sidney S. Gold, William P. Pease, Raymond L. Maneely, and Lee L. Ware. They represented several Armco departments from the plant to the office to sales.
Their original equipment included seven ambulances, each costing $3,000, and requiring an estimated $500 to $600 a year to maintain. First year expenses were expected to be in the $25,000 to $30,000 range.
"As the members of the corps have volunteered for service without pay for the duration of the war, they will be supported while at the front by the organization of Armco men," the newspaper explained..
The ambulance corps -- which served with the Red Cross -- left for Europe four months after the U. S. entered the Great War, as it was known then.
The war had ignited in 1914 in Europe. The spark was the June 28 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. The U. S. remained neutral for nearly three years, until declaring war on Germany April 6, 1917.
Months before the U. S. declaration, about 65 Butler County men were in Company E, Third Ohio Infantry Regiment, a National Guard unit that had been sent to the U. S.-Mexico border in September 1916, because of unrest in Mexico. Company E left Texas in March 1917, but remained in federal service after returning Ohio.
By the end of May 1917 other local men had volunteered, mostly in the air corps, and were in training camps.
A Selective Service Act was approved May 18, but the draft process didn't start until June 5. That's when local men between the ages of 21 and 31 were registered at neighborhood voting places. The first group of 20 draftees left Hamilton Sept. 5.
By that time, the Armco Ambulance Corps -- with each ambulance bearing the Armco name -- was attached to a French division.
The Middletown volunteers had sailed from New York Aug. 7, 1917, arrived at Bordeaux, France, Aug. 19 and were in Paris Aug. 20. After training with the French, the corps was assigned to the Verdun area Oct. 5 and experienced combat for the first time Oct. 23. Two days earlier the army's First Division had become the first U. S. troops to enter combat.
Eventually the much-decorated Armco unit became part of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). The Nov. 11, 1918, armistice ended the fighting, but the ambulance corps remained in France for more than five months.
Censorship prevented reporting of its whereabouts and service, but a writer noted later that "letters coming to home folks" included "descriptions of thrilling adventures at night on narrow roads, crowded with artillery supply trains, ambulances and troops. Mud everywhere; the darkness; the anxiety to get the wounded in safely; scenes that words cannot describe."
The unit returned to New York City May 2, 1919, met by George M. Verity, Armco's president, and other company officials. They reached Middletown the next day on a special car on a New York Central passenger train. They arrived to a community celebration and parade that honored all Middletown veterans of the Great War.
# # #
Journal-News Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Who was Stephen T. Badin, school's namesake?
By Jim Blount
Who was the priest whose accomplishments are honored in the name of Stephen T. Badin High School on New London Road in Hamilton? He was not only a Catholic "first" in the United States, but a church pioneer in the Ohio Valley and instrumental in the creation of the University of Notre Dame.
May 25, 1793, in Baltimore, Stephen Theodore Badin, 33, became the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in the U. S.
For perspective, George Washington was beginning his second term as president. In the Northwest Territory north of the Ohio River, Fort Hamilton was a wilderness outpost for an army preparing for a showdown with Indians in the region. Ohio was 10 years away from statehood.
After the French Revolution interrupted his religious education, Badin arrived in the U. S. in March 1792. Following ordination, the native of Orleans, France, attended Georgetown University to improve his English. His first appointment was in the new state of Kentucky.
To reach his post, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he walked to Pittsburgh, traveled the Ohio River on a flatboat to Maysville and walked 65 miles to Lexington where he said his first mass. He was resident pastor at White Sulphur in Scott County, 16 miles northwest of Lexington, for about 18 months, but his work was statewide.
The Catholic Encyclopedia says "for 14 years he attended to the spiritual wants of the various Catholic settlements, scattered over . . . more than 120 miles, forming new congregations, [and] building churches." Badin "had to live in the saddle, and it is estimated that he rode more than 100,000 miles" during his Kentucky ministry.
He left Kentucky during a dispute over church land, and in 1819 returned to France to accept a parish near his birthplace. Badin was back in the U. S. in 1828, working in Michigan and Kentucky before an assignment with Indians along the St. Joseph River in northern Indiana.
In 1836 he was in Cincinnati, writing for the Catholic Telegraph, a church newspaper. He went to Bardstown, Ky., in 1837, followed by stops in Louisville and Bourbonnais, Ill.
When he died April 21, 1853, Father Badin resided in the residence of Archbishop John Purcell in Cincinnati.
His Notre Dame connection began in 1830 when he purchased 524 acres of farmland near South Bend, Ind., for $1.25 an acre. "He planned to expand missionary work among the Pottowattamie Indians here, but they moved off," explains the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Badin placed the land in trust with the bishop of Vincennes July 1, 1835, specifying that the tract should be used to establish "an orphan asylum or to such other religious, charitable, institution as they will judge more proper and beneficial to humanity and morality."
The site included what is considered "the first church not only at Notre Dame, but in Northwest Indiana" -- a log chapel Badin built as early as 1832. The building, reports a university web site, "fell into disuse in 1848" and burned in 1856. A replica of the Badin chapel, or "Indian chapel," is a campus landmark.
The university dates its founding in November 1842 by the Rev. Edward Sorin on Badin's land. It was chartered by Indiana legislators Jan. 15, 1844. Under Father Sorin's leadership, Notre Dame's gained stature. He guided the institution until his death in 1893.
But the university has not forgotten Father Badin. His body -- after remaining in a crypt in the cathedral in Cincinnati for decades -- was eventually buried on the Notre Dame campus.