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"Little Joe" E70 at the Old Prison Museums in Deer Lodge, Montana (click on images for the larger picture)


The author of this first part of the "Little Joe" story is unknown. The following information was taken from the Powell County History Book, "Where It All Began".
 The EF-4 (Little Joe) the most powerful and efficient single unit locomotives operated by the Milwaukee Road. In my estimation, they were the greatest machine any railroad ever coupled onto a train. The more I have dug into the figures for this article, the more I'm convinced that my opinion is awfully close to right. By now most readers are probably thinking, "Fine, but what are you talking about and why name a locomotive "Little Joe"?" Little Joe is a nickname that was given to the General Electric's electric locomotive No. 750 when it was on a four month demonstration tour of the Milwaukee starting in December 1948. It was one of 20 locomotives built for Russia. Under the provision of a post war lend-lease program, Russia placed orders for equipment and material to rebuild the railroads, and to electrify some strategic routes. In March 1946, they placed an order for 20 large electric locomotives that were to operate on 3,300 volts of direct current and produce 5,500 horsepower. Engineering, design and manufacture of this order was contracted to General Electric's locomotive plant in Erie, Pa. The locomotives were to cost $270.000 each. (Cost the U. S. Taxpayers). By September 1948, G.E. had completed eight locomotives, but the State Department held up shipping permits because the Berlin crisis and the cold war were causing very strained relations. In October 1948, President Truman ordered an embargo on all strategic materials and equipment to the Soviet Union and the State Department canceled the contract for the 20 locomotives. By this time 14 had been completed. Because most of the major components that were sub-contracted, such as frames, wheels and materials were being delivered by the subcontractors and because you can't change plant schedules that easily, General Electric completed the last six to American gauge of 4' 8 1/2" instead of the Russian gauge of 5'. It was hoped the order could be sold to an American railroad, namely the Milwaukee. All they would have to do was raise the pantograph height from 22' 6" to 25' 6" because the Milwaukee's trolley height ranged from 17’ 6" (in tunnels) to 24' 6" maximum above the rail. Standard trolley line height was 24' 2" above the rail.
Offered to Milwaukee First.
 They were offered to the Milwaukee first because it was 3,000 volts and all their freight locomotives were 32 and 33 years old. I have conflicting articles on the price and purchase agreements, so I'll give you both of them. One is, they offered to the Milwaukee all 20 for $1,000,000 (as is, at Erie). The other is, they offered the 14 Russian gauge engines (as is at Erie) for $1,000,000. And wanted the Milwaukee to pay full price for the American gauge locomotives, because, according to the author, "So General Electric could recoup some of it's loss." Well, that might sound good to him, but General Electric doesn't enter into contracts that big without safe guards. For power they were series wound direct current motors of the nose mounted type. That means that they were mounted on the axle with two suspension bearings on the front and the back was supported on a frame cross member on spring supports to allow it to move up and down with the axle. The armature was geared to the axle with a 21 tooth gear turning the axles 80 tooth gear. The Milwaukee didn't buy the 20 locomotives in 1949 because the chief mechanical officer argued that during the war in Europe he had seen many good electric locomotive standing idle because the trolley line was dead and he preferred the more versatile diesel locomotives. Management was caught in the diesel craze and were buying them as fast as they could so they could end steam operations as soon as possible. I think the Milwaukee management figured that the government was stuck with the locomotives, so why pay $1,000,000 for something they could probably get for nothing, or at least on a rental basis as had been done during World War I. The other railroads in this country were either alternating current, or were too small to need 20 locomotives of that size. This is a classic example of saying "He who hesitates is lost". In this case eight locomotives. In the spring of 1949, the Chicago, South shore and South Bend Railroad bought three locomotives for a reported $270,000. It is only a 73 mile long railroad, but the price was cheaper than they could have smaller locomotives built. Their trolley line is only 1500 volt D.C. as it is mainly an interurban railroad with mostly commuter trains between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana. They do have a pretty good freight business around the steel mills and coal hauling. Of interest to me was that they rearranged the motor combinations to two sets of four in series, four sets of two in series and all eight parallel. This gave each traction motor the same voltage and power it would have had with the 3,000 volt railroad. I have never found any reference to a price on them, so it must have been another government aid program. These are the only Joes operating after the Spring of 1982. Neither of these railroads called their's Little Joes. I suppose because they were by far the largest locomotives they had, so Little Joe just wouldn't fit.
Milwaukee buys 12.
 In August 1950, the Milwaukee bought the last 12 and it still cost them $1,000,000. And they had to do the conversion work in their Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shops. The two electric locomotives built by General Electric for the Great Northern Railroad in 1947 are classed as the largest single unit electric locomotives built in this country, so any comparison of the Joes will have to be against them. They were 101' long, weighed 720,000 Ibs, were rated at 5,000 HP and exerted 119,000 Ibs. Tractive effort. The Joes were 88' 10" long, finally weighed 586,000 Ibs., were rated as 5,530 HP and exerted 110,750 Ibs. Tractive effort. To clarify the "Finally weighed 586,000 Ibs.", they were built weighting 545,000 Ibs. To solve the wheel slipping problems, Chief Electrical engineer Wylie increased the weight to 20 1/2 tons. They poured concrete in specially built pans under the pantographs and welded slab iron to the body frame and floors.

Brass Plaque on one of the "Little Joes":
CLASS 444444-E-560-8 GE 263 A
3000 VOLTS D.C.
NO. 5022-A DATE SEP. 1915
PATENTED FEB 5 1907 DEC 31 1907 JULY 27 19

An Era Ends. Written by Martin Erickson.

 Engineer Bill Lintz sat in the locker room of the roundhouse in the Deer Lodge Yard and quietly wrote out his "Locomotive Inspection Report" dated June 15, 1974. "Brakes and brake rigging - good; bell ringer - good; sanders, train signal system, horns and windshield wipers - good.". He left the "Repairs Needed" space blank. He signed the report, talked with a writer about different types of engines, for a few minutes, said hello to the rail buffs outside the roundhouse, and, puffing his pipe, headed home. Engineer Lintz and his crew had just ended an era. At 9:10, that Saturday morning, they had tied up #264S13 in the Yard and officially ended 58 years, 6 month and 16 days of main line electrified operation on the Milwaukee Road. Lintz had eased #264 to a stop in front of the depot at 7:50 A.M. and he and his crew - Ed Johnson, conductor; Daryl Arfstrom, head brakeman; DeWayne Eisenbaarth, brakeman - had posed for pictures in the bright summer sunshine with Division Superintendent Stanley Jones. Later in the day the two "Little Joes" (E73 and E20) were cut out of the consist, another diesel unit was added and #264 headed east on the now fully dieselized Milwaukee main line. E82, the little steeple cab switch engine in the yard, would not tie up until 3:00 the next morning. But on the main line the throaty sound of SD-40-2s and GP-40s had replaced the hum of "Little Joe", box cabs, and bi-polers. "I was raised on box cabs," Bill Lintz would tell you. "They (and the Little Joes) were sure-footed and reliable. With their longer steel base, the weight was distributed over a greater distance. They slipped very little and had positive power when you wanted or needed it. I hate to see them go.". Lintz could tell you the good and bad points of them all - steam, diesel and electric - since he started as a fireman, in 1937. He commented on the studying that was necessary to pass the engineer's exam for the electrics, because you had to know all the circuits and switches to bypass, if something went wrong. The new diesels are good, he figures, and combined with locotrol, they make a highly efficient unit for moving the heavy freights. Engineer George Rainville, who brought the last electric from Avery, Idaho, to Alberton, Montana, could tell you about almost 24 years with the electrics. He made his student trip out of Deer Lodge on E70.
 Ed Johnson, the conductor on #264 into Deer Lodge, had a double distinction. As brakeman, he had been aboard a short, special freight train from Deer Lodge to Missoula and return in September of 1973 when the railroad gave press representatives a last look at the electrics before they were phased out. There were no press representatives around on this Saturday morning. Just a handful of rail buffs. The buffs had been at Avery and Alberton and all along the highway to watch the last run. Some, like Richard Steinheimer, top-notch freelance photographer, had come great distances to see and photograph the ending of a unique era in American railroad history. After a while everybody went home and E73 and E20 joined the aging box cabs and the other Joes stored in the yard. Only that little steeple cab switcher kept on working the year as it had for so many days and nights. To it belong the final honors. In the pre-dawn darkness of a Sunday morning, Engineer Bryan Gustafson and Brakeman David Hunt tied up E82 with no fanfare and almost 60 years of electrified operation on the Milwaukee Road quietly came to an end. Nobody took pictures as Gustafson and Hunt finished their shift. The writer/photographer from the railroad and the rail buffs, with their cameras had concentrated on the glamour boys, the "Little Joes". While #264 was in the picture, taking the limelight at the depot, E82 was working the Deer Lodge Yard, just as it had worked the Butte Yard for some many years. Some of the people thought that was a nice touch to tie up E82 last of all because, 59 years before, its predecessor switcher 1000 had begun the first electric operation on the Milwaukee Road. Crews began pulling down the wire on the Rocky Mountain Division about mid-day on Monday, June 17 ...

A note from Harry L. Helton Jr., Executive Secretary, Powell County Chamber of Commerce (now retired):
 I was born and raised in Three Forks, Montana and was around the Milwaukee and Northern Pacific Railroads for years. I remember the "Little Joes" well. You had to be real careful when you were in the railroad yard. The "Little Joe" made so little noise, it would sneak up on you. My dear dad sat with we three children, myself and two sisters, and lectured us on always being careful when we were crossing the tracks. He said, "These new Joes will sneak up on you and cut you in half. Look both ways before crossing the tracks. We had to cross the tracks several times a day, to go to school, go to town and Sunday School or to visit friends. My father worked on the Milwaukee Railroad for twenty-seven years. He worked as a fireman and Engineer on the GE and Westinghouse Box Cabs, three different types of steam engines, the "Little Joe" electric locomotives and the diesels. I can remember the regained strength, increasing good health and wonderful attitude my father experienced when he started working on the "Little Joes". When he worked on the box cabs, he would come home covered in oil, dust and what ever, from working hard for anywhere from 8 to 16 hours, keeping these engines in repair, so they could, at least, get from Harlowtown, Montana to Three Forks, Montana or Deer Lodge, Montana to Three Forks, Montana. It seemed that every time he boarded on of these old electrics, something would go wrong. I can also remember my father being covered in coal dust, exhausted from shoveling coal for 4 to 8 hours, and coughing from the smoke and dust from working the little steam engine on the Milwaukee line from Three Forks to Bozeman, and back. When my father came home after working 8 to 16 hours on a "Little Joe" he, more times than not, would be smiling, ready to work around the house, in the yard or head out with me to one river or another to fish. Very often, he and my mother would head out to Bozeman, Butte or Whitehall for dinner. Just some time to enjoy each other. My father, God Rest His Soul, lived to be 82 years old. He had twenty wonderful years to enjoy family and friend, travel to new areas and enjoy new things. I firmly believe that a train called "LITTLE JOE" and the new diesels, saved my father's life, allowing him to live out his life with good health and happiness.