Little Joe (electric locomotive)

Little Joe (electric locomotive)
Little Joe
A Little Joe preserved at Illinois Railway Museum.
Power type Electric
Builder General Electric
Serial number 29913–29932
Total produced 20
AAR wheel arr. 2-D+D-2
UIC classification (2′D)+(D2′)
Length 88 ft 10 in (27.08 m)
Width 10 ft 7 in (3.23 m)
Height 14 ft 5 in (4.39 m)
Locomotive weight 545,600 lb (247.5 t)
Electric system 3,000–3,300 V DC
1,500 V DC (South Shore)
Current collection
Two pantographs
Traction motors GE750 (8)
Top speed 68 mph (109 km/h)
Power output One hour: 5,530 hp (4.12 MW)
Continuous: 5,110 hp (3.81 MW)
Tractive effort 75,700 lbf (337 kN)
Locomotive brakes Air, 8-EL
Career Milwaukee Road (12)
South Shore (3)
Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro (5)
Number E20, E21, E70–E79 (Milwaukee)
801–803 (South Shore)
Nicknames Little Joe (Milwaukee)
800s (South Shore)
Russa (Paulista)
Disposition Five preserved, remainder scrapped.

The Little Joe is a type of railroad electric locomotive built by General Electric for export to the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1946. The locomotives had twelve axles, eight of them powered, in a 2-D+D-2 arrangement. They were originally designed to operate on Soviet Railways (SZhD) 3,300 volt DC overhead line system.



GE built 20 locomotives of this type, but they were prohibited from delivering them to the Soviet Railways (SZhD) due the relations between the US and USSR deteriorating into what became known as the Cold War. Fourteen were built to the Russian gauge (broad gauge) of 5 ft  (1,524 mm) and the final six were built to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge.

Milwaukee Road

The Milwaukee Road's Electrical Engineer had offered to buy all twenty, plus the spare parts inventory for $1 million, little more than scrap value.[1] However the Milwaukee's Board of Directors would not release the money. After the start of the Korean War, the Milwaukee needed more locomotives on their Transcontinental mainline, so the Board of Directors returned to GE to discover that eight locomotives and all the spares had been sold, and that the price for the remaining twelve locomotives was $1 million.[1] Of the eight sold, three had gone to the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad (the South Shore), and five to the Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro of Brazil.


As originally tested, The Milwaukee Road was not impressed with these locomotives, finding them prone to wheelslip. The World War I vintage General Electric motor-generator substations had difficulty supplying more than two EF-4s under heavy load, which meant that their true ability could not be demonstrated. Additionally, the controls were labelled in Russian. After being modified with increased weight, and provided with adequate power, the EF-4s were excellent performers and very reliable. Some substations were later modified to supply up to 3,400 volts to take advantage of the high power of these locomotives.


Later modifications included the removal of driving controls and windows at one end to allow the relocation of some troublesome electrical equipment into a cooler environment. The most important and final major modification was the provision of multiple unit controls for trailing diesel-electric locomotives. This system was designed in-house. It was not uncommon to see several diesel-electric locomotives being led by, and controlled from, an EF-4 (or a Boxcab) in the 1960s and 70s.


The Milwaukee Road used two for passenger service, designated class EP-4 (2-D+D-2), and the remaining ten for freight, designated class EF-4. They were used on the railroad's electrified Rocky Mountain Division in Montana and Idaho to take the place of older GE boxcab electrics that had been operating there since the 1920s. Three had been delivered in standard gauge, while the rest were converted to standard gauge in the Milwaukee's shops. They lasted until the end of electric operation on the Milwaukee in June 1974. The Milwaukee's operating employees referred to them as Little Joe Stalin's locomotives which was eventually shortened to simply Little Joe.

South Shore

The South Shore, while primarily a commuter railroad between Chicago, Illinois, and northwestern Indiana, used them in freight service.[2] They had to be modified to operate on 1500V DC catenary. In service on the South Shore the “Little Joe” name was not generally used; the locomotives were referred to as “800s”. Two of the three lasted until 1983, making them the last electrics in regular mainline freight service on a US common-carrier railroad. Today, freight trains are pulled by diesel-electric locomotives.


The Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro converted its locomotives to its 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) gauge. They became known as Russas, and stayed active through each re-organization of the Brazilian railways, finally ending up with FEPASA in 1971. They continued to operate until 1999, becoming the last representatives of their class in revenue service. It was at this point that FEPASA was privatized, and electric operation was immediately ended.

Original Buyers

Owner Quantity
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (CMStP&P RR) 12
Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad (CSS&SB RR) 3
Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro 5


Milwaukee Road

Milwaukee #E70 is on static display at Deer Lodge, Montana.

South Shore

South Shore #803 is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum (IRM). South Shore #802 is preserved and on public display at the Lake Shore Railway Historical Museum in North East, Pennsylvania, 10 miles (16 km) away from Erie, where the GE Locomotive Assembly Plant that constructed the Little Joes is located.[3]


In Brazil, #6451, #6453, #6454, were scrapped after the deactivation. Number 6452 is in a museum in Jundiai, São Paulo and #6455 is in a museum in Bauru, São Paulo, but is missing many parts. As of 2008, 6475 is safe in a museum.[4]

External links


  1. ^ a b Holley, Noel T. (November 1987). Milwaukee Electrics (1st edition ed.). Hicksville, NY: N J International. ISBN 0934088144. 
  2. ^ "Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad History". 
  3. ^ "Around the LSRHS Museum". Lake Shore Railway Historical Society. Retrieved December 30, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Brazilian locomotives". 

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