A New York Central Baldwin RF-16 A-B-A set. Photo by R.R. Wallin.

(Audio Visual Designs, Earlton, NY; photographer: R.R. Wallin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton logo.


The BLH RF-16 is a 1,625-horsepower (1,212 kW) cab unit-type diesel locomotive built for freight service by the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation between 1950 and 1953. All RF-16s were configured with a B-B wheel arrangement and ran on two AAR Type B two-axle road trucks, with all axles powered. A total of 109 cab-equipped A units were built, along with 51 cabless booster B units, for a total of 160 locomotives built. As was the case with most passenger locomotives of its day, the RF-16s came equipped with a retractable, nose-mounted drop coupler pilot. Unlike competing units from EMD and Alco, the RF-16 used an air-powered throttle, meaning that it could not be run in multiple unit (MU) operation with EMD or Alco diesels without special MU equipment.


Baldwin "Sharknose" A-B-A demonstrator units in Baldwin livery. (The Baldwin Group, via W. Lenheim Collection)

Monongahela Railway Baldwin RF-16, front view, at Brownsville, PA shops in 1971. Photo by Dan Cupper. (Audio-Visual Designs, Earlton, NY, Public domain, via W. Lenheim Collection)

Monongahela Railway Baldwin RF-16, side view, at Brownsville, PA in 1971. Photo by Dan Cupper. (Audio-Visual Designs, Earlton, NY, Public domain, via W. Lenheim Collection)


In 1948, Baldwin began to apply a new "Sharknose" body style to its cab unit diesel locomotives. The goal of the new style was partly to differentiate Baldwin locomotives from competitors, and partly to distance the new locomotives from early Baldwin diesels that were plagued with mechanical problems. The style was inspired by the Pennsylvania Railroad's T1 class duplex steam locomotive which was designed by Raymond Loewy, and some of which were built by Baldwin. The first locomotives to receive the new styling was the DR-6-4-2000. When the RF-16 (essentially a "debugged" DR-4-4-1500 freight locomotive with a new prime mover) was introduced in 1950, it was given the new "Sharknose" styling.

The RF-16 quickly gained a reputation as a reliable and rugged locomotive with tough "lugging power." Many of the units saw service hauling coal drags, where these characteristics were put to best use. A pair of Pennsylvania Railroad RF-16s were repowered with ALCO prime movers in December 1959, with mixed results. The Baltimore and Ohio retired its Sharknoses as a class in 1962. In 1966, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the largest single owner of RF-16s, ceased use of the distinctive locomotives.

In 1967, the Monongahela Railway purchased seven A-units and two cabless B-units, the last remaining units from the New York Central Sharknose fleet.


Two Baldwin RF-16's working on the Delaware and Hudson Railway.

(© Railcards.com, Alameda, CA, via W. Lenheim Collection, Fair use, Tile 17, Section 107)


Delaware and Hudson 1205 and 1216

By August 1974, all but two of the Monongahela Railway units, what were to become 1205 and 1216, had been sold for scrap. The final pair were to be scrapped by GE, but were saved when the Delaware and Hudson Railway purchased both units from the scrap dealer in exchange for an equal value of scrap steel. They were used in freight service and in passenger excursion service on the D&H until April 1978.

In April they were purchased by Castolite Corporation, a locomotive leasing firm. The pair was leased for use on the Michigan Northern Railway in 1979 before being moved to the Escanaba and Lake Superior Railroad (ELS). The E&LS used No. 1216 for a short time in mid-1979, and a photo exists of it operating near Turner, Michigan. It was used in freight service again in the fall of 1982, but its crankshaft broke not long after. Both No. 1216 and No. 1205 have been stored since that time on E&LS property in Escanaba and Wells, Michigan, inaccessible to the public.

On January 10, 2020, Trains Magazine reported that the two surviving units will be going to a museum for preservation, but subsequent 2021 reporting revealed that a full restoration was economically unfeasible at that time.

On December 2, 2021, the E&LS 1216 was moved from storage in Escanaba, Michigan to a shop at the railroad's headquarters in Wells, Michigan to free up space for freight car cleaning at the Escanaba car shop.


Original buyers

Railroad Quantity A units Quantity B units Road numbers A units Road numbers B units Notes
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad 19 12 851,A–865,A (odd), 867–871 (odd) 851X–861X, 865X, 867X,AX–871X,AX (all odd) Renumbered 4202–4220 (A); 5202–5214 (B) not in order
New York Central Railroad 18 8 3804–3821 3702–3729 Renumbered 1204–1221 (A) in September 1966
Pennsylvania Railroad 72 31 2000A–2027A, 9594A–9599A, 9708A–9745A 2000B–2026B, 9594B–9598B, 9708B–9598B, 9708B–9714B (all even) 2001A and 9726A repowered with ALCo V12 251B in December 1959, renumbered #9632A-9633A.
Totals 109 51

Baldwin RF-16 Overview

Type and origin
Power type: Diesel-electric
Builder: Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation
Model: RF-16
Build date: November 1950 – May 1953
Total produced: 160
​• AAR B-B
• UIC Bo′Bo′
Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Trucks: 4 wheel
Wheel diameter: 42"
Minimum curve: 30 Degrees
Wheelbase: 9' 10”
​• Over couplers 54’ 8” (RF-16A), 53’ 22” (RF-16B)
Width: 10'
Height: 15'
Locomotive weight: 266,000 lb (120,656 kg)
Sandbox capacity: 20 cu. ft.
Prime mover: 608A
RPM range: 625 maximum
Engine type: Four-stroke diesel
Aspiration: Turbocharger Elliott Company H704 (125 hp)
Displacement: 15,832 cu in (259.44 L)
Generator: Westinghouse 471A
Traction motors: Westinghouse 370G (4)
Cylinders: Inline 8
Cylinder size: 12+3⁄4 in × 15+1⁄2 in (324 mm × 394 mm)
Transmission: Electric
Gear ratio: 15:63 or 15:68
Locomotive brake: Straight air
Train brakes: Air
Performance figures
Maximum speed: 65 mph (105 km/h) or 70 mph (110 km/h)
Power output: 1,625 hp (1,211.76 kW) (marketed as 1,600 hp)
Tractive effort: 48,600 lbf (216.18 kN)
Operators: Baltimore and Ohio, Pennsylvania Railroad, New York Central, Monongahela Railway, Delaware and Hudson, Michigan Northern, Escanaba and Lake Superior RR
Class: PRR- BF16 NYC- DFA-8a
Nickname: Sharknose
Locale: North America
Retired: 1961 (B&O), 1965-1966 (PRR), 1967 (NYC)
Preserved: 2 (E&LS No. 1205, No. 1216)
Disposition: 2 stored, remainder scrapped.