From Rochelle IL and doing Whitcomb Research

machinehead61 Jun 13, 2012

  1. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    I have joined here to find help in my Whitcomb research. I plan on writing a book since none exists for the Whitcomb locomotive history. I recently did a display at the 7th annual Rochelle Railroad Days where I did a photo opp with a former Whitcomb employee whom I have interviewed RNL ARTICLE.jpg and have located other former employees. I have access to the microfilm in our library that contain newspaper stories on the Whitcomb but the mother load of company files ended up in the California State Railroad Museum. I don't have the money to travel to CSRM and spend the time needed to research their archives. I hope to find a member near the CSRM who could go through their archives for me. The librarian has told me she doesn't have the time to go through all of the Whitcomb records. They built over 5,000 locomotives between 1906-1952 and cataloged each loco on an index card. The index cards alone fill 12-14 boxes according to the librarian. If you can help please message me.

    Steve
     
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Welcome to TrainBoard!

    Quite a project you are taking on. Hope it all comes together!
     
  3. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    ARMY TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM

    I just got off the phone with a very helpful young lady at the Army Transportation Museum and she just sent me these photos.

    R1058[1].jpg


    During WW II, Whitcombs were used in Africa and Europe:

    WHITCOMBDOING THE IMPOSSIBLE


    Duringthe latter part of 1940 we were asked to design a locomotive whichcould operate successfully through desert sand storms and keep coolwith the thermometer registering 125 F. in the shade. The only otherknown factors, besides the gauge of track was that they needed allthe power we could give them but the weight had to be reduced to theabsolute minimum. That is just about as contradictory as wanting thestrength of a draft horse in a Shetland pony. As the boys in theengineering department were only working about 60 hours a week atthat time, they decided there wasn't any particular reason why wecouldn't tackle the problem. By actual count there are 10,756different items necessary to build that Diesel electric locomotive,and the fact it is still in production offers conclusive proof thatthe engineers did their work well. Incidentally, in that count theBuda diesels, Westinghouse Electric Equipment, the Young Radiators and all other materials purchased in a finished state are merelyfigured as individual items. The balance had to be designed,detailed, weights estimated, purchased, machined, fabricated,assembled, crated and the completed product sent on its way. Wereceived the actual contract shortly before Christmas and the firstunits were operating in Egypt the following May. That is less thanhalf the normal time required on a completely new design. Certainlythere isn't much I could say to further emphasizes the splendidspirit of cooperation which not only exists within the Whitcomborganization but also extends out among all of our suppliers. Theyhave done a grand job and all of us know it.”


    H.G. Heulguard
    VicePresident, General Manager
    WhitcombLocomotive Company
    TheRochelle News, January 26, 1944


    ARMY-NAVY“E” AWARD


    Becauseof the outstanding performance that the Whitcomb Locomotive Companyachieved in war production, on December 31, 1943 the War Departmentconferred the Army-Navy “E” Award – the highest honor possible– to the Whitcomb Company and its employees.


    Steve



    HOWTO HIDE A 65 TON LOCOMOTIVE


    WhitcombDiesel locomotives built here in Rochelle have played an importantpart in this war on almost every front. Being smokeless and easy tocamouflage against air attacks these locomotives have beenextensively used where standard coal burning locomotives provedimpractical.
    Inour January 12[SUP]th[/SUP] 1945, issue of the Leader we printed aninterview with W.F. Eckert, chief engineer at Whitcomb in which hetold how Whitcomb built locomotives had solved the English andAmerican transprtation problem in north Africa, German bombers hadblasted most of the regular locomotives as their smoke was easilyspotted by the fliers.
    RochelleWhitcomb Diesel locomotives were then camouflged as regular box cars.In the make up of trains the location of the “ box-car-locomotive”was constantly changed to elude the Germans in their bombingattacks.
    Theplan proved very successful, and it has been credited as one of themajor forces in the Briritsh success in the drive from Egypt toTunisla during the latter four months of 1942 and early 1943.”


    TheRochelle Leader
    May4, 1945
     
  4. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    Hot off the press from the Army Transportation museum:

    R0269[1].jpg

    This is a 65 ton Whitcomb - the first Allied locomotive to enter Germany during the war. I have read references to Whitcombs being the first locomotives to enter Rome and Paris after liberation but can't verify.

    Steve
     
  5. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I'd say that's quite a project you have. Fascinating bits about the history with the military. Good luck to you!
     
  6. FriscoCharlie

    FriscoCharlie Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Welcome aboard. We hope to see how you progress on your project.

    Charlie
     
  7. fitz

    fitz Staff Member

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    Wish I still lived in Cali and could help you. You might want to contact them again, as they have docents who might be willing to search the records for you.
     
  8. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you. I had no idea how interesting the project would become when I started.

    Steve
     
  9. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you. I just got another call tonight and an interview/breakfast appointment on Saturday from a vet who was stationed at Pearl Harbor. He says that Whitcombs were deployed at Pearl to load ammunition to the ships at battleship row during WW II. He helped restore and run those left on the island and even has a manual buried somewhere. Says I might contact the naval station there for historical photos. He thinks that some might exist of the Whitcombs from the war.

    Steve
     
  10. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    I plan on calling them again. A docent would be fantastic if I can locate one. Another photo:

    scan0009.jpg


    This is the same photo that was sent from the Transportation Museum (Fort Eustis, Virginia) that was sent to the Rochelle paper from the war department in 1945.

    Steve
     
  11. Ironhorseman

    Ironhorseman Staff Member

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    A very great and worthy project, Steve. Welcome to Trainboard. :)
     
  12. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you. Still no member coming forward from California. Not sure where would be the best place to post the "help wanted" in this forum to get the best chance of finding someone.

    Another photo:
    Untitled 1.jpg

    A resident here had tipped me off on Whitcombs being used on the Panama Canal. A google search led me to this add in a trade magazine from July 1922. This was before Baldwin bought the company in 1931.

    Steve
     
  13. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    Whticomb Plant date unknown from David Guest.jpg

    This is an aerial photo of the Whitcomb factory in Rochelle IL circa 1930s.

    Whitcomb Employees.jpg

    A group photo of Whitcomb employees inside the factory sometime after 1920.

    Whitcomb Employees Secretaries.jpg
    Whitcomb secretaries about the same time frame as above.

    Steve
     
  14. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    I had breakfast with a gentleman who was living in Hawaii and helped restore and operate Whitcomb diesels there. I called out there and have a lead on possible photos of Whitcombs operating at Pearl Harbor during WW II. Waiting for an email.

    A call to the California Railroad Museum's librarian about the possibility of moving the Whitcomb records back to Rochelle has me waiting for an email from their board.

    And for some reason I can't load any photos into my posts.

    Steve
     
  15. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    Just found this in the local microfilm archives:

    Rochelle Knows Him Well As Engineer,Inventor and Its Own Portrait Painter
    Wm. F. Eckert Looks Back On UnusualCareer
    The Rochelle Leader, January 12, 1943


    William Frederick Eckert was never ableto make up his mind whether to stick to machine tools or paintbrushes, that's why Rochelle knows him as an engineer and as anartist.


    As an immigrant boy he came with hisparents from Germany, they landed in Philadelphia on his tenthbirthday, October 5, 1888, and the family settled in Bartlett, asmall town near Elgin, Ill.


    It was the year after the greatColumbian Exposition in Chicago that young Eckert sought into theworld metropolis to carve out a life career. What it was to be he didnot know. He liked to paint but he also liked to work with tools. Aneconomic set back hit Chicago after the world's fair but he obtaineda job as apprentice in a machine shop to earn his daily keep.Evenings he used to study. Some were utilized to home study ofmechanical engineering courses from the International CorrespondenceSchool, while other evenings were devoted to study of painting at theChicago Art Institute.


    Four years later Eckert found himselftoo preoccupied learning tool and die making in the machine shop anddevoting spare time to inventions that he was obliged to give up hisstudies at the art school.


    Shortly after the turn of the centuryhe invented a machine for filling powder into cans for the makers ofGreve's Tooth Powder, and was employed by the company for a year anda half. Through the president of the company he met William C.Whitcomb of the Whitcomb Locomotive Works.


    When Eckert went to work for Whitcombthe company was specializing in knitting machines and pneumaticmining machinery. He entered the company as blueprint boy and chiefengineer, in short he was the whole engineering department. About1906, Eckert invented and built the first gasoline internalcombustion powered locomotive, originally designed for use in coalmines.


    In the meantime Eckert had quite a dealto do with the improvement of the knitting machines, which at thattime had its largest customer in the Vassar Knitting Company ofRochelle. Many of the machines are still in use. In 1907, Whitcombdecided to move from Chicago to Rochelle and the first factory wasopened in the building now used by the Rochelle Furniture Co. Herethe company grew in activity, shifting steadily from knittingmachinery to stressing production of mining machinery and gasolinelocomotives, and then in 1912 specializing only in the building oflocomotives.


    The company built its first shop on thepresent site in 1912, and the engineering staff was increased, firstwith a boy to develop blue prints and then with a draftsman.


    The locomotive works received its firstreal spurt during the first world war. The warring nations discoveredthe advantages of a smokeless locomotive and orders poured in. Francewas the biggest customer before our own country entered the war.


    The tempo of production continuedsteady from 1916 to the outbreak of the present war, but for a slowdown during the depression of the early '30s. The annual productionran from 200 to 300 locomotives a year. With the outbreak of thepresent war the production was vastly increased, as the smokelesslocomotive proved an essential motive power less likely to be spottedby enemy aircraft. The size of the locomotive was increased, and thecompany found it both practical and economical to sublet theproduction of the engines. In January, 1944, the company was awardedthe Army-Navy “E” for having attained the record of maintainingan average daily production of one 65 ton locomotive a day.


    Past and present employees of theWhitcomb company may feel sure that they could spot one of thecompany's locomotives anywhere in the world, but we doubt that theywould be able to spot them in use during the final stages of theAfrican campaign. The German fliers bombed the locomotives andconsequently immobilized the British trains. The problem was solvedby camouflaging the Whitcomb locomotives as box cars and shiftingtheir location in the makeup of the trains.


    The reason we tell so much about thelocomotives is that Eckert is the chief engineer at Whitcomb. He madethe original invention, has added a good half a dozen patents oflocomotive inventions, besides the almost daily improvements thathave been made. Among the additional patents may be mentioned thenon-explosive locomotive for use in mines.


    The present gasoline internalcombustion powered locomotive is a long step ahead of the first onethat Eckert built in Chicago in 1906. The first ones had noself-starter, as Lloyd Koritz, chemist at Cal-Pack will tell you; heused “to get a kick out of running one of them down in southernIllinois.”


    Eckert made his home in Rochelle from1907 to 1932, but for an interval of one and a half years that he waslocated in Milwaukee. In '32 the Baldwin company, which had takenover the interests in the Whitcomb, transferred Eckert toPhiladelphia, but in 1939 he was returned here as chief engineer.


    During his first stay here he found anoutlet for his artistic talent in portrait photography, especially intaking pictures of children. He recalls with pleasure how some of thechildren, that he photographed in rompers, today are married and havechildren of their own. Yes, he did some painting too. Some landscapesand some portraits, but he didn't take the painting serious. It wasnot until he went to Philadelphia that his interest in painting wasreawakened.


    There he met Clyde O. Deland, an artistspecializing in painting historical personalities. His paintings havebeen exhibited in national art shows in Washington. A warm friendshipblossomed and Deland kindled Eckert's enthusiasm for painting andtaught him many modern techniques of the art.


    Mr. Eckert tells us that he has paintedabout 15 portraits the past couple of years. In 1942 he exhibitedabout 15 of his paintings at the Flagg Township public library, andin 1943, at a Past Masters night of the local Masons, he presentedportraits he had painted of Manuel Hill and J. E. Barber. Both were50 year Masons, and Hill had presented the site for the presentMasonic temple. Eckert is himself a Past Master of Horicon lodge anda Past Worthy Patron of the Eastern Star and a member of TebalaShrine in Rockford.


    Among his portrait paintings heconsiders his last two, one of Mr. Stofer of the Stofer China Companyin Chicago, and one of George May of the George May Electric Companyin Rockford, among his best.


    Eckert's portraits are noted for theirtrueness to life and their reflection of the personality andcharacter of the subject. His mastery of colors combined with a blendof the exactness of the engineer with the touch of the artist havebrought remarkable results.


    The beautiful home at 510 No. Seventhstreet reflects the artistic good taste of Mr. Eckert and his wife,the former Laura J. Newton. The decorative scheme is rich and warm,blended harmoniously in details to create an effect of welcomefriendliness.


    In the basement he has his studio. Itis impressive, not by its size, but by its arrangement of lights andtechnical equipment. In an adjoining room he has a complete workshop,and when he tires of painting he seeks relaxation among his tools andmachinery.


    The neighbors didn't appreciate it, buthis son, Fred, did and when Eckert built an amateur radio sending andreceiving set, Fred obtained the first amateur radio operator'slicense in Rochelle. He sent and received messages from all parts ofthe world – the neighbors got static.


    The neighbors and friends, however,appreciated Eckert's adventures in boat building and enjoyed many aride. He built one boat driven by an airplane propeller that heoperated on the Rock river, and a gasoline powered launch and a sailboat operated on Lake Geneva. The sail boat was moved to LakeMichigan after his sons settled in Chicago.


    Eckert has three sons, William (Bill)with the Harris Trust Company in Chicago, Orren (Bud) formerly withMontgomery Ward in Chicago and now in the navy, and Frederick (Fred)formerly sales manager with the Fee-Stemwedel Company of Chicago andnow in the army.


    Fred invented a very importantinstrument used by the navy and was about to be commissioned anofficer in the navy when he was drafted into the army. Since the warbroke out the father has invented a special lift of great value tothe navy.


    The “Who Is Who In Industry andCommerce” devotes a sizeable space to a report on Eckert'sengineering and inventing activities, but does not mention his art atall. We therefore consider it a natural question to ask what heconsiders the most beautiful sight he has ever seen.


    “The bobbing light in the caps of acouple of mine inspectors,” is his surprising answer.


    He goes on to explain that during theearly deliveries of locomotives to mining companies, he had to go tothe mines to demonstrate and run the locomotives. At that time theyhad found no means of controlling the gas fumes. One day he entered amine with a severe headache, and before the day was done he was justabout overcome by the gas fumes.


    He chose to stay in the coal minerather than return to the surface, and over tired as he was he bunkedhimself on straw in a mule stall. He was left without a light, it waspitch dark, and he fell asleep. Shortly he awoke abruptly bysomething gnawing at his shoes. A big rat ran over his chest and hejumped to his feet. Zhe spent the rest of the night standing up,continuously swinging his feet to keep the rats away. The nightseemed endless. He dared not leave the place for fear of getting lostin the mine tunnels. At last a light, then another , flickering andbobbing slowly down the tunnel toward him.


    “I have never seen a more beautifulsight.”
     
  16. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    Success on one search !

    >>> steve oconnor <oconnorsteve61@gmail.com> 07/12/12 15:43 >>>

    Chicago National Archives;

    My name is Steve O'Connor and I am researching the history of the George D.
    Whitcomb Company of Rochelle (Ogle County) Illinois. I have a letter
    written by the company accountant that states Geo. D. Whitcomb Co. went
    bankrupt in 1931 and that the Baldwin Locomotive Works gained control of
    the assets and changed the name to Whitcomb Locomotive Company - a
    subsidiary of Baldwin. It remained in business until 1952 in Rochelle when
    Balwin closed the factory and moved the assets to Pennsylvania. If you can
    find and verify the bankruptcy case and any details of why the bankruptcy
    occured and how Baldwin gained control it would be of great importance to
    my research and possible book on the history of said company. I'm attaching
    two scans of adds. One before and one after the name change.
    Thank you for you help.

    Steve O'Connor
    128 south 10th street
    Rochelle, IL
    61068

    This email just came today:

    Dear Mr. O'Connor:

    Your request was forwarded to me. I was able to look in the dockets for the U.S. District Court in Freeport, Illinois, and find the case you wanted. It is number 2065, originally filed 3/5/31.

    The majority of our bankruptcy cases are located at an off-site storage facility in Kansas. I will request the case be returned for your review and let you know when it arrives. You will then be able to make an appointment to look at the case. Or you may want to request a photocopy of the case; we charge 75 cents per page for copies.

    If you do want to come and see the case, you will have to fill out a researcher application form to receive a researcher card and review instructions on how to use NARA documents. Typically it only takes a few days for files to be sent from the off-site facility; I will let you know when it arrives.

    Thank you for your interest in the National Archives and Records Administration.

    Katie Dishman
    Archives Technician
    National Archives and Records Administration
    7358 S. Pulaski Road
    Chicago, IL 60629

    Now the wait for the docket to arrive in Chicago.

    Steve
     
  17. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    Dear Mr. O'Connor: Well, it certainly was quick. The case arrived today. It is in six large envelopes; two of them are filled with (I think) canceled checks. I am estimating there are about 1000 pages, so you may want to make an appointment to come to the archives as I wrote you previously. We are open Monday-Friday from 8:00-4:15. You may bring a digital camera to take photos, or you can request certain pages to be photocopied for 75 cents per page.

    Regards,

    Katie Dishman
    Archives Technician

    I go see the docket on Monday.

    Steve
     
  18. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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    I went in to the National Archives in Chicago and spent about 4 hours sifting through the bankruptcy case and got about half way through it on Monday.

    What I discovered caught me completely by surprise.

    It appeared that the Vice President of Whitcomb had been illegally transfering funds from the Company account to his personal account to the sum of $75,000 and had spent at least a portion of that on stock purchases in the 18 months before the bankruptcy.

    Also, the three banks in Rochelle were also involved and aware of the illegal nature of the fund transfers and two of the banks and the George D. Whitcomb Company went bankrupt.

    Prior to the bankruptcy, the Geo. D. Whitcomb Company had approached Baldwin for a loan. On December 24, 1930 Whitcomb had issued Baldwin a promissory note for $125,000 to be paid back at 5 1/2% interest making Baldwin the largest creditor when Geo. D. Whitcomb Co. declared bankruptcy on March 5, 1931.

    On April 13, 1931 the Whitcomb Locomotive Company (incorporated in Delaware by Baldwin) purchased the assets of the George D. Whitcomb Company for $257,000. The assets were valued at $657,446 with liabilities of $536,295.

    Thus Baldwin became owner of Whitcomb.

    I have digital photo copies of these court documents but I can't seem to load them in this forum. I've posted some on my Facebook page.

    Steve
     
  19. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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  20. machinehead61

    machinehead61 TrainBoard Member

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