Monday, August 20, 2018

Firearm Factory of the Month: Baldwin Locomotive Works

Yes you read the title correctly, Baldwin Locomotive works, the folks that made trains also made firearms, well sort of...

The Great War, which later became known as World War I, started on June 28th, 1914 when the Arch Duke of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand ,and his wife were assassinated on the streets of Sarajevo.
I won't go into the details of what was probably the most complicated war the world has ever seen, but tensions escalated quickly and America's allies needed weapons and they needed them fast.

Great Britain placed an order for 3,400,000 rifles. The rifles were the pattern of 1914 Enfield chambered in .303 British.  You should know that while this rifle carried the Enfield name, it was not related to the Lee-Enfield that served the British Empire through both World Wars. The 1914 Pattern Enfield was a Mauser derivative.

Remington was one of the recipients of the orders (1 million rifles), but soon figured out that they could not produce enough rifles at their Ilion, New York plant. Around this same time Remington had also taken orders for the 1891 Mosin-Nagant rifle from Czar Nicholas' Imperial Russian Government. The Russian rifles were going to be made at Remington-UMC in Bridgeport.

Remington soon formed a new joint venture, incorporating in the state of Delaware, the new Remington Arms Company of Delaware and took an order for an additional 2,000,000 rifles. 
Their joint venture included Baldwin Locomotive Works, who had recently opened a new factory in Eddystone, Pennsylvania.
Baldwin would build and maintain the factory buildings at their facility and Remington would oversee the production of the rifles.
Soon buildings were erected and thousands of workers hired. Before long the population of the town of Eddystone tripled. 
18 acres of production space was allocated for the production of the rifles and other armaments. The new buildings were lined up on the outer edge of the Baldwin campus. 

Diagrams showing the construction of the 1914 Pattern Enfield.

On April 2nd, 1917 the United States entered the war and was now in need of rifles for it's own expeditionary forces. In short order a decision was made to modify the 1914 Pattern Enfield to chamber the .30-'06 cartridge. It was accepted by the War Department as "U.S. Rifle, cal .30 model of 1917" on May 11th, 1917.

On September 17th, 1917 Eddystone began producing the M1917 rifles under contract from the U.S. Government.

Stepping back a moment, four days after the U.S. declared war, an explosion occurred at the plant.
The Remington operation also made artillery shells and on April 10th, 1917 something went terribly wrong. Just before 10am something ignited the 18 tons of black powder stored in building "F". 139 people were killed, mostly women and girls.

After the funerals, the building was rebuilt, new employees hired and work continued at Eddystone.

Around this time the production of the 1914 Pattern Enfield was winding down. Before long the Eddystone plant was re-tooled to also manufacture the U.S. M1903 rifle.

On January 2nd, 1918 the Eddystone rifle plant was absorbed by the Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company.

In all nearly 2 million 1914 Pattern Enfields & M1917 rifles were produced. 
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns of the Great War went silent. A few months later in March of 1919 production of rifles at Eddystone ended.

Much of the factory buildings are now gone, a Walmart sits on the edge of where the rifle production buildings once were

This building (with the green windows) is the only one that remains of the original factory buildings, I cannot say if any rifles were made in this building.


Remington Society