The distinctive Sharknoses were Baldwin's last and best attempt to field a competitive cab unit, after the disappointing performance and reliability of earlier models like its 24-wheeled Centipedes. The Sharks were also the only diesels to base their looks on a steam locomotive, borrowing their nose from the streamlined, Raymond Loewy-styled Pennsy T1's, some of which had been built in Baldwin's Eddystone, PA erecting halls.
The first Sharknoses were a small group of 6-axle passenger units, purchased only by Baldwin loyalist Pennsylvania Railroad in 1948, followed by a 1500 horsepower, 4-axle freight version. The final iteration, and the prototype for our model, was the RF-16 ("road freight, 1600hp") produced from 1950-1953. By that time, however, EMD and Alco had virtually sewed up the road diesel market, and the only takers for RF-16s were the New York Central, Baltimore & Ohio, and Pennsy. What they got, however, was one of the best low-speed haulers in dieseldom. As the late Al Staufer put it in Pennsy Power II, "When there was coal or ore to be moved, there were usually Sharks around. The Sharks weren't known for speed, but their tenacity for keeping heavy trains moving regardless of grade made them a favorite with a whole generation of hoggers. The speed indicator would sit for minutes at a time barely above zero, yet those sharks would keep pulling, often unlike their EMD competitors."
Baldwin exited the diesel business in 1956, and the Sharks were gradually retired in the next decade as maintenace became more difficult. The B&O ended their use in 1962, followed by the Pennsy's stable of over 100 A and B-units in 1966. Nine NYC units found their way to the power-starved Monongahela Railway in 1967. While most were scrapped by 1971, the last two existing Sharks were rescued from the scrap dealer by the Delaware and Hudson in 1974. Despite a cracked crankcase on one unit and other age-related issues, a contemporary acount confirms that the legendary Baldwin lugging ability had not dimmed with time. On at least one occasion in D&H pusher service, the Baldwins' engineer advanced the throttle to the point where the two elderly diesels were pushing the entire 8000-plus ton train and giving the head end engines a kick in the rear. Sold by the D&H in 1978, the units are reputed to be stored inoperable in Michigan - so perhaps someday we may yet witness again the distinctive look and low-rpm rumble of a Sharknose in action.