Steam locomotive longevity, which type, class, railroad, (USA) holds the record?

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Steam locomotive longevity, which type, class, railroad, (USA) holds the record?
Posted by JOHN C TARANTO on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 8:44 AM

So, who are the record holders?  My question is, which locomotives, on who's railroad, because of their reliability or perhaps because of economical or financial reasons, were operated and ran the longest? 

Now we all know that Union Pacific's famed FEF class #844 has "never been retired from active service" but I'm not including her in this discussion.  I'd like to know which class of steam locomotive on which railroad gets the "energizer bunny" award, and made thier owners proud!

"Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep 'em rolling".... John

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Posted by PRR8259 on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 11:48 AM

I can't begin to think of which specific engine of which class.

However, generally speaking the USRA Light Mikados were reasonably well liked by the railroads that received them (with limited RRs turning up their nose at them including both PRR and WP, who greatly preferred their "own" design mikados).  Many of the USRA light 2-8-2 engines had very long careers--even second careers.  A number of Nickel Plate Road USRA (both light and heavy) mikes survived service in the U.S. and went south of the border to Mexico, serving well into the mid-1960's.

So some USRA light mikados exceeded 45 years of active mainline freight service, if you count Mexican service.

I have read a lot of books about steam locomotive history, and there were a number of relatively ahem "modern" steam engines constructed during the mid or late 1880's that lasted, perhaps for second and third owners and shortlines, very nearly to the end of steam.  There are reports of steam engines achieving 60 years of service in some of these secondary applications.  I was just reading the excellent "Southern Pacific's Ten Coupled Locomotives" last night, and the author stated and had pictures of some (at least one) engine that achieved nearly 60 years of service.  Not all the service was for SP.  It may have been a 4-8-0 Mastodon type.

This discussion could get complicated in a hurry when or if folks consider engines built as one type and significantly rebuilt and altered into something else, that then went on to serve for many years.

There also are instances, even on SP, of complete boiler swaps during the 1930's and 1940's, between 2-10-2's--It was noticed as a result of an engine that should have had an Alco boiler that instead had a Baldwin builder plate on it.  The photo evidence is presented in the book cited above.

Santa Fe had 2-10-2's built in the early 1900's that lasted for many years, perhaps exceeding 50 years of service.

Finally, a number of late designs of steam power were so good that they would have been able to accumulate very long service lives, but the maintenance costs (driven by skyrocketing labor rates in the U.S.) cut those lives short.

For myself, I prefer to consider the "best" classes of steam, and what those designers really achieved, which was remarkable without cadd, than what had the opportunity to survive the longest.

John

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Posted by JOHN C TARANTO on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 1:18 PM

You know, I was just thinking...what about the lowly yard goat?  Those 0-4-0s and 0-6-0s.  I'll bet some of those old shifters that were brought on in the late 1800's were probably the very last to drop their fires....into the 1960's.

"Shovel all the coal in....."

RME
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Posted by RME on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 3:14 PM

I suppose it ought to be mentioned that there are a number of preserved steam locomotives that have been running in excursion service several multiples of the number of years they were in railroad service.  I take it from the semantics of your question that those don't count, but it's interesting to consider it.

One contender, although probably not the 'absolute', was the NYC locomotives that were kept running into the 1950s because no diesel was light enough for some of the bridges on the branch trackage they served...

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Posted by Penny Trains on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 7:04 PM

Whatever the mathematical answer turns out to be I'd bet it's an N&W loco that takes the honor and a mollie would be my best guess.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 8:05 PM

A few of the Rio Grande's narrow gauge 2-8-0's built in the 1880s were still active hauling freight into the 1950s.  

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 9:23 PM

CPR #136 4-4-0 Class A2m built by Rogers in 1883  was in regular service until end of all steam on CPR May 1960. It was part of the original construction of the transcontinental railroad, spent a lot of its life at Chipman, New Brunswick. Her and sister #144, Class A2q, 1886, 4-4-0, survived virtually as built becuase of weight constraints over bridge's to the interchange yard at the border with Maine.

NYC also had a similiar problem on 2 lesser known branch lines off the CASO..ran 2 teapots way past all scrapping on the NYC due to bridge weight restrictions. 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 9:35 PM

The clear winner, GREAT WESTERN #90, 2-10-0, built in 1924 by Baldwin, served the GREAT WESTERN until 1967, sold to the STRASBURG RAILROAD in fully operable condition, still in daily service today, 93 years young.

Except for down time for maintance, never out of active service, no major modifications from original design.

http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/strau/strau-s90bfs.jpg

Sheldon

PS - you can exclude STRASBURG as an excursion line if you want, but they are revenue railroad, with a daily published timetable, they move freight as well as "excursion" passengers, and they run EVERY DAY for a large portion of the year.

    

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Posted by JOHN C TARANTO on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 10:40 PM

That's what I was looking for.  Old steamers of tried and true designs which have withstood the test of time.

"Shovel all the coal in....gotta keep 'em rolling"!  

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Posted by USMCtrainman on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 9:02 AM

The Baltimore and Ohio's #25 4-4-0 "William Mason" might be the oldest operating locomotive?  Not sure, but I do know that it is pre-Civil War (1856) and while it does not run regularly, aside from his Hollywood fame (Great Locomotive Chase, Tuck Everlasting, Gods and Generals and The Wild Wild West movie), it is still run on the museam grounds on occasion.  Might be oil-fired now.  I do not know for sure.   Mike

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 9:16 AM

USMCtrainman

The Baltimore and Ohio's #25 4-4-0 "William Mason" might be the oldest operating locomotive?  Not sure, but I do know that it is pre-Civil War (1856) and while it does not run regularly, aside from his Hollywood fame (Great Locomotive Chase, Tuck Everlasting, Gods and Generals and The Wild Wild West movie), it is still run on the museam grounds on occasion.  Might be oil-fired now.  I do not know for sure.   Mike

 

The William Mason was substantially rebuilt/replicated/modified in 1927, and was last fired in 2003 I believe, but yes it would also be high on any such list.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by USMCtrainman on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 9:29 AM

Sheldon,  I have seen video of the locomotive being operated back in 2012, but not sure beyond that.  Yes, it was rebuilt in 1927 for the B&O's Fair of The Iron Horse and I beleive that is when it was renumbered and renamed to William Mason, who I believe had been one the B&O's Master Mechanics.  What I do not know is, if the loco is still wood fired or has it been converted to oil-fired.  Not sure about that.

 

Mike

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Posted by USMCtrainman on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 9:50 AM

Sheldon, from what I last heard, the William Mason is down the tracks from the main museam being refurbished.  I go to the museam every Christmas, and if I am not mistaken, it has been in the shop for the past two years at least.  I'll do a bit more digging and see what I can find out.

 

Mike

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 11:20 AM

I vote for No. 90.   Incredible.  Should have National Landmark Status!   Can someone suggest that to the Strassburg folks?

And Metro North should apply for that for the New Canaan branch electrification.

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Posted by K4sPRR on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 3:09 PM

N&W class M Mastadon 4-8-0 first order built in 1906 seen fifty years or slightly more of service on that road, the last of them retired in 1958.  The 475 in Strasburg a part of that order was retired in 1956 and is the only operating 4-8-0 in America.  Don't know if that is a record for a single class of locomotive on a railroad but I would venture to say its got to be close.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 4:57 PM

K4sPRR

N&W class M Mastadon 4-8-0 first order built in 1906 seen fifty years or slightly more of service on that road, the last of them retired in 1958.  The 475 in Strasburg a part of that order was retired in 1956 and is the only operating 4-8-0 in America.  Don't know if that is a record for a single class of locomotive on a railroad but I would venture to say its got to be close.

 

I was not even thinking about #475 when I mentioned #90. #475 is a much newer addition at Strasburg, after spending time at Boone Scenic, not sure of her intermediate history at Boone, but another fine example of the great care at Strasburg.

Actually, all three primary locos at Strasburg are amazing examples of steam lasting forever. Lets not forget 2-6-0 #89, ex GRAND TRUNK #1009, built in 1910. She had a little rougher history, but was saved by the team at Strasburg.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 9:58 PM

D&RGW K-28 class narrow gauge 2-8-2 were built in 1923, and 3 of them have been operating more or less continually since then.

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 10:19 PM

While my examples aren't from the USA, but from Australia, I have a colour slide of a Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 built in 1877 in service in 1971, which is 94 years in regular service, not counting preservation. At least two of these have been preserved but havent operated much in preservation.

A contemporary design of 4-4-0, also a Beyer Peacock design of 1877 but in this case built in Scotland by Atlas in 1881 worked until 1961 (so 80 years) was put on display (with its boiler filled with distilled water) until 1987 and was put back into service in 1988 and has operated on and off since then. It is currently awaiting new tyres.

In Queensland a narrow gauge 0-4-2 tender locomotive remained in service, in its later years with a sugar mill, from 1865 to 1965, so a round century. It was preserved in 1965 but has since been restored to service and I saw it working on the system's 150th celebrations, when it must have been at least slightly older than 150 having been there at the start.

Peter

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, February 27, 2017 2:16 PM

JOHN C TARANTO

You know, I was just thinking...what about the lowly yard goat?  Those 0-4-0s and 0-6-0s.  I'll bet some of those old shifters that were brought on in the late 1800's were probably the very last to drop their fires....into the 1960's.

"Shovel all the coal in....."

 

Probably not. Many early (late 19 century) switchers were just old engines, often a 2-6-0 or 2-8-0 with the front pony truck removed. I know GN had a number of 2-8-0s that were converted into 0-8-0 switchers, they went into maybe the 1910's before they got a 'store bought' switcher.

Plus, steam switchers were often the first engines replaced by diesels, going back to the early 1930's.

As far as the original question, I think we have to decide if we're talking about railroad owned-operated engines exclusively, or including tourist-type railroads. An engine that worked 30 years for a railroad and then 40 in excursion service isn't the same as an engine that was built in 1879 and was still on the roster hauling freight in 1949.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, February 27, 2017 3:07 PM

wjstix

 

 
JOHN C TARANTO

You know, I was just thinking...what about the lowly yard goat?  Those 0-4-0s and 0-6-0s.  I'll bet some of those old shifters that were brought on in the late 1800's were probably the very last to drop their fires....into the 1960's.

"Shovel all the coal in....."

 

 

 

Probably not. Many early (late 19 century) switchers were just old engines, often a 2-6-0 or 2-8-0 with the front pony truck removed. I know GN had a number of 2-8-0s that were converted into 0-8-0 switchers, they went into maybe the 1910's before they got a 'store bought' switcher.

Plus, steam switchers were often the first engines replaced by diesels, going back to the early 1930's.

As far as the original question, I think we have to decide if we're talking about railroad owned-operated engines exclusively, or including tourist-type railroads. An engine that worked 30 years for a railroad and then 40 in excursion service isn't the same as an engine that was built in 1879 and was still on the roster hauling freight in 1949.

 

Respectfully, the schedule of service for #90 at Strasburg has been pretty demanding since she came there in 1967.  They operate all year. From April to mid November steam trains run every day of the week. In December they still run every weekend. February and March are light with only a few special runs.

They are not some one weekend a month in the summer excursion hobby operation, they move freight all year long serving as a team track unloading point for a number of local businesses. They use the steam locos for this freight work.....

Except for a few times when she was down for repairs, #90 has always been their primary power. 

I would be willing to say she has logged as many "fired hours" at Strasburg as she ever did on the Great Western.

At the peak of the summer season, even on a weekday, #90 typically pulls 8 trains a day, every hour on the hour from 11AM to 7PM. That is a full work day for any steam crew, seven days a week in the warmer months.

During those same months, on the busiest days, extra trains, pulled by one of the other steamers, run on the half hour, actually passing the hourly train at a passing siding.

Likely the only place left in the world to watch two steam trains pass each other. And it happens all summer every summer for decades now.

I think without question, that qualifies as "regular service".

Sheldon

PS - Some quick math suggests that #90 has likely logged over 100,000 hours and one million miles in her 50 years at Straburg.

    

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Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 10:01 PM

ATLANTIC CENTRAL

...

Likely the only place left in the world to watch two steam trains pass each other. And it happens all summer every summer for decades now.

...

Two steam engines pass each other on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic daily in season.  On the Durango & Silverton multiple steamers pass each other.  Trains recently had an article on a German steam passenger operation where 2 steamers pass each other.  I understand the same thing happens in the Hartz Mountains.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 10:18 PM

MidlandMike

 

 
ATLANTIC CENTRAL

...

Likely the only place left in the world to watch two steam trains pass each other. And it happens all summer every summer for decades now.

...

 

 

Two steam engines pass each other on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic daily in season.  On the Durango & Silverton multiple steamers pass each other.  Trains recently had an article on a German steam passenger operation where 2 steamers pass each other.  I understand the same thing happens in the Hartz Mountains.

 

That's good to know, not yet had the pleasure of any of those western lines.

Sheldon

    

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