Western Steam by 1952-53

986 views
15 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    August, 2006
  • 159 posts
Western Steam by 1952-53
Posted by SPer on Friday, July 14, 2017 4:02 PM

Here's a what-if question. What if all the West's railroads-AT&SF,SP,UP,GN,NP,SP&S,CMSTP&P,D&RGW,WP- stopped running steam locomotives by 1952-53 and become all-diesel-electric lines.

RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 2,073 posts
Posted by RME on Friday, July 14, 2017 5:02 PM

You have to 'posit' a number of things to get to make that assumption, among them that the Western railroads had more incentives to get rid of existing steam even when it continued to be cost-effective, and that a number of diesel technologies were either far more cost-effective or much more reliable than they were historically.  One approach, perhaps, would be for a postwar Administration to implement something like the Clean Air Act to be effective two decades earlier, with whatever combination of carrots and sticks would make the accelerated retirement of steam financially palatable.  This would go hand-in-hand with the necessary Federal legislation to allow retirement or attrition of the additional personnel and specialties involved on a more expedient basis.  Certainly most if not all of the actual economies associated with dieselization after 1947 would continue to apply, as would (at least initially) the turned-out-to-be-misguided rush to build fancy new streamlined 'Dieseliners' for all that postwar traffic development.

There's an enormous amount of capital tied up in all that steam power, and roughly three times that amount needed for 'contemporary' replacement on an effective ton-mile or train-mile basis -- the number being a bit more for EMD, but the support uncertainties being relatively much less.  Look for "something" that allows all that to be written down effectively, or subsidized (perhaps against taxes), or otherwise compensated.  Or (this is unlikely, though) the ICC selectively granting fee or rate increases for roads, perhaps by analogy with the old policy of 'guaranteed rate of return', to make up the losses on mass scrapping within some determined period of time.

One very immediate consequence is a more open field for first-generation builders -- in particular, we might easily have UP buying more than just two Centipedes from Baldwin, and perhaps an improved version of the 408-engined Essl 6000hp modular locomotives, about the only thing that provided 'steam'-like horsepower per length even by the late '40s. 

A second consequence might have been enhanced demand for other high-horsepower locomotives, bringing about some of the 'second-generation' ramping up (to around 2500hp for diesels) earlier, and providing somewhat greater incentive for free-piston development.  I don't see either liquid or coal-fired gas turbines as being any more successful due to early adoption, nor do I see much call for expansion of steam-turbine development onto Western lines (even though, apparently, most, perhaps effectively all, of the major issues with the GE flash-steam locomotives had been worked out on GN by the end of WWII).

You don't say whether the holdouts in the East would have gone along with this -- but in my opinion any rational scenario that led to widespread total early dieselization on all Western roads would apply to even the 'holdout' Eastern roads, including Nickel Plate and perhaps even N&W, in that same timeframe.

You'll have to figure out where the fairly substantial increase in production capacity, particularly at EMD, would come from.  Minority builders get a boost.  Ingalls, perhaps, stays in the game with orders, perhaps even orders for the mechanical passenger engine.  FM has a reason to settle its strike early, with distinctive competence.  Perhaps Busch-Sulzer now has a reason to get into either strategic alignment or production (my guess is, with GE and Westinghouse aligned with competitors, they'd either have to look overseas or at something like Bowes or magnetorheological drive).

Yes, same rapid dominance of EMD, through competitiveness, finance, Sloanian ruthless efficiency and good support practices.  I'd like to think Baldwin figured out how to get their engine castings not to leak, hoses to let go, wiring to pickle, and support to ... well, work, if not excel. 

Fun for the alternate historians: Would Westinghouse still take over Baldwin and then Lima and run them ineffectively into the ground?  What innovations would Alco have prioritized?

Don't leave out the joy of electrification as an alternative to some of these things -- ATSF over Raton Pass, for example, or the 'gap' on the Milwaukee Pacific Extension.  Once we start looking at the kind of Government subsidy extended to PRR in the mid-Thirties (and by implication in 1943) there are many areas ill-served by first-generation dieselization but decidedly good for full wire...

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 6,949 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Friday, July 14, 2017 5:38 PM

SPer

Here's a what-if question. What if all the West's railroads-AT&SF,SP,UP,GN,NP,SP&S,CMSTP&P,D&RGW,WP- stopped running steam locomotives by 1952-53 and become all-diesel-electric lines.

 

I'll tell you what would have happened, a helluva lot more steam engines would have been saved.  Why?  Well, all that heavy metal being dumped on the market simultaneously would have driven down scrap steel prices precipitously!  Those western 'roads would have given them away just to get 'em off the property!

"Take my GS-4, PLEASE!"

Well, maybe...

RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 2,073 posts
Posted by RME on Friday, July 14, 2017 6:31 PM

Firelock76
Well, all that heavy metal being dumped on the market simultaneously would have driven down scrap steel prices precipitously!

But don't forget that there was an active war on then, and I suspect that market would 'easily' have accommodated the additional tons of steel involved without 'that' much of a fall in prices.  One might also imagine the course of the scrap market had MacArthur not been slapped down (and expanded the scope of the war perhaps into more 'victorious' levels of activity that would have demanded more substantial military presence, particularly naval).

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,624 posts
Posted by Miningman on Friday, July 14, 2017 10:33 PM

Some interesting scenarios there RME. Usually we speculate about the reverse, but this goes in the other direction. 

Perhaps Baldwin, Lima and Alco all get together and put up some serious competition for EMD. Certainly they would have had the production capacity and Alco would have averted all those hoses and leaking problems. They would have to have had a big back room smoke filled meeting setting out a very certain agenda with firm handshakes immediately after the war, or even agreeing the second it was over with a plan in place.  Thinking they would have captured a good market share and three heads are better than one so who knows what they come up with. 

Maybe only 25 T1's get built, only the Altoona ones...or none. 

8 engined centipedes between Laramie and Cheyenne. Yeesh. 

Highball thats all!

RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 2,073 posts
Posted by RME on Saturday, July 15, 2017 12:22 AM

Only way Baldwin and Lima could possibly get together was the way they did -- forced by the dead hand of Westinghouse.  Lima bet the farm on advanced steam, put their foot in things badly with the unions with the overweight cover-up (which would have applied in spades to anything with double-Belpaire six-wheel-trailer boiler construction!) and had bupkis for high-speed diesel road power -- everything they'd have had would be involved with Hamilton free-piston.  Note that their diesel-electrics were very, very well thought out detail-wise but had no particular advantage for high speed, and in my opinion no particular second-generation growth potential at all.

Baldwin's development with respect to engines was all over the place: 12-cylinder Roots, 12-cylinder turbo, lots of little V8 gensets when the 12s don't wash, OP engines with all the drawbacks of the FM OP designs, big slow engines with crossflow heads so you can boost the hell out of them, customer service slow and reactive ...and no paradigm shift towards precision for locomotive shop forces other than for things like injectors and pumps.  Then after Westinghouse quits, outsourced German diesels and hydraulics, but only for weird little passenger trains, leaving it to Krauss-Maffei, much later in 'dog years', to try and approximate non-diesel-electric road power.

Alco gets some of it, but not enough.  And doesn't survive GE finding its own prime mover.  Might be interesting to see if the 'break' between Alco and GE comes sooner, or later, with respect to railroad power if the immediate production quantities for Large Road Power were so large.

That 'big back room smoke filled meeting' has a name in America.  It's called overt collusion, and it's flagrantly illegal.  Even watching what your competition does and following it as a policy -- tacit collusion -- isn't legal.  On the other hand, just as Microsoft had no particular mystery secrets when it was growing so strong, EMD had very little that a good competitor couldn't observe, or replicate ... were the competitor to have the deep pockets and vertical/horizontal synergies of a General Motors.  EMD developed and then worked a system while the others were still screwing together commodities, one at a time; even the attitudes and tools used for quality of the kind that marked the Welch years of locomotive building wouldn't come to exist formally until the mid-'50s, so there was only the Willys/GM version of tight and expensive support to approximate TQM, and every time you make a new departure you're playing 'you bet your company'.  Both Alco and FM lost this, sooner rather than later, in the United States market, and it is possible that some of the seeds of this would be planted if not sooner much more lastingly if, say, the early 600 cavitation and 'souping' or the water-cooled turbo follies and crank problems of the 244 had been observed as common-mode problems with very large numbers of locomotives with little 'back-up' provision at appropriate or even necessary scale.

That would certainly be the case with the Centipedes that went to UP (iirc that was supposed to grow into an order of about 50, which in pairs were 6000hp locomotives of more inherent nominal reliability than the 'modular' ones would have been, and of course were far and away higher speed locomotives than the competition (120mph minimum for the chassis)

With respect to the duplexes: the situation with them changed radically for the worse between 1945 and 1946, in the East, with the substitution of the 'improved' S1b for the C1a concept (up to then the "Niagaras" were little more than sophisticated versions of their CRI&P and D&H near-sisters), and then would have turned for the better after 1948 ... except that by then no one was interested in bothering with purpose-built high speed passenger reciprocating locomotives.

Note however that the question that was asked does not involve the T1s or any other duplex.  Western roads clearly considered the duplex, ATSF before it even got out of the opposed-piston configuration of the B&O 4-4-4-4 and the PRR Q1.  But they all went with diesels for the true high-speed work long before the period of action of the question.  Kiefer's study makes a great deal of the Niagaras in fast passenger service having comparable economics to the early E units.  Even as NYC marketing was attempting to make 'Dieseliner' the common term passengers would use for a prestige NYC train.  Doesn't take much skill at futurism to see how this will pan out in the West when any financial incentive that lets them get rid of steam at minimal loss comes into play.  Had the T1 order even been treated in the timeframe of 'greenlighting' the V1, you wouldn't have seen the Baldwin production order and perhaps not the Juniata order; those aren't really 'wartime' engines like the Q2s (or the V1 as intended) but you can't really predict how dramatically modern steam would be rejected in the East before around 1947.  Although it became clear really fast in a comparatively really short time after that that there would be no future in new-build reciprocating steam for United States mainline railroads from a for-profit builder...

RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 2,073 posts
Posted by RME on Saturday, July 15, 2017 12:26 AM

Meanwhile, I think the 'expanded' version of the question might be far more interesting:  what if steam died off quickly and modally in the early '50s, but some of the proposed replacements were fast-tracked along with diesel-electric development?  Certainly more experiments with gas turbines, most particularly with free-piston gas generation.  Certainly some application of coal turbines, and perhaps for some version of the direct-drive steam turbines with welded or non-staybolted boilers.  What else expands to fill the space?

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,624 posts
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, July 15, 2017 1:15 AM

The only other logical likely decision/direction would be electrics. Perhaps many more coal fired plants, to appease the coal industrys loss of coal for steam with widespread expansion and use along with new developments. The PRR certainly tried with some interesting electric locomotives. Rio Grande and SP were good candidates, Northern Pacific DM&IR, in the East RF&P, ACL, SAL. Horseshoe curve of course, how about the Central along the Water Level and CASO, Santa Fe in California. That would have been something and perhaps lead to high speed passenger, Bullet type developments and leading the way in the world instead of the steep decline, failed Aerotrains and Xplorer's.  Major improvements in roadbed and ties, a lot of straightening out. This would likely require government backing and a will/cooperation from all in the national interest. Sort of a recognition and thanks for the stellar effort during WWII. That would have been something to behold. Perhaps easier run thru's and then some very interesting competing end to end mergers, resulting in several rational systems. 

I like the thought of Jawn Henry's and S2's though, but can't see it. Got to say that UP was no slouch with the Turbines either and they were very early. 

Could Diesel Hydraulics come earlier and been successful in North America. I kind of lean toward no way. 

RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 2,073 posts
Posted by RME on Saturday, July 15, 2017 3:46 PM

Miningman
I like the thought of Jawn Henry's and S2's though, but can't see it.

Not the S2, which in 4-8-4 form made it into a Westinghouse brochure of future railroading in 1948, but was already just as uneconomical as any other staybolted-boiler reciprocating steam locomotive.

It pays to look at the 'secret history' of how the V1 turned first into bloatware (I would be tempted to pun on 'vaporware' too but it's too bad even for me!) and then into The Wrong Answer To Questions Improperly Asked on N&W.  As with putting full-time torque converters behind diesel engines, using conventional DC electric traction-motor drive from steam turbines is a disaster anywhere it could be tried.  It barely makes it into contention as an operating equivalent of something like E7s ... and just like Niagaras as soon as the need for sustained high speed high output goes away, there goes most of the big operating savings, and just as with "Allegheny abuse" using locomotives in the wrong speed range there goes most of any added reliability or lower capital expenses to keep the things running.  And then we get to the stone wall that is water rate of appropriately-treated feedwater in a noncondensing turbine, or effective condensation methods for required hp output in condensing ones.

Passenger anything will not be an incentive for electrification, and it might be remembered that of all the various projects and incentives thrown out during the Johnson administration to "incentivize" high speed ground transportation none involved new high-speed electrification, even as multiple projects in Europe (and Britain) were showing how it could be done, and the New Tokaido Line with Old Man Thunder showed how a combination of resolve and manipulation could bring it about.

I'd have liked to see electrification on the CASO, but it would have to go hand-in-hand with very effective border reform and commensurate physical improvement on both connecting ends in the United States.  Not likely in a regulated environment; much less likely in any politically-feasible deregulated one.

BTW: the whole motor-locomotive spectrum goes the same way as the S2-style turbine, in the same timeframe.  That is, in fact, exactly what befell 19 1001.

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,624 posts
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, July 15, 2017 4:22 PM

Regarding electrification on the CASO and border reform. If there ever was a time to enact something virtually seamless the postwar period all the way into the early sixties would have been the time. Both sides were "feeling pretty good" and cooperation was very high. There was a great trust and can do attitude after the war.  We on this side finally at least started to shed a lot of the British stuffiness and took a far more independent role, especially in attitudes. So I think it was a possibility. 

"Uncle Louis" St. Laurent and Ike were the right guys at the right time.

Too bad about the V-1. From my understanding it was a go all the way up to the very last second. It likely would have shared the same fate as T1's, S1, Q's, S2. 

A few adopted best practices and some rather "common sense" engineering by Baldwin could still have them in the game today. That's a long shot but it is a possibilty, especially if they were good enough to forego GE's entry in the locomotive market. More fantasy I suppose. 

RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 2,073 posts
Posted by RME on Saturday, July 15, 2017 6:04 PM

Miningman
Regarding electrification on the CASO and border reform. If there ever was a time to enact something virtually seamless the postwar period all the way into the early sixties would have been the time. Both sides were "feeling pretty good" and cooperation was very high. There was a great trust and can do attitude after the war. We on this side finally at least started to shed a lot of the British stuffiness and took a far more independent role, especially in attitudes. So I think it was a possibility. "Uncle Louis" St. Laurent and Ike were the right guys at the right time.

Here's the thing: all those railroads running into Buffalo (or other lake ports) instead of Chicago, wich turned out to be something of a strategic mistake for them, would have a far better bridge line than Nickel Plate for expedited or intermodal freight coming on strong in the early '50s with trailers.  The DL&W/EL and LV in particular had quite a bit of high-speed infrastructure that could have been used ... in a less regulated context ... to work freight both to the New York/New Jersey ports and ultimately to New England; catenary adds something to that.  Interesting to see if some of the latter-19th-century empire building attempts, like the one that produced the Alphabet Route or the Reading Combine, could have found this a valuable part of a solution.  Interesting, too, to see Toronto incorporate itself into North American financial life on less anti-American terms...

Too bad about the V1. From my understanding it was a go all the way up to the very last second. It likely would have shared the same fate as T1's, S1, Q's, S2

"V-1" is a buzz bomb.  There's no hyphen in it on PRR.  The thing that killed it, and it was a very conclusive thing, was that even the 'greenlighted' version (at 8000shp) had a per-locomotive water rate higher than a Q2.  More 'efficient' it may have been, but when your range with PRR's largest cistern size is under 130 road miles ... when MUed F units are running nonstop across four divisions ... is not exactly a prescription for the future.  Take this up to 9000hp to accommodate the various problems with electric final drive, and the situation immediately becomes ridiculous.  (And I speak as a strong proponent of steam-turbine electrics!)

A few adopted best practices and some rather "common sense" engineering by Baldwin could still have them in the game today. That's a long shot but it is a possibility, especially if they were good enough to forego GE's entry in the locomotive market. More fantasy I suppose.

In my opinion nothing would have precluded GE's entry into the diesel-electric market, and the result would have been true for steam-electrics too had there been a market for those.  I can't frankly think of anything a joint venture with Alco could offer them that would have kept them out.

Now, it might have been highly interesting to see a GE run like the GE of the pre-WW1 years, the company that pioneered truly effective gas railcars for the first time, take up locomotive production.  Building robust, reliable, assured power-by-the-hour instead of twitchy oversophisticated tech at lowball price and quality.  Perhaps this might entail GE buying Alco, or at least the locomotive division when Alco decided to become a 'nucleonics play' by the middle Fifties, instead of going to Cooper-Bessemer. 

Not sure the Baldwin combine ever had it in them to do the things Sloan had EMD doing, and in the absence of some great proprietary motive-power paradigm shift that meant essentially trading on the Westinghouse electric gear instead.  And there were problems with Westinghouse exiting that market, and then being repeatedly incapable of building or repairing STE main generators that would not flash over like Jawn Henry's.  I was privileged to have the brief window into Baldwin and then Ecolaire history that Henry Rentschler provided, albeit briefly, on the Baldwin Diesel Zone site, and the work that Scott Trostel has provided regarding the actual history of BLW and BLH.  Many things, not just a few, would have been needed to get the turkey into flying condition, let alone seen it learn to soar compellingly...

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,624 posts
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, July 15, 2017 6:31 PM

Ok V1 it is, not the buzz bomb, of course. 

Well had they built the darn thing we could be discussing how close they were to solving the big problems with it, how they scrapped it too early and did not even attempt to save it. 

I suppose someone could do a pretty good computer simulation of the V1 and ascertain performance data. 

You have to admit, somewhat at least, that the big Bp20's passenger sharks were up to snuff. Such a shame we don't have one to gaze upon or attempt to make railworthy again. Now that would stand out at Spencer.

Dreams on a summer evening. 

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 6,949 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, July 15, 2017 6:53 PM

Well, there's no passenger "Sharks" around but there are two ex-Delaware and Hudson freight "Sharks" that still exist in private ownership and are located (if memory serves) somewhere in Michigan, stored under cover.

There was a "Shark" thread on the "Trains" Forum site a few years back and a poster stated he knew the owner.  Said owner used to allow railfans in to see the units but too many abused the priviledge so now they're off-limits to all.

That same poster said the owner's getting on in years so eventually the "Sharks" will see the light of day again. 

RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 2,073 posts
Posted by RME on Saturday, July 15, 2017 7:44 PM

Miningman
I suppose someone could do a pretty good computer simulation of the V1 and ascertain performance data.

We actually have better.  In the collection at the Hagley is a very prettily drawn color chart of TE/speed curves for a variety of contemporary steam locomotives, and the projected trace for the mechanical (non-Bowes Drive) 8000hp variant.  I made an annotated grayscale copy that has been posted in a number of places; I don't have a currently e-mailable copy but look around some of our older threads to find it. 

It was clearly the best use of a Q2 boiler that has ever been proposed, assuming a couple of common-sense procedures like regular underfloor wheel lathing like that later proposed to help make the ACE3000 practical.  It became far more compelling with the Bowes Drive allowing minimization of some of the slip at low road speeds.  It would be fun to replicate one using the frame fabrication methods developed by the T1 Trust and somewhat better turbine design (it's pretty well certain that the detail design of the turbines was done at Westinghouse, but that the files were lost at the time the 'adjacent' drawings of Jawn Henry's turbine were saved by serendipitous Dumpster diving).  It would pull easily twice the container train that a small locomotive like a Jabelmann Challenger could, with better efficiency and water rate per hp/hr than any existing simple locomotive.  I could also state with assurance that it would pull any length excursion consist that could be filled with enthusiasts of turbine power ... not that such a consist, of course, might be all that long...

You have to admit, somewhat at least, that the big BP20 passenger sharks were up to snuff. Such a shame we don't have one to gaze upon or attempt to make railworthy again. Now that would stand out at Spencer.

It's a little sad that I missed by less than a decade having a BP16 or BP20 chassis and running gear available -- very, very cheap -- as a test mule for modular traction turbines.  And yes, I did think about it.  In my opinion they were the best-looking of all the early passenger power.

Problem with the RF16s is that the nose is apparently very different from the BP20s in contour and length, so even though we can make molds or jigs from the existing locomotive carbodies they wouldn't be correct for 'restoration'.  There's no particular future in putting two large, heavy 606SCs in a carbody or finding A-1-A trucks compatible with Westinghouse motors, and not much point engining a replica with the waning stock of 567/645 EMD switcher motors (or exotic GE V-8s).  So you'd be left with a 'rod' customization of a new shell on some legacy chassis converted to modern AC drive, or modern frame like a SD9043MAC, which I'd jump at doing but that very few railfans and fewer preservation experts would find particularly attractive to put their limited dollars, time, or efforts into.

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 1,624 posts
Posted by Miningman on Sunday, July 16, 2017 2:31 AM

RME- Well when my claims work out and my stock soars to say, 104 billion, I will have the parts custom built from sources all around the world, Germany, China, US, Great Britain. The nose and cab should be no problem as plenty of photos and scale replicas exist. Could even custom build the Baldwin engines to brand new. Then ship everything to you and put it together properly, without the myriad wiring and leaky hose connections for final assembly. Placate the nit pickers, keep it real, but with updates and fixes to the original screw ups.  Might as well do a B unit at the same time. Why get one done when you can do 2 for twice the price! 

Now back to my diamond drilling and claim assessments. Keep your fingers crossed. 

  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 10,008 posts
Posted by wjstix on Thursday, July 27, 2017 3:06 PM

By 1953, most all of those railroads were buying diesels as quickly as possible. It wasn't unusual for builders to have a waiting list; railroads sometimes in the postwar years had to wait a couple of years for new diesels (or streamlined passenger cars). So what would have happened is the railroads would have had their wish to dieselize come true. Given that most of those roads were all-diesel by 1957-58, I don't know the five years or so would have made much difference.

Stix

SUBSCRIBER & MEMBER LOGIN

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

FREE NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

Get the Classic Trains twice-monthly newsletter

Search the Community