Stick with steam Pennsy!

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Stick with steam Pennsy!
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, October 21, 2017 1:22 PM

Recent brief discussions of CNJ contemplating Challengers but deciding on F3's and full dieselization leads one to wonder.

What if, or could, an Eastern railroad have decided to stick with steam. After all they had all the infrastructure in place, the workforce skills honed to an art form, efficient and productive. I suppose the N&W comes to mind right away but what if it was the Pennsy? 

Their shops could produce anything, they were very independent thinking and they knew and loved steam. It would only take a few individuals at the top and a set corporate philosophy to take this direction. I believe the employees would go along just fine. 

Diesels did not save the Pennsy from it's ultimate demise, in fairly short order as well, perhaps what appears to be a more costly and less efficient motive power decision would have. Lots of things in life turnout that way. 

Other obvious consequences....no merger with the NYC, instead joining forces with the already aligned Norfolk and Western. Perhaps Mr. Saunders could have gone elsewhere, C&O perhaps and merged it with the Central. In any case things would roll out differently. 

The T1's and S2 showed us there were strong advocates for steam. As the other roads dieselized Pennsy could have picked up fine modern low mileage steam locomotives suitable for their needs at a fraction of the cost. Also the Pennsy was big and powerful enough to have bought out the patents and appliances that were required. It is concievable that this could have been and lasted until new environmental laws came about, lets say ending steam by the mid 70's. Maybe....who knows perhaps they come up with advancements that would permit even further usage of steam. 

If anyone could have pulled this off I think it would be the Pennsy. 

E7's?....no thanks, we're just fine, don't let the door hit you in the head on the way out. 

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Posted by timz on Saturday, October 21, 2017 2:51 PM

Miningman
I believe the employees would go along just fine.

They'll go along as long as they're being paid. Question is, how long will that continue.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, October 21, 2017 3:36 PM

I can't help but think one of the factors influencing the railroads decision to dieselize, aside from the economics, was all the thousands of diesel mechanics and electricians trained courtesy of Uncle Sam coming back into the civilian workforce right after World War Two.  Here was a ready-made source of technical expertise and all looking for jobs. 

Maybe steam might have lasted to 1970, but I also can't help but think all the evironmental laws being passed in the early '70 would have done just as good a job as killing steam as the diesels did.  Those who whine about air pollution now have no idea how bad it was back then, especially in the urban areas.  I'm old enough to remember, and I do. 

Certainly automobiles contributed more than their fair share of the schmutz, but that's another story.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, October 21, 2017 6:34 PM

Miningman
If anyone could have pulled this off I think it would be the Pennsy.

It is very clear from the Pennsy records preserved at the Hagley that it would not have been the Pennsy.  Yes, there were men who loved steam, and men who loved new technologies applied to steam.  But you also see men who rejected articulated reciprocating power (even as they embraced articulated mechanical turbines) ... and switched dramatically on the promise of the S2-style turbine over a remarkably short time interval.  In early 1946 the PRR department of motive power was still enthusiastic about the promise of mainline steam; by sometime in 1948 all of that was out, and while I have my conspiracy theories about some of what happened subsequently with certain particular classes, there was never any subsequent desire other than expedience to use modern steam in preference to dieselization.

Big reason for this, happening when it did and why it did and thoroughly discussed in the contemporary trade press, was the concomitant rise in demanded wage coupled with the availability of many far better and more profitable career opportunities than those required for cost-effective steam-locomotive maintenance.  And supply.  I am looking forward to the doctoral thesis someone's going to write on the various oil-firing projects the various railroads fast-tracked during the John L. Lewis/Truman contretemps in the late '40s -- but there's little doubt there are better ways to burn oil, especially in the East.  Michael Froio, over on RyPN, has just been discussing the magnitude of the PRR's efforts to assure reasonable water supply in some places, an effort ALL of which could effectively be ended with the adoption of even first-generation diesels.

The flip side of this, I have argued, is the water rate of single-unit 7600+-horsepower steam locomotives.  That imposed a heavy penalty in water-carrying rate, on the Pennsy, or else dramatically limited safe distance between water stops, and involved very large flows to fill the "coast-to-coast" cisterns that were barely large enough to go from the coast of the Juniata to the coast of the Monongahela.  With terrible problems to your 300psi boilers if you went a bit long between water stops, or had the wrong ions in your feedwater ... now go look at the movies of the ATSF power operating to Sandusky in the middle Fifties, and tell me what you see (expensively) on the sides of the boiler cladding...

And as mentioned, much of the older power built in such profusion was ill-suited to late-Forties traffic... lollipops were essentially no longer mainline power; the Q2s were built as wartime emergency power and made little sense (over much cheaper J1as) on a railroad running 50mph freights; the M1s were fine as far as they went but certainly no Niagara competition...

Meanwhile, instructively, look at some of the parallels over on NYC, where there was recognizable genius at work.  At the time of VJ-day, the high-speed postwar power was the C1a, with the Alco 4-8-4 being comparable to a refined Rock Island or D&H locomotive, having only incrementally higher drivers than the late Mohawks.  And the C1a had the final tender refinement, which was practical on Central precisely as it was useless for Pennsy, of 64 tons coal and correspondingly very little cistern, meaning refined methods of water treatment and delivery via numerous track pans.  Note that 64t is only enough for Harmon-Chicago with the better efficiency of the duplex.

Instead of this, what do we get in the next year? 79" drivers on Niagaras and the realization this is all the 'high speed' NYC could need... the problem being that in the only service that used the Niagara to anywhere near its capacity, NYC was devoted to Dieseliners almost by the time the ink was dry on the motive-power survey.  And the perceived issues with 'more E7s' were mooted relatively quickly by E8s... and we all know the end of the S2a, the locomotive that supposedly 'challenged the efficiency of the diesel itself'.

Sources I've read say that the access to additional capital by the railroads in the immediate postwar years made early complete dieselization "more possible", but I would note all the various reports in the middle to late '40s that steam here, as in Britain, was expected to coexist in first-line service all the way to the 1970s and perhaps beyond, and the roads (like N&W and NKP) that used their steam effectively on services where recip steam had distinctive competence in operations could go indefinitely (or go turboelectric if that were desirable).

It is a fine thing to claim that a big railroad could make for itself all the little proprietary things, from firebrick to throttle actuators, that the independent steam suppliers, the Coffins and Locomotive Superheater Companies  had the distinctive competence and intellectual capital to design and produce.  I don't see it -- it was hard enough for PRR to set up a clean little corner at Altoona for Baldwin injector service.  To go into business where for-profit companies can't shuck production fast enough was NOT something for a corporation who was given the wake-up call on profitability PRR was in 1946.

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Posted by Miningman on Saturday, October 21, 2017 8:59 PM

Well I'm glad you weighed in Overmod....was hoping you would. 

I have always been a bit puzzled why Pennsy had that loss in 1946. Business was brisk, war time monies gave them plenty of spending money and a big cushion. The economy was still partially on a war time footing, switching over to a peace time. Those were some hectic busy times. Everyone took the train to everywhere. New industrial areas were cropping up with new opportunities continually. 

I recall the New York Central leading the charge on being short changed over Railway Post Office services provided and it took a while for the government to make amends on that. However. that could not be the reason in any big picture way.

I think a case could be made point for point against your statements and the way it all unfolded with the PRR. I will take it upon myself to make this a real project in the near future. 

Well lets say, for now, not the Pennsy, then who is a more suitable candidate to keep steam for a much longer time on a grand scale and stick with it successfully. So you would need good water access, good coal access, and a corporate philosophy that would reject Diesels. 

Someone that could be immune to the EMD sales pitch.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Saturday, October 21, 2017 9:23 PM

I daresay the "powers that were" at the Pennsy were just as puzzled by that loss in 1946 as we are 71 years later.

"What? A LOSS? How did this happen? To US? We're the Standard Railroad Of The World!" 

Plain fact of the matter is, the money went somewhere...

Maybe some PRR officials had holes in their pockets and didn't realize it.

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, October 21, 2017 11:20 PM

Miningman

 

What if, or could, an Eastern railroad have decided to stick with steam. After all they had all the infrastructure in place, the workforce skills honed to an art form, efficient and productive.  ...

 

They had the infrastructure, but like the steam engines, it was high maintenance.  The workforce may have been efficient at what they did, but it was the steam engines that were inherently inefficient.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, October 22, 2017 9:55 AM

Miningman
Well lets say, for now, not the Pennsy, then who is a more suitable candidate to keep steam for a much longer time on a grand scale and stick with it successfully. So you would need good water access, good coal access, and a corporate philosophy that would reject Diesels ... Someone that could be immune to the EMD sales pitch.

You are describing a PRR 'subsidiary' of sorts, of course (although BigJim might with some justification consider that comment a borderline troll!) - the 'rationalized' Norfolk & Western.  This was the road that took up the V1 turbine, first mechanical and then with electrical drive to all axles in the early '50s, before succumbing to the Baldwin-Westinghouse boondoggle of the TE1.  They also inherited the mantle of systemic effective maintenance (and DFM) from NYC when that road's rationale for high-speed steam collapsed down by the early 1950s. 

Meanwhile, it might be remembered that Baldwin had come to the TE1 after having been burned, badly, trying to steal a march on PRR in the late Forties with its top-secret M-1 project for Chesapeake and Ohio, 6000hp instead of 8000hp but still preserving cutting-edge coal-burning traction for a coal hauling road.

And hand-in-hand with the dream of the free-piston locomotive was something that probably won't sit well with the steam advocates: the very elaborate project to burn coal directly in a gas-turbine locomotive, ultimately proving to be something of a scam and even more utterly unworkable under Clean Air restrictions of almost any sort than an external-combustion steam locomotive, but clearly driven by diesel cost, limitations, etc. at that time.

One problem here is that everyone seems to love pitting first-generation diesels against steam as if that would keep diesels forever undeveloped.  Perhaps that is a reasonable trope in 'alternative history' but the second shoe that drops in such a world would be the very accelerated and not very pretty abandonment of much steam-powered rail mileage starting in the '50s; meanwhile, parallel development of internal-combustion power in a number of places not involving the peculiar synergy of EMC, Sloan, Kettering, and GM financing expertise was quite well established by 1928; at the very latest, you'd have seen GE working out its deal with Cooper-Bessemer around the time it did historically, and the combination of this with clean-air legislation would have put the kibosh on a very great deal of railroading just at a low point in its fortunes, in the first half of the Seventies.

There is a bit of alternative history, too, in the premise that aftermarket or in-house production of auxiliaries and specialty supplies was achieved (as it probably would have been in a more modern or 'international' marketplace, with advanced containerized shipping, as we have today) and that some production of highly-efficient versions of locomotives was made with the 'round' of better technologies seen in the late '40s, including more widespread use of Alco's expensive facilities for welded-boiler production and All Those Poppet-Valve Systems.  I don't see very much of a difference in evolution due to these, though, and perhaps we will have to 'agree to disagree' here; on ATSF, for example (and elsewhere as well) welded boilers were fabricated, paid for, and never installed.  While it might have been interesting to see if Niagara 5050 fitted with Franklin B-2 would be more 'workable' than as built with type A nightmare box ... that option was available to Kiefer and the NYC just as it was to PRR, and they did not take it; had they taken it, it's difficult for me to see how this would have changed anything of the market forces that retired all the Niagaras by the mid-Fifties regardless of any perceived efficiency increases in the way the locomotives were used.

I think a useful test case ought to be the Western Maryland, which had two of the very latest classes of steam power and lost them with almost indecent haste.  I am not a WM 'devotee' but it might be interesting to learn the reasoning, including the perceived costs and 'externalities' that its management considered.

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Posted by Miningman on Sunday, October 22, 2017 11:43 AM

Well thanks for the well thought out and thorough response Overmod.

Everything you state is accurate but all of it leaning on highly advanced (for the time), complicated and some risky experimental locomotives.

How about going in the opposite direction entirely and embracing simplicity instead. Pennsy could have manufactured very simple, easy to maintain steam locomotives and in massive quantities. They could also lean on Baldwin for additional support and I think Baldwin could have provided the needed appliances and even built some of the locomotives entirely. 

The one example that comes to mind is the rather politically incorrect Kriegslocomotiven or Kriegslok ( war locomotive). A Decapod, right up Pennsys alley! Over 6,700, a staggering number, were built. They lasted a very very long time, right up to 1999 in regular service, and in many places. Not all of it behind the Iron Curtain. Austria and Norway in the West, Turkey as well. USSR, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, what was then Czechoslovakia all had large fleets of these war locomotives inherited after the defeat of Nazi Germany...to the victors go the spoils.

Their longevity and widespread use and acceptance was because they were built very simply and not complicated, they were very powerful, they were easy to maintain, extremely versatile and made almost entirely of steel, no copper, no fancy alloys anywhere.

So what if the Head Honcho of Motive Power, say anywhere, decided to go in this direction and convince his bosses. None of this turbine, duplex drive, inaccesable poppet valve stuff. Build your own, powerful, simple machines, system wide, reliable and easy peasy to maintain. 

We all know the first to go were the newest, the last to go were ancient ten wheelers and the like because they were simple and reliable. 

I think Pennsy could have come up with a redesigned very powerful, inexpensive to build, simple, all steel, locomotive perhaps a Decapod to fit the bill. Maybe Illinois Central? 

6000 plus of them, lasting a very long time, systemwide. Baldwin Diesel switchers for the yard work only. 

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, October 22, 2017 12:23 PM

Be advised there have been strong theoretical discussions that say exactly what you're saying.  Two of them involve the 'correct' jumping-off place for a universal PRR locomotive suited for actual PRR non-wartime traffic (and not, say, the pre-Depression New Main Line idea of widespread 120-mph-optimized routes) -- which of course was the M1 (redesigned to solve its pathetic quirks like FWH system that frequently stopped working) and Dr. Leonard's discussion of upgraded 4-8-2s on NYC (yes, in place of more Niagaras!)

The problem is that all these long-lived engines would at least in practice have relatively low water rates, and still require periodic maintenance and treatment chemicals to achieve the reasonable in-service reliability common to NYC and N&W systems.  You just aren't going to get people into asbestos suits to climb into fireboxes with saturated water on the other side to hammer up leaking studs!  And you're not going to avoid great numbers of leaking studs with any 'cheap' legacy boiler design ... if then.  Much of the problem even with the infamous fillet-welded staybolt was masked by the short expedient lifetimes of large boilers in service, in some cases being changed out on a schedule of months or even weeks almost as PM.  Of course this is something that would promptly vanish on engines that were expected to 'last a long time' between major shoppings (or, in fact, any sort of X-day 'shopping' plan at all)-- you shouldn't be surprised to find that the large mainline power was usually the first thing that disappeared on a railroad, or that disappeared when key auxiliaries or material was no longer available, or that disappeared when better locomotive technologies became mainstreamed (the other half of the massive retirements of North American steam coming soon after second-generation turbocharging, in the period from 1957 to 1960, this being the period at which even the best "Kriegslok" counterparts would have gone imho).

A reasonable equivalent of what you describe using modern solutions and a 'reliable' design is easily seen in the N&W Y-class engines, but perhaps a better illustration is in the very last Baldwin-built engines (of which one survivor is soon to return to service), which were precisely rugged 'legacy' designs with some desirable modern equipment (like overfire 'guns').  They certainly did well, lasted well ... and when the time came, out they went, economics for reciprocating steam as a whole being what it always would have been at that point in time...

Quite a few of the traditional 'steam hanging on' stories, when you actually look at them, turn out to be unavoidable expedients or just cheap-fisted using up the old power.  I have little doubt that the last days of K4s and the like on the Long Branch had the engines on their pathetic last legs just as the GG1s were in the '80s.  The 'last' NYC power ran on branches that even A-1-A road switchers couldn't use ... and how many of those do you think there was an economic necessity for after the late '50s, let alone in a world where economic operation compared to aggressive modal competition is a given, or quality-of-service concerns with guaranteed power-by-the-hour and no on-road delays or unavoidable stopping become paramount?

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, October 22, 2017 12:38 PM

As additional comment -- just as with the Jewish religion after the fall of the Second Temple, there is a very long continued history of development and evolution after the "official termination" years (in modern big-steam design, those years are probably the late '40s period, not later).  Some of that, in steam terms, is highly interesting in the context of 'low-maintenance' designs.  One of these in my opinion would be the Lima experiments with more 'practical' poppet-valve installations, which developed interestingly into the 'Franklin type D' kits Vulcan built for military 2-8-0s in the '50s (one of which of course has survived, but perhaps tellingly in long-non-operating condition).  Perhaps the 'ultimate' in reliable cheap steam is a valve gear that does not require explicit tinkering with cutoff to run -- type D provided that, and it is not difficult to see ways to improve and refine what it did.  You couldn't do that with piston valves effectively, and even if you did you couldn't service it with simple tools in the field.

Things like the Berry Accelerator, the Snyder preheater and Cunningham circulator I so frequently espouse, and the Langer balancer are all postwar innovations that greatly (I use the term advisedly) improve theoretical steam operation on 'right-sized' or even modular power.  In Europe there has been organized work leading up to various proposals for 'Plandampf' and several locomotive designs that -- recognizing that there are arguments other than pure working efficiency for retaining or employing steam power -- have been demonstrably successful in modern service against other types of motive power.  But, again in my humble opinion as someone who has spent extensive time and effort figuring out ways to do it, there are few effective places, none of them extensible to overall railroad service in the way even a 4400hp C-C diesel-electric is, where cost-effective steam as an alternative to diesel power is a better answer operationally.  (And reliable operational conditions are a primary thing that properly-run, capitalistic or otherwise, railroad managements look at.)

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Posted by Miningman on Sunday, October 22, 2017 8:18 PM

Overmod--Thanks yet again for the last two postings..a lot to take in.....need a bit of time to think about this all..

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, October 22, 2017 9:30 PM

Just as a f'rinstance ... I spent about half an hour this afternoon discussing the various features of a 2-6-2+2-6-2 modern Garratt of approximately modernized-A-class hp that one of the 'players' in modern steam renaissance wants to develop for general service 'if the niche for it develops'.  (He wants to use two of these with a 'magnum' tender sandwiched between, and tank cars for required water, which are workable if a bit long.)

PM for some of the fun details.

Yeahhhhh, the beat goes on.

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, October 23, 2017 12:58 PM

I think the problem with the argument is that "very simple, easy to maintain steam locomotives" never really existed. Steam was just a lot more labor intensive than diesels, and nothing was going to change that.

Good example was neighboring New York Central, who in 1945 bought 4-8-4 Niagara steam engines and two-unit sets of E-7s for their passenger trains. What they found was the Niagaras were just as good and efficient as the E-units IF they had their shop forces put in a large amount of time (and money) doing maintenance work on the steam engines to keep everything working perfectly. Otherwise, the steam engines fell behind the E-units in durability and productivity, since the E-units could run almost continously with minimal maintenance work needed.

So the railroad could make more money by buying easy to maintain diesels and laying off shop crews. By 1960, all major railroads and all but a tiny few small roads had come to the same conclusion.

Stix
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Posted by Miningman on Sunday, October 29, 2017 7:27 PM

"Be advised there have been strong theoretical discussions that say exactly what you're saying.  Two of them involve the 'correct' jumping-off place for a universal PRR locomotive suited for actual PRR non-wartime traffic (and not, say, the pre-Depression New Main Line idea of widespread 120-mph-optimized routes)".....Overmod

The correct jumping off point, from my vantage point, may have 2 possibilities. The first and most likely would be the period between '39 and Dec. '41. I think the Pennsy had by this time decided to shelve or at least postpone until a much later time the expansion of their Electric operations Westward, due to the depression. War clouds were gathering and by the fall of '39 the US Allies were at war, including us up here beyond the 49th. So things were afoot and despite the politics of the day, the powers behind closed doors in Washington and corporate boardrooms knew better. Preparations were underway, perhaps modestly or not. This would also be a great time to take advantage of a still lingering depression and inject more "New Deal" stimulus, perhaps quietly, maybe not, but directed at the transportation industries, especially railroads. A lot of older outdated steam had been scrapped over the depression and much was still in dead lines. 

Significant advancements in steam technology had continued, the S1 was built and exhibited at the Worlds Fair and RR shows....I'm sure the plans for the first 2  T1's, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers were on the table. Lima's super power and new concepts were available at the ready for a nation needing the goods. No war yet for the USA so no restrictions yet. Pennsy not a Lima fan but could have been had they decided to go all out at this point. Replace virtually everything with new modern steam, in massive numbers, at the ready for the future. Likely 2 or 3 models only, not including the T1's, which could go ahead a be greenlighted as a subset, all 52 built by mid 1941. These models would share parts, improve pulling power, built quickly, with little need for strategic material, nothing fancy schmancy, but stokers for sure. Perhaps also a much closer alliance with N&W, almost a merger but just stopping short. Maybe the concept of "lubritoriums" could have come about a wee bit earlier, system wide. 

With massive numbers, say 6,000- 8,000 locomotives rolled out over 3 years, from all builders, economic stimulus with a nod from the Feds, very close ties with it's ward N&W, standardized efficient, bare bones but powerful easy to maintain steam, a-la- Kriegslok could have come about. 

With the exception of the water issues, they would have held the Diesels to a disadvantage and kept them rolling until the Clean Air Act. 

With the advent of further improvements such as your mentioned Lima Type D Valve kits, Berry Accelaerator, Snyder Preheaters, Cunningham Circulator, overfire jets, improvements in maintenance technology  and water issues throughout time maybe they last until the Millennium. 

Will write about the 2nd correct jumping off point later.

 

 

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Posted by M636C on Monday, October 30, 2017 7:49 AM

Overmod

Just as a f'rinstance ... I spent about half an hour this afternoon discussing the various features of a 2-6-2+2-6-2 modern Garratt of approximately modernized-A-class hp that one of the 'players' in modern steam renaissance wants to develop for general service 'if the niche for it develops'.  (He wants to use two of these with a 'magnum' tender sandwiched between, and tank cars for required water, which are workable if a bit long.)

PM for some of the fun details.

Yeahhhhh, the beat goes on.

I've been posting a bit about Garratts on the Toy Trains forum.

There is an unconfirmed story around at the moment that the preserved standard gauge Australian Garratt 6029 has had problems with its tubeplates due to it being run too fast on main lines. The theory is that the boiler cradle is not rigid enough and at speed it suffers from vertical oscillation. I recall a cab ride on a coal train in the early 1960s during which there was a constant "thumping" in the cab. At the time I thought it might be a skidded wheel on the bogie under the cab but of course those axles were not braked. The 60 was a development of the 4-8-2 + 2-8-4 supplied to Iran before WWII and the cradle was probably similar, if longer to cope with the extra axles on the engine units.

The general design of these cradles was the same right up to the last large Garratts built, except for the South African GO class. The GO was more or less similar to the GMA and GMAM but with a smaller boiler. But the boiler cradle was an entirely new design with a much deeper beam section tapering at the ends. It occurred to me that the GMA boiler might not have fitted in the new cradle, but it seems likely that the cradle design was unaltered from the early post WWII GM class.

The GM was the class that introduced trailing cylindrical water tanks, which you mention in conjunction with this new design. When you speak of a "tender" do you mean an additional coal bunker? How would the coal get to the locomotive?

Peter

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Posted by Miningman on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 1:16 AM

Sorry for the heavy font in my posting. The power went out while I was typing so the page was there but the connection was not. I kept going on the iPad, finished the letter and copied it. When the power came back on I pasted it to my work email, because I was not connected to the Forum page, copied it again, re-entered the Forum live this time and posted it to the forum and that is how it came up. 

We learned today via CBC Saskatoon that it was due to a beaver cutting down an unusually large and critical pole and the power went out from Prince Albert all the way up here and throughout the North. 

,,,,and we worry about terrorists when a beaver can do you in.

I would like to know how such a key part of the electrical grid is so vulnerable that this can happen. Like ...What!???!!

Are you kidding me? How do those guys ( Sask Power) sleep at night? 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 6:51 AM

Here is the thing about alternative I:

PRR's electrification was largely due to the Depression, not 'abandoned' thanks to it; likewise, the relative lack of advanced steam designs can, and has, been attributed to the concentration on electrification during that period (plus the large numbers of "modern-for-the-time" locomotives ordered by the Standard Railroad (pun too often used for comment) just before the great age of enlightenment in steam design.  The push post-'38 would very much be to electrify from Harrisburg over the mountains, and that was precisely the point of the '43 plan.  The thing that changed so very dramatically was the introduction of practical MU power in the F and later GP series.

The "standard" PRR reciprocating freight locomotive was the J1a.  Ed Weinstein could have told you why.  With 70" drivers and adequate boiler it was 5/6 of an A class for considerably less money and complication, and did everything well enough for a 50mph steam speed limit.  Sure, it's obviously a foreign design, and sure, PRR got a black eye for having to re-invent all the redline changes including the balancing on their own, but I don't think there's too much argument they eventually got the job done.

But there is also no question that the future of steam on PRR belonged to the turbines, either the 'improved' 4-8-4 direct drives that (would have) solved the low-speed steam outrush problems popping all those staybolts or the vastly-superior V1.  Again, these had the misfortune to be approved for production just a couple of years too late; there were better alternatives by the time actual metal had to be cut.  Then the design fell foul of the steam-turbine-electric all axles asynchronously driven will-o'-the-wisp, and eventually we wound up with the TE1, a mistaken answer to a question nobody really asked.  And even then, if the kind folks at Westinghouse hadn't conveniently dropped the main generators and then repeatedly not known how to fix them, even that story might have had a better ending.

Let me repeat, though, that even on the roads that systematized maintenance and designed the most carefully to reduce costs and trouble wherever possible, steam still represented an outsized amount of manpower relying on hard work for cheap wages.  The auxiliary-supplier excuse is really more of a red herring in this context: it was certainly significant by the mid-Fifties, but it could only get established when massive segments of the industry had shed their large and sophisticated power wholesale.

Remember that type D is a compromise, and without a certain amount of care not a very good compromise; it essentially provides some of the effects of cutoff via what would be 'wire-drawing' effects on an engine with conventional valve gear.  That's fine for a military engine but not so much for penny-pinching bean-counters.  And overfire jets/guns were almost always for annoying smoke and PM abatement, not better combustion; introducing cold air or steam in turbulent flow directly over a firebox being drafted by induced flow many feet away is patently not the best approach to improve efficient stoichiometry.

This leaves aside the question of small steam, for which PRR had some very interesting prototypes (they disappeared promptly when GM and the other builders came up with IC switch engines and then road-switchers, but we can certainly see how they would have developed).  PRR in particular, and I think many other railroads, had a relatively long tradition of 'bumping' older paid-for power into smaller service -- it saved money in a number of ways.  The idea of replacing All Those 2-8-0s with 'something advanced' at 100% on the dollar, when electrification remained a highest priority (and rightly so!) is frankly silly: it's like massive replacement of automobiles with hybrids because it would increase fleet efficiency.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 6:59 AM

wjstix
What they found was the Niagaras were just as good and efficient as the E-units IF they had their shop forces put in a large amount of time (and money) doing maintenance work on the steam engines to keep everything working perfectly. Otherwise, the steam engines fell behind the E-units in durability and productivity, since the E-units could run almost continously with minimal maintenance work needed.

It's a little more complicated than that, and someone analyzing the situation is well-advised to have their copy of the 1947 Kiefer report open and ready in front of them.

You will notice that at the time data were being compiled for the Report, the cost of the added steam servicing/maintenance net of locomotive capital cost was comparable or lower to its counterpart for the E units (and you will note also that the maintenance requirements for the E7s were not trivial).  The other half of this was the existence of plenty of high-speed passenger work to 'amortize' the costs of the Niagaras over.  As soon as that disappeared, the case for Niagaras essentially collapsed, and on NYC that really came with the marketing emphasis on 'Dieseliners' -- that is the thing for you alternate historians to concentrate on, but I think it would only have prolonged Niagara service a couple of years at best, as the other costs and the improvements in diesels would have been continuing as they did.

The improvements in the E8 alone swung the comparison toward double-unit diesel passenger power, and of course all the advantages observed by NYC and PRR for MU EMD power applied more and more.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 7:10 AM

That is an interesting point about 6029; I would not have thought that a harmonic oscillation either in the cradle structure or in its interaction via the pivots with chassis mechanics would produce bending stress in the boiler sufficient to affect the tube fits.  (Or is it the vibration shaking the prossered joints at the front?)

The immediate 'fix' for 6029 might be to adapt IC-engine motor mount technologies (in reverse!) to isolate the boiler from short-period vibrations, etc.  That at any rate is what I was proposing on the double-Prairie Garratt (albeit for somewhat different reasons).  If the issue is being driven at the pivots, as I suspect it may be, some 'compliance' there may address the operational problem at least.

The 'tender' is primarily the additional coal bunker that serves the small (weight-applying) bunkerage over the 'inner' engines.  Transfer can be made via auger as with stokers, but the attrition this produces becomes significant if the 'result' is only transferred cold vs. run into flame; I have some methods using the equivalent of overhead conveyors to move the coal between bunkers when running solid fuel.  Remember that the ash is being screw-conveyed to modular bunkering forward under the cradle, from which it can be dumped or kept contained and handled 'intermodally' so there is no inherent range limitation imposed by straight ashpan capacity; I think this is a good thing on a Garratt for a variety of reasons.

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 8:31 AM

One thing that I think can be said, is that many railroads in retrospect would have been better off relying on steam for a few years longer than they did. The railroads that rushed to buy diesels - any kind of diesel, from any builder available - after WW2 often ended up with a mish-mash of first generation diesels, some good, some clunkers, that often were traded in after only 15-20 years. Railroads that waited a few years often were better able to gauge what their needs were, and to buy accordingly. The Missabe is a good example. They bought their first diesel in 1953, and by 1960 had replaced steam primarily with EMD SD-9 (and a few SD-18) engines, many of which were still on the roster at the CN takeover decades later.

Miningman

We learned today via CBC Saskatoon that it was due to a beaver cutting down an unusually large and critical pole and the power went out from Prince Albert all the way up here and throughout the North. 

,,,,and we worry about terrorists when a beaver can do you in.

Back around 1970, when my brother-in-law was chief engineer for a big radio station in Duluth/Superior, their station was thrown off the air by a squirrel. Apparently the squirrel was trying to climb up onto a high-voltage power line and grounded itself against something metal, so it's body caused a short that disabled the transmitter. He said you could see the big scorch mark down it's back where the electricity and ripped through it.

Stix
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Posted by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer on Wednesday, November 01, 2017 4:58 AM

Did the little critter get buried, stuffed and mounted, or eaten?  RIP, we miss you!

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, November 01, 2017 8:57 AM

Trinity River Bottoms Boomer
Did the little critter get buried, stuffed and mounted, or eaten?

Story doesn't say whether it was the AC supply to the station or the main transmitter feed that the little fellow chewed.  I'm pretty sure in either case that what was left was a 'crispy critter' of the decidedly non-edible sort, and taxidermists probably don't do well with carbon.

As of Monday, squirrels remain at the top of the problem list for our local power utility.  As an interesting aside from the early days of broadband Internet, there was a spate of squirrel problem activity when the original versions of DSL started being provided over 'legacy copper', quite a bit of which was up in pole lines with squirrelly insulation.  Seems the squirrels were preferentially chewing the DSL conductors; something about the modulation was giving them a 'high' or 'kick' and tree rats and effective QoS were both plummeting at an alarming rate.  Not sure how this was resolved as I went to HFC as quickly as possible.

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, November 01, 2017 10:32 PM

Overmod

That is an interesting point about 6029; I would not have thought that a harmonic oscillation either in the cradle structure or in its interaction via the pivots with chassis mechanics would produce bending stress in the boiler sufficient to affect the tube fits.  (Or is it the vibration shaking the prossered joints at the front?)

The immediate 'fix' for 6029 might be to adapt IC-engine motor mount technologies (in reverse!) to isolate the boiler from short-period vibrations, etc.  That at any rate is what I was proposing on the double-Prairie Garratt (albeit for somewhat different reasons).  If the issue is being driven at the pivots, as I suspect it may be, some 'compliance' there may address the operational problem at least.

The 'tender' is primarily the additional coal bunker that serves the small (weight-applying) bunkerage over the 'inner' engines.  Transfer can be made via auger as with stokers, but the attrition this produces becomes significant if the 'result' is only transferred cold vs. run into flame; I have some methods using the equivalent of overhead conveyors to move the coal between bunkers when running solid fuel.  Remember that the ash is being screw-conveyed to modular bunkering forward under the cradle, from which it can be dumped or kept contained and handled 'intermodally' so there is no inherent range limitation imposed by straight ashpan capacity; I think this is a good thing on a Garratt for a variety of reasons.

 

 

I posted this elsewhere, but this is what two Garratts working together look like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePpG4tVHSMQ

At about 10:00 minutes in to the above video...

Not bunkers together, sadly...

Peter

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Posted by Miningman on Wednesday, November 01, 2017 11:18 PM

Now that was a real treat. Love that double headed Garrett scene. New Zealand steam had both kinds of whistles, the traditional British/European tweet and the North American type master blaster!

This could have happened but sadly did not.

This unique type of locomotive, widely used in South Africa, was considered by the C.P.R. for use on the rugged line east from Montreal to St.John, New Brunswick. Double-headed P2 class heavy 2-8-2's were the heaviest engines used on account of bridge restrictions.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, November 02, 2017 4:54 PM

Could atomic power be one route to steam revival?  I know the conventional wisdom is that atomic power can be used for railroads only thorugh electrification.  But suppose research leads to ways of atomic generation of heat for boiling water that are safe and practical and capable of being used in small scale, even to atolmic home fireplaces.  Then thermal efficiency may not be specificalliy important, and if safety arives, with weight and mass not much different than an equivalent oil-burner, then economics may suggest the return of steam for railroad power with indicidual locomotives instead of electrification where traffic is too light to suport eletrification.  Reading progres in Physixs research, while this may not be likeliy, it does seem possible.  Then the question is open, turbine-electric? turbine-mechanical drive like the PRR S-2, or rod engines?

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Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, November 02, 2017 7:08 PM

Atomic powered steam?  Not a bad idea David, but oh brother, I can just hear the screams and howls from the ususal suspects over atomic-powered trains rolling through their neighborhoods.

Even if they were run through areas with little to no population at all there'd still be screams.

And if we think people get upset over oil trains, as the man said, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Good idea, but I just can't see it happening.  Too bad.

But if it DID happen, I think turbo-electric would probably be the most likely application.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, November 02, 2017 9:30 PM

Anything that supports atomic power is the 3rd rail of citizen involved politics.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, November 02, 2017 11:16 PM

Appreciate those comments.  Agree not very likely.  But other things thought impossible have happened.

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Posted by Miningman on Saturday, November 04, 2017 3:45 PM

So, speaking of the impossible, here is my 2nd theoretical jumping off point for Pennsy to stick with steam. 1945

A very short window but a critical one. The decision to build the T1's was already made. The decisions about the experimental's, such as the S2 was already made and those are hard facts. Fine, good starting point and keep going. It is simply a decision to stick with steam, plain and simple. The war weary locomotives needed replacing and the steam guys win out, trusted and convincing arguments to keep steam. After all, this is the PRR, we have coal, we are different than the rest, the same but different. As we define whoever is our Prime Minister up here "First among equals". Diesels are deliberatly dismissed out of hand, there will be no consideration at all. None whatsoever. A direction is undertaken and just the sheer massive numbers required ensure steam for a long time. As Overmod has stated, the lollipops won't do it anymore. There can be no turning back.Huge numbers of locomotives are retired, huge numbers are ordered. Altoona and Juniata are in full swing building mode, they lean on Baldwin hard, perhaps even for the 1st time really Lima as well, for advanced but time tested modern steam. Stick with maybe 4 standard wheel arraignments for the entire system. Interchangeable parts as much as possible, rolling repairs and maintenance procedures adopted. There is simply an outright refusal to purchase Diesels as a corporate direction, period over and out. Decision made, you run your railroad, we will run ours. Have a nice day. Also, once again a closer alliance with N&W, thus avoiding NYC altogether. Hey you guys over there at NYC, you wanna sell the CASO? Closer alliances with CPR. By the way, you guys enjoying all those failed crankshafts, electrical shorts, leaking everything, fires, and pistons hanging out like a dogs tongue? 

Dollar wise I believe they actually might come out ahead, considering the tremendous waste of money blown on first generation Diesels from all the builders in the big rush to Dieselize. No Centipedes, No Sharks, No PA's, no FM, all of it a bitter costly disappointment, most of it scrapped, little used, or in dead lines in 10 years, mechanics nightmares. A lot of money for a lot of heartache. 

Sure things get better for the Diesels and in a relative short period of time but not on our dime, let the others work it out, if it works out, (which of course it did), but the cost was enormous and we are not fools. 

Instead they blew something like 50+ million on the T1's and cheered them on for what...3 months?, six months? before enacting corporate sabatoge on them. Then bought a bunch of horrible Diesels at tremendous expense. Thats were Pennsy lost it's mojo. They pretended to be progressive all the while watching it burn money worthy of an ash pit.

New steam would have served them well until their time ran out due to environmental laws, but who knows how long really. Then they could go to Diesels, 3rd generation starting by then, with no worries. 

Instead of Norfolk Southern we would have the Pennsylvania, Norfolk and Southern RR. What us, the folks, would still call the Pennsy.

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