Piston rod failure of a NYC Niagara (Oct 1949)

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Piston rod failure of a NYC Niagara (Oct 1949)
Posted by Jones1945 on Monday, November 19, 2018 4:25 AM

Since there is a post on Trains.com forum discussing simulation of some famed steam engines performance by using computer software, I tried to get more detail of different engines on the web, including NYC Niagara. I found this horrific extract photo from The Dispatch, somewhere on the web instead of the things I was looking for. I am not familiar with NYCRR's history so I did a brief searching about accident or train wreck involved this renowned engine but I can't find any, including digital back issues of The Dispatch ( https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=Itmi1h0dExoC ). 

According to Wiki, monthly average mileage of NYC's Niagara was 26,000 per month, running six days per week. I wouldn't be surprised if the piston rod was broken due to metal fatigue. Note the main rod and the piston rod was still attached but both of them were bent like melted plastic, the eccentric rod together with the whole gear was completely destroyed. Fortunately, it seems that there was no casualty in this accident. I don't have the resource to find the official record of this incident, if you know the detail about this incident, please share with us if you like! 

Was it really just an isolated incident which was not worth mentioning? Imagine how would the public have reacted if this photo was published on the front page of a newspaper...A comment was made on the page where I found this pic:

"Imagine the piston, free of load, being blown back to the rear of the cylinder. Would steam have rocketed straight out of the piston rod hole from the rear cylinder inlet ports on each revolution of the wheels, until the 411-ton beast came to a halt, or could the piston have traveled so far back, it blocked its escape? Had this event been captured from trackside on movie film, it would have been an incredible YouTube video, today."

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Posted by Miningman on Monday, November 19, 2018 8:09 AM

"A major wreck on the New York Central was narrowly averted"

Nothing derailed, no one hurt, likely scared the pants off the Engineer and Fireman.

The Niagara's had an intensive and disciplined maintenance schedule. Wonder if they ever found out exactly the cause.

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Posted by NDG on Monday, November 19, 2018 9:37 AM
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Posted by Firelock76 on Monday, November 19, 2018 6:41 PM

Reminds me of something a mechanic friend of mine said years ago, concerning something breaking that ostensibly shouldn't...

"It's metal.  It can last 1,000 years or break tomorrow.  You just never know."

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, November 19, 2018 8:54 PM

If it is made by man it can break.

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Posted by Miningman on Monday, November 19, 2018 10:56 PM

...and break it did! 

wrecked 'em , damn near killed 'em!

Had to change the spelling up a bit there. 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, November 19, 2018 11:04 PM

I understand that the boiler pressure on Niagaras was reduced 10 pounds.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, November 19, 2018 11:29 PM

Miningman
...and break it did! 

wrecked 'em , damn near killed 'em!

Had to change the spelling up a bit there. 

Right up there with breaking a side or main rod as well as having a tire come off a drive wheel.

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Posted by Jones1945 on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 2:46 AM

Firelock76

Reminds me of something a mechanic friend of mine said years ago, concerning something breaking that ostensibly shouldn't...

"It's metal.  It can last 1,000 years or break tomorrow.  You just never know."

This is the first time I have ever seen the main rod bent like this, even Supermen himself might need at least 6 secs to bend both rods into such shape. I really want to know why the piston rod was ejected from the cylinder. 

Thinking deeper, maybe this was one of the main reason why the development of high-speed reciprocating steam locomotive ended in the late-1940s. NYC only had 27 Niagara, and now we know at least one of them had serious piston rod failure after four years in service.

As Miningman stated, the Niagara's had an intensive and disciplined maintenance schedule. But it seems that it still couldn't prevent such accident from happening. From the management point of view, there was no point to insist using coal-burning steam engine anymore. There were other options of high-speed coal-burning engine like C&O M-1 and N&W TE1 but we know their "limitation". 

 

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Posted by M636C on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 4:09 AM

Would steam have rocketed straight out of the piston rod hole from the rear cylinder inlet ports on each revolution of the wheels, until the 411-ton beast came to a halt

Once the eccentric rod was knocked off, the steam would have been limited to wherever the now stationary valve allowed it but it would not change according to wheel revolutions....

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Posted by Jones1945 on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 7:12 AM

Yes, the piston valve would be stopped after it was disconnected from the combination lever. But before the crews applied the emergency brake, the cylinder on the right side was still running at speed for a very short while. 

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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 4:18 PM

I've had this paper in my collection for years. I guess here would be a good thread to introduce it. I was going to show it in the PRR S1 - T1 thread but never got around to it.

These are a few sample pages from a study by T. V. Buckwalter of the Timken Steel Co. written on 2/18/1938, a little before the Niagara but I'm sure a similar piston and rod arrangement were applied using some of the data arrived at in this study.

Locomotive Rods for 100 M. P. H.

 Timken_Rods_1 by Edmund, on Flickr

 Timken_Rods_Fig. 3 by Edmund, on Flickr

 Timken_Rods_Fig.1 by Edmund, on Flickr

 Timken_Rods_Fig. 10 by Edmund, on Flickr

 Timken_Rods_Fig. 12 by Edmund, on Flickr

 Timken_Rods_Fig. 16 by Edmund, on Flickr

If anyone wants to see all the pages of the study I have scanned them and posted them as downloadable .jpg files here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/102225238@N06/albums/72157673726478087/with/31037203607/

I had originally scanned it as a .pdf but it was too big to upload. This development for reducing weight while increasing strength of Timken's High Dynamic Steel was seen as a salvation for the steam locomotive at the time. There was still serious efforts by some in the industry to try to head-off the impending transition to Diesel locomotion.

https://nycshs.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/the-niagara-story.pdf

I believe the Pennsy experimented with aluminum side rods (!!) and I'll see if I can remember where I put the information on that. **

**Found it. Pg. 67 Al Stauffer's Pennsy Power: Aluminum rods applied to I1s 4375.

I recall reading about quite a few crank pin failures, cylinder head blow offs, one where the cylinder head had landed within the gauge on an adjoining track and derailed an on-coming train before any flag protection could be provided.

Magnafluxing of critical stress parts was routinely performed but this didn't catch every defect.

Good Luck, Ed

 

 

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Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 4:39 PM

"Classic Trains" had an article a few issues back concerning a firebrick arch collapse in a Niagara.  Scared the pants off the head-end crew but the veteran engineer stopped the locomotive safely.

The author of the article (who was the fireman, by the way) said they never found out the cause of the collapse, and they never saw that Niagara again.

 

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Posted by Jones1945 on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 4:40 AM

gmpullman

...I recall reading about quite a few crank pin failures, cylinder head blow offs, one where the cylinder head had landed within the gauge on an adjoining track and derailed an on-coming train before any flag protection could be provided.

Magnafluxing of critical stress parts was routinely performed but this didn't catch every defect.

Good Luck, Ed

Wow, those are some very useful and informative materials! Thank you for posting them, Ed. Quote from the text "Locomotive Rods for 100 m.p.h" written in 1938:

"The airplane and the automobile have demonstrated the value of reduction in time consumed in journeys, the airplane by greatly increased speed between terminals, and the automobile by great reduction in time lost, even in some cases entire elimination of time lost, at terminal, the motor car works under the further advantage of being useful in local service on arrival at destination. 

The railroads are engaged in a courageous and determined, though somewhat belated, effort to regain the important position in transportation, particularly of passengers, developed through a century of effort, this traffic being reduced considerably in volume coincident with the rapid development of the two important competing forms of transportation. "

Meanwhile, Baldwin's chief engineer Ralph P. Johnson believed that the 8-coupled, 2 cylinder locomotives of the time were at or near practical limits in terms of steam flow. Using four cylinders was a way to get around that limitation; some sources say he had this idea since 1932.

Thus we got two cutting-edge product of the early 1940s: The duplexes of Baldwin and Pennsy's shop (Q1) and Timken's lightweight reciprocating parts using Timken High Dynamic Steel. They were applied to PRR's S1 and T1s and worked well, but EMD caught up and *probably got hand-picked and supported by the US Government to eliminate any form of steam-powered engines development.

But in this case, the piston rod failure of Niagara had nothing to do with competition. It reflected the limitation of the reciprocating steam locomotive and indirectly predicted the demise of it. The superiority of conventional steam locomotive was thinner than a piece of paper after World War II.

Firelock76

"Classic Trains" had an article a few issues back concerning a firebrick arch collapse in a Niagara.  Scared the pants off the head-end crew but the veteran engineer stopped the locomotive safely.

The author of the article (who was the fireman, by the way) said they never found out the cause of the collapse, and they never saw that Niagara again.

Thanks a lot, Firelock76! Another "scared the pants off" incident happened on the Niagara. Smile, Wink & Grin In November 1955, which was 3 months after the first batch of 19 Niagara withdrawn from service, only one Niagara retired in that month was #6007. Maybe she was the one had the firebrick arch collapsed. But it was possible that the incident happened much earlier and NYCRR just stored the engine in the shop. 

Firebrick arch collapse in the firebox due to unknown reason, piston rod failure during high-speed operation, failure of the highly-expensive firebox-wrapper metallurgy to withstand the conditions of actual operation.......I think I found the reason why NYCentral chose to get rid of them like they met an army of skunk.

From Wikimedia Commons

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 9:27 AM

A follow-up...

That Niagara brick arch failure story was in the "Classic Trains" special issue "Steam Glory 3" from 2012.

The incident happened in 1950, and the Niagara in question was the 6004.  The relief engine that took 6004's place was a 3100 series Mohawk.

If there were any other incidents with Niagaras beside the brick arch collapse on 6004 and the piston rod failure a year earlier on the other I haven't heard of them. 

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Posted by Jones1945 on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 10:05 AM

Thank you very much, Firelock76. I think I have the special issue "Steam Glory 3". I am gonna review it carefully. I believe that the performance of NYC Niagara was excellence. But these incidents might imply that there were some QC problems during the construction.  

It wasn't the first time Alco's product had piston rod failure anyway. About half year after this incident, MILW's F7 #102 had her crosshead "overheated, broke, and dropped from the guide while the train was traveling at an estimated speed of over 100 mph." Bad luck followed the US Railroad industry like a shadow since the end of WWII... Confused

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 11:39 AM

You're welcome Mr. Jones!  I'll tell you, those special "Steam Glory" issues stay in the house and never make it to the recycling bin.  I hope there's going to be another!

I wouldn't infer there was anything wrong with the Niagaras due to those two incidents, after all "One swallow (or two) does not a summer make."

One thing that puzzles me is certain railroads obsession with 100 mile-per-hour running in the post-WW2 years.  Why?  What was to be gained?  They'd never beat aircraft in a speed race, so what was the point?  Bragging rights?  Was that really worth the expense and the risk?

I think we see the same thing today with some peoples obsession with high-speed rail.  What's really important to the rail traveling public, in my opinion anyway, is getting there "on the advertised," that is, getting there when you promise you will, not how fast you get there. 

Look at some of the horrendous delays on Amtrak and you can see why it's not as popular as it might be. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 3:04 PM

Firelock76
One thing that puzzles me is certain railroads obsession with 100 mile-per-hour running in the post-WW2 years.  Why?  What was to be gained?  They'd never beat aircraft in a speed race, so what was the point?  Bragging rights?  Was that really worth the expense and the risk?

I think we see the same thing today with some peoples obsession with high-speed rail.  What's really important to the rail traveling public, in my opinion anyway, is getting there "on the advertised," that is, getting there when you promise you will, not how fast you get there. 

Look at some of the horrendous delays on Amtrak and you can see why it's not as popular as it might be. 

In the years immediately after WW II, the Douglas DC-3 was the main commercial airplane that had a cruising speed in the 150-180 range.  Even back then, airports were being built 'in the boonies' and the railroads in many cases with 100 MPH running could compete in the city center to city center competition.  Just as the NEC is competitive to air in city center to city center trips in today's world.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 5:08 PM

Yes Balt, what you said certainly makes sense.  However, the DC-3's wouldn't be the only ball game in town for long.  With the end of the war would come the Douglas DC-4, the Lockheed Constellation, and the Boeing Straocruiser, all much faster and more comfortable than the DC-3, so the railroad's attempt for higher speed would still be a lost cause.

On the other hand, flying was expensive back in those days and wouldn't become really economical until the jet airliners like the Boeing 707 came on the scene.  So, the railroads still had a bit of an advantage the airlines couldn't match, at least for awhile.  So, I still have to believe that an attempt to reach a 100mph running speed back then was unnecessary and uncalled for, an average of 75 to 90mph would have been adequate.

No question, the NEC is very competitive, and we can see why.  A good average speed, city center to city center travel, and no airport headaches like getting to the airport to begin with, and then all the security hoops to jump through.

And then as now, the airlines aren't going to fly through dirty weather like this if they can help it.  Give it a few seconds to load...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKqIWKNP4MQ

Imagine flying through that!  I don't think so!  I remember that 14th Street Bridge crash in DC back in the 80's.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 7:18 PM

Something that applies here is a line from the National Lampoon parody involving the Metroliners: "Speeding America Into the Fifties!"

Something you will recognize very, very quickly when looking at actual road records is that real "100mph" timings involve maximum speed far above 100mph, sustained for considerable time without intermediate slowdown, with few effective slow orders or restrictions.  Even today there are so many restrictions in so many sections of the "NEC" that practical overall speeds for most trains hover around the 75mph range.  That's cute, but not even remotely comparable to speeds for aircraft over the 100-150 mile trip range. 

And the real 'revolution' in turbojets wasn't the 707, abysmal as it was to prospects for real long-distance passenger trains.  It was the 747 on the one hand, and the 737 on the other, neatly bracketing any profitable thing a passenger train could competitively offer (for more than the short corridor-type ride with advantage over airport-access hassles and the like)

And (I'm sure to Joe McMahon's tooth-gnashing consternation, as well as mine!) Amtrak shows the white feather whenever weather even looks like becoming severe.  Or shuts down when another tree, or another part of the nearly-100-year-old cat structure, conveniently hits.  Airlines fly through far more rigorous weather situations than I think they should ... and with the present level of control and navigation aids, can probably do so at least as safely, and probably even more autonomously, than any Amtrak service running in current corridors.

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Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 7:43 PM

In a way, I can understand Amtrak or other railroads shutting down with really nasty weather.  They don't have the personnel to keep everything moving as it should like they did years ago.  Add to that many of the employees don't live near the tracks anymore, they have to drive to work like everyone else does.  Railroad workers walking to work are a athing of the past.

As good as that video I posted it, it give the wrong impression of NJ Transit trains today, so there's no ol' Jersey guy gloating from me how NJ Transit's getting it done while Amtrak isn't.  From what I've been reading the whole NJ Transit system's a shambles.

Seems like it's been all downhill since Hurricane Sandy.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 8:15 PM

Firelock76
Yes Balt, what you said certainly makes sense.  However, the DC-3's wouldn't be the only ball game in town for long.  With the end of the war would come the Douglas DC-4, the Lockheed Constellation, and the Boeing Straocruiser, all much faster and more comfortable than the DC-3, so the railroad's attempt for higher speed would still be a lost cause.

On the other hand, flying was expensive back in those days and wouldn't become really economical until the jet airliners like the Boeing 707 came on the scene.  So, the railroads still had a bit of an advantage the airlines couldn't match, at least for awhile.  So, I still have to believe that an attempt to reach a 100mph running speed back then was unnecessary and uncalled for, an average of 75 to 90mph would have been adequate.

No question, the NEC is very competitive, and we can see why.  A good average speed, city center to city center travel, and no airport headaches like getting to the airport to begin with, and then all the security hoops to jump through.

And then as now, the airlines aren't going to fly through dirty weather like this if they can help it.  Give it a few seconds to load...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKqIWKNP4MQ

Imagine flying through that!  I don't think so!  I remember that 14th Street Bridge crash in DC back in the 80's.

Yes the airlines did upgrade from the DC-3's as the plane manufacturers used the knowledge they learned from the War to improve their products - DC-4, DC-6, DC-7 and then Douglas in the 60's made the jump to the DC-8 and DC-9.  By the time the DC-8 and DC-9's became common air travel became the way to get there fast except in some rare corridors.

Considering all the slow areas railroads have to contend with in their routes - to be able to average 75 to 90 MPH on a route, when possible in the route the highest speeds possible have to be run for as long as possible so that the 75-90 MPH average can be attained.

Back in the day B&O Grand Central Station to Garrett - 150 miles was scheduled for a nominal 3 hours - 50 MPH.  The reality of the operation operating on trackage rights on the RI as well as crossing many of the railroad crossings at grade in the Chicago metropolitan area - the first 30 miles to Pine Jct was scheduled for One Hour.  Considering all the competition for track time between Grand Central and Pine Jct - delays were frequent and it was necessary to 'make up time' on the 'raceway' between Pine Jct. and Garrett.  Every mile at less than maximum speed is time expended and detracts from the overall average.

Regarding the video - I flew into and out of Washington National about three hours before the Air Florida disaster on the 14th Street bridge.  It was snowing at the times of my flights, although it was snowing harder at the time of the Air Florida incident.

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Posted by M636C on Thursday, November 22, 2018 7:28 AM

I thought I might return to the subject of the thread.

In Locomotive Profile 20 - The American 4-8-4s by Brian Reed, he refers to failures of axles and crank pins on 4-8-4s  as being more frequent than on other types.

"High bearing loads on the main pins took their toll In one batch of 4-8-4 fast freighters 22 main pins went the full statuatory mileage of 250 00 without removal for wear or cracking but 25 others were removed for excessive wear or cracking but 25 others were removed for excessive wear after an average of 125 000 miles and three broke."

This section is on pages 172 and 173 for those interested.

These loads and failures are indicated as a reason for the interest in duplex drive locomotives.

Peter

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Posted by Jones1945 on Thursday, November 22, 2018 7:34 AM

Firelock76

One thing that puzzles me is certain railroads obsession with 100 mile-per-hour running in the post-WW2 years.  Why?  What was to be gained?  They'd never beat aircraft in a speed race, so what was the point?  Bragging rights?  Was that really worth the expense and the risk?

Thank you for the question, Firelock76. My answer is....Absolutely yes! it worth the expense and the risk; In hindsight, it was a must to achieve 100mph for some RRs business survival when competing with airlines, automobiles including motorcycle, and long distance coach services like the greyhound. As Balt and Overmod pointed out, which I absolutely agree that the ability to reach, or able to reach 100mph at an acceptable time was a basic requirement to maintain the schedule for a heavy consist at a rather slow average speed (less than 75mph), let alone beating the aircraft speed.

The postwar challenge to RRs passenger service involved the rapid development of airplanes which providing feasible high-frequency services and successfully eliminated almost all long-distance overnight through trains without encountering any difficulties; popularize of automobiles and long-distance coach services benefit from the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. I think it was a reasonable act to concentrate the resource and men power for the development of aerospace engineering and automobile engineering. It was more in line with the national interests of the United States in the 1950s. Just as what the Central Government of China is doing right now where even third-tier cities are connected to the massive HSR network, one of the reasons behind is to minimize the dependence of aircraft due to their expensive cost and political bargaining power.

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Posted by Jones1945 on Thursday, November 22, 2018 7:43 AM

M636C

These loads and failures are indicated as a reason for the interest in duplex drive locomotives.

Thanks, Peter. Maybe this was why a duplex engine base on Niagara's design was proposed. 

 

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, November 22, 2018 8:40 AM

M636C
In Locomotive Profile 20 - The American 4-8-4s by Brian Reed, he refers to failures of axles and crank pins on 4-8-4s as being more frequent than on other types.

But this is one of the very reasons the Good Lord invented tandem rods.  It is hard to imagine a Niagara running very long at developed horsepower without the arrangement... or without Timken lightweight thin rods in the first place.  Even then the loads might be conducive to pin cracking at speed.

And the arrangement of lightweight rods 'as originally built' would not just endanger main pins.  Note the similarity of the Niagara layout to the original version on the J&W J class, with its long, tapered fourth-pair pins.  Which cracked and fractured fairly readily at the speeds the balancing design otherwise facilitated.  (I confess I don't understand the reason the third-to-fourth rods weren't carried inboard, like the first drivers' set are, but doubtless maintenance was an important factor...)

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, November 22, 2018 3:20 PM

Jones1945
Thanks, Peter. Maybe this was why a duplex engine based on Niagara's design was proposed.

Bear in mind that in my opinion the drawing here is almost certainly a fake, probably by the same person that did the "Ohio" class 4-8-6 drawing (which is largely redrawn using Allegheny details).  It does not reflect many of the significant details we know to be included in the C1a design (as of March 1945 ... remember that date carefully) -- the non-stop tender, outside-bearing lead truck, Baker gear, and workable smokebox length/Worthington heater position among them.  On the other hand it does reflect that the C1a was intended to have as near a Niagara boiler as possible (and yes, I have to wonder if that might have resulted in a T1-like rapid retirement when the great boiler-alloy disaster became manifest...)

From peripheral discussion we know that at the time the C1a was going to be the high-speed passenger locomotive, and the 75"-drivered Niagara the successor to the L4s as a (somewhat) more capable freight engine, on a par with the Rock Island & D&H designs the Niagara was initially derived from.  The 64T tender was an important part of this picture, as eliminating fuel stops gave a significant time saving on a number of prospective runs.

What happened, of course, was that the improved Niagara turned out to be most of the things the C1a intended, without the drawbacks and compromises that the duplex 'state of the art' then involved.  I don't remember if the S-class engines were pressure-derated because of bending rods (we had someone tell this as a Hudson story but it seems less likely to me) but if I recall correctly they were taken all the way down to 265psi and still, of course, fulfilled everything NYC could really demand of them.

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Posted by Miningman on Thursday, November 22, 2018 3:56 PM

The drawing was in Richard Leonard's NYC Fantasy Steam

 

The Pennsylvania Railroad's T-1 duplex drive locomotives, introduced in 1942 and produced in quantity in 1945-46, were the epitome of modern steam design in the United States with their poppet valves and striking "shark nose" streamlining. At the same time the New York Central was introducing its efficient but more conventional Niagara 4-8-4s.Not to be outdone by rival Pennsy, the Central's Motive Power Engineering Department proposed a design for a duplexed version of the Niagara, to be classed C-1a. (See the 1945 elevation, below). Class C had been assigned to the 4-4-0 or American type on the New York Central, but by 1945 the last of the 4-4-0s in Class C97b had been retired for several years.

The elephant-eared Niagara duplex was never built. Instead the Central, working with favored builder American Locomotive Company, borrowed the Dreyfuss streamlining of the ten last J-3 Hudsons of 1938 to create a main line duplex passenger locomotive as striking as the Pennsy's famed T-1. The five members of this eventual class C-1a, Nos. 6050-6054, performed well but were not repeated. A few lasted till 1964. Unlike the streamlined J-3 Hudsons, the C-1s kept their shrouding till they were scrapped. Here No. 6053 pauses at Chicago's Englewood station with the Commodore Vanderbilt.

A New York Central "Fantasy Steam" Feature

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Posted by NDG on Thursday, November 22, 2018 4:26 PM

 

 

Bending.
 
OT?
 
It is said the 3000s as built would bend their Main Rods when backing.
 
 
 
The 2900s were hand-fired, and Hated.
 
One was painted freight Black towards the end.
 
 
 
 

Thank You.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, November 22, 2018 4:50 PM

Miningman
The drawing was in Richard Leonard's NYC Fantasy Steam

Dr. Leonard said he got it from a physician circa 2010, who had scanned it from Staufer's NYC Later Power.  This and Staufer's ink drawings were my only source for C1a tech material until Hugh Guillaume graciously sent scans of his copy of the March 1945 spec.

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