Longest train pulled by a steam engine

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Longest train pulled by a steam engine

  • I realize that--for those who know--this will be a droll, trite, and amateuri***opic. But, give me a break; I didn't see steam (note the envy in my voice), and I have so little understanding of what it could and could not do.

    The post regarding RS-2 and how many cars they could pull got me thinking. I have always wondered that about steam engines.

    I realize things differ depending upon grade, type of cars, the type of steam engine, etc. So, if you could just tell me what you have seen. I would like to know about Northers and articulates but why limit it there? What is the longest train someone has seen pulled by a 10 wheeler or a Consolidation?


    P.S. No fish stories; I am counting on honesty to guide young minds like myself who are unfamiliar with the joy that is steam.
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  • I.too,have never seen steam,but you might find this interesting. The Southern Pacific crews in California's Central Valley,called thier 2-6-0s "Valley Malleys" as they could pull as many cars on level ground as the early cab forward articulated units could pull over Donner Pass.
    Ride Amtrak. Cats Rule, Dogs Drool.
  • http://hermann-weigl.de/steam/rekorde.htm

    The world´s strongest steam engines produced in series were the Big Boys of the Union Pacific Railroad. These mallets with the wheel arrangement 2 D D 2 had a lenght of 40.5 m, weighed 545 tons, provided 6000kW, and had a tractive effort of 609 kN. This was sufficient to tow loads of 4000 tons across the climbing slope of the Sherman pass that had a climb of 4.6 %. A Big Boy was even able to keep going a freight train of 650 freight cars that had a weight of 27000 tons and a length of nearly 10 km (32800 feet), after it had been pushed into motion.
    Big Boys were not only big and heavy, they also reached a maximum speed of 130 km/h (80 mph) which was extremely extraordinary for a Mallet of this size. On the plain they led freight trains up to 6000 t, but they also pulled 3200-ton-trains across the 8%-slope between Carter and Green River at an average speed of 78 km/h (48 mph).

    I don't know who their sources are and note the 10km train was "after it had been pushed into motion".
  • ...I'm not sure I can follow you in your stated grades of 4.6% and 8%...You might want to clarify that a bit please....
    Some years ago it was published of a train of about 5 miles in length and I believe it was on the N&W by steam power...How many engines used to do it I don't recal.
    Gabe: I am old enough to have witnessed steam for some time....and standing near as one loaded coal train blasted through on a grade of up to 2% or a bit more with one engine on front and two pushing was an experience worth remembering....It was awesome to the point the ground would shake as it thundered past doing the work necessary to keep the heavy train moving...Oh, so impressive..!! Time frame: 40's.


  • QUOTE: Originally posted by Modelcar

    ...I'm not sure I can follow you in your stated grades of 4.6% and 8%...You might want to clarify that a bit please....

    I'd call those grades a mistake.[;)] It's a German site, maybe he was tripped up by Engli***o Metric conversions.
  • 8%? Maybe with a cog system between the rails. I'd doubt anything could keep wheels from slipping at that angle.
  • You got me thinking about long trains again, Gabe.

    About what kind of lengths today's trains can reach and still be practicable.

    I know it's not uncommon for the CN in my area to run contrainer trains upwards of 12,000 feet, and I think the longest they ever ran out of roberts bank was 14,000 feet. That was with all power on the head end.

    There seem to be a few major obstacles that get in the way of these great long trains.
    1) Coupler/Drawbar strength
    2) Infrastructure (Grade Crossings being blocked and yard tracks/sidings only being so long)
    3) Time it takes to charge the train up, especially in the winter/cold weather
    4) Time it takes the train to get through temporary slow orders
    5) Time it takes to do inspections and give the train a brake test

    I always like seeing the long trains, but it seems that there are too many obstacles in today's world too see trains get too much more longer than they are already running.

    I'm sure with DPUs trains could essentially reach 25,000 feet, but at that point, everything around them would simply come to a grinding halt..... everything from the time it takes for the train to double over again and again and again to yard, to the length of times crossings would be blocked, even if the train was traveling at 20 - 30MPH.

    It would be cool to see, though.
  • In his book "Trains in Transition" Lucius Beebe had a number of captions under photos of perfectly ordinary 2-8-2s and noted they were pulling 100 cars. These were typically midwestern shots, not mountain railroading. Cars were lighter back then of course; on the other hand they usually had friction bearings not roller bearings. I always assumed a 2-8-0 on level track was good for 30 to 50 cars (obviously a huge Reading or D&H 2-8-0 is a whole different machine than a Union Pacific 2-8-0) while a Mikado should be good for 40 to 75 cars again on level track. The Nickle Plate berkshires could haul long trains, over 75 cars, at speed.
    Speaking of strong don't forget the DM&IR yellowstones -- massive engines with smaller drivers than a Big Boy and quite possibly more tractive effort.

    Beebe could get fancy with his writing and it might be he did not count the cars up to 100, he really just meant "lots and lots of cars." But on level straight track it would seem possible for a Mike to pull 100 cars. Getting a train started was always the hardest thing for steam. Running at speed was the easiest (diesels are just the opposite). The Pennsylvania RR Class T 4-4-4-4 was so slippery that 0-6-0 switchers would shove a passenger train out of a depot if it was pulled by a T-1. The Milwaukee Road also sometimes needed a shove out of the Milwaukee Depot. There is a famous story about how the crew of the 0-6-0 was not able to uncouple from the Hiawatha after it left Milwaukee for the twin cities -- the tower operator at Duplainville was surprised to see the train go by at 100 mph with an 0-6-0 coupled behind with a terrified looking crew and the drivers spinning madly.
    Dave Nelson
  • I know that the UPRR biggest customer APL arranged to have one of their doublestack trains pulled by steam back I think in the 90s. I saw pix of it. Maybe they will be able to tell you how many wells the train actually was. Each 5 well set is 260'. So every 20 5 well sets is about 1 mile

    Living nearby to MP 186 of the UPRR  Austin TX Sub

  • Lucius Beebe was also an author of a few other books and alot of his pictures showed steam at work in front of large trains. One of his pictures showed a 2-8-2 mikado lugging 15 or so cars up a 1 to 2% grade and then another would show the same type of engine running 70+ out of town on the flat.

    I recall that a C&O 2-10-4 was designed and built to carry 160 empty hoppers between Cincinati and Toledo needing only a helper at the Ky/Ohio State line where a extremly large bridge with a serious hill awaits.

    The B&O 2-10-2's that is on the internet with data from a demonstration run out west was able to handle trains at a fuel and water savings as well as do the same work somewhat faster than the equivilant power of the time.

    The 2-8-8-2 y6B mallets were tops in the east coast mountains as they were able to keep even the biggest coal drag moving almost regardless of the terrain. One of Beebe's photos showed THREE of these at the head end and you can only imagine how many loads was being shoved and dragged over that line.

    However the Norfolk and Western insisted on using 2-6-6-4's to get the same coal train rolling at 50 mph or more.

    I think at Hinton they would use the Desiel Switcher to assist a steam powered train to break the inertia sorta like having two soldiers hoist a paratrooper with full kit heavier than he can carry into the airlift plane. Once moving the steam could keep it going.

    The Cotton Belt 4-8-4 known as the Project 819 that is in Pine Bluff Arkansas undergoing restoration was said to be capable of hauling 18-25 passenger cars at some speed. Some of the videos shown on the engine indicated behavior of such power that it looked as if it was very difficult to keep the throttle closed until the entire thing was clear of the station and railfans.

    The Cass Senic Railroad had shays. Some of which were the largest ever made. There is one part of the railroad where you can stand on one switch and lean over to look down one way and look up on the other track these engines were not very fast but you thought twice about walking down that hill.

    The B&O railroad used Yellowstones 2-8-8-4 to get trains out of Brunswick Maryland (the farthest east they were permitted) past Harper's Ferry and westward up a punishing grade of some miles. I think they call this one the Sand Patch but not sure.. need to double check that. Anyways all west bound trains usually pound across Harper's bridges trying to gain as much momentum and speed as they can There are some hills beyond that into the region of Cumberland Md and up towards Ft. Necessity that rivals anything the west can offer.

    I have heard recordings of the Cresent Limited, East Broad Top and other locomotives under steam and heavy loads laboring under grades in thier regions and you have to wonder if they would make it to the top before burning up all the fuel and boiling off all the water. The safetys would be crying all the way uphill.

    And finally the PRR had engines such as the J1 2-10-4 built to handle wartime traffic at tonnage ratings very close to the mighty articulateds of the day. Other engines such as the 4-4-4-4 duplex had so much pull they could not find the traction to use that pull. It literally would get spun off and wasted until they could get the train moving. Once they got a hold..stand back!

    I think they created a triplex and found that the boiler was too small to keep the cylinders fed at anything over 20 mph. And the ill-fated Jawn Henry could start anything man could hook up but only move at 4 mph or so they said.

    Steam or Desiel the problem is the same... The bigger and heavier the train there is always a point as described in the earlier posts that it defeats itself.
  • All these stories are great; especially the one about the switch engine that couldn't uncouple from the Hiawatha. Assuming the crew lived, it is a very amusing story. Can you imagine how fast those small wheels and drive bars had to be spinning?

  • 8% grade with straight adhesion is possible. the Centrail Railroad of Peru does it daily, but with short trains.

    It the story about the Hiawatha and the pusher is true, the yard-engine most probably ruined the drivers and cylinders. but the pusher shouldn't couple to the train it helps starting.
  • QUOTE: The world´s strongest steam engines produced in series were the Big Boys of the Union Pacific Railroad.

    I had always been under the impression that the Q2 series of duplexes on the Pennsylvania were the most powerful steam locomotives. The Big Boys were the largest, but I thought the Q2's rated at over 8000 Horsepower, and boatloads of tractive effort.

    I would guess some of the Y classes on the N&W would come in ahead of the Big Boy in pulling power, too. They were big, and extraordinarily efficient machines (one of the reasons steam lasted longer on the N&W).

    Chris May
    Denver, CO

    "A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed." ~Ansel Adams

  • M K: An 8% grade would prevent a normal sized steam engine of a class one {say in the 40's}, from pulling much of anything up that much of a grade even if it could attain adhesion.
    I would imagine the Peru line would be using an engine with really small wheels or maybe even a Shay type geared locomotive to operate on such a grade.....and would be limited very much of what load it could take with it....8% is steep...even for a highway.


  • ....I have seen information regarding the same conclusion on high horsepower in steam engines...and it was that the Pennsylvana Q2 was the one with the most massive power.