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N&W A, Y5 and Y6 economic lifespan ?

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N&W A, Y5 and Y6 economic lifespan ?
Posted by nanaimo73 on Sunday, April 4, 2021 2:25 PM

N&W retired these locomotives during 1958, 1959 and 1960, and it looks like they replaced them with the RS-11 and GP9. I am wondering how long they should have been used, from a purely economic stand? Would it have made sense to use the A and Y5 until 1966, when the SD40 came out, and the Y6 until the SD40-2 was available in 1972?

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, April 4, 2021 5:25 PM

Theoretically they should have had anywhere from a thirty to forty year lifespan given proper maintanance, which the N&W was renowned for anyway.

A lot of N&W fans (And probably more than a few N&W officials) think and thought they could have been used very sucessfully right through the 1960s, but honestly the environmental laws coming on the books in the 70's would have killed them.  

Steam engines are exempt from air pollution laws, but only because there's so few of them around now. 

N&W did benefit from waiting so long (compared to the others) to dieselize, by doing so they avoided all the mistakes the other railroads made.  When they finally bought road diesels they bought Geeps and didn't bother with anything else.  

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, April 4, 2021 6:14 PM

This is an interesting question, because it has nothing to do with the actual economic lifespan of the latter classes of N&W steam power, only with the perceived diesel alternatives.  The practical lifespan of a locomotive like a Y6 or A was virtually unlimited, really determined by the practical costs of maintaining a place like Shaffer's Crossing in operating condition, and by emergent 'crystallization' in the cast engine beds.  Everything else ... with key exceptions ... was like the old joke about the hatchet Washington cut the cherry tree down with -- 'here it is! of course, it's had three new heads and seven broken handles since then, but it's the same hatchet'.  Or the modern equivalent that is a 'restored' historical classic car...

The problem was that a range of specialty equipment, too expensive to 'make' or protected by dog-in-the-manger patents, became unobtainable in the Fifties, and railroads heavily dependent on this found it impossible to justify keeping the whole top-heavy structure of steam power going.  To a certain extent this became self-fulfilling; as the remaining steam railroads progressively threw in the towel, each successive step became more obvious.  But I have little doubt that even a motivated N&W would have kept on with steam any longer than, say, NKP did ... and note what a logical fit a steam NKP and a steam N&W would have represented at historical merger time!

If we assume that the powers-that-be (some of whom would famously go on to wreck Penn Central) had not buffaloed N&W into quick abolition of steam, the logical power would not have been four-motor anything.  For example there were 2400hp six-motor units in being at that point, even one early enough to have a 244 engine.  As I recall, in fact a set of six-motor Alcos were indeed tested early on N&W, and they were adopters of Century-series (C630, but not C636, which may be due to the Hi-Ad truck issues) by the mid-Sixties, but whether steam would have been carried over to 1965 and later to be replaced then is not, I think, that likely. 

Whether it would have 'made sense' to keep steam late is an issue dependent on bottom-line cost and perception at the railroad.  In my opinion, absent the issue with auxiliaries, the Y6s could have been simply modified to run 45mph or faster with low augment in compound, extending their 'reach' in reality to better match the hype that they were the modern last word in advanced running.  And these would have been perfectly valid in the service N&W would need them -- including many of the time freights -- right up to the point the EPA would put them effectively out of business, which would presumptively be very quickly after 1970.

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Posted by Juniatha on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 1:59 AM

Overmod wrote (among many more things) 

"The practical lifespan of a locomotive like a Y6 or A was virtually unlimited"

 

Another one innocent of the Wöhler graph of aging of steel, see if you like: https://www.ing-hanke.de/know-how/woehlerkurve/

No technical machine has a 'virtually unlimited' lifespan because of - see above. If nothing else ... Mind, the people restoring classic cars, airplanes or locomotives are fighting just the decay caused by aging (and rust of course).

 

The lifespan of technical things is mostly defined by their 'economic' life. That is, not to speak of the precipitous throw away of steam for dieselization, a lifespan during which maintenance stays decently low, functionality is secure and the machine does not become too obsolete or consumption becomes too high. Regarding all that, economic lifespan of steam locomotives was mostly considered to be between 30 and 40 years. If the engines were hard pressed in service which the N&W steam engines surely were, economic lifespan would likely be considered somewhat shorter, say 25 to 30 years. Taking into account that full boiler welding was unknown even to the 'North Folk and Wikings' in Roanoke, economic lifespan would have to be even shorter because it would be determined by the date a full firebox replacement would become due. Another limiting factor just with cast steel beds including cylinders would be limit of re-boring of cylinders, yet another would be full replacement of the complex wheelsets. Each of these, depending on what came due first, would end the economic lifespan of such a locomotive. Considering the trouble encountered with the dual coupling rods and split forces drive pin arrangement, I would estimate the economic lifespan of an N&W 4-8-4 more like 25 years, same with the A class. The Y-6 might have been 25 to 30 years, more becoming obsolete in the end.

 

Since they all were built in the 1940s, they would thus go from 1965 to early '70s. Roughly the same would apply for the NKP Berkshires. You could prolong the economic lifespan of the 2-8-4s by rebuilding them with new fully welded boilers the sooner the better. It should go along with an improved valve gear for better economy and higher output at speed. It would demand some thinking and unusual acquisitions to continue with steam while all the former industry has gone down the drain, but it would have been possible.

 

To throw in the consequences of what a partner it would make in mergers means putting cause and consequence upside down. At the time in question, no one ever thought of such wide mergers as later happened. If we have steam continue into the 1960s and even 70s, then such a point would have come due - but then it had been as it were, whatever the consequence. 

 

But another question has not been ventilated: what about if the steam-turbine-electric would have been a success? The main trouble that finally killed the experiment was coal dust in electric components. That was not an unsolvable problem. Around the time when most all American railroads had fully adopted the diesel, time of keeping fuel price low to promote the business was over. How could an economic steam-turbine-electric have fared in this newly set stage of competition? It could have superseded the SE-Mallets, while the 4-8-4 would have remained since in passenger train service the advantage of an all-driven wheel arrangement would not have been compelling nor significant.

 

Still, in the 1970s it would have become silent about steam and the circle of roundabouts of remaining engines would have dwindled quickly.

 

Meanwhile, however, public would have fully realized what a future without any steam would really mean and might have jumped upon those last N&W steam and bought a significant number of them into preservation. There might be quite a number of J and A classes around today, preserved in cold and warm condition, more than every second steam trip would be powered by an ex N&W engine and there might be one or the other steam railroad using such engines in quasi-regular service.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 7:41 AM

Keep in mind when I say 'virtually' that does not mean 'unconditionally'.  The actual metallurgical issues regarding 'aging' of cast-steel frames -- the thing referred to as 'crystallization' when I was first exposed to it in the early '70s, back in the dark ages before creep mechanisms were really understood -- are interesting.

I see no reasons why the methods used to remediate the problems in the cast-steel GG1 underframes to suit them for higher-speed service would not work for GSC-style engine beds.  You would need more careful control of your jigs and supports, and probably even longer soak times and careful thermal management.

The alternative of fabricating a proper modern frame using lost-foam castings combined with properly cut and hydroformed material is of course also an option for 'extending the practical life' of a large engine should, for any reason, its cast bed become damaged beyond practical remediation.  Whether this is cost-effective considering the locomotive purely as an economic asset in railroading, as in some schemes of 'plandampf', is of course an issue unrelated to whether it can be done technically.

Understanding the failures of the steam-turbine-electrics in the late '40s and '50s takes a little careful scrutiny to 'unwind'.  The surviving material at the Hagley paints an almost comical picture regarding Baldwin's development of what became the C&O M-1 turbines; the PRR people were convinced a significant part of the secrecy and 'accelerated development' was to get around a couple of Carleton Steins' patents -- it shows in the detail design.  One thing I heard was that the coal dust 'electrical' problem also involved inevitable moisture getting into the traction-motor cooling path. This would cause conductive carbon fines to accumulate in the motor casings, much like brush dust in EMDs; when the locomotive goes across something like a low rail joint or hard grade crossing, the dust levitates around the commutator and gives you the dreaded flashover.  Personally I suspect widespread and nearly-impossible-to-track transient ground faults, which could be thought of as a Baldwin specialty of sorts.

Meanwhile, the progressive "improvement" that led to all-wheels-motored and then adoption of nose-suspended 'diesel trucks on span bolsters' for the TE-1 was not Baldwin's finest hour.  While I think much of the 'problem' with that locomotive could be attributed to Newton's belief of uncorrected drop damage of one of the Westinghouse generators, it does have to be remembered that the very specific thing that ended Jawn's career was the heavy damage to the traction motors.  I have seen nothing to date indicating this was a 'coal dust' or other contaminant problem -- it was electrical overload.  And it takes a LOT of trying to cook a Westinghouse hexapole traction motor, especially if a somewhat anemic 4500hp is being distributed across 12 of them.  I have vague suspicions about just how this came to be, some of them originating in the original 'embroidered' story that Baldwin told N&W about getting 65mph road speed out of the TE-1 (this not just involving quoting the gear ratio in "mph" instead of teeth and letting the implication stand that you could get the locomotive to go that fast).

As Newton pointed out, any STE of the complexity of the Baldwin design, with the boiler limitation to ~4500hp (Tom Blasingame carefully worked up enlarging the chain-grate boiler to 6000hp, which is still too little to justify the idea, and concluded it would not work well) would not be competitive with improved-booster-valve 2-8-8-2s built for about a third the cost and involving no fragile components.  That no railroads bought into truck-borne STEs even in a world of full OTS truck and motor component compatibility, and that the diesel 'equivalent' of large single-unit locomotives in the following two decades likewise 'failed to thrive' should tell you nearly all you'd need to know about 'practical markets' for a TE-1 even with its bugs worked out.

Meanwhile we can identify reasonably well what the "correct" envelope for a practical modern STE would be: about 8800hp, comparable to a pair of modern 4400hp diesel-electrics.  Higher horsepower using noncondensing steam hits the same water-rate wall that killed the original PRR V1; higher horsepower with condensing steam hits all sorts of technical issues with convoluted, at best, prospective solutions; higher unit horsepower foundered as a marketing appeal in the United States even when cavitation and other problems in poorly-conceived 6000hp Diesel engines could be resolved.

With the advent of legislation after 1970, which in addition to issues of combustion pollutants would have eliminated -- for example -- the use of self-cleaning front ends in steam locomotives, many of the prospective advantages in papers like Brown's (written around 1961) diminish or disappear.  The economics of Kiefer's comparative testing in the late '40s presume large, fast, regular consists with controlled turnaround and guaranteed utilization, something highly uncharacteristic of most freight railroading and even less applicable in most of today's "PSR" operation.  The relatively few places where long periods of relatively constant high-horsepower running are still potentially valuable are in geographic areas traditionally known for water problems...

There was a very interesting attempt at providing 'steam' utilization of the kind in the last paragraph, in service to Warnambool in Australia a couple of decades ago.  This was very carefully thought out as a startup: it only involved 'the last run of the day' with a guaranteed clientele (I believe sports or racing); the locomotives involved were rebuilt to suit the service better, and 'improved' in some interesting ways; careful planning for support and service was arranged.  I am still surprised that service did not succeed.

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Posted by Sara T on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 2:56 PM

I'm not a technical expert, and while Juni is, you have managed to turn her off with your scrutinizing elaborated detailed snip-snap taking apart of her postings into small, tiny and tiniest particles so that all lose their context in that process and look only at special cases which blurrs the general picture.

Like I see that you seem to know all and everything about what this historical steam turbine electric loco did or didn't and why and what failed in which way. From that you let on that it must be quite impossible to put all those shortcomings right and therefore it would be impossible to build a new such engine that really works. Since all that is only extrapolated from the old loco including all its errors you ignore and you make disappear from view any technological progress, the things Juni takes into account.

That is why she comes to the conclusion it would be possible and that's what she meant writing about a successful loco and you come to the contrasting conclusion it would not be possible.

Now I must write: you should stop this, you don't come to where ends meet. And I have a certain decided feeling you don't want to, yours is not a technical discussion, you just want to take her posting apart. You can't let her posting stand unimpaired.

I don't like that, stop fooling with my friend!

Sara 

 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 4:51 PM

Sara T
Like I see that you seem to know all and everything about what this historical steam turbine electric loco did or didn't and why and what failed in which way. From that you let on that it must be quite impossible to put all those shortcomings right and therefore it would be impossible to build a new such engine that really works. Since all that is only extrapolated from the old loco including all its errors you ignore and you make disappear from view any technological progress, the things Juni takes into account. That is why she comes to the conclusion it would be possible and that's what she meant writing about a successful loco and you come to the contrasting conclusion it would not be possible.

I said nearly the exact opposite with regard to the possibility of modern steam power; I have been involved in working on designs for it for many years and continue to be actively involved in it.  All I'm discussing are some of the economic preconditions about what would be practical for freight locomotive adoption in a presently diesel-centric world, which should not be taken either as denigration or any attempt at one-upsmanship: if Juni were to disagree, the discussion is about steam power, not anyone's particular view (or prejudice, as in certain other threads) regarding it.

As it happens that I have worked very specifically on remediation of cast-steel GSC frames, and on design of modern alternatives to cast engine beds for large reciprocating locomotives, I feel qualified to comment on whether locomotives need to be considered "worn out" at some point merely due to metal fatigue considerations in cast-steel engine beds (or frames).  That is as far as that particular discussion of posting needs to go; if there are technical reasons why what I said was wrong (and I would greatly enjoy hearing a level technical discussion of why that might be the case) it is simple just to state them on a non-ad-hominem basis.

As I thought I was carefully agreeing or supporting almost all the other details Juni has posted about in the past several days, I cannot quite figure out where any hostility can be objectively coming from.  It is CERTAINLY not an intent to 'take anything of her posting apart', and even less an attempt to denigrate her personally in any way.  We have been over this ground before, and I'd like to think that is understood to be the case.

I will say that it is important to keep discussion of errors in 'historical' steam designs carefully separate from discussion of more modern possibilities.  There are many interesting potential details that can make modern steam, both reciprocating and 'turbine', more effective as well as more efficient, and that can be a basis for many discussions.  But that is very different from looking at historical designs outside their context.  (And this is in turn very different from discussing 'alternate history' development of older types of 'advanced' locomotive in the context of what was possible or practicable to 'do differently' to make them better or more successful in their day, which is inherently the perspective that any discussion of 'could the TE-1 have been successfully marketed in the late '50s?' is concerned.  As it happens I have spoken with some of the people at N&W who specifically cancelled the research going forward, so when I say details about that I am speaking from more than some technological name-dropping perspective.  But that is not intended to cut off debate because of some assumed superior knowledge; it is just more perspective about why that particular line of development did not continue at the time, with a few added remarks about why it was not resumed in later development in the next couple of decades.

To those who don't like technical discussions: no one is making you read them.  I would be delighted to see more threads written about more generally interesting subjects, or even about those 'timeless topics' we seem to keep returning and returning and returning to.  If you think any posting of mine is 'over the line' you are perfectly free to PM me and request details be changed, and I will change them (it may take more than a few minutes as I'm seldom where I can access the PM system).  Note that I have already removed at least one post that was assumed to be critical of someone although not intended to be -- removed it out of courtesy.  I will cheerfully do so again for the same reason.  While there are a great many voices that need to be heard on these forums, mine is not particularly one.

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Posted by Sara T on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 6:20 PM

Overmod,

Ok, now I have written you a personal message about it. 

It has two sides, mind them both. Thank you and looking 

for the best

0S5A0R0A3

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 6:23 PM

Sara T
It has two sides, mind them both.

I have not read it yet, but you may be assured that I will.

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Posted by Backshop on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 6:37 PM

The economic lifespan cannot be determined solely by the locomotive itself and what it's made of.  If all other classes of N&W steam had been retired, it would have been idiotic to keep steam servicing and repair facilities (and people) around in addition to the ones for the diesels.  Crews would've had to be trained on both types.  That may work well during a relatively short changeover period but would be problematic over a many year span.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 7:56 PM

Backshop
The economic lifespan cannot be determined solely by the locomotive itself and what it's made of.  If all other classes of N&W steam had been retired, it would have been idiotic to keep steam servicing and repair facilities (and people) around in addition to the ones for the diesels.  Crews would've had to be trained on both types.  That may work well during a relatively short changeover period but would be problematic over a many year span.

This is not an unrecognized issue, but my answer will have to wait until i get to a device on which the page doesn't keep spontaneously blanking.

This was obviously a concern for the ACE project, which involved a very wide range of technologies not found in any shop operations present in the '80s for railroads that would be buying and running fleets of ACE3000s or equivalent.  There was of course zero point zero possibility of eliminating diesel shop servicing on those railroads.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 9:53 PM

The original GE locomotives built for the Milwaukee were starting to be retired just shy of the 50 year mark, and very few were left at the end of electric operation some 58 years after initial operation. Common reason for retirement was a broken frame.

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 7:34 AM

The PCC streetcars on Ashmont - Mattapan. Boston, were built 1945.  The equipment of Manx Electric, Isle of Man, is the original from its opening, before 1900.  The DD1s from Penn Station's opening in 1910, hauled LIRR freight through WWII and passengers Jamaica - Penn Station to 1949, then two worked for the Station sand tunnels wire train until after ther PC merger 1971.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 10:12 AM

Erik, the frames on the EF1 and EP1 are characteristic of older design with relatively thin and sometimes even fabricated construction.  They are not representative of the one-piece-casting characteristic of what became GSC practice ("the only things we can't cast here are an engineer and fireman")

A better example would be the cracking, and presumptive causes, in the GG1 frames around the time of proposed rebuilding for higher speed in the mid-'70s.  That in turn is a different thing from the accelerated freakshow that was PRR P5a frame cracking through the '60s (culminating in the always-amusing reason those locomotives tended to have such shiny recently-repainted frames so much of the time... Surprise)

 

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Posted by PNWRMNM on Saturday, April 10, 2021 9:39 PM

nanaimo73

N&W retired these locomotives during 1958, 1959 and 1960, and it looks like they replaced them with the RS-11 and GP9. I am wondering how long they should have been used, from a purely economic stand? Would it have made sense to use the A and Y5 until 1966, when the SD40 came out, and the Y6 until the SD40-2 was available in 1972?

Dale,

I believe the answer is that N&W retired its steam engines when it made economic sense to do so.

I have no doubt that they ran an extensive Net Present Value analysis of future costs and benefits before deciding. 

The issue was not just how much would it cost to maintain the engines, but also coal and water facilities, and a small army of maintenance and water service people for steam compared with loan payments on new diesels, the cost of new maintenance facilities, net scrap value of scraping steam and removing steam facilities, and huge reduction in cost of labor to maintain the power with diesels.

That N&W dieselized late means that they could be assured that they were accurate in their analysis.

The point is not that steam could have been physically maintained at ever increasing cost, but that diesels would do the job going forward for less cost. If steam was 'only half worn out', in the physical sense, the implication of your question, it is irrelevant. That is a sunk cost issue which is irrelevant in capital budgeting decisions. The question is about minimizing costs going forward. 

Mac McCulloch 

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Saturday, April 10, 2021 10:06 PM

PNWRMNM

I believe the answer is that N&W retired its steam engines when it made economic sense to do so.

I'm tempted to believe that the timing of N&W's steam locomotive retirement was tied to the N&W and VGN merging. The VGN had a very modern electrification which was also the victim of the merger. Steam was unique to the N&W, electric unique to the VGN but diesels were common to both.

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Posted by Sara T on Sunday, April 11, 2021 9:43 AM

Apart from any merger considerations, just by the fact that continuing the given steam locomotives until the improved diesels had appeared would obviously have saved the N&W to buy or rent a whole generation of diesels: the first ones that by objective measurement have not been the best (or else, why would they have been replaces so soon?) Since a diesel loco cost several times more than a steam loco and you needed more than one diesel to replace one big steam loco (quite the oposite of what diesel builders advertised!) to save expenses on one generation of these by using the locos that were there would clearly have avoided substantial costs for N&W. 

Of course, the diesel fans here will not agree because to them a steam locomotive devours all the resorces of a railway (wonder how they had come through until the diesels were available?  rightly they should all have gone bankrupt from the mantenance and millions of workers costs of steam?) while a diesel loco demands close to nothing, yes, a trifle bit of fuel, less than a truck probably and all in all so little a driver could have brought it in a quarter bottle for a weeks shift.  What a wonderful machine such a two cycle diesel loco was, sorry, is! (you sense: to me it's a machine of yesteryears, without any future and just about to make US railroads stay behind modern, efficient today's traction more and more)

I know, I know, I know ...

Sara

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Posted by Backshop on Sunday, April 11, 2021 10:12 AM

Sara T

Of course, the diesel fans here will not agree because to them a steam locomotive devours all the resorces of a railway (wonder how they had come through until the diesels were available?  rightly they should all have gone bankrupt from the mantenance and millions of workers costs of steam?) while a diesel loco demands close to nothing, yes, a trifle bit of fuel, less than a truck probably and all in all so little a driver could have brought it in a quarter bottle for a weeks shift.  

The difference is that when all the railroads had steam locomotives, their costs were similar.  Once some converted to diesels, their costs were much lower than the ones that still operated large fleets of steamers.  Look at my username.  How many backshops and roundhouses are still in use?  Very few.  Look at CSX and NS.  They have combined their backshops into Huntington and Altoona, respectively, IIRC.  The railroads that they include had major shops in Reading, Collinwood, Sayre, Hornell, Waycross, Jacksonville, Louisville, Columbus, Albany, Springfield, Beechgrove and many others.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, April 11, 2021 11:24 AM

For what it might be worth, the decision to 'dieselize' the N&W rapidly was made by lawyers who had come to be in charge of the railroad, and was made on criteria significant to lawyers having little to do with how effectively the locomotives worked.  Their criteria were not 'our' criteria, but the ones with their fingers on the gold made the rules.  

I do not know whether the VGN merger had an impact on the decision.  There were specific deadhead requirements on electric equipment utilization that were the stated reasons for abolishing the electrification, which would not have applied equally to steam.  While not directly comparable, N&W's own Elkhorn Grade electrification was summarily abandoned in favor of steam, instead of being rebuilt with more modern equipment, when the new tunnel and grade improvements were made there in 1950.

It might have been interesting to see if Brown's paper in the early '60s would have affected their perceptions, but I suspect it would not.

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Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Sunday, April 11, 2021 11:43 AM

Backshop

 

 
Sara T

Of course, the diesel fans here will not agree because to them a steam locomotive devours all the resorces of a railway (wonder how they had come through until the diesels were available?  rightly they should all have gone bankrupt from the mantenance and millions of workers costs of steam?) while a diesel loco demands close to nothing, yes, a trifle bit of fuel, less than a truck probably and all in all so little a driver could have brought it in a quarter bottle for a weeks shift.  

 

 

The difference is that when all the railroads had steam locomotives, their costs were similar.  Once some converted to diesels, their costs were much lower than the ones that still operated large fleets of steamers.  Look at my username.  How many backshops and roundhouses are still in use?  Very few.  Look at CSX and NS.  They have combined their backshops into Huntington and Altoona, respectively, IIRC.  The railroads that they include had major shops in Reading, Collinwood, Sayre, Hornell, Waycross, Jacksonville, Louisville, Columbus, Albany, Springfield, Beechgrove and many others.

 

 

I kind of wonder about that, too, especially with claims from various sources including the Brown studies of lower maintenance costs for steam over diesel.

Starting a diesel locomotive is a little more complicated than hopping into the driver's seat of a car and turning a key (I don't own a recent-generation car, do you now wave a "key fob" and press a button?).  But yes, bringing up a steam locomotive from a cold condition is much more complicated and lengthy than cranking a diesel, and this appears to be inherent in the combination of solid-fuel combustion with a Rankine cycle.  The electric power companies use steam cycles, both in coal that is being phased out and in combined cycle natural gas, which for now is still being used, where those plants are relegated to "base load" on account of their low fuel costs whereas other type of plants are used (straigh-cycle gas turbine) when you need to "turn a key" to start one to meet a demand peak.

So I don't know how the alleged lower maintenance cost of steam squares with all of the startup prep and grate cleanings, but there were systems of operation that helped, whether the Lubritoriums on the old N&W or what Wardale described in China, of keeping a locomotive in continuous road service between boiler washouts.

The other thing about backshops is that diesels moved the "backshop" to the manufacturer's warehouse of replacement parts.  Diesel maintenance is more parts-replacement than fixing parts?

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?
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Posted by seppburgh2 on Sunday, April 11, 2021 2:12 PM
I can't recall where I read this, the decision to remove steam was market driven. Steam was considered, by the late 50's to be out of time, not modern, old fashion. There was some merger due in 1960 that drove steam being finally removed in order to hit a specific market price. Can't recall if this was in Trains, a book, or another publication. My two cents.
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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, April 11, 2021 3:19 PM

.

Sorry, this was supposed to have been in a PM

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Posted by Sara T on Sunday, April 11, 2021 4:05 PM

Backshop,

bad organization and work procedures in steam times and better organization and work procedures in diesel times prove to you the efficiency of the diesel, to me it proves the efficiency of the improved organization and work procedures.

You could ultimately prove the grand efficiency of the diesel by saying "Diesel locos don't need any maintenance because we always scrap them shortly before!"

Backshop - there are little shops recently called 'Backshop' in Germany. Guess what they make?

Smile

Sara 

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Posted by Backshop on Sunday, April 11, 2021 6:12 PM

Wrong.  Most of the maintenance required of a steam locomotive doesn't apply to diesels.  Steam locomotives were "bespoke" for each railroad.  Diesels introduced volume economy.  Diesels last at least as long as steam locomotives.  

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, April 11, 2021 6:42 PM

Paul,

On modern diesels you do indeed push a button to start the engine from inside the cab.  If it was manually shut down you first close the main battery switch and turn a bunch of breakers on.  But it's quite easy and clean, you don't even need to put on gloves to do it. 

Older units require going back to a start station in the engine compartment.  But it's still quite easy and only takes a few minutes.  And if the batteries are dead (or no air is left on units with air starters) you need only find another unit, and you can boost the dead one with large jumper cables in the same manner you would a automobile (air-start units are even easier, just couple the two and connect the main reservoir air line). 

No boiler washouts, ash disposal, or manual greasing of moving parts (except replenishing journal oil on those first-gen units with plain axle bearings).  No need to maintain water tanks all across the land (Santa Fe was especially thrilled about this), and the number of fueling stations could be greatly reduced.  Even first-gen diesels could go days or weeks without requiring servicing inside the shop, while even the best steam engines required fairly heavy and labourious servicing at least once a day. 

Even N&W, with its modernized shop layouts, lubritoriums and roller bearings, could not find a way to cut the maintenance costs of steam down far enough to beat the diesel.  And as labourer's wages crept up in post-war America (not such a bad thing overall) the gap continued to increase.

Don't get me wrong, I love steam as much as anyone on these forums, and I think my record of volunteering at a railway museum speaks to that.  But I do understand and accept why steam disappeared from regular service. 

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Juniatha on Sunday, April 11, 2021 8:26 PM

Backshop wrote "Most of the maintenance required of a steam locomotive doesn't apply to diesels.  "

Gee - che-che-che !

That's a good one!

Most of the maintenance required by steam doesn't apply to diesels:

... like boiler washout, stoker engine or oil-firing appurtenances, tender bogies lubrication, tubes blowing / cleaning, water treatment ...

But you forgot there are other maintenance requirements by diesels that steam doesn't need:

... like changing cylinder heads, opening the motor block to fish out a burned piston (rarely, ever so rarely has a steam engine piston been punched by heat, gee), injection nozzles replacements, engine cooler piping and cooler itself, crankshaft and bearings, piston rod bearings renewal, replacement of piston rods, generator short-circuit fault, electric traction motor overload short circuit (at starting a heavy train that makes the diesel units stop again after stretching train) or dirt accumulation causing short circuit when coils get wet in adverse weather, electronic multi-unit controls denying service, and - and - and.

 

That's why Sara's humourous remark "We avoid maintenance by scrapping the units in time" wasn't quite so far out as it would appear. After all the reply of the wealthy Rolly driver (Rolls Royce) to the question "How many miles to the gallon?" simply was: "Don't know - I always have me a new one delivered before the tank is empty."

 

"Steam locomotives were "bespoke" for each railroad." That has to run under the caption "ineffective old times practices" - it has nothing to do with the necessity of steam. RRs at the beginning of dieselization begged producers to tailor them a special type. It was only because of EMD's, namely, unwavering insisting on offering but strictly standardized mass production models that it didn't go the way it went with steam. Example: the later Berkshires: Although there was a definitive effort to make one standard type of them, every RR asked for miniature changes, changes that didn't make a noticeable difference in performance - but they had their engine. That this made everything more costly than it needed to be was a blatant truth that eluded the RRs. 

 

"Diesels last at least as long as steam locomotives. " Oh-yeah, at least as long as the A2 Berks of the NYC or the often discussed T1 or Q2 of the PRR. No, seriously: if they last that long then the US RRs are even more behind contemporary state-of-the-art railroading than I have thought (simply because motor technology and efficiency have made large steps of progress namely in the last two decades. 

 

Juniatha

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, April 11, 2021 8:29 PM

SD70Dude
But I do understand and accept why steam disappeared from regular service. 

Easy to understand, really.  Diesels didn't win the battle on the road, they won it in the shops.

Damn it.  Angry   Bang Head   Crying  

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Posted by Backshop on Sunday, April 11, 2021 9:04 PM

Juniatha--I'm sorry, I was wrong.  The change to diesels was a massive conspiracy because steam is so superior.  As far as length of service---there are a lot more 40+ year old SD40-2 running around today than there were were late 1890's steamers in the early 1940's on Class 1 railroads.

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Posted by Juniatha on Sunday, April 11, 2021 9:47 PM

Flintlock:  "Diesels didn't win the battle on the road, they won it in the shops."

No, they didn't! If you read the Kiefer report on the diesel vs Niagara comparison road tests you can see what had really been the matter (although the diesels were given - to quote off-hand - "the best trains" and the Niagara only the "next best" trains! There would have to be a long and detailed comment to the way this test was set-up).

What mistake you guys all make is: you compare old steam with new diesels! That way you can really get any result you wish to have - at best compare 1500 hp diesels with 900 hp saturated steam 4-6-0s! Then the old EMD preach also comes true of one diesel replaces two to three (or five or ten? che-che-che) steam locomotives.

I can't blame you for it. It had cost EMD a lot of full page four-color high-gloss advertisings with 'heroic' colorful streamline diesels come dashing up the Prairie and out of the pages about to knock a punch to the reader's chin if he dared to retain any doubts - and all that before a distant background of blue and icy Rocky Mountains! A picture as genuine American as can be - there it didn't matter that they needed four units to make enough power for an average express train, it just looked heart-rending! Who wouldn't dash to order such wonder machines! The small black & white ALCO or Baldwin notifications like "Excuse us, we are also still there and offer the same as ever! Nothing new - no surprise!" fell right back and down the precipice, so to say.

If, on the contrary, they had really taken up the challenge and modernized and standardized steam, and I'm not speaking of the freak complication overload experimentals but of straight forward improving regular steam, then fair comparisons could have brought much different results - if someone cared to read them! 

If however, they would - as in fact they did - have just sat there and moved but in their typical slow ahead, then the replacement of steam was right because with steam there would have been little to no progress. 

This 'little progress with steam' came to me most with British 1950s steam: BR standard classes were classic engines in sound design - nothing more. That way they offered an open weak spot to those who were for the diesel and the Deltic was a progress, if a small one and dearly paid for with engine blow-ups and so on but it offered a challenge even the renowned Stanier Duchess Pacific could not match or just in tales of enormous one-off performances that grew taller the more time went on.

Same with German DB which originally wanted to build the one eight coupled express engine Germany had never had (the 06 class 4-8-4 was a grotestk failure) and DB Dez 21, engine design, kept on getting builders proposals discussing and modifying them, so long until the writing on the wall was almost complete. Then Friedrich Witte made a last-minute turn around and conducted the project back on known paths and conducted it to a 'heavy Pacific' one that in the end was hardly performing better than the generally admired 01-5 Reko class of DR in East-Germany. 

So, be careful what you compare, that's all.

Juniatha

 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, April 11, 2021 10:19 PM

Regarding the NYC diesel vs steam comparison, it is also worth noting that the E7 turned out to be, how shall I put this, far from the best diesel locomotive produced by EMD.  It and all the other EMD units with pre-567C engines were prone to developing internal water leaks inside the engines, and the E-units had the added complexity of two of everything, while also not having all their weight on drivers (to use a steam term), the extra adhesion of a unit with all axles powered was yet another benefit of the diesel. 

For the record, in my post I was thinking of the N&W's late large steam designs (A, J and Y6), which are widely acknowledged to be among the best steam locomotives ever produced in North America. 

Older steam locomotives had the potential to last many decades in service, both major Canadian roads rostered a good number of pre-WWI engines into the late 1950s.  That first generation of superheated engines turned out to be just the right size for branchline service, and so they endured, even though the lean maintenance years of the Depression and WWII.  CN was not afraid to assign older locomotives to premier trains until the diesel arrived, as an example the edition of No. 2 (the eastbound Continental Limited) involved in the tragic Canoe River, BC crash was drawn by engine 6004, a nearly 30-year old 4-8-2.  CN's last regular steam-powered passenger train was given a sister 4-8-2 (6043, now displayed in a Winnipeg, MB park).  Had the diesel not come onto the scene it is quite likely that all those engines would have lasted another decade or two, giving them service lives comparable to many first-generation diesels* and even the SD40-2. 

*Most early EMDs that remain in service have been completely rebuilt at least once, often with a more modern electrical system.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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