Steam & Diesel With Just One Crew?

1058 views
5 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February, 2018
  • 20 posts
Steam & Diesel With Just One Crew?
Posted by RailfanGXY on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 4:07 PM

I remember reading somewhere (either here on a different forum site) that the Grand Canyon Railway has an unusual and intriguing method for running its steamers. Huh, fitting that as I'm typing this there's an ad for said railroad next to the text box...

 

Anyway, what I remember was that the railroad installed a control system in it's steam locomotives. While a crew was obviously still needed for the steamer to run, the added control system effectively removed the requirement for an additional crew to operate the diesels trailing behind.

 

This sounds like an interesting and rather effective concept (though if that isn't how it works, someone, please feel free to correct me). I think it could work just as well in other tourist roads, and even mainline excursions.

I get that many steamers aren't as powerful for moving certain trains by today's standards. Low individual tractive effort sacrificed for high horsepower, and unsuitable braking for 2 mile long trains in an emergency stop or a 20k ton train downgrade. Some railroads back in the day found it useful to balance out the strengths and weaknesses between diesel and steam. Use the diesels' high tractive effort and dynamic braking on severe grades, while the steamer can run along at practically any speed necessary along the more gentle territory. Santa Fe did this for a while, though it would also do steam-diesel power swaps, and UP did the same thing with its gas turbines, which were intended to replace steam in priority freight service with their high horsepower. Had this control system been used, perhaps the ATSF 5000's, 2900's, and UP CSA's, 4664's, and 4884's might've held in service a bit longer.

While it seems unlikely that this will happen anytime soon, given that a single GEVO can put out just as much horsepower, if not more, than nearly every 4-8-4, with a pair of GEVO's outsing any articulated or duplex. For passenger and excursion runs however, this "Diesel Control" could be beneficial, especially whenever a smaller steamer is used. 

 

God I was rambling for a while...but yeah. If this technology exists, why haven't others tried this with excursion and tourist runs? Or have they?

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,622 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 5:10 PM

Back in the late 60's, early 70's, the Clinchfield was running excursions with a restored Ten-Wheeler, Number 1, a 4-6-0 built in 1882 from an 1869 design.

The problem was, it was a small steamer for the passenger consists they wished to run, so a B unit diesel was coupled behind (with inocuous markings) and could be controlled from the cab of the steam engine.

I've seen No. 1 at the B&O Museum in Baltimore, and the diesel control stand is still in the cab, or at least it was the last time I saw it.

So, it has been done.

I believe Union Pacific's 844 also has diesel controls in it's cab as well, but I could be wrong on that.

  • Member since
    August, 2004
  • 573 posts
Posted by pajrr on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 7:46 PM

UP 844 has that too. As a matter of fact, a couple years ago 844 was damaged because the diesel stopped responding to the controls and pushed 844 along even though the 844 brakes were applied. Put massive flat spots on 844 drivers

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 4,415 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 9:19 PM

RailfanGXY

I remember reading somewhere (either here on a different forum site) that the Grand Canyon Railway has an unusual and intriguing method for running its steamers. Huh, fitting that as I'm typing this there's an ad for said railroad next to the text box...

 

Anyway, what I remember was that the railroad installed a control system in it's steam locomotives. While a crew was obviously still needed for the steamer to run, the added control system effectively removed the requirement for an additional crew to operate the diesels trailing behind.

 

This sounds like an interesting and rather effective concept (though if that isn't how it works, someone, please feel free to correct me). I think it could work just as well in other tourist roads, and even mainline excursions.

I get that many steamers aren't as powerful for moving certain trains by today's standards. Low individual tractive effort sacrificed for high horsepower, and unsuitable braking for 2 mile long trains in an emergency stop or a 20k ton train downgrade. Some railroads back in the day found it useful to balance out the strengths and weaknesses between diesel and steam. Use the diesels' high tractive effort and dynamic braking on severe grades, while the steamer can run along at practically any speed necessary along the more gentle territory. Santa Fe did this for a while, though it would also do steam-diesel power swaps, and UP did the same thing with its gas turbines, which were intended to replace steam in priority freight service with their high horsepower. Had this control system been used, perhaps the ATSF 5000's, 2900's, and UP CSA's, 4664's, and 4884's might've held in service a bit longer.

While it seems unlikely that this will happen anytime soon, given that a single GEVO can put out just as much horsepower, if not more, than nearly every 4-8-4, with a pair of GEVO's outsing any articulated or duplex. For passenger and excursion runs however, this "Diesel Control" could be beneficial, especially whenever a smaller steamer is used. 

 

God I was rambling for a while...but yeah. If this technology exists, why haven't others tried this with excursion and tourist runs? Or have they?

 

Two miles long and 20 thousand tons?  That's quite the excursion train there!  

Jeff

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,622 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 6:05 PM

Well, they've got to raise the cash for PTC installations on the steam engine somehow!

  • Member since
    December, 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 8,806 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Thursday, April 26, 2018 8:15 PM

Why don't alll the operators of main line steam get together and just install the wiring ?   Form a non profit company to do the work and build the hardware.  Then who ever is running the excursion a weekend can rent the hardware for that weekend's trip.  Probably would only need 3  identical units that way ?   Standarization of wiring might reduce installation costs ?

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy