Steam Turbine Locomotives of the UPRR,PRR, C&O, and N&W

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Steam Turbine Locomotives of the UPRR,PRR, C&O, and N&W
Posted by samfp1943 on Sunday, February 04, 2018 6:53 PM

There is a concurrent Thread running here referencing building a steam turbine locomotive by NWPSWP. I did not want to co-opt his Thread.  

SO I will start this Thread.  I grew into model railroading in the 1950's. There were a few steam pulled trains running around Memphis, mixed in with diesels. I was hooked by the various magazines and their 'projects'; John Allen was hero to me ,his dioramas of steam engines and equipment were really mind blowing.

The first of the steam turbine locomotives that were familiar to me, was Pennsy's S-1 steam turbine (6-8-6), and it was as real as its' Lionel model was on a neighbor's layout. It was a stunning piece of engineering and equipment.  

photo linked @ http://www.steamlocomotive.com/turbine/prr6200.jpg

 Doing some reading on the subject; I became aware that Union Pacific had a pair of steam turbine locomotives, produced by General Electric in Erie,Pa. in 1934/38. They were supposed to pull UP's passenger trains, and were expected to be able to do that at 125 mph.  Their operatons were very problematic, and were also demonstrated on other railroads in the West GN was one. They were 2+C-C+2 wheel arrangement roughly equivalent to the (2-6-6-2) Whyte arrangement. They were fueled with 'bunker' oil, and could be hooked together as MU'd units, controlled by one engineer. They were accepred in 1939 by UPR but were taken out of service in 1943 with wear problems. I had also read that they had serious problems with their turbine blades, as well (?).

photo linked @ ww.douglas-self.com/MUSEUM/LOCOLOCO/upturb/upturb.htm

In 1948, the coal hauling C&ORR had produced for it, THREE steam turbine, electrics, #500#501 and #502. They were built to haul a 'new' streamlined train the 'Chessie' between Washington and Cincinnati in one day. they were to be capable of 100 mph.  The train was to be built by Baldwin and Pullman. but both companies had problems with union strikes, and the start was delayed by thse problems and #501 was dogged by its own complex mechanical problems. Not to mention that the fish in the big on-board aquarium kept dying because of the viberations(?). C&O also found out that the B&O had with its own Washington to Cincinnati service had killed the market between thise two points...The # 501 was renamed at some point The Sacred Cow and the project was scrapped in 1950.

see photo linked @ http://www.douglas-self.com/MUSEUM/LOCOLOCO/chesturb/chesturb.htm

Then in the  middle 1950's along came "JAWN HENRY" specifically N&W RR #2300. Built by B-L-H and Babcock and Wilcox; it was a C-C+C-C wheel arrangement with Westinghouse traction motors. It had several major issues that were worked out , but the major problem was that the turbin blades would get out of sync when the locomotive was coupled into a train, and it had water delivery issues with its pump, and getting water to the boiler. It lasted into the late 1950's and was scrapped.

photo linked @ http://www.retroweb.com/trains/steam_turbine_m.jpg

 

Sam

 

 


 

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Posted by erikem on Sunday, February 04, 2018 7:57 PM

The GE Turbomotives were outshopped in 1939, were tested by the UP and ended up on the GN 1942-43. The hope was the high pressure/high temperature steam cycle would produce adequate economy and power. Big letdown was that the air-cooled condensers did not work as well as hoped in the Nevada desert.

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Posted by Dr D on Sunday, February 04, 2018 8:03 PM

Sam,

The steam turbine locomotives you mention built in the 1940s were indeed a remarkable technology of the great era of American railroads.  They were all attempts to explore a fading technology and for the most part were ill concieved.  The Pennsy 6-8-6 was perhaps the most straight forward design borrowing from standard railroad practice of steam design and most likely of fitting into the existing engine design and maintaince practice.  The horsepower produced took advantage of the existing stationary plant and marine turbine design.  Unfortunately neither of these designs lent themselves to the start/stop and variable speed characteristics of railroad locomotives.  A comparrison would be the famed steamship SS UNITED STATES which produced some 43,000 marine horsepower and was to my knowledge the fastest ocean liner ever built.  It still exists today although in somewhat difficult condition.  This example shows what was possible with the use of the steam turbine.  Pennsy found the great boiler they built for the 6-8-6 was easily exhausted by the turbine equipped locomotive - an event that thermally shocked the steel boiler designed for the piston type locomotive.  The boiler was not up to that usage and suffered structural issues when pushed to capacity.  A heroic locomotive none the less and one that should have been saved for the audacity that went into is creation - it was very beautiful to look at.

Lets remember what the 1940's was like in America.  Nuclear power was dawning upon the mind of the public and few Americans really percieved its deadly and dangerous nature.  I can remember there was a Merchant Marine nuclear cargo ship designed and built called the SAVANAH.  Nuclear power was designed into the first naval submarine and it sailed under the North Pole ice pack - USS NAUTILUS.  Nuclear power plants were being designed for locations all over America and an age of unlimited power was conceived.  It was not hard for the American public to dream of nuclear cars and nuclear powered railroad locomotives - indeed these things could be built today - AND - nuclear power uses steam boiler technology which was much in use as railroad power.

No one conceived the tremendous danger inherent in controling nuclear.

It is my perception that the general public including business men and engineers were looking to use nuclar power as a possiblity behind the UP, Pennsy, N&W and C&O designs.  To me the steam turbine effort was an exploration down this road that the diesel electric drive could never travel.

One had to live in the post WWII world to really understand the experience of the industrial revolution. 

Take my grandfather Dr. Charles Pierce who I knew as a young man in 1962.  He was born in 1876 just after the American Civil War.  No electric lights, no radio, no photography, no airplanes, no automobiles, no electronic media, no modern medicine - and no nuclear power!  And the United States did not have 50 states.

There was just the impression in the United States that the great age was dawning of unlimited possibility.

We look back on the steam turbine drive today and it is difficult to see it in the technological context of the time.

- Dr. D

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, February 04, 2018 9:12 PM

As happens, it is very easy to figure out the appeal of the various forms of steam turbine drive, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with nuclear power.  Although it did turn out to have a lot to do with water rate and particularly exhaust characteristics.

The UP turbines were somewhat anomalous in that they were oil-fired at comparatively high pressure, with a relatively small mass of distilled water in a full condensing cycle to get to their (comparatively small) engine HP of 2500 per unit.  These suffered from control and condenser issues, but intriguingly it appears that many, perhaps most of the problems during testing on UP were fixed during their time in wartime service 'up north'.  But after the war the economics went to diesel, and there wasn't any place for a large cast-frame version of an FT that didn't get as good fuel economy.  Which was a pity ... but then again, I don't think GE had much of a future competing against its own venture with Alco.

The PRR 6-8-6 was an interesting locomotive, but its drive was inherently flawed in too many ways, and the solution to large exhaust plena was Just. Plain. Wrong.  The updated version Westinghouse thought about was a 4-8-4 (it's in the 1948 brochure I keep linking to) and if equipped with the right kind of clutch or transmission to allow the turbine speed to differ from wheel speed -- the Bowes drive being ideal for the purpose but not easy to package where these turbines have their final drive -- it might have fulfilled the promise PRR saw in it right up to the era it started popping staybolts enormously, and dangerously, en masse.  However, the significant economies from its use turned out to occur at sustained reasonably high speed, which isn't something commonly found even in much of PRR's passenger service and wouldn't matter to freight until the advent of TrucTrains.  By then anything with a large boiler for high speed was deprecated on PRR except to be run out in commuter service.

The C&O turbine was a cute idea; if materials at the Hagley are correct this represented a somewhat secret Baldwin project to outdo Steins et al. with the Triplex patents (and the V1 development) at PRR.  It's a hurry-up design with too many we-didn't-think-of-that gotchas; you'll notice the almost ungodly haste with which the things were scrapped, which will tell you that even a railroad as rich as C&O might realize no amount of research would produce a silk purse out of that configuration.

Now, the intermediate design on the PRR is important to remember, as there are two important steps here, and one very key recognition. The V1 was essentially an improved and somewhat debugged approach to a noncondensing turbine; it had two comparatively small longitudinal turbines, each driving the four axles in what was effectively a 4-8-0 chassis mechanically.  The first thing of importance was the absence of carbon-brushed wound-field traction motors in a hot, corrosive-water environment.  This was greenlighted for production during the wartime years, which is a surprisingly little-known thing, and it's interesting that it was cancelled as a direct result of observing that its water rate would give a running range of not more than about 130 miles under best conditions, whereas even 1945-era diesels could run across five divisions without having to stop at all except for such contemporary inspections and crew changes as labor agreements required.  That is unsurprising as the water rate for the Q2, from which the V1's boiler was directly derived, was terribly high even with lower nominal shp than the turbine.  And then PRR starts blathering about the mechanical turbine making 9000 horsepower ... which almost has to be the result of people woefully unaware of how large steam engines, no matter how cleverly designed, are going to work if operated noncondensing at high output horsepower.

The second key thing is that, sometime around 1947, the PRR gets a presentation on how the Bowes drive applies to this design.  And one thing it promises is to match the water rate to the required horsepower output more independently of road speed.  Another thing is that it promises to make high horsepower available at very high speed, which appears to have been good enough for Loewy to design-patent a streamstyled passenger body for the configuration.

Of course it didn't matter.  But now PRR passes the V1 to the N&W, for which it was an extremely interesting and valuable design.  Remember the interest in modifying the Q2 boiler to work on a class A chassis, something that would have produced the finest of all twelve-coupled articulateds?  Here was something even better, that with the Bowes drive might also be able to run with the Js.  With zero augment anywhere.

But -- alas! -- what happened was that N&W got distracted by the siren call of all-axles-driven adhesion, and decided to modify the V1 so that its turbines would drive generators, and even its pilot-truck axles would be motored.  This was the active idea up to somewhere between 1951 and 1952, when Baldwin (looking at contemporary developments in diesel and electric power, essentially all of which were bogie-truck centric) pitched 'em on the joys of much higher pressure, in a boiler with the same kind of automatic controls as the M2 Automatic, using traveling-grate firing ... on four six-wheel diesel trucks with Westinghouse hexapole motors.  (Remember the unkillable nature and reputation of those motors ... we will return to them in a moment).  This was a radically different thing, and in principle if the BCR research into coal-turbine operation panned out a great deal of this chassis and its control gear could be adapted to use it.  (And there was at least the promise that railroads beholden to coal-hauling interests would want to use it especially if it could be made to MU to diesels...)

About the closest to 'nuclear power' you get comes during development of the TE-1 where the system developed by the Bailey Meter Company has some interesting similarities to systems designed for the Nautilus.  (One of the Claytors was in the navy in these years, but he said to me directly that N&W didn't use any 'classified' systems on the locomotive).

Now, according to Louis Newton, who was intimately familiar with the TE-1 testing and operations, there was a dramatic failure during construction that is somewhat reminiscent of the potential sabotage during the air testing of the first bogie on Bulleid's Leader:  Westinghouse dropped one of the main generators and kinda, sorta, reworked it hoping no one would notice.  It failed repeatedly and was one of the main reasons the locomotive did not succeed as intended.

On the other hand, anyone looking at the chronology would realize exactly when the end of any Baldwin STE project would come, and it had nothing directly to do with Westinghouse design, but quite a bit with N&W operating practice: with no more than about three years of not-very-routine operation, almost all of those hexapole motors turned out to be damaged beyond economical repair.  Probably by being overloaded, rather than crippled by something in flashovers or the other issues with the main generators.  I submit that something that eats its own motors this easily, while not performing all that much better than considerably-less-thermodynamically-efficient Ys and even As in heavy mineral-train service, is not going to be the answer to any maiden's prayer.

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Posted by M636C on Monday, February 05, 2018 6:55 PM

 A comparrison would be the famed steamship SS UNITED STATES which produced some 43,000 marine horsepower and was to my knowledge the fastest ocean liner ever built.  It still exists today although in somewhat difficult condition. 

The United States had steam turbines that produced 240,000 shaft horse power according to Wikipedia. On reading that statement above my first guess was at least 200, 000 shp.

It was indeed the fastest conventional passenger ship built to date. However it had four screws which were changed annually in the winter docking so that the severe erosion due to cavitation could be repaired. In simple terms, the propellers lasted one year transmitting more than 60, 000 shp per shaft.

There is a biography of the naval architect William Gibbs describing the United States called (I think) "A Man and his Ship". It isn't really technical but it is a good read. Gibbs apparently went down to the dock and met the ship every time it returned to New York. It helps to have offices nearby and to own the company...

There is an excellent book on turbine locomotives, both steam and gas turbine by a Swiss Author whose name escapes me right now, sadly only in German.

I think the main problem with the GE 1939 turbine electrics indicated in the above book was that they never reached anything like the fuel economy expected from the high pressure system installed. Remembering that EMD had the 201A powered E units in service and the 567 powered versions in development, it was clear to GE that there was no market for that design.

Peter

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Posted by Dr D on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 11:00 AM

Overmod, 

I refer you to the Wiki article on the merchant ship SAVANAH which still exists in Baltimore as an historic ship.  Which ship still includes its novel for the time new unique commercial nuclear reactor.  The ship was built as part of the Federal Government effort to promote nuclear power "Atoms for Peace" initiative.  An entire government program was created to move nuclear power into practical everyday usage promoted by the Department of Commerce. 

I am not sure of your age or education, but having lived in the 1950's I can assure you that the public did perceive nuclar power as a likely option for everyday domestic use.

The small nuclear reactor aboard SAVANAH remains, as does the unique design of the ship - for regular replacement of the nuclear fuel supply.  The reactor was contained within a cylindrical shell and represented a simplified commerical design.

"The reactor was designed to civilian standards using low-enriched uranium with less emphasis on shock resistance and compactness of design than that seen in comparable military propulsion reactors, but with considreable emphasis on safety and reliablity."

Concerning public thought one might refer to the LIONEL copy of Pennsy's steam turbine which was first equipped with a labeled ATOMIC electric motor in 1947.

The dangers inherent in accident and misuse of nuclear were just not widely understood by the public - even in the post Chernobyl times of today. 

- Dr. D 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 4:57 PM

I assure you that not only am I a fan of the NS SAVANNAH (please have the respect to spell her name correctly henceforth) I was interested for a while in systems to provide NSSS for the SL-7s (nominally of course in their role as fast supply ships).  Those of course would have been everything that the Savannah turned out not to be, assuming that all those ridiculous port authorities that made themselves obstreperously into 'nuclear-free zones' in those years would have let them dock.  I would submit that these would not currently be in ROS with a reasonably modern power system catering for their required high shp.

A very, very, very great deal of the "public thought" regarding practical nuclear power for any 'everyday domestic use' was little better than science fiction, when in fact it even contained any hard science or engineering content at all.  What it reminded me of most was a National Lampoon piece on an African nation that had a 'space program', involving whirling people around in buckets to simulate 'space travel' and similar cargo-cult approximations of the kind of hardware and development that would actually be required for orbital operations.  Ford had a famous 'Nucleon' show car (one of the ugliest as well as most pathetically suspended vehicles ever made, in my opinion) which was heavily advertised as being Nuclear Powered Someday -- although all there was in the car was an empty space essentially marked 'for future reactor design, maybe'.  Borst very famously developed a locomotive with an impossible fuel, done by a bunch of non-engineers, and then was essentially inveigled into patenting the concept STILL without involving any trained engineers, when it should have been kept as what it was, a classroom enterprise a bit like a 'story problem' in how to calculate the various elements of a nuclear cycle.

In short, it was very easy to come up with stencilling the word ATOMIC on something to make it look more impressive, or to put a flickering bulb inside red gels and an ominous-looking enclosure to make an 'atomic' flatcar load, or to mold up plastic missiles assumedly with nuclear warheads and arrange to spring-launch them at other toys.  It proved considerably more difficult to arrange actual civilian infrastructure (aside from electrical power generation) and if you've read John McPhee's Curve of Binding Energy, you can even see a couple of the milestones that slammed the door on the few attempts (I still have a terrifying one: a record brush that dissipates static electricity on the record surface with emissions from a nontrivial size sample of americium) to actually provide something consumers could use without interesting and enlightening (pun intended) consequences.  Shutting down West Valley was one of those.

Mind you, there were technically practical uses for atomic/nuclear power.  The best of these that I saw was a locomotive use of a plutonium battery (heavy beta emissions through the motors to 'ground' although if you could get past the immense accident and 'misconfiguration' hazards to the point you had to start considering what a superb target of opportunity for terrorists one of those things would be, you'd already gotten a couple of orders of magnitude to the wrong side of the risk/reward curve.

And then there were those wonderful projects in Atoms for Peace, like Project Plowshare.  Want a sea-level canal through Nicaragua (with or without the full consent of the Nicaraguans)?  There's at least one documented railroad example, which diningcar and mudchicken might have been familiar with, involving ATSF line relocation.  Mercifully the 1963 test-ban treaty put the kibosh on this.  I admit it was hard to top Langmuir's weather-modification fiasco, but Plowshare certainly could have topped it.

That is not to say that nuclear-powered trains are either impractical or silly -- France has rather dramatically (Chooz B and a few other little inconveniences aside) managed to demonstrate that.  It's just that the nuclear part is nowhere near the railroad part.  Note that we have nothing even remotely similar here, for all the fancy discussions over the years of 'power too cheap to meter'.

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Posted by tdmidget on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 9:12 PM

Dr D

Overmod, 

I refer you to the Wiki article on the merchant ship SAVANAH which still exists in Baltimore as an historic ship.  Which ship still includes its novel for the time new unique commercial nuclear reactor.  The ship was built as part of the Federal Government effort to promote nuclear power "Atoms for Peace" initiative.  An entire government program was created to move nuclear power into practical everyday usage promoted by the Department of Commerce. 

I am not sure of your age or education, but having lived in the 1950's I can assure you that the public did perceive nuclar power as a likely option for everyday domestic use.

The small nuclear reactor aboard SAVANAH remains, as does the unique design of the ship - for regular replacement of the nuclear fuel supply.  The reactor was contained within a cylindrical shell and represented a simplified commerical design.

"The reactor was designed to civilian standards using low-enriched uranium with less emphasis on shock resistance and compactness of design than that seen in comparable military propulsion reactors, but with considreable emphasis on safety and reliablity."

Concerning public thought one might refer to the LIONEL copy of Pennsy's steam turbine which was first equipped with a labeled ATOMIC electric motor in 1947.

The dangers inherent in accident and misuse of nuclear were just not widely understood by the public - even in the post Chernobyl times of today. 

- Dr. D 

 

 

The N.S. Savannah does NOT have it's reactor aboard. It is is entombed at the Savannah River Plant.

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Posted by Dr D on Thursday, February 08, 2018 7:28 PM

tdmidget,

You might check with the SAVANNAH historic ship in Baltimore MD.  According to Wikipedia - the entire ship has been remarkably preserved in all its detail - and does indeed still contain the commercial nuclear reactor it was built with. 

The nuclear reactor has been kept on board to preserve the unique technological accomplishment the SAVANNAH represents.  Possibly this fact is downplayed in order to keep from alarming certain aspects of the general public.

Wiki also notes that the still present nuclear reactor has be de-fueled and does not contain any radioactive material.

- Dr. D

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, February 08, 2018 8:08 PM

Dr D
Wiki also notes that the still present nuclear reactor has been de-fueled and does not contain any radioactive material

What went to Savannah River was the core and fuel (after initial decommissioning) followed in a couple of years by the obviously contaminated components (at least part of the primary coolant pumps, demineralization beds, etc.)

When MARAD opted for the SAFSTOR method of decommissioning it meant that the reactor pressure vessel, most of the piping, etc  were NOT removed and in fact will not be messed with until 2031 at the earliest.  There were some additional low-level remediation in the last decade (like the last 1650-odd gallons of coolant, Permasorbed out and components of some ancillary pumps) but not the removal of all the neutron-activated structure that DECON would have required.  Naturally this means orders of magnitude less cost, even 'net' of the expressed concern that low-level waste storage might become politically less possible (and hence decommissioning cost higher and less anticipable for planning) in the upcoming years to 2031.

The reactor has been considered irretrievably inoperable for some time, which may have led to the belief it had in fact been removed.  Most of it has not.

Here is a somewhat better reference than Wikipedia:

https://www.marad.dot.gov/wp-content/uploads/pdf/STS_106.pdf

 

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