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Steamers helping diesels

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Steamers helping diesels
Posted by John-NYBW on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 5:51 PM

In the transition era, would it have been a common practice for steamers to be used as helpers on diesel powered trains or would have been more likely to add extra diesel units to the consist.

I read a story a few years ago about an eastbound UP freight train out of Laramie that lost power in several of its diesel units and stalled going up the grade. The 844 4-8-4 was returning to Cheyene after an excursion and was behind this train. It ended up pushing the freight over the summit. This of course was an unusual situation. I'm wondering if it would have been a more common practice during the transition era.

EDIT: I just noticed I mistakenly wrote "In the diesel era" instead of "In the transition era" in the first sentence but everybody seems to have gotten the idea. I've corrected it anyway.  

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Posted by wrench567 on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 6:17 PM

   Short answer. Yes. The PRR ran steam on their helper districts almost to the sixties. Passenger trains were not pushed but there are photos of displaced steam on the front rounding the curve. There are many photos of freights being lead by first gen deisels with the old I1s 2-10-0 in pairs on the rear.

     Pete.

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Posted by NVSRR on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 6:19 PM

Yes it was common to see    As the steam engines got relegated to positions closer to home  as diesels took over.      Reading rr is a good one where the big power was used for helper service in a couple areas.    Horseshoe curve was another.  

shane

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel

An optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel

A realist sees a frieght train

An engineer sees three idiots standing on the tracks stairing blankly in space

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 8:12 PM

I occasionally tie a steam helper on to the head-end of some diesel trains.

 PRR_T-E7_sm by Edmund, on Flickr

As mentioned it occurred on the P-Company.

 PRR_Bennington by Edmund, on Flickr

I've seen photos of diesel powered B&O trains leave Cumberland with a steam helper added to the head end for a run up Sand Patch.

 BO, Fairhope, Pennsylvania, 1949 by Center for Railroad Photography & Art, on Flickr

I believe the CN used steam helpers on occasion as well:

 CN, Toronto, Ontario, 1958 by Center for Railroad Photography & Art, on Flickr

There's two screen captures in this review showing B&O steam and diesel working together. One with steam helping diesel and another vice-versa:

https://wjhudson.wordpress.com/2019/05/01/allegheny-rails-volume-1-baltimore-ohio/

 

Regards, Ed

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 9:36 PM

With steam leading diesel going upgrade, I wonder if the railroads were concerned about cinders getting sucked into the diesel air intakes.

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Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 9:50 PM

MidlandMike
I wonder if the railroads were concerned about cinders getting sucked into the diesel air intakes.

The only situation I've heard of in that regard was with the U.P. concerning the cinders being drawn into the air intakes of the gas-turbines. That's a lot of air being drawn in there. Maybe the oil-fired steam wasn't as much of an issue?

Regards, Ed

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, August 24, 2022 10:35 PM

About ten or fifteen years ago I remember a news item from Great Britain about a massive power outage, probably weather related, which shut down all the power to the electric passenger system.  Most riders were brought home by bus, but some trains were quite remote and inaccessible.  So, they brought out an excursion line's steamer, ran it out and coupled to the stranded train to bring them home.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by gregc on Thursday, August 25, 2022 4:27 AM

because steam horsepower isn't constant and is maximum at speed, even lesser powerful diesels are better at moving long trains at low speed.

i read recently that early diesels may have been used to help get trains pulled by steam up to speed, out of the yard.   (does this mean the coupler was left open)?

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, August 25, 2022 11:57 AM

Steam or diesel, it wasn't that unusual for a yard engine to push behind a long train to help it get started. You can't really push with the coupler open; if they were going to uncouple while moving I believe the brakeman on the caboose would open the coupler from the rear platform / steps of the caboose. On a diesel switcher, a crewman on the engine could uncouple the engine from the front steps I guess.

Stix
DrW
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Posted by DrW on Thursday, August 25, 2022 12:49 PM

On Santa Fe's Raton Pass, until the end of steam virtually all diesel-powered streamliners had steam locomotives as helpers, often the (at that point quite ancient) 900/1600 class 2-10-2s. The first diesel helpers were Alco RSD-5s in tail-to-tail pairs in the mid-1950s.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Thursday, August 25, 2022 1:14 PM

gmpullman
I believe the CN used steam helpers on occasion as well: CN, Toronto, Ontario, 1958 by Center for Railroad Photography & Art, on Flickr

That photo is sorta mis-named:  the train is heading towards Toronto (we usually refer to it, in disdain, as Trawna).  However, in the photo the train is just leaving my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.

Wayne

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Posted by gmpullman on Thursday, August 25, 2022 2:23 PM

doctorwayne
That photo is sorta mis-named:

I agree. Sometimes these photos are acquired from large collections of deceased photographers and the information gets "lost in translation".

The further caption goes into, hopefully accurate, more detail:

Northbound Canadian National Railway train from Hamilton passes Bayview Junction en route to Toronto, Ontario, on July 5, 1958. Photograph by J. Parker Lamb, © 2015, Center for Railroad Photography and Art. Lamb-01-053-03

Regards, Ed

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Posted by ndbprr on Thursday, August 25, 2022 2:47 PM

It should also be noted that the PRR and CSX trains have steam assisting E units on horseshoe curve and probably Sandpatch grade. E units had 6 wheel trucks with nonpowered center wheel sets and reduced weight on drivers making them flat land smooth runners. F units with all the weight on two four wheel driven trucks had higher tractive effort and adhesion.  Both railroads really only had those two serious grades whereas the ATSF opted for F units to pull their trains because of Cajon and Ratton passes among other grades.

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Posted by DSO17 on Thursday, August 25, 2022 6:27 PM

wjstix
Steam or diesel, it wasn't that unusual for a yard engine to push behind a long train to help it get started. You can't really push with the coupler open; if they were going to uncouple while moving I believe the brakeman on the caboose would open the coupler from the rear platform / steps of the caboose. On a diesel switcher, a crewman on the engine could uncouple the engine from the front steps I guess.

 

     On the B&O it was common to cut off pushers on the fly. The cabooses were equipped with a device (made up from round steel stock) that enabled the anglecock to be operated by a man standing on the platform and a chain attached to the cutting lever so that the pin could be pulled while standing on the platform.

     When they were ready to cut off the pusher, the conductor or flagman would close the anglecock on the rear of the caboose, pull the pin, and signal the pusher to ease off. The train would continue on and the pusher would fall behind and go into emergency when the air hoses parted. After the pusher stopped its fireman would walk up and close its anglecock and they would be ready to go back down and help another train. 

     This was done for many years both steam and diesel.

 

 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Thursday, August 25, 2022 6:59 PM

More B&O thoughts.

The B&O dieselized east to west and passenger first then freight.

Diesel helpers replaced steam on Cranberry and Sandpatch while steam was still powering mainline freight. They quickly learned that an ABBA set was a better helper than two EL5's, or even EM-1's

But passenger trains that were dieselized early with F3's or E units often needed some help. Usually provided by Pacifics or Mikados placed on the front.

So both situations, steam helping diesel and diesel helping steam, were very common on the B&O in the 50's.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, August 26, 2022 5:16 PM

Keep in mind the difference between 'helping' and 'snapping'.  There are two broad categories of grade negotiation: the first is when the train physically will stall, probably on the ruling section of the grade, without help; the second is when the speed of a train, usually a passenger train, will sag way down with bad effect on the schedules, and possibly leveraging the issues with passenger power that has high drivers and relatively shorter stroke, if something developing high horsepower at expected speed isn't coupled on.

An example of the former is the ATSF practice of helping streamlined trains with 2-10-2s.  An example of the latter is PRR using K4s as helpers up Horse Shoe.

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Posted by BigJim on Friday, August 26, 2022 8:48 PM

The N&W had steam pushing diesels and diesels pushing steam.

.

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Posted by TheFlyingScotsman on Friday, September 30, 2022 8:43 AM

Re the uncoupling of helpers i read this about their use out of Albany on the 20th Century. I'd always been curious too.

  jhghfhwbv by Watson Wilde, on Flickr" />

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