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How were headlamps on steam engines powered?

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How were headlamps on steam engines powered?
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Sunday, May 2, 2021 4:22 PM

Maybe a dumb question, but in a diesel loco there is electricity generated to power lights and other electronics.  But what about a steam loco?  Steam itself obviously could not power an electrical light at the front end, so did steams have some sort of turbine that was spun by steam and generated electricity for lighting?

Andy

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Posted by tstage on Sunday, May 2, 2021 4:35 PM

Yes, it was called a dynamo and was operated using steam from the boiler.

Tom

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, May 2, 2021 5:11 PM

Here's a terrific picture of one in operation:

 

 

 

You can see the conduit for the output wiring entering the top of the junction box (that's the thing with the square nub for applying a wrench).  In this case, the handrail, being a hollow pipe, is used to route the power to the front and rear of the locomotive.  There MIGHT be another cable going over to the right, hidden by the handrail.  The steam likely comes up through the vertical pipe just to the right of the stanchion.  My wild guess at the smaller vertical pipe a few inches to the left is a condensate drain.

And it didn't power just the headlight.  There were also the class lights and the lights in the cab.

One source mentions a 500W output.  That would appear adequate for the task.

It appears the first installation was in 1897, and that incandescent lighting became common about 10 years later.  I believe electric arc was used for lighting before that, and acetylene before that, and kerosene before that.

 

Ed

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Posted by Track fiddler on Sunday, May 2, 2021 5:21 PM

Interesting Ed.  I knew it had to be something like that powering the lights but I never seen one of those before.  I probably did but just didn't know what it was.  Now I do

 

 

 

TF

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, May 2, 2021 5:30 PM

Track fiddler

Interesting Ed.  I knew it had to be something like that powering the lights but I never seen one of those before.  I probably did but just didn't know what it was.  Now I do

 

 

 

TF

 

 

Yeah, once you get used to them, you can spot them pretty easy.  They'll almost always have a vertical exhaust pipe for the steam.  And they seem to always be towards the top of the boiler.  Someone might have placed one down low, for easy access; but you really don't want flying debris from down there hitting your generator.  Besides, if you buy a GOOD one, you shouldn't have to be messing with it all that much.

 

Ed

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Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, May 2, 2021 5:45 PM

Here's a few more designs:

 Pyle_E2_0005 by Edmund, on Flickr

In later years an increased need for more electrical supply necessitated more turbos. Some NKP Berkshires had two and there were three on the Southern Pacific Daylight engines.

 SP 4449 5-9-09 by Chemung, on Flickr

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by wjstix on Monday, May 3, 2021 8:48 AM

Even if you can't see the generator right away, you can usually hear it if it's on. It creates a high-pitched whine when it's on that's very noticeable. Most recent model railroad sound decoders turn on that sound when you press F0 to turn the headlight on.

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Posted by rrebell on Monday, May 3, 2021 9:49 AM

Very early ones were kerosene or other burning liquid.

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Posted by 7j43k on Monday, May 3, 2021 10:14 AM

rrebell

Very early ones were kerosene or other burning liquid.

 

VERY early headlight:

 

Above on the South Carolia Railroad Company, early 1830's.

 

 

Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, May 3, 2021 10:39 AM

The Milwaukee Road Warrior
Did steams have some sort of turbine that was spun by steam and generated electricity for lighting?

tstage
Yes, it was called a dynamo and was operated using steam from the boiler.

If you want to add this detail to a model, be aware that the detail manufacturers call them all kinds of different things. If I am remembering correctly, Cal-Scale calls them generators. 

Other detail manufacturers have called these dynamos, alternators, turbines, etc.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, May 3, 2021 11:05 AM

7j43k
Above on the South Carolina Railroad Company, early 1830's.

Hey, Ed, do they show the vaunted barrier car behind the locomotive in that source? Devil

Bet you could get quite a bit of stuff off the tracks or aware of the train if you lit that... one might say it would furnish a baleful glare...

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Posted by 7j43k on Monday, May 3, 2021 11:16 AM

I didn't see anything pictorial besides what I posted.

I do kind of think I recall someone putting a pile of cotton bales behind a locomotive to protect the passengers.  I imagine you could ride on top of the bales for a discounted price.

 

Ed

 

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, May 3, 2021 11:20 AM

I used Bachmann GS-4 shells to kitbach my Southern Pacific AC-9s.  The GS-4s had three dynamos/generators (Passenger Service) and the AC-9 has only one dynamo (Freight Service) so I ended up with a pair of dynamos per AC-9.



Both the GS-4s and the AC-9s were built by Lima so they used the same dynamo.
 



Mel



 
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Posted by 7j43k on Monday, May 3, 2021 11:32 AM

Why would SP passenger engines need three times the generating capacity as freight?

A quick search turned up the opinion that the first one was for all the regular stuff, the second was for the oscillating light (bulb PLUS motor), and the third for electric train brakes.  Not to apply braking, but to use a sophisticated control system.

Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, May 3, 2021 11:35 AM

7j43k
Why would SP passenger engines need three times the generating capacity as freight?

Just wondering here...

Did the three operate at different voltages/frequencies?

Did they operate on the same electrical standard, and if so, could they be paralleled together, or were the systems seperate?

-Kevin

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Posted by RR_Mel on Monday, May 3, 2021 11:40 AM

I don’t know, when I was doing my research to build my AC-9s that’s was the info on the SP & Lima sites about 8 years ago.
 

EDIT:

The Cab Forwards were used in passenger service over the Tehachapi Loop and they only had one dynamo.

Mel



 
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Posted by Overmod on Monday, May 3, 2021 3:04 PM

It's pretty well known that the GS-4s had the three dynamos for many of the electrical systems on the Daylight trains, including as I recall the electropneumatic brake system.  Burlington used multiple Cummins gensets for the purpose in at least one Zephyr set.

Later the trend would be toward individual Spicer-drive generators on the cars for the relatively large number of electrical loads, beyond what a few steam-driven generators could provide efficiently.

I am sure there are pages on the Web that cover this in detail.

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