Trains.com

Electric Generation

2004 views
11 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: Northern New Mexico
  • 465 posts
Electric Generation
Posted by rjemery on Sunday, May 4, 2008 5:09 PM
In the heyday of steam and before the time of the diesels, how did steam locomotives generate electricity for passenger trains?  Where was the generator located?

RJ Emery near Santa Fe, NM

  • Member since
    November 2007
  • 2,989 posts
Posted by Railway Man on Sunday, May 4, 2008 5:17 PM

Typically steam locomotives did not generate any electricity for passenger trains.  Each car had an axle-driven generator to recharge its batteries, and in later days, package engine-generator sets (such as Waukesha) were applied to some cars.

Steam locomotives generated electricity only for their own electrical needs (lamps), using a steam-driven turbo-generator usually mounted on the boiler top.

RWM

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 13,524 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, May 5, 2008 2:10 PM
Some of CNJ's steam locomotives had a tender-mounted generator to provide power for lights on suburban coaches.  Short runs and lots of stops probably would have caused excessive drains on batteries since axle-mounted generators couldn't recharge them very well.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 20,084 posts
Posted by daveklepper on Monday, May 5, 2008 2:47 PM
This was true of most commuter operations.
  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,873 posts
Posted by wjstix on Monday, May 5, 2008 2:51 PM
Steam era cars used steam for heat and for cooking in the diner, I believe there were even steam-powered air conditioning systems!! Until recent years passenger diesels included a steam boiler to generate steam for the passenger cars.
Stix
  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: Northern New Mexico
  • 465 posts
Posted by rjemery on Monday, May 5, 2008 3:57 PM

 wjstix wrote:
Steam era cars used steam for heat and for cooking in the diner, I believe there were even steam-powered air conditioning systems!! Until recent years passenger diesels included a steam boiler to generate steam for the passenger cars.

Slighly off topic but GG1s on the PRR had a steam generator to provide heat in Winter for any passenger consists they pulled. 

RJ Emery near Santa Fe, NM

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: Northern New Mexico
  • 465 posts
Posted by rjemery on Monday, May 5, 2008 3:58 PM

 CSSHEGEWISCH wrote:
Some of CNJ's steam locomotives had a tender-mounted generator to provide power for lights on suburban coaches.  Short runs and lots of stops probably would have caused excessive drains on batteries since axle-mounted generators couldn't recharge them very well.

Next time I see photos of CNJ steam locomotives, I'll look for that generator on the tender.  Where was it typically mounted?

RJ Emery near Santa Fe, NM

  • Member since
    December 2005
  • From: Cardiff, CA
  • 2,930 posts
Posted by erikem on Monday, May 5, 2008 11:59 PM

 wjstix wrote:
Steam era cars used steam for heat and for cooking in the diner, I believe there were even steam-powered air conditioning systems!!

That was Carrier's steam ejector system. The basic idea was using a steam ejector to create a vacuum, and that vacuum caused water to boil at low temperatures (water boils at 45F with an absolute pressure of 0.14 psi). The cooled water would be circulated for cooling the car. The AT&SF was a big user of that system, though the steam usage was probably worse than the equivalent drag of axle mounted generators. 

  • Member since
    March 2004
  • From: Central Valley California
  • 2,841 posts
Posted by passengerfan on Saturday, May 10, 2008 7:53 PM

It did not take long for Amtrak to discover that though well maintained the ex AT&SF cars with their steam ejector opearted air Conditioning system was not understood by many other railroads mechanical people. That is the primary reason that the ex AT&SF cars did not stray to far from there home rails until Amtraks own mechanical people became familiar with there A/C system. Initially almost every time the ex Santa Fe cars left home rails there was a problem. The secret to the system was to maintain constant steam pressure and not to let it fluctuate. The SP mechanical forces had a particularly hard time understanding the problem and the Coast Starlight A/C failed time and time again due to SP crews not understanding the problem. The Coast Starlight was the recipient of former AT&SF cars very early.

Al - in - Stockton

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: Northern New Mexico
  • 465 posts
Posted by rjemery on Saturday, May 10, 2008 10:22 PM
 passengerfan wrote:

It did not take long for Amtrak to discover that though well maintained the ex-AT&SF cars with their steam ejector opearted air conditioning system was not understood by many other railroads mechanical people. That is the primary reason that the ex-AT&SF cars did not stray to far from there home rails until Amtrak's own mechanical people became familiar with their A/C system. Initially, almost every time the ex-Santa Fe cars left home rails there was a problem. The secret to the system was to maintain constant steam pressure and not to let it fluctuate. The SP mechanical forces had a particularly hard time understanding the problem and the Coast Starlight A/C failed time and time again due to SP crews not understanding the problem. The Coast Starlight was the recipient of former AT&SF cars very early.

What AT&SF cars were these that first went to the Coast Starlight?  The Hi-Level cars, as used on the El Cap, or the standard coaches as used on the Grand Canyon and any of the Chiefs, El Pasoan, etc.? 

RJ Emery near Santa Fe, NM

  • Member since
    March 2004
  • From: Central Valley California
  • 2,841 posts
Posted by passengerfan on Monday, May 12, 2008 12:06 AM

The Santa Fe cars I refer to were the standard height single level cars that had operated in the Grand Canyon, San Diegans, San Joaquins, and the sleeping cars from the San Francisco Chief and Texas Chiefs assigned to the Coast Starlights.

Al - in - Stockton

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • 2,361 posts
Posted by timz on Monday, May 12, 2008 8:18 AM

 rjemery wrote:
What AT&SF cars were these that first went to the Coast Starlight?
Their long-distance pre-HiLevel coaches-- the late-40s Pullman (?) 44-seaters and the circa-1953 Budd 48-seaters. Offhand I'd guess three-quarters of the coaches on the 1972-73 Starlight/Daylight were one or the other of those.

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