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Monday Train Blogging: Fast Steam

by DoDo Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 04:04:37 AM EST

for those of you more interested in hardcore politics, there is a thread about Merkel becoming Chancellor just below... Jerome

'Normal' steam locos are loved for the puffing steam, lots of visible moving parts, lots of external details. Less was visible on streamlined locos, hence they are less popular, even tough they include some of the best-designed, fastest, most powerful and efficient, but also rarest and (due to the ascent of diesels and electrics) shortest-lived steamers. For example, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific's class F7 "Hiawatha":

From most books (including the Guiness Book of World Records), you'll conjure that the world's unquestionably fastest steam locomotive was the London North-Eastern Railway's class A4 #4468 "Mallard", with 126 mph (202.8 km/h). However, it's not at all this straightforward!


The Mallard on 18 March 1938 on the 11.15 Harrogate to Kings Cross at New Barnet, photo from the Ken Nunn collection via German Steam

The British contender
...looks much less convincing if you know the details – general 'knowledge' conserved the national-propagandistic accounts of the (pre)war period:

  • The 126 mph figure corresponds to a blip on the speed graph, with physically impossible accelerations. It must have been due to a jolt, or,
  • according to British railfans who unearthed a second speedgraph copy without the bump, later doctoring.
  • Indeed the railway engineers themselves (including designer Sir Nigel Gresley) certified 125 mph (201.2 km/h) as the true top speed achieved – but that is within the margin of error with the other two contenders below.
  • The Mallard achieved the record downhill, and
  • with modifications unfit for more than a single run – indeed the Mallard broke down at the end of the record run with a hot axle.

The German contender
With the largest wheels of the three contenders, the Deutsche Reichsbahn's [class] 05 [No.] 002 represented an effort by railway and industry steam developers to remain in competition with diesel trainsets (e.g. the Fliegender Hamburger, or last week's Pioneer Zephyr), and cars on highways then favoured by Hitler.

It first came short of expectations, but on one test run in 1936, the train was late, so the engineer thought he'll do an unscheduled no-holds-barred run – achieving a certified record of 200.4 km/h (124.5 mph). A conservative choice, the actual curve would have allowed the same speed claims as the British.

05 002 leaving Hamburg Hbf on train FD23 for Berlin in 1938. Photo Carl Bellingrodt, from the Joachim Buegel Collection, via German Steam

USAmerican contenders
There are half a dozen US record claims higher than the above (up to 140 mph = 225 km/h, for the Pennsylvania Railroad's class S1, pictured below), as well as several earlier US record claims higher than the then European record. What they all share is lack of credibility:

  • the speeds were calculated by inexperienced clock-watchers rather than measured by a dynamometer car,
  • indeed when experienced clock-watchers were present on the very same run, they reported much lower top speeds (but company PR forgot to mention that),
  • calculations based on specifications make the claimed speeds physically impossible (small wheels, instability, not enough steam).

There was one exception: just the Milwaukee's "Hiawathas". In my opinion, the F7 has every reason to claim the title of the fastest locomotive in the world:

  • It pulled the fastest regular trains in the steam era, maintaining top speeds above 100 mph (160 km/h).
  • On a test run with dynamometer car, 125 mph was reportedly achieved.
  • Calculations imply it was suited for such a speed – by its good design, and it was also the most powerful of the three contenders.
  • Possibly due to belief in the higher record claims of others in the USA, this wasn't considered a record run, just a regular test run – I suspect if they had pushed the F7 to its limits, the European contenders would have been left behind.

(Most of the above based on research by British railfan Bryan Benn.)

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the thing about the German speed record is, that it took them more than fifty years to reach that speed on that route again and provide an equally fast service as this steam engine provided. (well there was the small problem of the iron curtain....)
by PeWi on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 05:38:57 AM EST
...and it could have been ten years less, had politicians not have had a love affair with the Transrapid, the German maglev. The German Railways weren't allowed to reconstruct the Berlin-Hamburg line for 200 km/h after the reunification, because a parallel Transrapid line was planned - which was shelved as too expensive only after a decade.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 06:55:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany might be beaten in overall speed, but the fasted steamer that is still going is


it apparenty could still go 182.4km fast, if the German Railways would give it permission to leave its compound at all.

here are some more information (in German)

by PeWi on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 05:55:11 AM EST
Indeed Bryan Benn, at the end of the page I linked at the end of my post, publishes cab photos of another 180 km/h run in 1995.

The former East German test locomotive 18 201, just like the 05 002, has giant driving wheels 2300 mm (= 7 ft 6.55 in = 90.55 in) in diameter, vs. the 2000 mm norm of other German (or French) express steam locomotives.

The Mallard, too, had wheels of just 2032 mm (= 6 ft 8 in = 80 in) - like most other British or American fast steamers -, while both the class A and F7 "Hiawathas" (and the PRR S1) had 2133.6 mm (= 7 ft = 84 in) wheels.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 08:27:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Chichibu, my little town in Japan, the local rail line has a steam engine that they run on Saturdays and Sundays  whenever it's not Winter.  It's a total tourist thing - normally they run the Japanese standard locomotive-free commuter electric train cars.

I'm going to try and post pictures of it.  They're not my pictures - don't have any of those in digital format.

This is my first time posting pictures, so I hope they come out right.

Here's one of it running with cherry blossoms in the background.

url=img=[/url]

And here's one with a bridge in it.

URL=[IMG]http://img427.imageshack.us/img427/7097/paleoexpress022vs.th.jpg[/IMG][/URL]

by Zwackus on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 08:54:12 AM EST
Okay, that didn't work like I was hoping.  However, if you click on the front part of the link, where it says url=, it will take you to the full size picture.

Advice on how this could be fixed would be appreciated.  This internets stuff is hard work.

by Zwackus on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 08:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Use html tags, not BBCode tags. E.g.:

< a href="http://www.whatever.site/filename.jpg" > link text < /a >

and

< img src="http://www.whatever.site/filename.jpg" >

(No closing tag for img; and of course no spaces between the tag delineators and what's in the tag)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 09:09:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Beautiful photos!

Could you or tuasfait post any images or data or stories or links on fast/streamlined Japanese steam? (My knowledge of Japanese railways just about begins and ends with Shinkansens...)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 09:04:21 AM EST
Dodes' Kaden, Dodes' Kaden, Dodes' Kaden...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 02:43:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Union Pacific runs summer excursion trains in Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho with this big Challenger class engine. Boilder pressure: 280 PSI (1,930.5kpa)--scary!

Not too fast, though, as it was mostly used for freight.

by asdf on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 09:32:09 AM EST
Awesome pic. That gets a big four!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 02:46:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seconded, tough again I shall issue a hint that his photo would better fit another Monday Train Blogging planned for a few weeks from now :-)

(I already had half-written versions of about ten weeks' worth when I posted the first instalment three weeks ago.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 06:11:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe you could post a schedule? We could look for pictures in advance...
by asdf on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 06:58:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your wish is my command - but I won't give away too much, only titles :-)

Next week: Heavy Haul
2 weeks from now: Forgotten Colorado
3 weeks: The Hardest Job [among railroad jobs]
4 weeks: Highest Speed
5 weeks: Trainwreck

Some for later: Bigger Than Big Boy (I meant this one for your CHallenger photo above), Failed Designs, Crazed Designs, Railway Cathedrals [stations].

The sequence might change - and I may insert some more on people.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 11:08:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Whoa I am impressed, mine is researched on the day.
by PeWi on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 01:25:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The Southern Manchulia Railways (SMR) which Japan operated in Northeast China had this streamlined, high-speed train service from 1934. The limited express connected Dahrien and Hsingking (701 km) in 8.5 hours. (Picture Source: Kawasaki Heavy Industries)

The "Paci-Na" style locomotive shown here recorded about 120-170 km in the scheduled service.

One of the project team member of the SMR limited express service, Yasujiro Shima, was later involved in another project to introduce a similar high-speed train service in Japan, which had to be abandoned because of the war. Later, in 1964, Japan finally launched the high-speed train service, Shinkansen. The project leader was Hideo Shima, Yasujiro's son.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 11:08:04 AM EST
I forgot to add the locomotive had wheels of 2000 mm in diameter.

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 11:12:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With data you give/link to, I found this on them. Then I realised: I know this locomotive! But only from photos, photos of one surviving unit in very bad shape:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 05:05:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would like to give two 4 ratings for this (photo & story) :-)...

Interesting, so there were no streamlined high-speed locos at all in Japan proper?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 04:34:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't say for sure, but it would not surprise me if there weren't.  The terrain is not very friendly to high speed trains, and prior to the Shinkansen I don't think passenger rail had ever been a very high priority.

The streamlined era was what, the 30's and 40's?  Japan was already at was as early as 33.  Major rail-line upgrades for passengers just wasn't in the cards.

I could be wrong, though.

by Zwackus on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 06:49:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, everything you say makes sense, and seems to hold true even considering the strange locomotive below:

This ugly duckling is the C53 No. 43. Why it had to be streamlined, I don't know: design speed is supposed to be a mere 95 km/h...

I found it when I re-visited a long ago bookmarked link (Gunter's Locomotive Page) for a completely different reason, and found it grew a lot - now with a long list of streamlined locos.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 10:53:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, you found a pic I was trying to find. The work was done during the 1930s as they thought it was fashionable to do so. There was another experimental streamlining work done on a C55 loco too. As you point out, the work was practically meaningless except the cover made repair and maintenance more difficult.

The reason the speed was capped at mere 95 km/h is the terrain and the narrow gauge (1067 mm). Even today, except for Shinkansen, we still use 1067 mm.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 09:48:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does The Flying Scotsman count?  I don't know much about trains, but it seems to fit the category and, although not nearly as fast as the others here, it seems much beloved.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 02:30:46 PM EST
Quite!

It was the first claimed to have reached exactly 100 mph with a dynamometer car behind (but, as Bryan Benn also notes, this  has been exposed in 2003 as a rather crude doctoring, real maximum was around 98 mph).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 04:31:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, DoDo.  I wasn't sure.  I may have even travelled on it.  I've gone by train from London's King's Cross station to Edinburgh's Waverly station four times -- in 69, 78, 84, and 2001.  I remember during the first trip my grandpa telling me all sorts of fabulous tales about the Flying Scotsman, so it stuck in my head.  I'm glad it fit the category and I didn't make an ass out of myself (a quite frequent occurance). :-)

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 10th, 2005 at 05:06:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Funnily, despite all the evidence for the Milwaukee Road having the first steamer to 100 and the fastest steamer, none of those Milwaukee steamers are preserved.  On the other hand Flying Scotsman called at Milwaukee in the summer of 1970 and Eisenhower is now preserved in a heated building in Green Bay.  (It guards the first two Super Bowl trophies!)

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.
by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Sat Oct 22nd, 2005 at 09:51:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for the coverage of this fun but truly pointless debate.  I have long championed the Hiawathas as World's Fastest, most recently here, upon my learning about your site.

On one of the other comment threads somebody asked about two articles in the 2002 Classic Trains.  Both are by veteran railroaders Ed King and Jim Scribbins.  One is a rather lurid story about Hiawatha 102 stripping herself passing Morton Grove station with a North Woods Hiawatha making about 90 mph, when the engineer's side crosshead seized account failure of a lubricator.  First the main rod snaps.  It tears up some of the cladding on the locomotive, although it neither comes up through the footplate to injure the crew nor digs in in such a way as to derail the train.  The other is some speculation about how fast a Hiawatha can go, noting that the Milwaukee Road never ran a speed test with the intention of setting a record (I'm imagining letting one loose at Tomah with 30 miles of sand-country running until it gets near to the Wisconsin Dells) and mentioning the running test with the recorder tape maxing at 125.

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.
by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Fri Oct 21st, 2005 at 07:03:36 PM EST
Thank you for your kind words, and your summary of those articles! (And some good links I bookmarked after scrolling though your blog!)

If it is possible, I would like some more details about the latter. For example, is their 125 mph reference just a short note without source, the Baron Vuillet book reference, or an independent source?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Oct 22nd, 2005 at 07:46:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, if you're a Hiawatha proponent already, maybe you know more about this: in a number of European books, I find the figure 209 km/h (must be calculated from 130 mph) for the F-7. Completely without sources or context. Have you ever read this figure in a US source?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Oct 22nd, 2005 at 07:51:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose you could call somebody who grew up in Milwaukee and whose father took pictures of the A's and F7s a Hiawatha proponent, and let us not forget No. 6402 being the first steam locomotive to do an unambiguous 100 mph.

Vuillet's book and the Scribbins and King article both rely on a statement by Milwaukee CME C.H. Bilty on a test run of No. 100.  "I find that 19 miles of the run were negotiated in excess of 100 mph and that 5 of the 19 ... at a rate of 120 mph... when the hand comes to a stop against the peg I am inclined to believe that a speed of from 123 to 125 mph was reached."  This was on the Chicago & Milwaukee, the First Subdivision of the Milwaukee Division.  The racetrack is the Tomah - Wisconsin Dells, west of Milwaukee, and no special speed runs were performed there.

I have no special information about the European sources suggesting a top speed of 206 km/h (130 mph.)  Scribbins and King report that one of the F7s was tested on the Pennsylvania Railroad's stationary test plant in Altoona, Pennsylvania, where it spun the rollers at 560 rpm, approximately 140 mph.  The consensus among design engineers is that the Hiawathas were easily capable of sustained running at 125 mph, but the Milwaukee never put the 60 minute Chicago-Milwaukee timing that would have called for that capability into use.

(Send me a private email.  I might be able to locate the Classic Trains back issue if you're interested.)

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.

by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Sat Oct 22nd, 2005 at 09:47:01 PM EST
Something else occurs to me.  The Midwestern version of "The Great Race to the North" started when Burlington announced that it would be buying a pair of Zephyrs to provide a 6 1/2 hour Chicago - Savanna - LaCrosse - St. Paul - Minneapolis service.  Chicago and North Western modified some standard equipment and rebuilt some heavy 4-6-2s (2C1 if you will) for the 400, and Milwaukee designed a steam streamliner in order to be able to vary the capacity of its Hiawathas.  (Fixed consists are the bane of any high-speed service with dedicated equipment, including the Eurostar, Talgo, and Acela Express.

In 1934, a souped up steam locomotive could pull a seven to nine car train.  By 1937, Electro-Motive was rolling out practical diesel locomotives that could be applied as A-A, A-B-A, or A-B-B-A sets for however large a consist one desired (generally limited by the length of station tracks, particularly in Chicago.)  Under those circumstances, a claim of a world speed record for a steam locomotive was not something likely to be forward-looking.  Thus the 400s and the Hiawathas set the pace for the world in relative obscurity, although the diesels of the day actually had a lower top speed of 117 mph.  All the same, there are some great recorder logs of one of the diesels making up 11 minutes against the 75 minute Milwaukee to Chicago schedule!

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.

by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Sat Oct 22nd, 2005 at 10:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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