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Monday Train Blogging: Bigger Than Big Boy

by DoDo Wed Dec 7th, 2005 at 04:30:31 AM EST

back from the front page

Towards the end of the Steam Age, railways, especially US railroads, built a bedazzling array of extra-large freight locomotives. Union Pacific's "Big Boys" became the most famous, but they weren't the biggest!

Among US railfans, the issue sparks never-ending debates. For each rival, there is a story behind the lack of recognition. Below the fold, I first tell that of the Chesapeake & Ohio class H-8 "Allegheny":


If we say "largest locomotive", the question is: "largest" by what measure? You could actually use four (or six):

  • length (with/without tender),
  • weight (with/without tender),
  • tractive effort,
  • power1.

The Alleghenys beat the Big Boys in two categories. At 7,500 HP peak/c. 6,600 HP sustained (drawbar), only Pennsylvania's Duplex types (see one in my earlier Fast Steam diary) could match their power (Big Boy: 6,290 HP). At 350 (metric) tons without tender, they were also a bit2 heavier – but not by design, and that explains why they missed the spotlight.

For, the first batch was delivered 25 tons overweight. At over 37 (metric) tons axle-weight, they were more than what tracks were certified for – so while C&O got angry with the manufacturer, they kept the numbers confidential...

In service, the H-8 was successful – unlike most other bigger-than-Big-Boys. Hence, I'll keep the suspense3, and will show two more only in the next instalment of a now starting three-part mini-series: the one on failed designs (which again flows over into the third: on crazed designs). Below I will only show two European giants – which have a story too.

The Hungarian Railways (MÁV) class 601

In pre-WWI Hungary, there were a lot of mountains to scale. Designed for such lines just prior to the war, the 601 class was successful. However, after the war, both the country and the locomotive park was cut up. No big mountains remained in rest-Hungary, while the 601's lines in Croatia and Slovakia were soon electrified – left without fitting jobs, the locos were retired early, not one is preserved.

Which is a shame: when built, they were the most powerful (at 1,735 kW/2,330 HP), second strongest (with US standard calculation: 222 kN/49,945 lbs), heaviest with tender (162.5 t/358,250 lbs) and second without (109.4 t/241,185 lbs) in Europe. (More in German here.)

The Belgian Railways #2096 "Franco" prototype

The largest steam locomotive ever built in Europe was one of its kind. What you see on the outside: a cross between a Garratt and a Mallet, its three articulated parts rest on four groups of wheels (driven by four pairs of cylinders). Its inside is even stranger: like Siamese twins, there are two fire-boxes side-by-side at center, separately feeding the two boilers (forward/back), which were a special Italian design. (Douglas Self – who scanned the above photo – has more description, Gunter's has more data on #2096.)

Its European record on power (2,200 kW/3,000 HP) was beaten later, but on tractive effort (US standard calculation: 419 kN/94,220 lbs), weight (248 t/546,750 lbs) and length (31 m/101'8.5"), it remains unsurpassed – the "Franco" was big even by US standards.

This monster from 1932, tough not a failure, remained a demonstration piece. It was eventually cut up and made into two locomotives by the German occupiers during WWII, both parts ended up in Poland after the war – later unfortunately scrapped.

  1. 'Tractive effort' just means the pulling force. But as even railway bosses confuse basic physics, let me explain that power is NOT equal to force. It is force times speed.
    For a steam locomotive, starting tractive effort is pretty much a given from its basic dimensions, but as at increasing speed the cylinders use up steam ever faster, its power is limited by how fast steam can be produced. The latter also depends on what kind of coal you fire – so in the end, the figure that was 'counted' for steamers was tractive effort.
    On the other hand, diesels and electrics have a power source of relatively constant power, and can use all their weight to start a train, so the figure that is 'counted' is power. (However, if weight is smaller, extra power won't help on rain-soaked rails – something rail bosses ordering new freight locos in recent years in Europe failed to consider...)
  2. Really just a bit. Considering the nominal numbers, with tender the last batch of Big Boys was 3/4 tons heavier, without tender the H-8 with c. 2.5 tons. However, values from actual weightings for both types – both slightly lower than nominal – put the Alleghenies ahead by both measures (then ieagain, we don't know the instrument errors...)
  3. If you are too curious to wait, you can check tables for each category compiled by US railfan Wes Barris.


Previous Monday Train Bloggings:

  1. (Premiere/ modern Austrian trains & locos)
  2. Adventure
  3. Fast Steam
  4. Heavy Haul
  5. Forgotten Colorado
  6. The Hardest Job
  7. Blowback
  8. Highest Speed
  9. New England Autumn
  10. Trainwreck

Display:
Love the train blogging.  My grandfather was a plumber with C&O here in Michigan for 48 years and he had many tales of how the operation worked. Thanks a lot for these diaries.
by douglas (dougy520@NOSPAMyahoo.com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 09:40:24 AM EST
Thanks for the encouragement! You must have had a great grandfather! (My beloved late grandfather was in the rail sector too - and railways somehow must have been in our genes, for even before he took me out to a railway station as a small child, my second or third word is said to have been 'voa' - baby-talk for 'vonat', which is Hungarian for 'train'...)

Meanwhile, I note that only after posting this diary did I find a good account and source to the 7500 HP figure for the Allegheny - in a railfan forum entry. I updated the text, but for fans only, here is the relevant forum entry in full:

Well, the 7,500 figure for the Allegheny is actually a peak dynamometer reading at about 47 mph. The full scatterplot is in Huddleston & Dixon's book, The Allegheny Lima's Finest, pg204. If you have access to this graph, you can see that the dyno readings become erratic as speed increases, and at around 45 mph they range from 6200 to 7500. Although I understand the test report has survived at C&OHS archives, I haven't checked the underlying conditions that produced this peak reading. The train could have been coming out of a sag, or something like that. C&O did not correct for acceleration, and not doing this would produce artificially high readings under those conditions. The sustainable DBHP at 47 mph is closer to 6,600 based on my read of the scatterplot data, still a very good figure.

Heh, still better than any Diesel!

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 10:49:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great story, as ever. That Hungarian steam is beautiful. The picture below is the most powerful Japanese steam ever built (Pacific C62; 2300HP), used for passenger service.

(Source: unknown)

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 10:14:04 AM EST
The Royal Hudson 2860 is an ex-CPR Hudson type steam locomotive. The first Hudson type built for the CPR was produced in 1929 by the Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Top speed of 90 mph.
Technical details of this beauty:
Steam Pressure: 275 PSI
Diameter of Drivers: 75 inches (190.5 cm)
Cylinder Diameter: 22 inches (55.8cm)
Stroke: 30 inches (76.2 cm)
Tractive Effort: 42,250 pounds (19204 kg)
Weight: 648,500 pounds (293,770 kg)
Length: 90 feet 10 inches (27.7m)
Height: 15 feet 10 inches (4.7m)
Water Capacity: 12,000 gallons (54,600 l)
Oil Capacity: 4100 gallons (18614 l)


Thanks to this webpage for the information.

"now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." W. Churchill
by Thor Heyerdahl (thor.heyerdahl@NOSPAMgmail.com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 12:37:27 PM EST
This brings back memories from childhood. I saw the very end of steam. The Union Pacific Big Boys really powered those big distances from the west to Chicago. Steam was MUCH more exciting than diesel locomotives. At five I would have done anything to be the engineer of the yard engines of the Northern Pacific moving the wheat cars to the malting plants near my house along the tracks.
by Rolfyboy6 (rolmsted@hawaii.rr.com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 01:11:13 PM EST
Okay, DoDo, I'm not sure if this fits with trains, and it certainly would have been better in last week's thread, but, hey, I don't choose when monorails collide.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

This happened a few days ago and is apparently a "flaw" in the design.  There's a spot that too narrow for two of the trains to pass each other.  I put the word flaw in quotes because evidently, this was known and done anyway to meet the demands of the mall developers.

So, I mean, what's wrong with designing an inevitable crash point anyway?  All it takes is good timing to avoid and public transportation is famous for it's reliable schedules, right?  It's not like trains are ever late or anything...

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

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 03:09:59 PM EST
Izzy, whatever is new is entirely on-topic! So far I only read a half-sentence on this incident, so your report is much appreciated!

...and having read your links, I just don't believe this...

...this is so CRAZY it could only happen under capitalism...

(sorry for the hard left outburst...)

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 04:36:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I couldn't believe it either!  And no need for apologies -- I'm right there with you!

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 04:53:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo, trains are fascinating (well in my opinion anyhow), so keep this column up!!

ps: I'd worship you (ahum, temporarily that is, cough cough) if you did a take on the narrow gauge on the western front (portability etc), one of these Mondays.

by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 03:15:27 PM EST
I do mean the WWI Western Front. I just find it amazing that railroads could be built extremely fast, then changed, then moved, etc, using narrow gauge!
by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 03:16:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This reminds me of the final scene of Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers. (Picture)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 03:33:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good idea!

It will need some research, tough - it may come only in two months' time.

By the way - tough asdf is regrettably appears to be no more around, some might care on an update to what I have in the pipeline (check how I kept the original schedule).

I plan (or already have half-written) diaries on

  • Tunnels,
  • Failed Designs,
  • Fences,
  • Crazed Designs,
  • Railway Cathedrals,
  • Design Dictators,
  • Field Railways

The last is the one for you Alex; and I also disclose that no less than five will have French subjects. You may also notice my attempt to alternate between modern and old, as well as techy and more 'romantic' themes - dear readers, am I getting the balance right?

...oh, and once I can arrange a holiday I don't have to shelve for one reason or the other, I might post more digital photographs of my own...

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 04:51:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The "I am interested in the field I currently work in, even though I studied quasars and pulsars" sentiment is clearly filtering through to us!

Your diaries are concise and interesting, and the balance is just right.

Maybe the only thing missing is a take on rollercoasters and other amusement park trains :))

by Alex in Toulouse on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 04:58:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bah!!!!

To understand my outrage - has anyone seen Flight of the Phoenix (the original, not the crappy remake)? Do you recall the scene when the pilots (James Stewart & Richard Attemborough) learn what kind of planes the German engineer (played by Hardy Krüger) really designed, and confront him on that? Especially Hardy Krüger's facial expression?

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:12:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember the scene, but not the German's facial expression.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:19:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm only paraphrasing from memory,

"Toy planes?..."


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:31:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which only goes to show that Attenborough's and Stewart's  characters had never heard of Reynold's number.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:33:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of which, what is the equivalent of Reynold's number for train engines?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:42:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm... maybe the adhesion ratio.

(Or did you have something funny in mind?)

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The derailment coefficients also might fit the bill.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:54:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think my brain is turning to goo. Is that what you had in mind?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:55:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know what is in my mind anymore...

...I think I best say good night :-)

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:57:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here. I saw that. Krueger's expression too. I am an airplane model builder myself (not the flying stuff but a solid model plane). My experience tells me only the model builders know what it all takes to build a whole plane. Balance, power, finishing...

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 04:00:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder if Hardy Krüger even knows what a star this scene made him in some quarters... :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 07:06:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 02:52:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Names and faces - a bit funny that poster, aint' it?...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 02:53:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The "I am interested in the field I currently work in, even though I studied quasars and pulsars" sentiment is clearly filtering through to us!

Hm, now that you say it, once this runs out, I might just start a Monday Astronomy Blogging... a series starting with the close, ending with the furthest away... you got me thinking!

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:17:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cool!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:18:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't wait. If railway stories are finished, please consider airplanes as your next topic. I love them too.

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 03:53:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Allegheny Locomotive

On display at The Henry Ford Museum if you ever wander through Detroit.

by btower on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 12:19:42 AM EST
As you would like news, the Mayor of London is formally opening a new section of the Docklands Light Railway today. For the first time there is a direct rail link to the London City Airport currently from Canary Wharf. The line will eventually cross the river to Woolwich in SE London. A likely second link will be built to directly connect to Stratford to serve the Olympics site.

London City is the closest commercial airport to the centre of London. Built on a disused dock, it only caters for STOL aircraft on short-haul flights. Its prozimity to both the ExCell exhibition/confrence centre, the City and the new business district around Canary Wharf means it has a high proportion of business travellers.

For those unfamiliar with the DLR, the trains are designed to operate fully automatically under computer control.Each has a "train captain" now called a "passenger service agent" whose primary jobs are to close the doors and check tickets. If the automated control breaks down, there is a control panel they can use to drive it located in front of the first seats. When the system was first nearing completion, the central control computers were not fully on line so filmmakers had to fake the automatic control by having the captains kneel down and hide behind the control panel cover. In some shots you can see the tops of their heads but I suspect these are now deep in the archive. The grand royal opening was also a little spoilt when the doors refused to open and the Queen was stuck in the carriage for some time.

With seats at the front and rear with uninterupted views as you go along the open sections, many of which are elevated, they are an ideal way of seeing the redeveloped business section and also take you to Greenwich for sightseeing opportunities at the Cutty Sark (tea clipper in dry dock) and the National Maritime Museum and Greenwich Observatory sites. Combined with a boat trip back to the Tower or Westminster, it is a really nice and more unusual day out for tourists wanting a break from central London bustle. The existing trains are being refurbished inside and out. The first pictures show the refurbishment.


New rolling stock is also being ordered from Bombardier for delivery from 2007. This is a computer generated image of the proposed design.  

by Londonbear on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 04:50:14 AM EST
Excellent post - I heard only little of the initial troubles you mention, yet I never expected the DLR to be this successful! And, oh, now that you mention:

For the first time there is a direct rail link to the London City Airport currently from Canary Wharf. The line will eventually cross the river to Woolwich in SE London. A likely second link will be built to directly connect to Stratford to serve the Olympics site.

Jérôme will have no excuse for not using mass transit into the City - especially when the DLR station at Stratford International (Eurostar station opening 2007) is built too :-)

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

by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 07:04:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stratford already has a DLR station.

Jérôme, it takes only 2h50' from Waterloo to Gare du Nord, and the return ticket costs only £59. When are we meeting?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 07:09:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stratford already has a DLR station.

Yes, but SI is not close a DLR extension right to the railway station is planned for 2010. (This is a typical example of public transport investment idiocy I get mad about: when some new rail line is built without organising traffic connections at the same time. But better late than never!)

Jérôme, it takes only 2h50' from Waterloo to Gare du Nord, and the return ticket costs only £59. When are we meeting?

Actually, some trains (those with less stops) are now scheduled at 2h35m! But Jérôme IIRC once explained that his firm pays him the airplane ticket, and going to City Airport is still faster than the Eurostar even with the new CTRL-1-allowed times. (I saw that comment of his maybe a week late, so only answered it indirectly, now for the second time :-) )

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

by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 07:25:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
2h35'? Taking into account the time difference I can get up at 7 and be in Paris by 9:30! Cool!

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 07:31:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the timezone benefit is the other way around :-)

Examples, using the Eurostar site timetable (due to a silly script, sorry no direct link), at-or-around 2h35m trains are:

London-Paris:

  • 9008 (08:12L - 11:47P)
  • 9018 (10:40L - 14:17P)
  • 9040 (16:12L - 19:47P)
  • 9046 (17:42L - 21:17P)

Paris-London:
  • 9003 (06:22P - 07:58L)
  • 9019 (10:19P - 11:54L)
  • 9039 (15:19P - 16:54L)
  • 9055 (19:19P - 20:54L)

...while half of the rest has times just above 2h40m.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 07:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I always fly to City Airport, it's really convenient - and will be even more so with the light railway. I've been following construction for the past two years and waiting for this. Great!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 05:37:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually building things for the general welfare of the people. What a concept.

Trains seemed to be everywhere when I was a kid in  1950's America. Took them for granted (ahem.)

Now I understand what happened, and a photo of one of the older locomotives is a strong symbol for me of the antithesis of what the Schultz-Bush-Cheney puppets are involved in doing.

I hope those bastards have nightmares of locomotives crushing their plans for a new dark age.

Beautiful post! Thank you!

by Gary McGowan on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 10:04:56 AM EST
Whoops.

That turned into something of a rant. My apologies if it seems off topic, or a negative turn.

by Gary McGowan on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 10:08:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just see my entry for last week - rant and negative is just okay :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 10:32:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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