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Monday Train Blogging: Crazed Designs

by DoDo Wed Jan 4th, 2006 at 07:02:19 AM EST

back from the front page

A fitting theme for just after New Year's Day. Two weeks ago, I diaried in defence of steam locomotive designs that look crazy today, showing why it made sense back then to try them. But, there were some locomotives that should have never been built – for example, the Holman locomotive:

What looks like a schoolboy's idea of a perpeetum mobile was actually built – as part of a stock-market scam in 1887. Incredibly, the ruse could be pulled off a second time – with a second locomotive built ten years later. (Above is the second locomotive, below the fold the even stranger first.)

An account from 1907 is on-line.

Monorail Madness

The Brennan Gyro-Monorail, a vehicle kept upright with two gyroscopes, was built by Louis Brennan in 1909 for the British War Office. It was a working design – only it didn't make any sense. For, how do you pull any cars? You'd need (motor-driven) gyroscopes on each car! And what happens if one gyro fails on just one car?...

Change the gauge!

This utter idiocy was built in Geneva some 150 years ago. The Laferrère locomotive is a normal metre-gauge locomotive, which, instead of just replacing the axles and moving the cylinders, was lifted on an extra frame with three standard-gauge wheelsets. Note that two of the original wheelsets aren't driven, while the third functions as part of a silly mechanical transmission system...

All of these oddities were taken from Douglas Self's Extreme Steam site, which showcases a lot of other oddities – some more crazed designs, many more failed designs, some just silly designs, and a lot of rarities that worked but weren't widespread. A slight warning – as NeutralObserver commented two weeks ago:

DoDo Don't ever do this again
well not this year. I've just spent four hours exploring Douglas Self's website on retro-technology.

What amazing, outstanding and totally nutty ideas we overevolved apes have come up with over the years.

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
  11. Bigger Than Big Boy
  12. Tunnels
  13. Failed Designs
  14. Demarcations

I continue to really enjoy your series, DoDo, though I have nothing of note to offer in way of comments...other than my interest, that is. Thanks!!

I sure wonder when the US wil come to its senses and heavily fund railroads...

And I'm curious...are you an engineer for the railroad...or a railroad engineer (if you get my distinction)?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Tue Jan 3rd, 2006 at 05:56:47 AM EST
Yes, I should have posted the same yesterday. I love your posts in this series!

(Disclaimer: and elsewhere also, of course)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2006 at 06:21:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I got it right (I always get confused about this in English): no, I don't drive locomotives :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2006 at 05:14:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last night I spent a couple of hours looking at the Catskill Archive Railroad Extra pages you linked to above.

You are the best DoDo.

Eats cheroots and leaves.

by NeutralObserver on Tue Jan 3rd, 2006 at 08:43:45 AM EST
Here is a picture taken in 1960 showing the inside of the first-class passenger car of the limited express train, with gentlemen seated.

(Source: Mu-san Railway Diary)

Nothing wrong, except back then none of passenger cars, even these first-class panorama cars, were not fitted with a sewage tank. They had toilets and the, eh, wasteful material was simply flushed out onto the rail. The comptemprary wisdom was that the stuff would be left behind or dispersed onto the paddy fields nearby, which needed organic material anyway. So the train toilet had a caution which says "Do not use when the train is not running" for obvious reasons.

However, it was later discovered that, as the train speed became higher, the things would not just go away, instead they would become small particles and moisture which could be blown back into the train through open windows. Worse still, long-distance trains had a restaurant car but no air conditioning. So if you opened a window on a hot summer day on the restaurant car those days, the chances were that you were not well served.

Thank you for bearing with me to start a new year with a topic like this. (It's DoDo's fault.)

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Tue Jan 3rd, 2006 at 12:04:33 PM EST
American railroad toilets flushed directly onto the track until about ten years ago...
by asdf on Tue Jan 3rd, 2006 at 09:50:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you guys had air-conditioning...

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Wed Jan 4th, 2006 at 12:42:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In Hungary, most trains still flush on the rails (the exceptions are the few new diesel multiple units and international express cars), but they do so via a pipe - or at least I guess (I hope?) the pipe is the reason that I never heard of this problem before :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 4th, 2006 at 12:29:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a site with a bunch of pictures of "interesting" designs related to smoke control...

by asdf on Tue Jan 3rd, 2006 at 09:57:22 PM EST
Douglas Self's site is a treasure trove :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 4th, 2006 at 12:29:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]

This is Hiroshige's rendition of the "departure" of a train from Yokohama Station....

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Wed Jan 4th, 2006 at 11:50:50 PM EST

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2006 at 08:19:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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