Steam Giants

ddm502001 Jan 18, 2018

  1. ddm502001

    ddm502001 TrainBoard Member

    I still cannot see how in the age of steam many unit trains were single loco, massive tonnage massive tractive effort and the diesels took over with more locos to perform the same function.

    I watch with a smile in my heart as the remaining large steamers make power while a diesel sits astern only there for the dynamic for additional braking. Such a shame these giant power house machines got tossed to the side while the railroads played with fuel hungry diesels.
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    One aspect of which I wonder, regardless of gearing, is wheel diameter. Using steam, the energy went straight to drivers. With diesels, some energy is lost in gearing.
  3. MRLdave

    MRLdave TrainBoard Member

    I love steam as well, but a big factor in the demise of steam was that those "fuel hungry diesels" could go way further on a tank of fuel than the steamers could on a tank of water/tender of coal, meaning fewer facilities to maintain. Also the maintenance on a diesel is simpler. And diesels don't generally cause fires in your engine house, or explode if someone doesn't watch the boiler pressure. Very true that diesels STILL haven't out-horsepowered the big steamers, but then if we were really after the "best" solution, we should probably be using electric locos powered by solar panels or wind turbines.
  4. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    One other advantage to diesels...a diesel prime mover and alternator/generator could be swapped out in about 24 hours by removing the roof. Whereas a steamer was tied up for almost 30 days to be nearly rebuilt for a 1500 hour overhaul and inspection. Maintenance labor was the killer for steamers, sadly.
    Kurt Moose, Hardcoaler and Doug Gosha like this.
  5. Xmtrman

    Xmtrman TrainBoard Member

    The crews that run the big steam for your joy ride started work on the steamer long before you got out of bed that day. And long after you've packed your camera gear and gone home to your spouse for dinner they are still at it, servicing all that complicated machinery to be ready for the next day. Someone on the crew will draw the short straw for nightwatch...

    Steam is very romantic but the most labor-intensive mode of transportation this side of a Saturn V or Space Shuttle. But they will haul quite a bit more than either of the rockets. ;)
    Kurt Moose and Hardcoaler like this.
  6. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

    Yes, I love steam too, even though I'm too young to have witnessed it in regular service (I did see a couple of them still switching in the Twin Cities in the late fifties). But if you have ever seen video documentation of what it takes to overhaul a steam locomotive compared to a diesel (I have the video of rebuilding the Milw. 261), even though a diesel engine is complex, it's easy to see why the railroads made the decision to replace steam with diesel. As Hank said, it's all about the maintenance/labor.

    And standing next to a diesel as it's revving up is just as exciting as being next to a steamer starting up or hitting its stride.

    Hardcoaler likes this.
  7. montanan

    montanan TrainBoard Member

    I am old enough to have witnessed steam in action. I even had the opportunity to have ridden an an NP Challenger and a Yellowstone (2-8-8-4) when they were used for helper service on Bozeman Pass before they were scrapped. The Yellowstones were too large to go through the tunnel at the top of the pass and would cut off and head back downgrade to Livingston waiting for their next helper assignment.

    The biggest factor for moving onto diesel was maintenance as mentioned above.

    There are a number of railroads that do still operate steam locomotives, tourist railroads of course. My wife and I manage to travel a lot and seek out steam venues that may be along the routes we're taking. We have managed to have visited over a dozen of them and really enjoy the trips. Here's one that we have visited a few times. We attend national bowling tournaments in Reno, NV and Virginia City is not too far from Reno.

    There's nothing better than riding with steam.
    Kurt Moose likes this.
  8. fitz

    fitz Staff Member

    Roger that. I have done so for the last 27 years. Hope to do some more steam fanning.
  9. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    My most exciting steam event was in 1949, when the engineer of a B&M 4-8-0 local let me sit in the right seat and operate his baby down a three-mile long passing siding. This 14-year old was happy to walk, nah, float back home....sigh. :cool:
    Kurt Moose likes this.

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