Changing Face of Amtrak’s North East Corridor – and a New Acela

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Beginnings

The North East Corridor of the Amtrak rail network has been, and remains, the most important rail route in the USA, connecting the major cities of the Eastern Seaboard with the federal capital of Washington D.C. It has been at the forefront of the deployment of high-speed trains for decades, way back to the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s grand electrification work, and the use of the world famous GG1 locomotives, with Raymond Loewy’s streamlining.

When Amtrak – more precisely the National Railroad Passenger Corporation in 1971, under the ‘Railpax Act’, passenger rail services were and had been run down to a very considerable extent, and the Federal Government decided it was important to rescue the most important routes. Of greatest importance were the lines in the North East States, and the infrastructure was just not fit to provide late 20th century passenger services, and so began the NECIP – North East Corridor Improvement Project.

Back in the 1980s, high-speed rail was dominating the headlines, and by 1986, the USA had experimented with, and was developing that membership of the high-speed club, and only the UK, despite the technology, research and the ill-fated APT, was being left behind. In the USA had had in mind high-speed rail transport since 1965, when it enacted the “High Speed Ground Transportation Act” in 1965, which was a direct response to the arrival of the ‘Shinkansen’ bullet trains in Japan the previous year. There followed trials of ingenious gas-turbine trains from the United Aircraft Corporation – the UAC Turbotrains – which were in revenue earning service on NEC services between 1968 and 1976. These overlapped the formation of Amtrak, and ran in Amtrak colours for a time.

A less than successful gas turbine powered train intended to provide high-speed passenger services was the UAC Turbotrain, seen here at Providence, Rhode Island in May 1974, in the early Amtrak colours. Photo: Hikki Nagasaki – TrainWeb https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48607485
Just prior to the creation of Amtrak, Budd built these ‘Metroliner’ sets to try and improve passenger ridership on the NEC. These Penn Central liveried units were perhaps the start of a transition to high-speed rail. Photo (c) Charly’s Slides

To provide improved passenger services on the NEC, in the late 1960s, Penn Central ordered and operated the Budd built “Metroliner” trains for its electrified route out of New York. These trains were sponsored by the DOT (Department of Transportation) as a “Demo Service” for high-speed inter-city working along the corridor. They were a success and led, a few later to the appearance and styling of the first “Amfleet” cars.

But, next on the high-speed agenda were the ANF-RTG “Turbotrains”, which, once again, were powered by gas turbines, with the first two fixed formation sets built and imported from France from 1973. However, these were not set to work on the NEC initially, but sent out to Chicago, where they worked services to and from the mid-west. They were based on a very successful design running on SNCF metals in France, and whilst the first 4 were direct imports, Amtrak “Americanised” the design with another 7 of the 5-car sets, to be built by Rohr Industries, and powered by the same ANF-Frangeco gas turbine. These Turbo Trains were put to use on the “Water Level Route” out of New York, and were fitted with contact shoes for 3-rail working in and out of Grand Central Terminal. These were a success – if not super fast, they were very economical, and cut oil consumption compared to the earlier designs by about 1/3.

The first venture overseas to finmd a high-speed solution for non-electrified routes around and feeding into the NEC was the ANF-Frangeco gas tubine powered sets from France. They were much more reliable and economic operationally than the UAC Turbotrains, and resulted in a design involving this proven technology, but built and ‘Americanised’ by Rohr Industries. Photo: (c) Charly’s Slides

South of New York, the Pennsylvania Railroad had electrified its main line into and out of New York back in the 1930s – and of course bought the unique and classic GG1 electric locomotives. These hauled the most prestigious passenger trains on the Pennsylvania’s lines for many years, but the dramatic collapse in passenger operations in the 1950s and 60s was a major challenge. Railroads were going bust at a rate of knots, and there were mergers that perhaps shouldn’t have been, and with railroads focussing on freight, the track and infrastructure was not good enough for high-speed passenger trains. The Government decided that something needed to be done to protect and provide passenger services in the North East, and following the examples of other countries, provide high-speed services.

The end result was the North East Corridor Improvement Project, and of course the formation of Amtrak.

First Steps

Having taken on the PRR’s ‘Metroliner’ and GG1 for passenger duties under the wires, it was time to look for replacement and improvements. The first changes came by way of 6,000hp E60CP electric locomotives from General Electric, and to marry up with the ageing passenger cars, these Head End Power (HEP) units also had steam heating fitted. Mind you, so did some of the new ‘Amfleet’ cars that were converted to provide HEP in the early days.

On the electrified lines of the former PRR in the NEC, General Electric were commissioned to build these hge 6,000hp E60CP locomotives, which were planned to provide 120 mph running. Sadly, that objective was never achieved, and the power to weight ratio in the build of these locos was a factor. Photo: Amtrak

The E60s were not a success, and their planned operational speeds of up to 120 mph was never achieved, and in part due to the suspension and transmission arrangements, together with the less than satisfactory state of the infrastructure. The E60s had their speed limits capped at 85 mph, even after suspension design changes, and were later sold off to other railroads. High-speed passenger working was not something the American railroads and the NEC in particular had any great experience with at that time, and it was playing catch up with other countries. The next high-speed proposal out of the blocks was much more successful, as Amtrak turned to Sweden and a version of its 6,000hp Bo-Bo locomotive, which, built by General Motors in the USA was nicknamed ‘Mighty Mouse’.

An AEM7 “Mighty Mouse” built by General Motors – also offered 6,000hp but with a much greater power to weight ratio. The design was based on the Swedish ASEA Rc4, and was an outstanding success, and paved the way for further developments of high-speed rail on the NEC. Photo: (c) Rail Photos Unlimited

The imported trial locomotive was the ASEA built Rc4, and was half the weight of the General Electric E60, and more aerodynamic. It was an outstanding success on trial, and despite GE being the only US manufacture of electric locos at that time, its rival, General Motors, was licensed to built ASEA equipment, which of course made it so much simpler to introduce a modern, high-speed design to the corridor. After trials, Amtrak ordered 15 of the new AEM7 ‘Mighty Mouse’ locos from General Motors, and this was rapidly followed by another 32, bringing the class total to 47. It would be wrong to suggest they ‘revolutionised’ high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor – but they certainly paved the way for future successes – after the $multi-million NEC Improvement Project got under way.

The fixed formation sets of the ‘Metroliner’ fleet in Amtrak service on the NEC as a high-speed option dates back to 1971, when the DOT reported its preference for IHSR-1 (Improved High-Speed Rail), with the ‘Metroliners’ as the minimum investment. These self-propelled electric trains were not a great success, and were plagued with reliability problems, and even after refurbishing in the early 1970s they proved no better than the electric locos hauling the new ‘Amfleet’ cars along the corridor.

Since electrification at the time was not being progressed further – although obscure ideas such as underground tubes, STOL/VTOL aircraft and magnetic levitation systems were discussed as high-speed options – on the rail, more gas-turbine powered trains were tried. This time, the options came from France and Canada – the old UAC ‘Turbotrains’ were very heavy on fuel, alongside their perhaps questionable performance on non-electrified section.

Following the success of the French built Turbotrains, Amtrak ordered and Rohr Industries built these ‘Americanised’ versions, incoporating the technology in a style and configuration more in tune with North American design. These 5-car sets were a success on non-electrified routes feeding into the corridor, and went ‘on tour’ across the country, operating out of the mid-west. Photo: Amtrak

The new gas-turbine trials featured a French multiple unit design from ANF-Frangeco, which was already in regular use on SNCF. The two on lease from ANF were followed by an order for 4 more, and they were highly successful on mid-west routes out of Chicago, with their turbines driving the axles through mechanical cardan shaft drives. An option for more was taken up by building an ‘Americanised’ version at Rohr Industries in California – these were 5-car sets, ordered in 1974 and put to work in the mid-west, whilst the UAC ‘Turbotrains’ saw out their days on the NEC between New York and Boston. The new Rohr turbotrains were also intended for the ‘Water Level Route’ north from New York, and modifications included fitting traction motors and third rail collector shoe gear for working in and out of Grand Central Station.

Amtrak turned to Canada and Bombardier for another variant for non-electrified operations – in this casze, the Bombardier built LRC (‘Light, Rapid, Comfortable’) train, which also saw the first use of body tilting technology to enable higher speeds around curves. Here, Amtrak’s “Beacon Hill” with locomotive #38, is seen in December 1980 carrying the then current red, white and blue livery. Photo: Tim Darnell Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15751992

The poor old UAC ‘Turbotrains’ were a failure on the New York to Boston section, and the decision to scrap the extension of electrification north from New Haven left Amtrak without suitable power to run high-speed passenger services. In 1980, a pair of 5-car LRC (Light, Rapid Comfortable) trains appeared on the corridor. These were an existing design from Canadian builders Bombardier/MLW, and already in service with Via Rail, and featured automatic body tilt mechanism that would prove a useful benefit for Amtrak. In fact, the Corporation had been considering this option for Vancouver-Seattle-Portland run, but first set them to work on the northern end of the NEC between New Haven and Boston. They were initially restricted to 90 mph, but on test demonstrated that a curve previously restricted to 50 mph could safely be taken at 70 mph – a major improvement in journey times was clearly possible.

Sadly the LRC sets were returned to Canada at the end of the trial period, as Amtrak once again came up against its perpetual enemy – budget and funding constraints.

Today

So where is the Corporation today? Well, it has genuinely embarked and delivered on a high-speed rail offering for the Northeast Corridor, with over 700 miles of track, serving the most densely populated part of the country, and now has genuine high-speed trains and technology. But it took almost 20 years to deliver the first of the fixed formation train sets.

Once again, Amtrak turned to European expertise to test and determine what was the most suitable offering, and following on from the experience gained with the successful ‘Mighty Mouse’ AEM7 paired with Amfleet cars, returned to Sweden and borrowed an X2000 tilting train set in 1992. With support from ABB, the X2000 not only worked on the NEC, but toured the USA – obviously in part to raise awareness and popularity for trains and railroads. Its regular – if not full time – working was between New Haven, New York and Washington, and during the X2000’s stay, Amtrak agreed with Siemens to test the German ICE train on the same route.

Swedeish State Railways X2000, built by ABB proved a game changer for Amtrak in its view of high-speed electric traction with tilt technology and was instrumental in paving the way for the current and future generations of NEC high-speed trains.

A year later, Amtrak went out to look for bidders to build a new high-speed train for the Corporation, and of course, both Siemens and ABB were in the running, but there was also the Bombardier/Alstom consortium. Bombardier of course had already had some exposure in the USA with the trials of its LRC tilting train. It looked in the 1990s as though Amtrak was heading towards membership of the high-speed club.

The end result was the Acela Express, with an order for 20 of the high-speed fixed formation trains to be designed, tested, built and delivered by the Alstom/Bombardier consortium. The train was operationally intended to be an ‘incremental improvement’ rather than a step change in rail technology as the Japanese “Bullet Trains” or France’s “TGV” had been. It was necessary to further improve the right of way in the northeast, with extensive replacement of existing track with continuous welded rail and concrete ties/sleepers, as well as provide three new maintenance facilities. Some of the right of way work had been carried out under the NEC improvement programme in the 1980s, but even more was needed before “Acela” could be fully operational. This included the rapid completion of electrification work from New Haven to Boston.

The most recent and successful high-speed trains on the NEC are the Alstom Acela design, and will be joined in 2021 and 2022 by the even more technically advanced Avelia series, and continue to expand hgh-speed rail transportation in the USA. Here, a northbound Amtrak Acela Express is captured passing through Old Saybrook, Connecticut in 2011 Photo: Shreder 9100 at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19261912

In November 2000, the Acela Express made its inaugural run. This was a train like no other seen in the USA before, with 12,000hp available from two power cars, and 6 trailers sandwiched between, to provide a smooth, quiet ride at speeds of up to 240 km/hr. No less than 20 of these trains were built between 1998 and 2001, and their popularity with the travelling public dramatically raised Amtrak’s share of the passenger market. Between New York and Washington DC, passenger share grew from 36% to 53%, and between New York and Boston it was even more marked, going up from 18% to 40%. At the same time, airline passenger share declined from 64% to 47% between the Big Apple and Washington.

America’s rapidly growing network of high-speed rail corridors that perhaps owe their inclusion following the achievements of successive Northeast Corridor Improvement Programs.

It has been a huge success, and in part at least has driven the demand for kickstarting investment in other high-speed rail corridors, from 1992 to 2009. The five corridors defined in 1992 were:

  1. Midwest high-speed rail corridor linking Chicago , IL with Detroit , MI , St. Louis MO and Milwaukee WI
  2. Florida high-speed rail corridor linking Miami with Orlando and Tampa.
  3. California high-speed rail corridor linking San Diego and Los Angeles with the Bay Area and Sacramento via the San Joaquin Valley.
  4. Southeast high-speed rail corridor connecting Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, and Washington, DC.
  5. Pacific Northwest high-speed rail corridor linking Eugene and Portland, OR with Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Six years later in 1998 the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century designated another group of high-speed rail corridors, and extensions to existing plans including:

  1. Gulf Coast high-speed rail corridor.
  2. The Keystone corridor
  3. Empire State corridor
  4. Extension of the Southeast corridor
  5. Extension of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Corridor (now called the Chicago Hub corridor)
  6. Improvements on the Minneapolis/St. Paul- Chicago segment of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Corridor.

Extensions has already been approved to the Southeast corridor in 1995, with further extensions to the Chicago Hu, and the Northern New England route and a new South Central Corridor in 2000, and to date further extensions and expansion of these key corridors are either in plan or approved. On top of this, for the original corridor – the NEC – new generation of Acela high-speed trains has been promised, and already under test, as the attached video shows.

Finally, after almost total dependence on the automobile for long distance as well as commuter travel, the age of the train in the USA is coming into its own. Environmental credentials are high, it is sustainable mass transportation, and popular.

A superb view of a new Avelia Liberty trainset passes Claymont, Delaware on a test between Race Street (Philadelphia) and Ivy City (Washington DC). These are set to enter service with Amtrak in 2021, with all sets in by 2022, replacing all current Acela Express trainsets. Photo: Simon Brugel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93569932

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Useful Links & Further Reading

Updated Camels & Camelbacks

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Just in case you missed a post, from a year or two back, the innovative design and use of “Camelback Locomotives” – a style that was very popular on US railroads for many years.

The heading image is from the ‘Locomotive Dictionary 1916′  and shows one of the superb “Atlantic Type” 3-cylinder simple locomotives built and operated by the Philadelphia & Reading company, for passenger service.  Many thousands of “Camelbacks”, also known as “Mother Hubbards” were built by over 30 railroads, but it is the design of the firebox that is key to its success.

Philadelphia_and_Reading_Railroad,_4-4-2_Vauclain_compound_locomotive,_4002_(Howden,_Boys'_Book_of_Locomotives,_1907)

Philadelphia and Reading Railway. One of the large Vauclain Compound “Atlantics” used by the Phildaelphia & Reading on high speed passenger trains.                                                             Photo from:  Howden, J.R. (1907) The Boys’ Book of Locomotives, London: E. Grant Richards,  Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10548075 

There were two different types of locomotive with a centre cab, on top of the boiler – the earlier design built by Ross Winans in the 1840s, were simply known as “Camels”, but the later design with a new, and innovative design of firebox.  This also appeared initially on the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, with the wide grate of the “Wooten Firebox”  its key component.  The design was patented by John Wooten in 1877.

I’m afraid an error crept into the original post, but I am grateful to one of my readers Jim Hansen for identifying this, and as you can see the original post has now been updated.

Original Patent Ref.

“Not all of these were successful and a clear description of the Wootten boiler is contained in the US patents, No. 192,755 (1877), 254,581 (1882) and the last changes under patent No. 354,370 (1886).”

Correct / Updated Patent Ref.

“Not all of these were successful and a clear description of the Wootten boiler is contained in the US patents, No. 192,725 (1877), 254,581 (1882) and the last changes under patent No. 354,370 (1886).”

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A sectional view of the Reading’s 4-4-2 ‘Camelback’, originally shown in the 1916 “Locomotive Dictionary”

Having a look at the US Patent Office and searching for that particular patent reveals it expired in November 1998 – “due to failure to pay maintenance fees”.

For a more detailed look, why not follow this link:

ONE HUMP OR TWO – CAMELS AND CAMELBACKS !

It is a good read.

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North American Steam

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As is well known, steam power was invented and developed in Britain country for both stationary and locomotive purposes. Its introduction and use in the United States very likely came about as a result of illegal activity here in England. At around the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century, it was deemed an offence by ·the government of the day to transmit any information about the development or use of steam power to North America. In fact it was punishable by a one-year prison sentence in addition to a £200 fine! But, evidently news of James Watt’s success was transported across the Atlantic it would appear that industrial espionage is not a modern phenomena!

The first practical use of steam power, as applied to railways, in the USA, was first witnessed in the shape of locomotives imported from England by the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co., which operated a sixteen-mile horse and gravity operated coal railway in Pennsylvania. The first steam locomotive to run in the USA was in fact the English built “Stourbridge Lion”.

Replica Stourbridge Lion - United_States_National_Museum_(1956)_(14781532311)

A replica of the first steam loco to run in the USA – built in 1932 by the Delaware & Hudson Corp.   Photo: Internet Archive Book Images https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43475790 

Best friend

Built at West Point Foundry, the “Best Friend of Charleston” was the first home built steam loco for a US railroad. Photo courtesy Norfolk Southern Corp.

The first American built locomotive to be operated by an American railroad, was built at the West Point Foundry in 1830 and made its inaugural run for the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Co. of Charleston, on Christmas Day 1830. The locomotive was appropriately named the “Best Friend Of Charleston”. In appearance it hardly resembled a steam locomotive as we know it at all, powered by a vertical boiler positioned behind the driver, driving four coupled wheels it was not entirely dissimilar to the rather less successful “Novelty” locomotive, entered for the Rainhill Trials in England the previous year. But, it was a beginning, from which the North American steam locomotive was developed, ultimately to produce some of the World’s largest and most powerful steam locomotives ever to be built.
 In the early years of railway development, steam locomotive design in the USA progressed along similar lines to that of their European counterparts.

But then, there came to be a number of what at first could be seen as small, technical differences, providing a divergent path along which North American loco. design progressed. One of the principal foundations to this alternative to the British school of design, was the predominant use of bar frames as the principal technique of chassis construction, whereas in Britain, plate frames were the preferred method. Although bar frame techniques were actually first Introduced in the U.K. by Edward Bury, their development in the USA resulted ultimately in the use of techniques for manufacturing the chassis or frames of steam locomotives as enormous one piece castings. In many cases with cylinders and ancillary items of equipment ”cast on”. Style, an arbitrary idea in itself, was possibly the one most obvious difference between North American and British types.

North American 2 copy

The first cantilever trestle bridge in the USA, carrying the Cincinatti Southern Railroad across the Kentucky River, with a typical passenger train of the period. The “High Bridge” was opened in 1877, and rebuilt in 1911 – this view is of the original bridge. Photo courtesy Norfolk Southern Corp./RPB Collection.

Whereas in this country designers placed great emphasis on the aesthetic appeal of their machines, the era of elaborate ostentation in the USA reached a peak in the 1860s and. 70s. These then gave way to more logical concepts of the steam locomotive as a machine, where it was not a sin to trail pipework and fittings
 on the outside of the locomotive, making the working parts more accessible and maintenance infinitely easier.

CP_steam_loco

A recreated Central Pacific # 60 steam locomotive at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah          Photo: Mr Snrub at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3488328

To many of us though, thinking of nineteenth century design in the USA, immediately there comes to mind the wood burning 4-4-0 types, replete with ‘cowcatchers’, ornate bell and enormous chimneys. (Diamond stacks as they were known.) These locomotives were a tradition, if not a legend of North American railroads, and engendered a folklore and many legends of their own., from ‘Casey Jones’ to the ‘General’. The latter, in particular, having quite an entertaining history, culminating in its seizure by Union forces during the Civil War. The elaborate ornamentation of some of those mid-nineteenth century designs achieved well nigh indescribable levels, with gold plated scrollwork and paintwork and lining schemes that would have done justice to any regal palace!

By 20th century standards such locomotives were small, yet it’ was with just such engines as these that the vast mid-west and western seaboards of the USA were penetrated. Possibly the most outstanding achievement being the linking by rail of both east and west coasts at Promontory, Utah on May 10th 1869.

Alabama Southern 4-6-0 - 1905

Typical of US motive power at the beginning of the 20th century was this 4-6-0 on the Alabama Southern Railroad in 1905.    Photo by: By Internet Archive Book Images. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43245503

The locomotives of the Central and Union Pacific Railroads were brought
 to within feet of each other and the ceremony completed by driving in a golden spike. From this point, railroading in the USA entered a period of explosive growth, as the government endeavoured to foster settlement of the West. New routes and companies sprang into existence, almost on a par with the ”Railway Mania” period in this country. In terms of Locomotive design though, there the resemblance ended. Railway companies in this country, for the major part, relied on their own designs, whether built in their own workshops, or by contractors. In the USA however, contractors to a much greater extent were relied upon to produce the designs as well as constructing the engines.

There emerged the idea that locomotive manufacturers as specialists in design and construction of steam locomotives would develop their own ranges of ‘standard’ designs, to be bought virtually, “off the peg”. Naturally there were exceptions, though in the sphere of technical development, the manufacturers were often first in the field. This approach was not unknown in this country, but developed to a much greater extent in the USA. A resultant feature being that whereas here it is traditional to refer to a class of locomotive by its owner and designer; in the USA it is almost invariably that of the manufacturer. The names of which were virtually household in this country also; Baldwin, Lima, Alco, etc. Many of these companies’ products were owned by almost all railroads, where the manufacturer, being a specialist, designer and builder, could supply in greater numbers than could the railroads, who were left free to concentrate on the business of carrying passengers and freight.

In the early years of the 20th Century, locomotive design in the USA was moving towards progressively larger types, with which, ultimately, that country became world famous. Its largest locomotives though, owed their development to a French engineer. These were enormous articulated designs, capable of hauling the heaviest of loads, and often in many cases, their tenders alone were larger then the largest British Pacific locomotives, indeed, particularly with the articulated types of the Union Pacific and Norfolk &Western Railroads, even the fireboxes could be bigger than an average living room.

AAR 7 copy

A picture to evoke nostalgic memories of steam, as a pair of Northern Pacific’s giant Mallet articulated locomotives stand in the yards at Missoula, Montana, and ready to handle the huge transcontinental freight working. Photo courtesy; Association of American Railroads.

The most popular form of articulation in N. America was the Mallet arrangement, whose originator was the French engineer M. Anatole Mallet. Basically it consisted of two separate chassis supplied by a single boiler, the leading chassis being pivoted about, the rear. Principle wheel arrangements of this design were of the order of 2-8-8-2, 4-6-6-4etc. Although originally designed to make use of compounding arrangements, most of the N. American types were simple expansion machines, Such locomotives were designed primarily for heavy freight haulage, although on the Union Pacific, a smaller version of the enormous 4-8-8-4
 “Big Boy”, albeit a not much smaller 4-6-6-4 type, was intended for fast, long distance passenger turns. (Long distance on the Union Pacific, was the 5000 odd miles between San Francisco and Chicago). Many railroads in the USA used the articulated types, but there were of course some quite remarkable exceptions. Notably, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, whose rigid frame 4-4-4-4 and 4-4-6-4 locomotives, known forever as Duplexii, were of comparable proportions to the articulated types. Built during the “Streamline Era” and sporting an air smoothed casing, these were really spectacular designs.

C&O Class K4 at Chief_Logan_State_Park_-_C&O_2755

C&O Class K4 at Chief_Logan_State_Park, as preserved at Logan, West Virginia. 92 of this 2-8-4 design were built for C&O, where they were known as the “Kanawha” type, and although a number of other railroads operated them, they were also referred to as the “Berkshire” type.     Photo By Brian M. Powell, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9374221

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Fe 5011 Texas Class 2-10-4 No.5017

Santa Fe “5011” “Texas” Class 2-10-4 No.5017. Built by Baldwin in 1944, this example is now at Green Bay Railroad Museum, 8/70. Baldwin started building these in the 1930s, and they were the heaviest (247.5 tons) and most powerful (T.E. 93,000 lbs) “Texas” type ever built and also had the largest piston thrust (234,000 lbs) of any locomotive.                 By Hugh Llewelyn – 5017Uploaded by Oxyman, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24387751

Steam in the USA reached its zenith in the, early 1930’s, at the beginning of that decade there wore over 56000 locomotives in service. It was at this time, marking the ·beginning of the “Streamline Era”, that some of the most impressive and largest locomotives were built. The largest, as we have noted, were the mammoth Mallet articulated types, for heavy freight haulage. On the passenger side, as in this country, passenger schedules with improved timings, demanding higher speeds, dictated the design of more powerful locomotives, capable of handling the heaviest loadings. But, whereas in this country passenger locomotive design reached a peak with the heavy 4-6-2 Pacific types, in the USA. passenger locomotives became even larger. Amongst the largest and most impressive of these were perhaps the 4-6-4 Hudson and 4-8-4 Niagara types for the New York Central Railroad.

North American 1RPB Photo 488 NYC Niagara No 6000

Classic North American steam locomotives for express passenger or freight services, are perhaps nowhere better illustrated by the streamlined 4-6-4 “Hudson” and 4-8-4 “Niagara” designs for the New York Central Railroad.

Photos: Assoc of American RRs / RPB Collection

Of these, the former was probably the more popular for passenger haulage, the design being used in quantity by most, if not all of the U.S. Class 1 railroads. The New York Central’s design was possibly the most successful, though seeing a variety of improvements and alterations from its first inception, the overall design remained the same, its capacity for sustained high speed haulage of heavy loads was surpassed by few, if any others.

It might well be imagined that all North American steam locomotives were of massive proportions, such however would be far from the case, though it must be said that even the “Branch Line” locomotives were more often than not
 as large as many British main line types. Again, not all locos. were conventional in design. Apart from the several narrow gauge lines, the USA possessed some quite unique examples in the “Shay” and “Heisler” geared drive locos. intended for use on logging railroads, where the gradients, curves and clearances were often extremely severe.

The changeover from steam to diesel traction was begun earlier than here, but unlike this country, when the final elimination of steam took place, the railroads had a fairly lengthy experience of the new motive power behind them. The first diesel appeared on the Central of New Jersey Railroad in 1925. It was not an immediate success however, its power to weight ratio made it uneconomic, but these were problems of course, that were subsequently overcome, since 27 years later, the number of diesel locomotives outweighed that of steam. An interesting comparison can be made with these figures; in 1929 there were only 22 diesels in service, compared with 56,936steam types, by 1955 diesels were in the majority with 24,786 and only 5,982 steam. For steam, the worst years and complete elimination came between 1955 and 1962. During this period the number of diesels rose by 3,318; steam locomotives being reduced from 5,982 to 51! There are still, at the time of writing, seven steam locos in service on Class l railroads, six of which are narrow gauge types.

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Further Reading & Useful Links:

From Railway Matters: New York Central Giants