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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 5 (September 24, 1926)

Development of Locomotive Power in California

page 42

Development of Locomotive Power in California

On a recent visit to the Southern Pacific Railway Company's Locomotive Workshops at Sacramento, California, I was very cordially received and had the greatest consideration shown to me by all the officials, from the Super-intendent downwards.

All the information and papers were placed at my disposal. This appears to be the usual practice in the States, any information held by one firm or institution being freely available to others—a liberal attitude which is responsible to some extent for the present prosperity of the country. By passing on, for the benefit of others, anything good an increased output at a lesser expense has been made possible.

In 1829 a crude little locomotive in England successfully hauled a railroad passenger train. It was Stephenson's locomotive, the “Rocket,” and it was considered a marvel, because it could jolt along with two loaded coaches weighing about 10 tons. How the locomotive has since developed, with almost equal rapidity in all countries (including our own young Dominion) is a leading feature in the history of the most progressive of all centuries.

The “Governor Standford”

The “Governor Standford”

The first locomotive to run in the West was the “Governor Standford” which was brought round from New York via Cape Horn in October, 1863. It was christened “Governor Standford” after the then Governor of California, who with Messrs. C. P. Huntingdon, C. Crocker and M. Hopkins was responsible for the daring plan to build a railroad over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the East.

The Railway Companies of U.S.A. have a happy plan of giving romance to railway working by naming not only their trains (e.g., the “Sunset Limited”), but also their locomotives and Pulman carriages.

This plan has been followed up to a point with good effect in New Zealand. For instance, the locomotive “Passehendaele,” the South Island “All Red” Express and the Northern “Daylight Limited” are titles which have become popular with the public. An extension of the principle to all Express trains and locomotives would meet with general approval from the public who in this country actually have a proprietary interest in them.

The “Governor Standford” may now be seen in the Museum at Standford University, Calffornia, while our own pioneer “Josephine” will find a resting place in the Otago Early Settlers' Museum.

The next Californian locomotive placed in service was the “C. P. Huntingdon” in 1864. It was 291/2 feet in length, weighed 171/4 tons, and could haul 4 cars weighing 22 tons each at 35 miles per hour up a grade of 26 feet to the mile. It is still in serviceable condition, but is used only for exhibition purposes.

A short time later the first typically freight locomotive was placed on the road. It had six driving wheels and was considered a wonder because it could haul eighteen small goods ears. This freight engine was named the “Conness” after a Californian Senator.

The early locomotives were picturesque in appearance. They had the old fashioned furnace, brass fittings and gay paint.

Wood was the fuel for the first locomotives, and firemen in those days had a heavy job.

The first transcontinental railway in the United States was completed on May 10th, 1869, the famous “Golden Spike” in commemoration being driven at Promontory, Utah, on that date.

Settlement followed the railroad, and the “Prairie Schooner” was replaced by “Goods freight trains,” which, even in the home of the automobile industry, cannot be displaced by motors. More powerful locomotives were required so that a larger train unit could be handled, at the same time freight or goods cars increased in weight. At present a goods car with load, weighs 50 tons.

One of the most interesting of the early locomotives built in Sacramento Shops was “El Gobernador” which was in actual service from 1884 to 1893. This locomotive was then said to be the heaviest and most powerful locomotive in the world. When loaded it weighed 105 tons. Tourists were amazed at the size of the “El page 43 Gobernador.” It was considered too big to be turned on a turntable for fear it would tip over, and was kept on the main line, all trains having to take sidings when meeting the big engine so that there would be no danger of its leaving the rails.

By 1894 thirty-ton freight cars were being used. Locomotives, too, were heavier and had more than twice the power of the earlier ones. The “4–6–0” type of passenger locomotive and the “4–8–0” type of freight service were the pride of the rails at this time. Freight engines of the “4–8–0” type of 1894 were 60 ft. 9 in. in length, weighed 121 1/2 tons and could haul 65 cars weighing 30 tons each (total 1,950 tons) at a speed of 10 miles an hour, up a grade of 26 feet to the mile. But to keep up with the transportation demands greater motive power was required.

Goods Train ascending incline

Goods Train ascending incline

The most powerful and economical non-articulated (single engine unit) locomotive yet designed, was placed in service in 1925 to handle heavy trains over mountain sections of the West. It is known as the “Southern Pacific” type or “4–10–2.” This locomotive combines all the latest developments, having for their purpose the increase of hauling capacity, commensurate with increased economy. It has a third cylinder placed inside the main frames slightly above and between the two outside cylinders. The locomotive is 101 feet 1 inch in length over all and weighs 305 tons.

At a speed of 25 miles an hour, up a grade of 116 feet a mile, the new locomotive has 25 percent, more hauling capacity than that of any previous locomotive built for the Southern Pacific Company.

Mountain Type Freight Engine, Southern Pacific Railways, California, U.S.A.

Mountain Type Freight Engine, Southern Pacific Railways, California, U.S.A.

The most powerful locomotives in passenger service, prior to the advent of the Southern Pacific type three cylinder locomotives, are known as the “4–8–2” or mountain type. They are 97 feet 6 inches in length, weigh 272 1/2 tons, and are twenty times more powerful than the “C. P. Huntingdon.” Each can pull 14 passenger cars weighing 70 tons each (total 980 tons) at 50 miles an hour, up a grade of 26 feet to the mile.

A new record for a regularly maintained locomotive run was established by the “8–4–2” engines. The run between Los Angeles and El Paso, 815 miles, is made without change of locomotives. Previously a relay of four locomotives had been considered necessary in speeding trans-continental passenger trains across the mountain and desert country between the two cities. A companion type to the “4–8–2” passenger, is the “2–10–2” freight locomotives, length 97 feet 9 inches, weight 278 tons. They can haul 96 freight cars, weighing 50 tons each, total 4,800 tons, at a speed of 10 miles an hour up a grade of 26 feet to the mile.

All the latest type of locomotives are equipped with auxiliary booster engines, superheaters, feed waterheaters, sprinklers, and other devices for increasing economy and power.

The Booster engine is a separate two cylinder steam engine geared to the axle of the trailing page 44 bogie wheels. It assists the main engine in handling trains, eliminating the use of banking engines, gets up speed at starting, makes up time on grades and automatically shuts off when a speed of 15 miles is reached.

The feed water heater performs the double operation of pumping water from the tender to the boiler, and heating it on the way. It utilises exhaust steam from the main cylinders to heat the water. Part of this steam is condensed and returned to the boiler for use again, thus reducing sediment and economising water.

Showing Sprinkler underneath Car.

Showing Sprinkler underneath Car.

A Coke Reclaiming Plant.

A plant for reclaiming coke from locomotive ashes is being constructed by the Boston & Maine Railway Company, Mass., says the “English Mechanic,” of 4th June. It is anticipated that the railway in question will be able to obtain in this manner practically all the fuel required for station heating, amounting to approximately 30,000 tons a year. This project, which is believed to be the first of its kind will recover from the locomotive waste, now dumped in the ash heaps, the unburnt coke which tests have shown to be present to the extent of 33 to 48 per cent. It is anticipated that about 30 per cent. will be recovered by the new process. The latter is an adaptation of the one used in the hard coal fields for separating impurities, and is based on the comparative specific gravity principles, and the utilisation of the water flotation method by which the coke is segregated and the cinder residue precipitated. It has been found that a considerable quantity of combustible coke is taken from fuel boxes in cleaning locomotives after each journey, and this unburnt material will contribute a large part of the new product. The method outlined will, if the results warrant, be extended to other fuels.

The Locomotive Whistle.

Though one of the most familiar everyday sounds is the railway locomotive's whistle, like many other such, its origin is little known (writes a correspondent in “T.P.'s and Cassell's Weekly”). Formed under Act 110, Geo. IV. cap. 58, and having a capital of £90,000 in £50 shares, the Leicester and Swannington Railway Company's line (the second oldest section of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway) was opened for traffic on July 17th, 1832, the main line running from West Bridge, Leicester, to Swannington, a distance of nearly sixteen miles. Early in 1833, the company's locomotive, No. 3 Samson, was put in service on the line, and on May 4th of that year it ran into a horse and cart conveying butter and eggs for Leicester market, at Thornton level-crossing.

To sound an alarm, the company's drivers were provided with horns (as on the old road coaches), and Samson blew his on this occasion, but without attracting the attention of the man in charge of the horse and cart. The man and horse got clear of the oncoming train, but the engine struck and wrecked the vehicle and its contents.

The accident was duly reported to the engineer of the line, George Stephenson, by the traffic manager. The latter suggested the fitting of a steam alarm to the locomotive, and Stephenson, observing that it was “a good idea,” ordered one to be made and tried. Accordingly, a Leicester musical-instrument maker was commissioned, and he made a steam-trumpet, which was fitted on a mounting on the top of Samson's firebox. The experiment proving successful, the rest of the company's locomotives were likewise provided with these steam alarms, which, having a height of eighteen inches and a diameter at the top of six inches, were the forerunners of the present-day locomotive whistles.

The Edge Of The Precipice.

There is a story of an old gentleman who once advertised for a coachman. Of each applicant he asked this question: “How near to a precipice would you drive without going over”! One answered within a yard, another a foot, etc., but one answered: “I would keep as far from it as possible.” He got the job.

The habit of keeping as far as possible from the verge of folly, alone brings safety. The man trained in such habits of care and thought that he will foresee possibilities of accident and avoid them, is not only a blessing to himself, but a guide to others.

“Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace, And I their toys to the great children leave.”