| September/October 1963

As read to the Washington Chapter, National Railway Historical Society.

The average citizen, Mr. John Q. Public, is very much concerned about the precarious position this Nation would be in if we were unable to import petroleum crude due to an extreme emergency such as a war. We had some very shocking examples of fuel shortages during World War II when the Nazi U-Boat blockade was in effect and we might not be so lucky today with the potential enemy subs that are cruising the seas. Let us face the hard cold facts, our domestic oil fields are now unable to produce enough liquid fuel for our normal consumer needs so that we have to import petroleum crude continuously, a condition which if interrupted would cause serious trouble to our National security and to the security of the North American continent as well.

The enormous amount of automobiles, trucks, planes and tractors using gasoline, the great fleets of trucks, busses and railway locomotives using diesel engines puts our transportation eggs in one petroleum basket which could make an omelet of our national transportation security. When we consider that in war time the railroads handle 97% of the troop movements and 90% of the military freight traffic, the curtailment of the liquid fuel supply would become extremely serious, not only in the movements of military troops and supplies but all forms of our domestic life.

The unlimited supply of coal in this country and Canada could insure adequate transportation security to the North American continent and would at the same time nurse a sick coal industry back to health and improve our own economy. The only railroad I know of at the present time doing serious research with coal burning locomotives is the Union Pacific with their coal burning turbine-electric locomotive which has produced some amazing results that warrant very serious further research, and I am inclined to think the Union Pacific will be the first to break the diesel bottleneck in our transportation industry as I believe they have the 'guts for progress'.

Only future research and time will tell whether the coal burning turbine or the coal burning high pressure steam engine will replace the diesel for locomotives and farm tractors. I believe both methods will be used until atomic power is developed to handle the job. As I see it, the coal fired turbine-electric would probably be best for the 'Union Pacific', 'Santa Fe', 'Missouri Pacific', and other railroads who have long heavy freight hauls over level terrain. But for passenger service with frequent stops and down time at stations I think the high pressure steam engine-electric would be best and it would certainly be more economical than either the turbine or diesel.

A few years back the Norfolk & Western tried out a coal burning steam-electric which had some novel features but they were offset by the following bugs:

5/22/2018 4:06:31 PM

Coal-fired locomotives couldn't be any better than going back to horses and oxen to plow the fields. Great idea for YOU to fund, not for us. So many states can get gas and oil out of the ground cheaper than coal. Coal is low density BTU's, hard to transport, and kills all that breath air. Why bother having this argument? By the way, who would pay for this complex monstrosity of an engine???


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