MODERN COAL BURNING STEAM LOCOMOTIVES

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:

1. Water tube boiler of too low steam pressure.

2.  Steam turbine to power the D.C. generator furnishing
power to to the traction motors, a wasteful combination.

3. Insufficient condenser facilities to condense the exhaust
steam into water with vacuum on the exhaust line.

4. Too many drive wheels con-contrated under the frame which was
bad for the track, roadbed and curves.

5. Was self contained and not adaptable to multiple unit
use.

These are just a few of the many reasons why the ‘Big
Jawn’ wasn’t able to cut the mustard. The problems were not
thought out in detail enough for the locomotive to be correctly
designed.

The future success of a coal burning steam-electric locomotive
will depend on how well the modern steam principles and practices
are observed and used in the designing and construction of such a
locomotive.

6. The boiler must be a sub critical (2,000 p.s.i.g.) once thru
or flash type such as built by Babcock & Wilcox or by
combustion engineering for stationary power plants, using the
down-flow membrane fire walls and the up-flow steam generating
coils heated by the gasses from the cyclone fire box. Due to
limited space this boiler would have to be a package unit
containing the economizer, the air pre-heater, and the
super-heater. Altho the boiler and accessories would be
automatically controlled, it has been my experience that all
automatic machinery should be operated by a competent man for
regardless how perfect an automatic machine may seem to be, there
is one thing it can not do and that is ‘think’. That’s
a fact which can be attested to by all poor mortals who have been
sorely vexed at times with the infernal cussedness of inanimate
things.

7. While a multi-stage trubine running condensing at full load
can be very economical and efficient, the same turbine running on a
variable load will be quite wasteful, so the common sense thing to
use is a correctly designed reciprocating engine for the variable
load and speed peculiar to locomotives. The steam engine which
powers the D.C. generator should be a 12 cylinder ‘V’ type,
high speed, single acting, over square uni-flo with balanced plug
admission valve, using the 1 to 2 cylinder arrangement for
compounding, 4 cylinders for live boiler pressure steam and 8
cylinders for compound steam, all cylinders being same size. If
prefered an 18 cylinder ‘W’ type with the same
specifications can be used.

8. The H.O. Baker tri-condenser system should be used
together with suitable pumps to get between 25 and 27 inches vacuum
on the engine exhaust line to the hot well or tank.

9. The five wheel units should be spaced far enough apart so as
not to concentrate the total weight in a small area which is hard
on the track, roadbed, and curves.

10. The modern coal burning locomotive, whether it be high
pressure steam or turbine, must be designed and built so it can be
operated in multiple unit if desired giving the engineer full
control of all units. A passage way would have to be included in
the construction of the locomotive so the fireman could go from one
end to the other in each unit or multi-units for the purpose of
inspections. 11. The locomotive under frame should be of the
dropped center type with the traction elements at each end of the
under frame. The boiler, engine, generator, and accessories would
be located in the dropped center portion of the under frame similar
to the ‘Beyer-Garrett Method’. While I may be wrong, I do
believe the Beyer-Garrett Method of under frame suspension does
offer a new field to future locomotive designers and I hope they
explore the field fully. It seems to me that with just plain common
sense application of modern metallurgy and technology a coal
burning steam-electric locomotive can be built that will exlipse
the diesel locomotive for economy and dependability.

With the new high temperature alloy metals developed in Sweden,
Germany and this country, the mechanical problems are of no deep
concern but there are other serious obstacles to be overcome before
the coal fired locomotive can become the prime motive power in our
system of national transportation and they are these.

A. Lack of positive interest by the railroads.

B. The lack of co-operation between the various railroads to
pool their resources in common research through the Association of
American Railroads for their common good.

C. The influence of educated fools schooled in the internal
combustion field, ‘the eggheads of the automotive
industry’. These are the slide rule boys who prove on paper the
thermal efficiency of the diesel. Which reminds me that according
to the aeronautical engineering formulas the bumble bee can not fly
as his body is too large for his wing spread of poorly designed
wings. However, the bumble bee doesn’t know anything about this
so he goes ahead and flies; anyway.

D. The stone wall resistance by the General Motors
Corporation and their subsidiary to any other method of motive
power than their own diesels.

E. The infiltration of former General Motors men in high
executive railway positions, which can and does, muzzle research in
the solid fuel field.

F. The strong opposition by the petroleum industry to any other
means than petroleum fuel for motive power.

G. The apathy on part of the federal government in encouraging
solid fuel research that would make our nation independent of
overseas fuel imports.

These are the seven major obstacles that form the roadblock to
solid fuel or coal consumption progress and it will take men who
have the brains, the courage, and the integrity, as well as the
support of the major railroads to shatter that roadblock. But it
can be done and it should be done, ‘soon’.

I strongly urge you to go to room 830 of the Transportation
Building, Association of American Railroads, and get a copy of the
1962 Salzberg lecture by Major General, I. Sewell Morris. This
lecture should be read by every American, whether or not he is a
railroad buff.

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