Unfortunately, due to circumstances never fully understood the America failed to reach the D&H property. The Lion went on to carry out test trials on August 8, 1829, earning it distinction as the first use of a steam locomotive in the United States. Unfortunately, its ultimate fate was rather unglamorous; it proved too heavy for the track and languished in a shed before finally being scrapped in 1870. Following its trials American steam technology quickly advanced. On August 28, 1830, Peter Cooper's Tom Thumb famously raced a horse on the fledgling Baltimore & Ohio. The little one-ton coal-burner, featuring a vertical boiler, lost the bout (while carrying 30 patrons in a single coach) but had nevertheless proved its viability. According to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum the locomotive was capable of speeds up to 15 mph. While it did spend a year carrying passengers from time to time it never entered regular service and was later scrapped in 1834 (a replica is on display at the museum, constructed for the B&O's 1927 Fair of the Iron Horse and based from drawings Cooper provided in 1875). Since the Thumb was only an experiment, another locomotive was given recognition as the first American-built design to haul a revenue passenger train.
That honor is bestowed upon the South Carolina Canal & Railroad Company's Best Friend of Charleston, built by New York's West Point Foundry, when the 0-4-0 carried a trainload of paying customers on December 25, 1830. Unfortunately, the locomotive also earned the sad distinction as being the first to suffer a boiler explosion, which occurred during June of 1831. As the story goes the fireman became vexed by its constant noise and tightened the safety valve closed (he later died of his wounds). The Camden & Amboy's John Bull, also the work of Robert Stephenson & Company, was another notable early locomotive. A testament to the high quality of craftsmanship the Stephensons incorporated into their product the Bull remained in service from 1831 until 1866. It was originally designed as an 0-4-0, not unlike their other products previously mentioned. However, over time C&A engineers upgraded the unit with several features commonly found on future variants such as a cow-catcher, lead pilot truck, covered cab, and trailing tender (fuel storage to operate further between stops).
Steam Locomotive Operation
The operation of a steam locomotive is relatively straight-forward. Fuel (originally wood or coal, and then later oil) is fed into the firebox where the resulting hot gas enters boiler tubes, known as flues, which heat the surrounding water to form steam. This steam is then fed into pistons whereby it expands and drives the locomotive’s rods (horizontal iron/steel shafts attached to the wheels), propelling it forward. The resulting hot gases are then carried into the smoke box where they are funneled towards the smoke stack and out of the locomotive. As technologies improved wheel arrangements became increasingly larger and more powerful. While the iron horse is a basic contraption numerous advancements over the years made them incredibly complex machines. The period from 1900 through World War II witnessed the locomotive's zenith. Mr. Solomon notes that the introduction of steel, welding, and improved casting techniques offered stronger designs without increased weight. There were also component advancements for increased efficiency such as better valve gears, larger fireboxes, lengthened boilers, roller-bearings, precision counter-balancing, and feedwater heaters (devices which heated the water before it entered the boiler). In 1925 Lima Locomotive Works, in conjunction with the New York Central, developed the "Super Power" locomotive utilizing a larger firebox for a more economic use of the boiler. The testbed unit was a Boston & Albany 2-8-2 (H-10a), given an additional rear axle, and re-classified as an A-1. The 2-8-4 demonstrator made a successful test on April 14, 1925 where it out-performed a 2-8-2 within the Berkshire Mountains of northwestern Massachusetts. Lima, one of the "Big Three" steam builders (others being the Baldwin Locomotive Works and American Locomotive Company), went on to manufacture hundreds of 2-8-4's for various railroads.
There are three basic types of steam locomotive; non-articulated (rigid frame), duplex (divides the wheels' driving force by utilizing two pairs of cylinders under a single frame), and articulated (featuring a pair of drivers under the boiler, the rear is rigidly mounted while the front pivots to negotiate curves). The latter were the most impressive steamers ever built. The design began when Baltimore & Ohio began testing, in conjunction with Alco, the 0-6-6-0 "Old Maude" numbered 2400 in 1904. The locomotive, a "Mallet" design, was intended for drag service on the West End. The Mallet was not an American development, the concept of Swiss engineer Anatole Mallet. It worked by having the two cylinders nearest the cab produce high-pressure steam, which was then pumped into a pair of larger, forward cylinders to produce low-pressure steam. The result was a locomotive which could produce high horsepower and incredible adhesion. The B&O was pleased with the results and a number of railroads went on to operate Mallets. Over time, many (but not all) lost interest in the design since the low gearing did not allow speeds of greater than 25 mph. In addition, the complexities of compound expansion resulted in several switching to simple expansion variants. This led to successful types late-era types like the 4-6-6-4, 2-8-8-4, and Union Pacific's 4-8-8-4 "Big Boy."
The question is often asked, "What is meaning behind a steam locomotive's numbers and dashes?” The technical term is the "Whyte Notation," developed by Frederick Whyte, which classifies a locomotive by its wheel arrangement. The system counts the number of lead wheels (non-powered, found on at the head-end to negotiate curves), then the number of driving wheels (located directly under the boiler they provide all power and adhesion), and finally the trailing wheels (also non-powered these are located near the cab to support the firebox and displace the locomotive's weight for reduced track wear), all of which are separated by dashes. Perhaps the best recognized of the early types was the very successful 4-4-0, nicknamed the American. They came into widespread use during the mid-19th century. According to Wes Barris' authoritative website, SteamLocomotive,com, around 25,000 were manufactured. As an example, the American's Whtye Notation is broken down as follows: "4" lead wheels (two axles), "4" drivers (two axles), and "0" trailing wheels.
The iron horse continued to grow in an effort to meet demand. Other popular 19th century wheel arrangements included the 4-6-0 Ten-Wheeler, 2-6-0 Mogul, and 2-8-0 Consolidation. These successful designs gave way to the technologically advanced variants of the post-1900 period. If trackside during the height of steam technology one was treated to fabulous scenes of Milwaukee Road's blazing fast 4-4-2's (Class A) ahead of the Hiawatha (capable of speeds in excess of 100 mph), Baltimore & Ohio's mammoth 2-8-8-4's (Class EM-1) work drag service over Sand Patch, or charming Southern Pacific 4-8-4's (Class GS) hustling the Daylights between Los Angeles while bedecked in the railroad's two-toned orange livery. Alas, the cruel irony of these models was their development coincided with the diesel's arrival. The earliest began appearing in World War I although for the first two decades did not advance beyond localized switchers. That changed in the mid-1930s when Electro-Motive began unveiling units for main line service.
At first they were relegated to passenger assignments when the first "E" series models were ordered by railroads like the B&O, Santa Fe, and Union Pacific. Then, Electro-Motive successfully convinced the industry of their practicality, efficiency, and cost-savings during successful demonstrations carried out across the country in 1939. From this point forward steam was on borrowed time. Only the onset of World War II slowed the conversion and by the 1950's virtually all Class I's were fully dieselized. Interestingly, a growing interest in the iron horse materialized after its retirement, which has only intensified into the 21st century with the restoration of Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 #611, Union Pacific 4-8-8-4 "Big Boy" #4014, and Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 #1309. A combination of factors can be attributed ranging from simple historical preservation to nostalgia. However, perhaps the greatest reason of all is the visual aspect. There is no other machine that quite offers the ability to witness all its parts working in synchronized harmony (rods, pistons, and wheels) like the steam locomotive.
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