Home  

The Evolution of the American Locomotive.
Scientific American Supplement—May 8, 1897 (Part 3 of 3)

By HERBERT T. WALKER.

 

FIG. 14 illustrates the Sandusky, the first locomotive built at the famous Rogers Locomotive Works, Paterson, N. J. At that time the name of the firm was Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor, and its founder Thomas Rogers, designed this engine. The late Zerah Colburn remarked that "Thomas Rogers maybe fairly said to have done more for the modern American locomotive than any of his contemporaries."

The Sandusky ran its trial trip from Paterson to Jersey City and New Brunswick and back October 6, 1837, its performance being entirely satisfactory. It was intended for the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company, but was, however, bought for the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad by its president, Mr. J. H. James, of Urbana, O. It continued in service many years. The cylinders were 11 in. in diameter by 16 in. stroke. Driving wheels 4 ft. 6 in. diameter; truck wheels 2 ft. 6 in. diameter. The general design did not differ materially from the Experiment (Fig 11), but it is of interest as being the first locomotive with weights on the driving wheels to counterbalance the cranks and connecting rods. For this Mr. Rogers filed a specification in the Patent Office dated July 12,1837, in which he says, "The irregular motion which arises from not having the cranks and connecting rods balanced is attended with much injury to the engine and to the road, and with much loss of power." The driving wheels were of cast iron, with hollow spokes and rims, which at that time was a remarkable novelty. The section of the spokes was of oval form, and the rim of very much the same shape as that which is in common use to-day. In order to counterbalance the parts referred to, the rim of the wheel opposite the crank was cast solid. The importance of counterbalancing was not recognized until several years after it had been introduced by Mr. Rogers, but to-day it would be hard to find a locomotive without counterbalanced driving wheels.

Another sporadic form of locomotive engine was built by Gillingham & Winans, of Baltimore, for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, in the year 1838. They had upright boilers, but the cylinders were horizontal and were connected to cranks on an intermediate shaft, which was geared to a second shaft having outside cranks to which the four driving wheels were coupled. These engines were of ungainly form and were nicknamed "crabs," but in the year 1844 Mr. Winans brought out another class of engine retaining substantially the same system of gearing but with eight coupled wheels instead of four, and a horizontal boiler. These engines were ignominiously named "mud diggers," but they did heavy freight service on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for many years.

At this period it will be necessary to revisit England to see what was going on in the shops of Robert Stephenson & Company, Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1842. In that year it appears that the link motion was reinvented without previous knowledge of James’ invention. William Howe, a mechanic employed in Stephenson’s shops, decided to place a curved link between the eccentric rods to take the place of the Stephenson "fork motion," then in general use. He made a pencil sketch and wooden model which were shown to Robert Stephenson, who, seeing its merits, ordered it to be fitted to all engines constructed at his works, and from that time it has been known as "Stephenson’s link motion." The first engine equipped with this gear was No. 71, for the North Midland Railway, and commenced to run September 10, 1842. There was a dispute between Howe and an apprentice named Williams, who claimed to have a share in the invention, but as we have not space to enter into the details of the controversy, the reader is referred to Colburn’s "Locomotive Engineering," where the matter is very ably dealt with.

But not even when the link was being used with such remarkable success in England did American engineers recognize its merits, and it was not until 1847 that it was adopted in this country. In the year 1849 Mr. Thomas Rogers introduced it in his practice, fitting a stationary link motion to some engines for the Hudson River Railroad. In this arrangement the curve of the link was convex toward the eccentrics, instead of concave, as in the Stephenson gear, and the link was suspended on a fixed center, the valve rod block being moved up and down instead of the link. This plan was introduced by Sir Daniel Gooch, master mechanic of the Great Western Railway, of England, about the year 1845. In 1850 Mr. Rogers commenced to build engines with the shifting link motion, and soon afterward it came into general use. Other builders, however, strenuously resisted the innovation, and none more so than Mr. Baldwin, who could not be induced to adopt it until the year 1854, when he fitted the link to the Pennsylvania, an engine for the Central Railroad of Georgia.

The next example of progress in locomotive construction is illustrated in Fig. 15, which shows a very good engine designed by Mr. Rogers and built at his works, in 1845, for the Hartford and New Haven Railroad. It had equalizing levers between the driving wheel springs, which do not show in the drawing. The truck had side bearings and springs on the sides of truck. The pumps had short stroke and were worked from the crosshead as shown. The cylinders were 11½ in. diameter by 18 in. stroke. Driving wheels 5 ft. diameter. We notice the supplemental frame that supports the running board. It illustrates the transition from outside to inside framing. The frames were of bar iron and the reversing gear was the hook or fork motion.

The writer has not succeeded in discovering when the first sand boxes were used. The early locomotives were without them. When the engine slipped, the fireman jumped down and threw some gravel on the rails with his shovel, or, failing that, he used the pinchbar, with verbal encouragements, more powerful than polite, from the engine driver. The next step appears to have been a bucket of sand carried on the foot board, and scattered by hand when required. Mr. Baldwin commenced to place sand boxes on his engines in the year 1846 for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. The chief objection to sand is that, while it prevents the driving wheels from slipping, it has a retarding effect on the train wheels, which, with a heavy load on a hill, is a very serious drawback. To overcome this, a jet of steam or water has been tried, and with a measure of success, as it is well known that thoroghly wet rails will give almost as good adhesion as when they are perfectly dry. An electric current has been passed through the driving wheels and rails to prevent slipping; but none of these devices are equal to good dry sand.

In the year 1846, Septimus Norris, a brother of William Norris, patented a ten wheel freight engine with six driving wheels combined with a leading truck. Several of these were built for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.

An interesting locomotive is illustrated by Fig. 16, which shows one of a class built at the Norris Works about the year 1847, for the Camden and Amboy Railroad. There were several of these engines built, most of them having driving wheels 8 ft. in diameter and cylinders variously 13 in. by 34 in., 13 in. by 38 in. and 14 in. by 38 in. stroke. Their weight was about 22 tons in working trim. This type of engine has the driving wheels behind the firebox and is known as the "Crampton" class, having been patented in 1843 by the late Thomas Russell Crampton, an English engineer of some distinction. He did not, however, originate the idea, as Baldwin built engines with the driving wheels behind the firebox in the year 1833. The advocates of this class of engine claimed that it admitted of driving wheels of practically unlimited diameter, while the boiler could be dropped down to the axles of the carrying wheels, thus enabling an engine with large driving wheels to have a low center of gravity, which was at that time and for years afterward considered necessary for safety at high speeds. Crampton engines never came into general use anywhere except in France, where the "système Crampton" was very popular and it is believed that some of the engines are still running.

Referring to the example before us (Fig. 16), we are informed that these engines made steam slowly, which was probably caused by the fact that the boilers were small compared with the immense cylinders and driving wheels. Another drawback to them was that they lacked adhesive weight, having only about 8 tons on the driving wheels; it was, therefore, hard to start them with a train, although when under headway they occasionally covered a mile in 53 seconds. But the most serious objection to there was their tendency to run off the track when traveling fast, the chief reason being that the propelling mechanism at the rear end, with unbalanced driving wheels, caused the front end to "nose" or oscillate laterally. It will be observed that the driving wheels had a wood filling between the spokes to prevent "raising dust."

Fig. 17 illustrates a fine engine designed by Mr. McQueen for the Hudson River Railroad (now apart of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad). It is interesting not only for the excellence of the design, but because it was one of the first engines to do regular everyday express work on the road that now claims to have the fastest regular train in the world. It appears that the Hudson River steamboats, even as far back as 1845, offered great inducements to travelers by reason of their luxurious accommodation and high speeds, and these express trains were put on to compete with them. A writer in the Practical Mechanic’s Journal of 1850-51, in describing this engine, said: "The usual speed of railroads was not so much greater as to induce the passengers to leave the magnificent floating palaces. Great speed must, therefore, be determined on." The result was the Champlain, which commenced working the express trains between Thirty-first Street, New York, and Poughkeepsie, 72 miles, in December, 1849. The distance was covered in 2 hours 25 minutes = 29.79 miles an hour, including twelve stops. The weight of the trains averaged 94 tons, exclusive of engine and tender. The ordinary trains did the same distance in 2 hours 45 minutes.

The Champlain had cylinders 15 in. in diameter by 20 in. stroke. Steam ports, 14 in. by 1 in. Exhaust port, 14 in. by 2 in. Driving wheels, 5 ft. 6 in. in diameter. Heating surface of firebox, 79.43 sq. ft.; of tubes, 824.43 sq. ft.; total heating surface, 903.86 sq. ft. Gross weight of engine, 23½ tons. The frame was a curious example of the transition from plate to bar, it being made of two plates with a square bar riveted between. The plates were 5 inches deep.

There were two slide valves in. the steam chest; the upper one was a cut-off valve to enable the steam to be worked expansively, and it moved on a fixed perforated plate immediately over the main valve. The former was worked from a return crank on the crank-pin; the main valve was worked from the eccentrics with the V hook motion commonly used at that period. The throw of the main valve was 3½ in. with five-eighths in. lap, and set with a lead of three-sixteenths in. The expansion valve cut off at half stroke.

Referring back to Fig. 12, it will be seen that Campbell’s engine, although it has the Stephenson firebox, four coupled driving wheels, with cylinders connected to the forward pair, and a leading truck, does not possess all the essential features of the modern locomotive, because the frames are outside and of plate iron and wood. The cylinders are inside connected, and it has no equalizers. Fig. 13 has outside cylinders, leading truck, inside frames and equalizers, but the frames are of plate iron and wood, the cylinders are connected to the rear driving wheels, and the firebox is of the Bury pattern Fig. 15 has the bar frame, and begins to look more like an American engine, having the equalizers and the cylinders connected to the, forward driving wheels; but the cylinders are inclined, and the outside frame for the running board and objectionable Bury firebox are still retained, and the reversing gear is the hook motion. Engineers up to that time were afraid of spreading the truck wheels too far apart; hence the necessity of inclined cylinders but in 1850 Mr. Rogers designed a spread truck, which permitted the cylinders to be dropped down to a horizontal line, and in the same year the wagon top boiler was introduced in the practice of the Rogers Locomotive Works; and so we have in the year 1853 an engine possessing all the essential features of a modern American locomotive, which is shown in Fig. 18. It had the Stephenson firebox, with the peculiar inclined or tapered joint between it and the barrel of the boiler, making what is known as the wagon top boiler. The latter was an American invention. A large number of these engines were built by Mr. Rogers for various railroads. They had the link motion. The cylinders were 16 in. diameter by 22 in. stroke, and the driving wheels were 5 ft. in diameter, although the size of the latter was varied in different engines.

In 1857 Mr. Bissell patented a four wheeled truck, having its frame extended rearwardly and pivoted to the engine frame. The truck, therefore, swung from this pivot instead of on a central pin, and the engine rested on a pair of V shaped inclined planes midway between the two axles. The inventor claimed that a truck on his plan adjusted itself to the curvature of the track better than one of the ordinary plan. Mr. Hudson, of the Rogers Locomotive Works, was one of the first to recognize the value of Bissell’s invention, and applied it to a locomotive in 1858. In the same year Bissell patented the single axle or pony truck, as it is often called. This was constructed on substantially the same principle as his four wheeled truck and is now in common use.

On the death of Mr. Rogers, which occurred in 1856, the business of Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor was reorganized under the title of the Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works, and Mr. William S. Hudson was appointed superintendent. Mr. Hudson was a pupil of George Stephenson’s, and was one of the foremost locomotive engineers of his day. Under his supervision, the first Mogul engine, Fig. 19, built at the Rogers works, was completed in 1863 for the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company, now the New Jersey part of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This engine had six coupled wheels and the Bissell pony truck previously described, with swing links patented by Mr. Alba F. Smith, and also an equalizing lever from the truck to the springs of the forward driving wheels. This equalizing arrangement was invented and patented by Mr. Hudson. The cylinders were 17 in. diameter by 22 in. stroke. Driving wheels 4 ft. 6 in. in diameter. Weight about 35 tons. A very large proportion of the weight of a Mogul engine rests on the driving wheels, which makes it the most useful and popular freight engine of to-day.

The rapid increase of traffic during the period under notice demanded a still more powerful freight engine, and in order to secure the necessary amount of adhesion, Mr. Alexander Mitchell, master mechanic of the Lehigh and Mahoning Railroad, designed in the year 1866 an eight coupled engine, and it was named Consolidation. This name was suggested by the consolidation of the Lehigh and Mahoning with the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which had just then been consummated.

This historical locomotive is shown in Fig. 20, and it is interesting to note that both the Mogul and Consolidation engines of the present day have not been altered in any essential particular except in dimensions, which reflects great credit on their designers. The Consolidation was built at the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and its principal dimensions were: Cylinders, 20 in. diameter by 24 in. stroke; driving wheels, 48½ in. in diameter. The pony truck was equalized with the front driving wheels. Weight about 45 tons. The boiler was fed by one injector and two feed pumps; the latter were worked by return cranks on the rear driving wheels, as shown. Pumps have now practically become obsolete. They gave much trouble by freezing in cold weather, and many vexatious delays were caused by "failure of the pumps."

Mr. H. J. Giffard, a French engineer, discovered that the motion imparted by a jet of steam to a surrounding column of water was sufficient to force it into the boiler from which the steam was taken. In July, 1858, he patented his invention of the injector, and the various inspirators now in general use for supplying steam boilers with water are all constructed on the model of the Giffard injector.

In these days of "continuous brakes," it seems remarkable that the early locomotives were absolutely without any retarding mechanism; and even down to the medieval period of railway history, the fastest English trains were run with only a hand brake on the tender, and a similar brake, worked by the guard, in the brake van. When the tender weighed only 10 or 15 tons and the brake van less, this system was woefully inadequate, and many frightful accidents resulted. American trains were far better equipped in this respect, and at a very early period all our cars, both freight and passenger, were provided with hand brakes. In the year 1833, Robert Stephenson patented a steam brake for locomotive engines, and in the following year the device was applied to an engine on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. It was successful, but, like the link motion, never came into general use until years afterward, when the so-called "steam driver brake" was introduced, being substantially the same as Stephenson’s design of 1833.

As we have not space to examine the numerous forms of power brakes that have come and gone during the last fifty years, it will suffice to say that the invention of continuous brakes, which act on all the wheels of the train simultaneously, is the most important one of modern times, inasmuch as their adoption has not only rendered possible the present high speeds, but has done more in the way of saving life and property than any other invention connected with railways.

Various systems of steam, hydraulic and vacuum brakes have been tried, and also brakes applied by the inertia of the moving train with more or less success, but it appears that brakes worked by air pressure are the most efficient and reliable.

George Westinghouse, Jr., introduced his continuous air brake in 1869 upon a train on the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway running out of Pittsburgh. The brake was non-automatic, but in 1873 he made a very important improvement by placing his automatic brake on the Reading Railway. In this arrangement all the brakes are automatically applied if the train parts or any of the cars run off the rails. The original automatic system has, however, been supplanted by the quick action automatic brake, introduced by Mr. Westinghouse in 1886, which makes the use of air brakes possible on long freight trains, so that a train of 50 standard freight cars, having a total weight of nearly 2,000,000 pounds, measuring over 1,900 feet in length and traveling at the rate of 37 miles an hour on a level, can be stopped in the remarkably short time of 15 seconds without skidding the wheels. In a separate test to show the rapidity of application, it was found that the brakes went fully on within two seconds from the tune the engine driver opened his brake valve. This system is undoubtedly the best in the world, and does great credit to Mr. Westinghouse.

It now only remains to glance at a few locomotives of modern construction, as there is practically no difference between the engines of to-day and those already described, except in dimensions and weight.

As in 1836 it was found necessary to build four coupled engines for heavy freight service, so, about fifteen years ago, six coupled engines for heavy passenger service came into the field, and it is a noteworthy fact that the fastest speed ever recorded was attained by a six coupled passenger engine, No. 564, on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, October 24, 1895, when a special train, weighing 304,500 lb., was conveyed from Erie to Buffalo Creek (86 miles) in 1 hour 10 minutes 46 seconds = 72.92 miles an hour. During this trip 33 consecutive miles were made at the rate of 80.6 miles an hour, 8 miles at 85.44 miles an hour, and 1 mile was covered at the rate of 92.3 miles an hour. This engine weighs 56½, tons, it has a leading four wheeled truck, the cylinders are 17 in. in diameter by 24 in. stroke, and six driving wheels, 5 ft. 6 in. in diameter, which, at 92.3 miles an hour, would make 469 revolutions per minute. The engine was built by the Brooks Locomotive Works, Dunkirk, N. Y.

The left hand portion of Fig. 5 shows the celebrated "999," on the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. It is the latest development of the American eight wheeled locomotive, and the picture gives a good idea of the grandeur and beauty of its proportions, when compared with the De Witt Clinton. It was designed by Mr. William Buchanan, chief of motive power of the above named railroad. The center line of the boiler is no less than 8 ft. 11½ in. from the rails, and it is remarkably steady at the highest speeds.

The Empire State Express covers 440 miles in 8¼ hours = 53.33 miles per hour, including four stops, and this engine hauls the train over a portion of the route. It was exhibited with the De Witt Clinton at the Columbian Exposition, and a comparative table of the dimensions of the first and latest New York Central engines will be of interest.

This article would be incomplete without touching on "compound" locomotives. To those who are not familiar with the subject, it will be well to explain that in ordinary or "simple" engines, the steam, after having done its work in the cylinders, is released through the exhaust pipe into the chimney; but in a compound engine, the steam from the boiler is admitted to one cylinder only, called the "high pressure" cylinder, and at the end of the stroke is exhausted to the next cylinder, called the "low pressure" cylinder, and from thence through the exhaust pipe to the chimney in the usual way. The steam is thus made to do its work twice over by virtue of its expansive force. Broadly speaking, compound locomotives may be divided into three classes, viz., those having two, three and four cylinders. Some very good two cylinder compounds have been built by the Richmond Locomotive Works, which show an economy of fuel consumption of about 25 per cent. A fine two cylinder compound engine, No. 1 may be seen every day working in the Grand Central Station yards in this city. It was designed by Mr. William Buchanan, and is doing good service. A large number of tree cylinder compounds are running on the London and Northwestern Railway, of England, designed by the locomotive superintendent of that line, Mr. F. W. Webb. These engines show a saving of fuel of about 25 per cent.

Fig. 21 illustrates one of the best examples of a four cylinder compound locomotive. It is of the Vauclain type, and was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad for heavy freight service.

The cylinders are arranged in pairs, the piston rods engaging a common crosshead. The cylinders are 16 in. and 27 in. in diameter by 28 in. stroke. The engine alone weighs 96 tons and has a hauling capacity of 4,600 tons on a level. It is worth while to compare this with the load drawn by the first Baldwin engine, Fig. 10.

It may be remarked that engineers are much at variance on the question of compound locomotives; many men of the highest standing, while admitting that a certain success has been attained by compound engines, maintain that the economy in fuel is counterbalanced by the disadvantages inherent to the greater complication of machinery and by the extra cost for repairs. Notwithstanding this, it seems probable that the compound engine is the locomotive of the future, and that of the two cylinder type, as being the least complicated and costly.

The writer takes pleasure in thanking Mr. J. Elfreth Watkins, curator of the National Museum, Washington; Mr. Theo. N. Ely, chief of motive power of the Pennsylvania Railroad; Mr. R. S. Hughes, president of the Rogers Locomotive Company; Mr. William Buchanan, chief of motive power of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad; the Baldwin Locomotive Works; the Westinghouse Air Brake Company; Mr. M. N. Forney, M.E.; and Mr. Clement E. Stretton, C.E., of Leicester, England, for the valuable data and drawings they have kindly placed at his disposal.


Antebellum RR | Contents Page

Home
Do you have any information you'd like to share on this subject? Please email me!
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery