Y Class, Etc
NW Mailing List
nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri Jun 28 10:45:56 EDT 2013
" There is no easy road to geometry." Aristotle said to a frustrated Greek
king he was teaching. The king wanted to understand all of this new
mathematics in a single, simple sitting.
This is true of these "mine's better than yours" discussions by modelers and
frankly amateurs of steam locomotive design. These discussions tend to be
specification and dimension debates which have no real meaning relative to
the performance of the railroad. The real question is did the railroad make
money using the locomotive to provide transportation services?
More than just specs define this answer as the railroad is a system with
locomotives , cars, track, curves, maintenance and so on. How well did the
locomotive design 'fit' the railroad design? In the case of Roanoke
designs, the trade-offs made in creating the design of their classes of
later locomotives were superb decisions that resulted in easy-to-maintain
locomotives with high utilization and low construction costs and low
The debaters fail to recognize some of the practical limitations of
railroading. For instance, the Class A probably was capable of running to
Columbus from Williamson at passenger train speeds, but what about the
hopper cars behind? Would they be capable of running at these speeds
without derailing? Loaded or empty? What would be the cost of designing and
building hopper cars capable of running at high speed. Don't forget the
fleet is some 100,000 cars. And how does the track need to be designed or
maintained? How about dispatching and signaling?
A lot of railroads never went to superpower locomotives because they
couldn't afford to upgrade the rest of the railroad to utilize the higher
One correspondent noted that the internet didn't provide the simple, clear
answers required for these debates. Well, because it cannot. When
necessary, he stated that he would do his best to provide an answer in a
message. But the reality is that the correct 'answer' requires a lot of
knowledge from the writer and the reader need a good understanding of the
issues himself to properly comprehend the detailed answer. It can't be done
is a short message.
This is why some of us say, "Get the book(s)". Do your homework, understand
the problems, then come and ask us.
Ps. In the late 1920's, the mechanical engineering groups representing the
industry came up with a balancing method and recommendations for faster
locomotives. Designers using this method found that the end result didn't
really work at the speeds now required by the railroads. The N&W, along
with others, didn't agree with this method and used its own approach on J's
and A's which worked much better.
INFO at N&WHS
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