wheel slippage

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Mon Dec 10 20:40:44 EST 2007

This is little tale about wheel slippage that was told to me by some unknown N&W employee in the early 1950's (He seemed to be some sort of official. I wish I had kept notes of such things back then so as to know who he was.). I was riding the observation car of the Powhatan Arrow when this man struck up a conversation with me and told this tale. He told me about a steam locomotive on an eastbound tonnage train that entered the old, tight Elkhorn Tunnel at a very slow speed. The tunnel and locomotive cab soon filled with smoke, and the only way that the crew knew they were moving was by the motion of the locomotive. After awhile the crew realized that they should have exited the tunnel, but because of the smoke (and maybe it was at night) they could see nothing ahead. Suddenly there was a jar as though the locomotive had dropped. The engineer shut off steam and the crew got down to investigate, and found the locomotive wheels had burned completely through the rails, and the wheels were in the ballast. Apparently, the train had stalled, but the locomotive wheels kept turning at a constant rate, making the crew think that they were moving ahead.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of this tail, but I did not have the impression at the time that the fellow was pulling my leg.

Gordon Hamilton
----- Original Message -----
From: NW Mailing List
To: NW-Mailing-List at nwhs.org
Sent: Sunday, December 09, 2007 11:55 PM
Subject: wheel slippage

How damaging was it for a steam locomotive to "slip". I notice that in Winston Link's recordings and in the Pocahontas Glory videos series, there are several instances of locos slipping. Was this damaging to the wheels or the rails?

Mike Weeks



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