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Thread: Steam Engines and Electric Lights

  1. #1

    Default Steam Engines and Electric Lights

    Here's a question I just thought of and don't know the answer. I would assume that the headlights on later steam engines were electric. What provided the electricity to power them?

  2. #2
    magichb Guest

    Default RE: Steam Engines and Electric Lights

    A steam powered generator would be my guess.

    Brad
    GT the good track road

  3. #3
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    Default RE: Steam Engines and Electric Lights

    Steam locomotives generated electricity by means of a turbo generator (aka; dynamo), usually located on the top of the boiler, just ahead of the cab, although some railroads (notably the PRR) would mount the turbo ahead of smoke stack. The principle was to admit live steam into one side of the turbo, inside of which was a wheel with fins. That wheel was connected by a shaft to a electrical generator, and as steam caused the finned wheel to spin, the spinning motion was transferred to the generator, producing electricity. Generally speaking, no batteries were on a steam locomotive.

    Here is a photo of an early model turbo generator.
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    Here is a photo illustrating the usual mounting position of the turbo, which is the item that is just ahead of the cab, see the exhaust white steam.
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    Later models of turbo generators had a round "bulb" on the end of the exhaust tube, which was a muffler. Below is CB&Q #5632, illustrating that feature. It's hard to see. When a whole steam locomotive passes by you, it's hard to focus on just the turbo. Also illustrated here is a variation on the placement of the turbo, which is off to the fireman's side, plus the addition of a second turbo.
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  4. #4
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    Default RE: Steam Engines and Electric Lights

    Hi chuckzeiler,

    Good explanation generating electricity on Steam locomotives.
    Just for my record, what are those 2 engines in your photos, nice shots. I'm not from the U.S.

    John



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    Default RE: Steam Engines and Electric Lights

    [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON Jun-01-02 AT 10:00AM (EDT)[/font][p]Hi John:

    The first locomotive pictured is Northwestern Steel and Wire (NSW) #30. It's an ex-Grand Trunk Western (GTW) Railroad 0-8-0 switcher used at the NSW steel mill. When the railroads converted from steam power to diesel, the steam locomotives were sold for scrap to the high bidder, and NSW got a lot of the local railroad's locomotives, some in good running condition. For a while, NSW used Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad steam locomotive switchers, until they wore out. Then when the GTW decided to dieselize, NSW acquired their switchers, and used them to switch the cut up steam locomotives in the scrap line into the steel plant. For a while, it was said locally that there was a steam locomotive in every box of nails from NSW, which was one of the products that NSW manufactured from scrapped locos.

    NSW #30, Sterling, Illinois, August 27, 1966
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    The NSW #30 got it's number by the simple expedient of painting out the GTW outside numbers. Here's a close up of the headlight showing that it was GTW #8300.
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    The other steam locomotive pictured was CB&Q's #5632, which spent several years in the 1960's in fan trip service. I rode behind it on several occasions. When it finally wore out, it was sent to the West Burlington shops for overhaul. A fan trip was arranged to tour the shops while the locomotive was undergoing the overhaul. Here's a photo.

    CB&Q #5632, West Burlington, Iowa, September 26, 1965
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    Unfortunately, shortly after this photo was taken, the president of the CB&Q died, and his successor had no interest in fan trips or public relations. He was a bottom line man, and fan trips did not make money. He ordered the as yet incomplete locomotive sold, and the parts were put in gondolas, and locomotive and parts moved off to a Chicago and Western Indiana (C&WI) Railroad roundhouse for restoration by an individual named Dick Jensen (I hope I got his name correct). After the locomotive is relocated, the C&WI decided to abandon their roundhouse, and ordered Jensen to vacate. Here the story gets hazy, but before Jensen can move the locomotive, the railroad tears down the roundhouse and scraps the locomotive. Lawsuits fly, and I believe that the railroad was forced to settle and buy Jensen another locomotive, which was another CB&Q locomotive, this time #4963, a 2-8-2 Mikado type, which had been working in a coal field. That engine was stored for a while in a scrap yard on the south side of Chicago. Eventually, that locomotive is moved off to the Illinois Railway Museum.

    That was not the end of Jensen's misfortune. He owned another steam locomotive, an ex-GTW 4-6-2 Pacific type, #5629, which he used for fan trips. Here's a picture.

    GTW #5629, Valparaiso, Indiana, October 22, 1966
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    In another dispute over storage (I can't remember if he was told to vacate, or if he fell behind in his rent) the Metra (I think it was the Regional Transit Authority at the time) scrapped #5629, which was stored on their property.




  6. #6
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    Default RE: Steam Engines and Electric Lights

    Hi chuckzeiler,

    Thanks muchly for that, was a very informative write-up, found that very interesting, plus another two good steamer shots. I will put these into my HTM files for my record on American Steamers. Pity not more care was taken when these old ladies get retired and trashed. As once these beautiful old girls are gone, never to appear again, only in photographs and films. Nothing beats seeing and feeling them breath in the raw. Hey! the steam engine with its air pump pounding away that is.;-)

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