A steam locomotive is a type of railway locomotive that produces its
pulling power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fueled by
burning combustible material – usually coal, wood, or oil – to
produce steam in a boiler. The steam moves reciprocating pistons which
are mechanically connected to the locomotive's main wheels (drivers).
Both fuel and water supplies are carried with the locomotive, either
on the locomotive itself or in wagons (tenders) pulled behind.
Steam locomotives were first developed in Great Britain during the
early 19th century and used for railway transport until the middle of
the 20th century. The first steam locomotive, made by Richard
Trevithick, first operated on 21 February 1804, three years after the
road locomotive he made in 1801. The first commercially successful
steam locomotive was created in 1812–13 by John Blenkinsop. Built
George Stephenson and his son Robert's company Robert Stephenson
and Company, the
Locomotion No. 1
Locomotion No. 1 is the first steam locomotive to
carry passengers on a public rail line, the Stockton and Darlington
Railway in 1825. George also built the first public inter-city railway
line in the world to use locomotives, the Liverpool and Manchester
Railway, which opened in 1830. Stephenson established his company as
the pre-eminent builder of steam locomotives for railways in the
United Kingdom, the United States, and much of Europe.
In the 20th century, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North
Eastern Railway (LNER)
Nigel Gresley designed some of the most famous
locomotives, including the Flying Scotsman, the first steam locomotive
officially recorded over 100 mph in passenger service, and a LNER
Class A4, 4468 Mallard, which still holds the record for being the
fastest steam locomotive in the world (126 mph).
From the early 1900s steam locomotives were gradually superseded by
electric and diesel locomotives, with railways fully converting to
electric and diesel power beginning in the late 1930s. The majority of
steam locomotives were retired from regular service by the 1980s,
though several continue to run on tourist and heritage lines.
1.1 United Kingdom
1.2 United States
1.3 Continental Europe
2 Basic form
2.2 Steam circuit
2.3 Running gear
2.5 Fuel and water
3 Fittings and appliances
3.1 Steam pumps and injectors
3.3 Safety valves
3.4 Pressure gauge
3.5 Spark arrestors and smokeboxes
3.8 Condensers and water re-supply
3.15 Bells and whistles
3.16 Automatic control
3.17 Booster engines
4.2 Valve gear
4.4 Articulated locomotives
4.5 Duplex types
4.6 Geared locomotives
4.7 Cab forward
4.8 Steam turbines
4.9 Fireless locomotive
4.10 Mixed power
6.2 Relation to wheel arrangement
7.1 Most manufactured classes
7.2 United Kingdom
7.4 United States
8 The end of steam in general use
8.1 United States
8.7 South Korea
8.9 South Africa
8.10 Other countries
10 Steam locomotives in popular culture
11 See also
11.2 Types of steam locomotives
11.3 Historic locomotives
14 Further reading
15 External links
History of rail transport
History of rail transport and Category:Early steam
The earliest railways employed horses to draw carts along rail
tracks. In 1784, William Murdoch, a Scottish inventor, built a
small-scale prototype of a steam road locomotive in Birmingham. A
full-scale rail steam locomotive was proposed by William Reynolds
around 1787. An early working model of a steam rail locomotive was
designed and constructed by steamboat pioneer John Fitch in the US
during 1794. His steam locomotive used interior bladed wheels
guided by rails or tracks. The model still exists at the Ohio
Historical Society Museum in Columbus. The authenticity and date of
this locomotive is disputed by some experts and a workable steam train
would have to await the invention of the high-pressure steam engine by
Richard Trevithick, who pioneered the use of steam locomotives.
The first full-scale working railway steam locomotive, was the
3 ft (914 mm) gauge
Coalbrookdale Locomotive, built by
Trevithick in 1802. It was constructed for the
Shropshire in the United Kingdom though no record of it working
there has survived. On 21 February 1804, the first recorded
steam-hauled railway journey took place as another of Trevithick's
locomotives hauled a train along the 4 ft 4 in
(1,321 mm) tramway from the
Pen-y-darren ironworks, near Merthyr
Abercynon in South Wales. Accompanied by Andrew
Vivian, it ran with mixed success. The design incorporated a
number of important innovations that included using high-pressure
steam which reduced the weight of the engine and increased its
Trevithick visited the Newcastle area in 1804 and had a ready audience
of colliery (coal mine) owners and engineers. The visit was so
successful that the colliery railways in north-east England became the
leading centre for experimentation and development of the steam
locomotive. Trevithick continued his own steam propulsion
experiments through another trio of locomotives, concluding with the
Catch Me Who Can
Catch Me Who Can in 1808.
The Salamanca locomotive
The Locomotion at Darlington Railway Centre and Museum
In 1812, Matthew Murray's successful twin-cylinder rack locomotive
Salamanca first ran on the edge-railed rack-and-pinion Middleton
Railway. Another well-known early locomotive was Puffing Billy,
built 1813–14 by engineer William Hedley. It was intended to work on
the Wylam Colliery near Newcastle upon Tyne. This locomotive is the
oldest preserved, and is on static display in the Science Museum,
London. In 1825
George Stephenson built
Locomotion No. 1
Locomotion No. 1 for the
Stockton and Darlington Railway, north-east England, which was the
first public steam railway in the world. In 1829, his son Robert built
in Newcastle The Rocket which was entered in and won the Rainhill
Trials. This success led to the company emerging as the pre-eminent
builder of steam locomotives used on railways in the UK, US and much
of Europe. The
Liverpool and Manchester Railway
Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened a year
later making exclusive use of steam power for passenger and goods
The Stourbridge Lion
Many of the earliest locomotives for American railroads were imported
from Great Britain, including first the
Stourbridge Lion and later the
John Bull (still the oldest operable engine-powered vehicle in the
United States of any kind, as of 1981) however a domestic
locomotive-manufacturing industry was quickly established. The
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Tom Thumb in 1830, designed and built by
Peter Cooper, was the first US-built locomotive to run in America,
although it was intended as a demonstration of the potential of steam
traction, rather than as a revenue-earning locomotive. The DeWitt
Clinton was also built in the 1830s.
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The first railway service outside of the United Kingdom and North
America was opened in 1829 between
Saint-Etienne and Lyon. Then on 5
May 1835 the first line in Belgium linked
Mechelen and Brussels. The
locomotive was named The Elephant.
Photo of the Adler made in the early 1850s
In Germany, the first working steam locomotive was a rack-and-pinion
engine, similar to the Salamanca, designed by the British locomotive
pioneer John Blenkinsop. Built in June 1816 by Johann Friedrich Krigar
in the Royal Berlin Iron Foundry (Königliche Eisengießerei zu
Berlin), the locomotive ran on a circular track in the factory yard.
It was the first locomotive to be built on the European mainland and
the first steam-powered passenger service; curious onlookers could
ride in the attached coaches for a fee. It is portrayed on a New
Year's badge for the Royal Foundry dated 1816. Another locomotive was
built using the same system in 1817. They were to be used on pit
railways in Königshütte and in Luisenthal on the Saar (today part of
Völklingen), but neither could be returned to working order after
being dismantled, moved and reassembled. On 7 December 1835 the Adler
ran for the first time between
Fürth on the Bavarian
Ludwig Railway. It was the 118th engine from the locomotive works of
Robert Stephenson and stood under patent protection.
The Austria, the first locomotive in Austria
In 1837, the first steam railway started in Austria on the Emperor
Ferdinand Northern Railway between Vienna-
Deutsch-Wagram. The oldest continually working steam engine in the
world also runs in Austria: the
GKB 671 built in 1860, has never been
taken out of service, and is still used for special excursions.
In 1838, the third steam locomotive to be built in Germany, the
Saxonia, was manufactured by the Maschinenbaufirma Übigau near
Dresden, built by Prof. Johann Andreas Schubert. The first
independently designed locomotive in
Germany was the Beuth, built by
August Borsig in 1841. The first locomotive produced by Henschel-Werke
in Kassel, the Drache, was delivered in 1848.
The first steam locomotives operating in Italy were the Bayard and the
Vesuvio, running on the
Napoli-Portici line, in the Kingdom of the Two
The first railway line over Swiss territory was the Strasbourg–Basle
line opened in 1844. Three years later, in 1847, the first fully Swiss
railway line, the Spanisch Brötli Bahn, from Zürich to Baden was
01. Fire chamber
03. Water (inside the boiler)
04. Smoke box
07. Steam dome
08. Safety valve
09. Regulator valve
10. Super heater (in smoke box)
12. Blast pipe
13. Valve gear
14. Regulator rod
15. Drive frame
16. Rear Pony truck
17. Front Pony truck
18. Bearing and axle box
19. Leaf spring
20. Brake shoe
21. Air brake pump
22. (Front) Center coupler
The fire-tube boiler was standard practice for steam locomotives and
although other types of boiler were evaluated they were not widely
used except for 1000 locomotives in Hungary which used the water-tube
A steam locomotive with the boiler and firebox exposed (firebox on the
A boiler consists of a firebox where the fuel is burned, a barrel
where water is turned into steam and a smokebox which is kept at a
slightly lower pressure than outside the firebox.
Solid fuel, such as wood, coal or coke, is thrown into the firebox
through a door by a fireman, onto a set of grates which hold the fuel
in a bed as it burns. Ash falls through the grate into an ashpan. If
oil is used as the fuel, a door is needed for adjusting the air flow,
maintaining the firebox, and cleaning the oil jets.
The fire-tube boiler has internal tubes connecting the firebox to the
smokebox through which the combustion gases flow giving up heat to the
water. All the tubes together provide a large contact area, called the
tube heating surface, between the gas and water in the boiler. Boiler
water surrounds the firebox to stop the metal from becoming too hot.
This is another area where the gas transfers heat to the water and is
called the firebox heating surface. Ash and char collect in the
smokebox as the gas gets drawn up the chimney (stack or smokestack in
the US) by the exhaust steam from the cylinders. Surrounding the
boiler are layers of insulation or lagging to reduce heat loss.
The pressure in the boiler has to be monitored using a gauge mounted
in the cab. Steam pressure can be released manually by the driver or
fireman. If the pressure reaches the boiler's design working limit, a
safety valve opens automatically to reduce the pressure and avoid
a catastrophic accident.
Aftermath of a boiler explosion on a railway locomotive, c.1850
The exhaust steam from the engine cylinders shoots out of a nozzle
pointing up the chimney in the smokebox. The steam entrains or drags
the smokebox gases with it which maintains a lower pressure in the
smokebox than that under the firebox grate. This pressure difference
causes air to flow up through the coal bed and keeps the fire burning.
The search for thermal efficiency greater than that of a typical
fire-tube boiler led engineers, such as Nigel Gresley, to consider the
water-tube boiler. Although he tested the concept on the
W1, the difficulties during development exceeded the will to increase
efficiency by that route.
The steam generated in the boiler not only moves the locomotive, but
is also used to operate other devices such as the whistle, the air
compressor for the brakes, the pump for replenishing the water in the
boiler and the passenger car heating system. The constant demand for
steam requires a periodic replacement of water in the boiler. The
water is kept in a tank in the locomotive tender or wrapped around the
boiler in the case of a tank locomotive. Periodic stops are required
to refill the tanks; an alternative was a scoop installed under the
tender that collected water as the train passed over a track pan
located between the rails.
While the locomotive is producing steam, the amount of water in the
boiler is constantly monitored by looking at the water level in a
transparent tube, or sight glass. Efficient and safe operation of the
boiler requires keeping the level in between lines marked on the sight
glass. If the water level is too high, steam production falls,
efficiency is lost and water is carried out with the steam into the
cylinders, possibly causing mechanical damage. More seriously, if the
water level gets too low, the crown(top)sheet of the firebox becomes
exposed. Without water on top of the sheet to transfer away the heat
of combustion, it softens and fails, letting high-pressure steam into
the firebox and the cab. The development of the fusible plug, a
temperature-sensitive device, ensured a controlled venting of steam
into the firebox to warn the fireman to add water.
Scale builds up in the boiler and prevents adequate heat transfer, and
corrosion eventually degrades the boiler materials to the point where
it needs to be rebuilt or replaced. Start-up on a large engine may
take hours of preliminary heating of the boiler water before
sufficient steam is available.
Although the boiler is typically placed horizontally, for locomotives
designed to work in locations with steep slopes it may be more
appropriate to consider a vertical boiler or one mounted such that the
boiler remains horizontal but the wheels are inclined to suit the
slope of the rails.
Thermal image of an operating steam locomotive
The steam generated in the boiler fills the space above the water in
the partially filled boiler. Its maximum working pressure is limited
by spring-loaded safety valves. It is then collected either in a
perforated tube fitted above the water level or by a dome that often
houses the regulator valve, or throttle, the purpose of which is to
control the amount of steam leaving the boiler. The steam then either
travels directly along and down a steam pipe to the engine unit or may
first pass into the wet header of a superheater, the role of the
latter being to improve thermal efficiency and eliminate water
droplets suspended in the "saturated steam", the state in which it
leaves the boiler. On leaving the superheater, the steam exits the dry
header of the superheater and passes down a steam pipe, entering the
steam chests adjacent to the cylinders of a reciprocating engine.
Inside each steam chest is a sliding valve that distributes the steam
via ports that connect the steam chest to the ends of the cylinder
space. The role of the valves is twofold: admission of each fresh dose
of steam, and exhaust of the used steam once it has done its work.
The cylinders are double-acting, with steam admitted to each side of
the piston in turn. In a two-cylinder locomotive, one cylinder is
located on each side of the vehicle. The cranks are set 90° out of
phase. During a full rotation of the driving wheel, steam provides
four power strokes; each cylinder receives two injections of steam per
revolution. The first stroke is to the front of the piston and the
second stroke to the rear of the piston; hence two working strokes.
Consequently, two deliveries of steam onto each piston face in the two
cylinders generates a full revolution of the driving wheel. Each
piston is attached to the driving axle on each side by a connecting
rod, and the driving wheels are connected together by coupling rods to
transmit power from the main driver to the other wheels. Note that at
the two "dead centres", when the connecting rod is on the same axis as
the crankpin on the driving wheel, the connecting rod applies no
torque to the wheel. Therefore, if both cranksets could be at "dead
centre" at the same time, and the wheels should happen to stop in this
position, the locomotive could not start moving. Therefore, the
crankpins are attached to the wheels at a 90° angle to each other, so
only one side can be at dead centre at a time.
Each piston transmits power through a crosshead, connecting rod (Main
rod in the US) and a crankpin on the driving wheel (Main driver in the
US) or to a crank on a driving axle. The movement of the valves in the
steam chest is controlled through a set of rods and linkages called
the valve gear, actuated from the driving axle or from the crankpin;
the valve gear includes devices that allow reversing the engine,
adjusting valve travel and the timing of the admission and exhaust
events. The cut-off point determines the moment when the valve blocks
a steam port, "cutting off" admission steam and thus determining the
proportion of the stroke during which steam is admitted into the
cylinder; for example a 50% cut-off admits steam for half the stroke
of the piston. The remainder of the stroke is driven by the expansive
force of the steam. Careful use of cut-off provides economical use of
steam and in turn reduces fuel and water consumption. The reversing
lever (Johnson bar in the US), or screw-reverser (if so equipped),
that controls the cut-off therefore performs a similar function to a
gearshift in an automobile – maximum cut-off, providing maximum
tractive effort at the expense of efficiency, is used to pull away
from a standing start, whilst a cut-off as low as 10% is used when
cruising, providing reduced tractive effort, and therefore lower
Exhaust steam is directed upwards out of the locomotive through the
chimney, by way of a nozzle called a blastpipe, creating the familiar
"chuffing" sound of the steam locomotive. The blastpipe is placed at a
strategic point inside the smokebox that is at the same time traversed
by the combustion gases drawn through the boiler and grate by the
action of the steam blast. The combining of the two streams, steam and
exhaust gases, is crucial to the efficiency of any steam locomotive,
and the internal profiles of the chimney (or, strictly speaking, the
ejector) require careful design and adjustment. This has been the
object of intensive studies by a number of engineers (and often
ignored by others, sometimes with catastrophic consequences). The fact
that the draught depends on the exhaust pressure means that power
delivery and power generation are automatically self-adjusting. Among
other things, a balance has to be struck between obtaining sufficient
draught for combustion whilst giving the exhaust gases and particles
sufficient time to be consumed. In the past, a strong draught could
lift the fire off the grate, or cause the ejection of unburnt
particles of fuel, dirt and pollution for which steam locomotives had
an unenviable reputation. Moreover, the pumping action of the exhaust
has the counter-effect of exerting back pressure on the side of the
piston receiving steam, thus slightly reducing cylinder power.
Designing the exhaust ejector became a specific science, with
engineers such as Chapelon, Giesl and Porta making large improvements
in thermal efficiency and a significant reduction in maintenance
time and pollution. A similar system was used by some early
gasoline/kerosene tractor manufacturers (Advance-Rumely/Hart-Parr) –
the exhaust gas volume was vented through a cooling tower, allowing
the steam exhaust to draw more air past the radiator.
2-8-2 at train station
Steam-cleaning the running gear of an "H" class locomotive, Chicago
and North Western Railway, 1943
Running gear of steam locomotive
Running gear includes the brake gear, wheel sets, axleboxes, springing
and the motion that includes connecting rods and valve gear. The
transmission of the power from the pistons to the rails and the
behaviour of the locomotive as a vehicle, being able to negotiate
curves, points and irregularities in the track, is of paramount
importance. Because reciprocating power has to be directly applied to
the rail from 0 rpm upwards, this creates the problem of adhesion
of the driving wheels to the smooth rail surface. Adhesive weight is
the portion of the locomotive's weight bearing on the driving wheels.
This is made more effective if a pair of driving wheels is able to
make the most of its axle load, i.e. its individual share of the
adhesive weight. Equalising beams connecting the ends of leaf springs
have often been deemed a complication in Britain, however locomotives
fitted with the beams have usually been less prone to loss of traction
due to wheel-slip. Suspension using equalizing levers between driving
axles, and between driving axles and trucks, was standard practice on
North American locomotives to maintain even wheel loads when operating
on uneven track.
Locomotives with total adhesion, where all of the wheels are coupled
together, generally lack stability at speed. To counter this,
locomotives often fit unpowered carrying wheels mounted on two-wheeled
trucks or four-wheeled bogies centred by springs/inverted
rockers/geared rollers that help to guide the locomotive through
curves. These usually take on weight – of the cylinders at the front
or the firebox at the rear — when the width exceeds that of the
mainframes. Locomotives with multiple coupled-wheels on a rigid
chassis would have unacceptable flange forces on tight curves giving
excessive flange and rail wear, track spreading and wheel climb
derailments. One solution was to remove or thin the flanges on an
axle. More common was to give axles end-play and use lateral motion
control with spring or inclined-plane gravity devices.
Railroads generally preferred locomotives with fewer axles, to reduce
maintenance costs. The number of axles required was dictated by the
maximum axle loading of the railroad in question. A builder would
typically add axles until the maximum weight on any one axle was
acceptable to the railroad's maximum axle loading. A locomotive with a
wheel arrangement of two lead axles, two drive axles, and one trailing
axle was a high-speed machine. Two lead axles were necessary to have
good tracking at high speeds. Two drive axles had a lower
reciprocating mass than three, four, five or six coupled axles. They
were thus able to turn at very high speeds due to the lower
reciprocating mass. A trailing axle was able to support a huge
firebox, hence most locomotives with the wheel arrangement of 4-4-2
(American Type Atlantic) were called free steamers and were able to
maintain steam pressure regardless of throttle setting.
The chassis, or locomotive frame, is the principal structure onto
which the boiler is mounted and which incorporates the various
elements of the running gear. The boiler is rigidly mounted on a
"saddle" beneath the smokebox and in front of the boiler barrel, but
the firebox at the rear is allowed to slide forward and backwards, to
allow for expansion when hot.
European locomotives usually use "plate frames", where two vertical
flat plates form the main chassis, with a variety of spacers and a
buffer beam at each end to keep them apart. When inside cylinders are
mounted between the frames, the plate frames are a single large
casting that forms a major support. The axleboxes slide up and down to
give some sprung suspension, against thickened webs attached to the
frame, called "hornblocks".
American practice for many years was to use built-up bar frames, with
the smokebox saddle/cylinder structure and drag beam integrated
therein. In the 1920s, with the introduction of "superpower", the
cast-steel locomotive bed became the norm, incorporating frames,
spring hangers, motion brackets, smokebox saddle and cylinder blocks
into a single complex, sturdy but heavy casting. An S.N.C.F design
study using welded tubular frames gave a rigid frame with a 30% weight
Fuel and water
Water gauge. Here the water in the boiler is at the "top nut", higher
than the normal maximum working level.
Generally, the largest locomotives are permanently coupled to a tender
that carries the water and fuel. Often, locomotives working shorter
distances do not have a tender and carry the fuel in a bunker, with
the water carried in tanks placed next to the boiler either in two
tanks alongside (side tank and pannier tank), one on top (saddle tank)
or one underneath (well tank); these are called tank engines and
usually have a 'T' suffix added to the Whyte notation, e.g. 0-6-0T.
The fuel used depended on what was economically available to the
railway. In the UK and other parts of Europe, plentiful supplies of
coal made this the obvious choice from the earliest days of the steam
engine. Until 1870, the majority of locomotives in the United
States burned wood, but as the Eastern forests were cleared, coal
gradually became more widely used. Thereafter, coal became and
remained the dominant fuel worldwide until the end of general use of
steam locomotives. Railways serving sugar cane farming operations
burned bagasse, a byproduct of sugar refining. In the US, the ready
availability of oil made it a popular steam locomotive fuel after 1900
for the southwestern railroads, particularly the Southern Pacific. In
the Australian state of Victoria after World War II, many steam
locomotives were converted to heavy oil firing. German, Russian,
Australian and British railways experimented with using coal dust to
During World War II, a number of Swiss steam shunting locomotives were
modified to use electrically heated boilers, consuming around
480 kW of power collected from an overhead line with a
pantograph. These locomotives were significantly less efficient than
electric ones; they were used because Switzerland had access to
plentiful hydroelectricity, and suffered from a shortage of coal
because of the war.
A number of tourist lines and heritage locomotives in Switzerland,
Argentina and Australia have used light diesel-type oil.
Water was supplied at stopping places and locomotive depots from a
dedicated water tower connected to water cranes or gantries. In the
UK, the US and France, water troughs (track pans in the US) were
provided on some main lines to allow locomotives to replenish their
water supply without stopping, from rainwater or snowmelt that filled
the trough due to inclement weather. This was achieved by using a
deployable "water scoop" fitted under the tender or the rear water
tank in the case of a large tank engine; the fireman remotely lowered
the scoop into the trough, the speed of the engine forced the water up
into the tank, and the scoop was raised again once it was full.
A locomotive takes on water using a water crane
Water is an essential element in the operation of a steam locomotive.
As Swengel argued:
It has the highest specific heat of any common substance; that is,
more thermal energy is stored by heating water to a given temperature
than would be stored by heating an equal mass of steel or copper to
the same temperature. In addition, the property of vapourising
(forming steam) stores additional energy without increasing the
temperature… water is a very satisfactory medium for converting
thermal energy of fuel into mechanical energy.
Swengel went on to note that "at low temperature and relatively low
boiler outputs", good water and regular boiler washout was an
acceptable practice, even though such maintenance was high. As steam
pressures increased, however, a problem of "foaming" or "priming"
developed in the boiler, wherein dissolved solids in the water formed
"tough-skinned bubbles" inside the boiler, which in turn were carried
into the steam pipes and could blow off the cylinder heads. To
overcome the problem, hot mineral-concentrated water was deliberately
wasted (blown down) from the boiler periodically. Higher steam
pressures required more blowing-down of water out of the boiler.
Oxygen generated by boiling water attacks the boiler, and with
increased steam pressure the rate of rust (iron oxide) generated
inside the boiler increases. One way to help overcome the problem was
water treatment. Swengel suggested that these problems contributed to
the interest in electrification of railways.
In the 1970s, L.D. Porta developed a sophisticated system of
heavy-duty chemical water treatment (Porta Treatment) that not only
keeps the inside of the boiler clean and prevents corrosion, but
modifies the foam in such a way as to form a compact "blanket" on the
water surface that filters the steam as it is produced, keeping it
pure and preventing carry-over into the cylinders of water and
suspended abrasive matter.
A steam locomotive is normally controlled from the boiler's backhead,
and the crew is usually protected from the elements by a cab. A crew
of at least two people is normally required to operate a steam
locomotive. One, the train driver or engineer (North America), is
responsible for controlling the locomotive's starting, stopping and
speed, and the fireman is responsible for maintaining the fire,
regulating steam pressure and monitoring boiler and tender water
levels. Due to the historical loss of operational infrastructure and
staffing, preserved steam locomotives operating on the mainline will
often have a support crew travelling with the train.
Fittings and appliances
Steam locomotive components
Further information: Category:locomotive parts
All locomotives are fitted with a variety of appliances. Some of these
relate directly to the operation of the steam engine; while others are
for signalling, train control or other purposes. In the United States,
Federal Railroad Administration mandated the use of certain
appliances over the years in response to safety concerns. The most
typical appliances are as follows:
Steam pumps and injectors
Water (feedwater) must be delivered to the boiler to replace that
which is exhausted as steam after delivering a working stroke to the
pistons. As the boiler is under pressure during operation, feedwater
must be forced into the boiler at a pressure that is greater than the
steam pressure, necessitating the use of some sort of pump. Early
engines used pumps driven by the motion of the pistons (axle pumps),
which were simple to operate and reliable, but only operated when the
locomotive was moving, and could overload the valve gear and piston
rods at high speeds. Steam injectors later replaced the pump, while
some engines transitioned to turbopumps. Standard practice evolved to
use two independent systems for feeding water to the boiler; either
two steam injectors or, on more conservative designs, axle pumps when
running at service speed and a steam injector for filling the boiler
when stationary or at low speeds. By the 20th century virtually all
new-built locomotives used only steam injectors – often one injector
was supplied with "live" steam straight from the boiler itself and the
other used exhaust steam from the locomotive's cylinders, which was
more efficient (since it made use of otherwise wasted steam) but could
only be used when the locomotive was in motion and the regulator was
Vertical glass tubes, known as water gauges or water glasses, show the
level of water in the boiler and are carefully monitored at all times
while the boiler is being fired. Before the 1870s it was more common
to have a series of try-cocks fitted to the boiler within reach of the
crew; each try cock (at least two and usually three were fitted) was
mounted at a different level. By opening each try-cock and seeing if
steam or water vented through it, the level of water in the boiler
could be estimated with limited accuracy. As boiler pressures
increased the use of try-cocks became increasingly dangerous and the
valves were prone to blockage with scale or sediment, giving false
readings. This led to their replacement with the sight glass. As with
the injectors, two glasses with separate fittings were usually
installed to provide independent readings.
See also: Thermal insulation
Large amounts of heat are wasted if a boiler is not insulated. Early
locomotives used shaped wooden battens fitted lengthways along the
boiler barrel, and held in place by metal bands. Improved insulating
methods included applying a thick paste containing a porous mineral
such as kieselgur, or attaching shaped blocks of insulating compound
such as magnesia blocks. In the latter days of steam, "mattresses"
of stitched asbestos cloth stuffed with asbestos fibre were fixed to
the boiler, on separators so as not quite to touch the boiler.
However, asbestos is currently banned in most countries for health
reasons. The most common modern day material is glass wool, or
wrappings of aluminium foil.
The lagging is protected by a close-fitted sheet-metal casing
known as boiler clothing or cleading.
Effective lagging is particularly important for fireless locomotives;
however in recent times under the influence of L.D. Porta,
"exaggerated" insulation has been practised for all types of
locomotive on all surfaces liable to dissipate heat, such as cylinder
ends and facings between the cylinders and the mainframes. This
considerably reduces engine warmup time with marked increase in
Main article: Safety valve
The boiler safety valves lifting on 60163 Tornado, creating a false
Early locomotives were fitted with a valve controlled by a weight
suspended from the end of a lever, with the steam outlet being stopped
by a cone-shaped valve. As there was nothing to prevent the weighted
lever from bouncing when the locomotive ran over irregularities in the
track, thus wasting steam, the weight was later replaced by a more
stable spring-loaded column, often supplied by Salter, a well-known
spring scale manufacturer. The danger of these devices was that the
driving crew could be tempted to add weight to the arm to increase
pressure. Most early boilers were fitted with a tamper-proof "lockup"
direct-loaded ball valve protected by a cowl. In the late 1850s, John
Ramsbottom introduced a safety valve that became popular in Britain
during the latter part of the 19th century. Not only was this valve
tamper-proof, but tampering by the driver could only have the effect
of easing pressure. George Richardson's safety valve was an American
invention introduced in 1875, and was designed to release the
steam only at the moment when the pressure attained the maximum
permitted. This type of valve is in almost universal use at present.
Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway was a notable exception to this rule,
retaining the direct-loaded type until the end of its separate
existence, because it was considered that such a valve lost less
pressure between opening and closing.
Main article: Pressure measurement
Pressure gauges on Blackmore Vale. The right-hand one shows boiler
pressure, the one on the left steam chest pressure.
The earliest locomotives did not show the pressure of steam in the
boiler, but it was possible to estimate this by the position of the
safety valve arm which often extended onto the firebox back plate;
gradations marked on the spring column gave a rough indication of the
actual pressure. The promoters of the
Rainhill trials urged that each
contender have a proper mechanism for reading the boiler pressure, and
Stephenson devised a nine-foot vertical tube of mercury with a
sight-glass at the top, mounted alongside the chimney, for his Rocket.
Bourdon tube gauge, in which the pressure straightens an
oval-section coiled tube of brass or bronze connected to a pointer,
was introduced in 1849 and quickly gained acceptance, and is still
used today. Some locomotives have an additional pressure gauge in
the steam chest. This helps the driver avoid wheel-slip at startup, by
warning if the regulator opening is too great.
Spark arrestors and smokeboxes
Spark arrestor and self-cleaning smokebox
Spark arrestor and smokebox
Typical self-cleaning smokebox design
Wood-burners emit large quantities of flying sparks which necessitate
an efficient spark-arresting device generally housed in the
smokestack. Many different types were fitted, the most common
early type being the Bonnet stack that incorporated a cone-shaped
deflector placed before the mouth of the chimney pipe, and a wire
screen covering the wide stack exit. A more-efficient design was the
Radley and Hunter centrifugal stack patented in 1850 (commonly known
as the diamond stack), incorporating baffles so oriented as to induce
a swirl effect in the chamber that encouraged the embers to burn out
and fall to the bottom as ash. In the self-cleaning smokebox the
opposite effect was achieved: by allowing the flue gasses to strike a
series of deflector plates, angled in such a way that the blast was
not impaired, the larger particles were broken into small pieces that
would be ejected with the blast, rather than settle in the bottom of
the smokebox to be removed by hand at the end of the run. As with the
arrestor, a screen was incorporated to retain any large embers.
Locomotives of the British Railways standard classes fitted with
self-cleaning smokeboxes were identified by a small cast oval plate
marked "S.C.", fitted at the bottom of the smokebox door. These
engines required different disposal procedures and the plate
highlighted this need to depot staff.
Main article: Mechanical stoker
A factor that limits locomotive performance is the rate at which fuel
is fed into the fire. In the early 20th century some locomotives
became so large that the fireman could not shovel coal fast
enough. In the United States, various steam-powered mechanical
stokers became standard equipment and were adopted and used elsewhere
including Australia and South Africa.
Introducing cold water into a boiler reduces power, and from the 1920s
a variety of heaters were incorporated. The most common type for
locomotives was the exhaust steam feedwater heater that piped some of
the exhaust through small tanks mounted on top of the boiler or
smokebox or into the tender tank; the warm water then had to be
delivered to the boiler by a small auxiliary steam pump. The rare
economiser type differed in that it extracted residual heat from the
exhaust gases. An example of this is the pre-heater drum(s) found on
the Franco-Crosti boiler.
The use of live steam and exhaust steam injectors also assists in the
pre-heating of boiler feedwater to a small degree, though there is no
efficiency advantage to live steam injectors. Such pre-heating also
reduces the thermal shock that a boiler might experience when cold
water is introduced directly. This is further helped by the top feed,
where water is introduced to the highest part of the boiler and made
to trickle over a series of trays.
G.J. Churchward fitted this
arrangement to the high end of his domeless coned boilers. Other
British lines such as the
LBSCR fitted some locomotives with the top
feed inside a separate dome forward of the main one.
Condensers and water re-supply
Main article: Condensing steam locomotive
Watering a steam locomotive
South African Class 25 condensing locomotive
Steam locomotives consume vast quantities of water because they
operate on an open cycle, expelling their steam immediately after a
single use rather than recycling it in a closed loop as stationary and
marine steam engines do. Water was a constant logistical problem, and
condensing engines were devised for use in desert areas. These engines
had huge radiators in their tenders and instead of exhausting steam
out of the funnel it was captured, passed back to the tender and
condensed. The cylinder lubricating oil was removed from the exhausted
steam to avoid a phenomenon known as priming, a condition caused by
foaming in the boiler which would allow water to be carried into the
cylinders causing damage because of its incompressibility. The most
notable engines employing condensers (Class 25, the "puffers which
never puff") worked across the
Karoo desert of South Africa from
the 1950s until the 1980s.
Some British and American locomotives were equipped with scoops which
collected water from "water troughs" (track pans in the US) while in
motion, thus avoiding stops for water. In the US, small communities
often did not have refilling facilities. During the early days of
railroading, the crew simply stopped next to a stream and filled the
tender using leather buckets. This was known as "jerking water" and
led to the term "jerkwater towns" (meaning a small town, a term which
today is considered derisive). In Australia and South Africa,
locomotives in drier regions operated with large oversized tenders and
some even had an additional water wagon, sometimes called a "canteen"
or in Australia (particularly in New South Wales) a "water gin".
Steam locomotives working on underground railways (such as London's
Metropolitan Railway) were fitted with condensing apparatus to prevent
steam from escaping into the railway tunnels. These were still being
used between King's Cross and Moorgate into the early 1960s.
See also: Railway brake
Locomotives have their own braking system, independent from the rest
of the train. Locomotive brakes employ large shoes which press against
the driving wheel treads. With the advent of compressed air brakes, a
separate system allowed the driver to control the brakes on all cars.
A single-stage, steam-driven, air compressor was mounted on the side
of the boiler. Long freight trains needed more air and a two-stage
compressor with LP and HP cylinders, driven by cross-compound HP and
LP steam cylinders, was introduced. It had three and a half times the
capacity of the single stage. Most were made by Westinghouse. Two
were fitted in front of the smokebox on big articulated locomotives.
Westinghouse systems were used in the United States, Canada, Australia
and New Zealand.
An alternative to the air brake is the vacuum brake, in which a
steam-operated ejector is mounted on the engine instead of the air
pump, to create a vacuum and release the brakes. A secondary ejector
or crosshead vacuum pump is used to maintain the vacuum in the system
against the small leaks in the pipe connections between carriages and
wagons. Vacuum systems existed on British, Indian, West Australian and
South African railway networks.
Steam locomotives are fitted with sandboxes from which sand can be
deposited on top of the rail to improve traction and braking in wet or
icy weather. On American locomotives the sandboxes, or sand domes, are
usually mounted on top of the boiler. In Britain, the limited loading
gauge precludes this, so the sandboxes are mounted just above, or just
below, the running plate.
See also: Lubrication
"Wakefield" brand displacement lubricator mounted on a locomotive
boiler backplate. Through the right-hand sight glass a drip of oil
(travelling upwards through water) can be seen.
The pistons and valves on the earliest locomotives were lubricated by
the enginemen dropping a lump of tallow down the blast pipe.
As speeds and distances increased, mechanisms were developed that
injected thick mineral oil into the steam supply. The first, a
displacement lubricator, mounted in the cab, uses a controlled stream
of steam condensing into a sealed container of oil. Water from the
condensed steam displaces the oil into pipes. The apparatus is usually
fitted with sight-glasses to confirm the rate of supply. A later
method uses a mechanical pump worked from one of the crossheads. In
both cases, the supply of oil is proportional to the speed of the
Big-end bearing (with connecting rod and coupling rod) of a Blackmoor
Vale showing pierced cork stoppers to oil reservoirs
Lubricating the frame components (axle bearings, horn blocks and bogie
pivots) depends on capillary action: trimmings of worsted yarn are
trailed from oil reservoirs into pipes leading to the respective
component. The rate of oil supplied is controlled by the size of
the bundle of yarn and not the speed of the locomotive, so it is
necessary to remove the trimmings (which are mounted on wire) when
stationary. However, at regular stops (such as a terminating station
platform), oil finding its way onto the track can still be a problem.
Crank pin and crosshead bearings carry small cup-shaped reservoirs for
oil. These have feed pipes to the bearing surface that start above the
normal fill level, or are kept closed by a loose-fitting pin, so that
only when the locomotive is in motion does oil enter. In United
Kingdom practice the cups are closed with simple corks, but these have
a piece of porous cane pushed through them to admit air. It is
customary for a small capsule of pungent oil (aniseed or garlic) to be
incorporated in the bearing metal to warn if the lubrication fails and
excess heating or wear occurs.
When the locomotive is running under power, a draught on the fire is
created by the exhaust steam directed up the chimney by the blastpipe.
Without draught, the fire will quickly die down and steam pressure
will fall. When the locomotive is stopped, or coasting with the
regulator closed, there is no exhaust steam to create a draught, so
the draught is maintained by means of a blower. This is a ring placed
either around the base of the chimney, or around the blast pipe
orifice, containing several small steam nozzles directed up the
chimney. These nozzles are fed with steam directly from the boiler,
controlled by the blower valve. When the regulator is open, the blower
valve is closed; when the driver intends to close the regulator, he
will first open the blower valve. It is important that the blower be
opened before the regulator is closed, since without draught on the
fire, there may be backdraught – where atmospheric air blows down
the chimney, causing the flow of hot gases through the boiler tubes to
be reversed, with the fire itself being blown through the firehole
onto the footplate, with serious consequences for the crew. The risk
of backdraught is higher when the locomotive enters a tunnel because
of the pressure shock. The blower is also used to create draught when
steam is being raised at the start of the locomotive's duty, at any
time when the driver needs to increase the draught on the fire, and to
clear smoke from the driver's line of vision.
Blowbacks were fairly common. In a 1955 report on an accident near
Dunstable, the Inspector wrote, "In 1953 twenty-three cases, which
were not caused by an engine defect, were reported and they resulted
in 26 enginemen receiving injuries. In 1954 the number of occurrences
and of injuries were the same and there was also one fatal
casualty." They remain a problem, as evidenced by the 2012
incident with BR standard class 7 70013 Oliver Cromwell.
Main article: Buffer (rail transport)
In British and European (except former Soviet Union countries)
practice, locomotives usually have buffers at each end to absorb
compressive loads ("buffets"). The tensional load of drawing the
train (draft force) is carried by the coupling system. Together these
control slack between the locomotive and train, absorb minor impacts
and provide a bearing point for pushing movements.
In Canadian and American practice all of the forces between the
locomotive and cars are handled through the coupler – particularly
the Janney coupler, long standard on American railroad rolling stock
– and its associated draft gear, which allows some limited slack
movement. Small dimples called "poling pockets" at the front and rear
corners of the locomotive allowed cars to be pushed onto an adjacent
track using a pole braced between the locomotive and the cars. In
Britain and Europe, North American style "buckeye" and other couplers
that handle forces between items of rolling stock have become
A pilot was usually fixed to the front end of locomotives, although in
European and a few other railway systems including New South Wales,
they were considered unnecessary. Plough-shaped, sometimes called "cow
catchers", they were quite large and were designed to remove obstacles
from the track such as cattle, bison, other animals or tree limbs.
Though unable to "catch" stray cattle, these distinctive items
remained on locomotives until the end of steam. Switching engines
usually replaced the pilot with small steps, known as footboards. Many
systems used the pilot and other design features to produce a
Preserved Great Western
Railway locomotive Bradley Manor, with two oil
lamps signifying an express passenger service, and a high-intensity
electric lamp added for safety standards.
When night operations began, railway companies in some countries
equipped their locomotives with lights to allow the driver to see what
lay ahead of the train, or to enable others to see the locomotive.
Headlights were originally oil or acetylene lamps, but when electric
arc lamps became available in the late 1880s, they quickly replaced
the older types.
Britain did not adopt bright headlights as they would affect night
vision and so could mask the low-intensity oil lamps used in the
semaphore signals and at each end of trains, increasing the danger of
missing signals, especially on busy tracks. Locomotive stopping
distances were also normally much greater than the range of
headlights, and the railways were well-signalled and fully fenced to
prevent livestock and people from straying onto them, largely negating
the need for bright lamps. Thus low-intensity oil lamps continued to
be used, positioned on the front of locomotives to indicate the class
of each train. Four "lamp irons" (brackets on which to place the
lamps) were provided: one below the chimney and three evenly spaced
across the top of the buffer beam. The exception to this was the
Southern Railway and its constituents, who added an extra lamp iron
each side of the smokebox, and the arrangement of lamps (or in
daylight, white circular plates) told railway staff the origin and
destination of the train. On all vehicles, equivalent lamp irons were
also provided on the rear of the locomotive or tender for when the
locomotive was running tender- or bunker-first.
In some countries, heritage steam operation continues on the national
network. Some railway authorities have mandated powerful headlights on
at all times, including during daylight. This was to further inform
the public or track workers of any active trains.
Bells and whistles
Main article: Train whistle
Locomotives used bells and steam whistles from earliest days of steam
locomotion. In the United States, India and Canada, bells warned of a
train in motion. In Britain, where all lines are by law fenced
throughout, bells were only a requirement on railways running on a
road (i.e. not fenced off), for example a tramway along the side of
the road or in a dockyard. Consequently, only a minority of
locomotives in the UK carried bells. Whistles are used to signal
personnel and give warnings. Depending on the terrain the locomotive
was being used in, the whistle could be designed for long-distance
warning of impending arrival, or for more localised use.
Early bells and whistles were sounded through pull-string cords and
levers. Automatic bell ringers came into widespread use in the US
A typical AWS "sunflower" indicator. The indicator shows either a
black disk or a yellow and black "exploding" disk.
From the early 20th century operating companies in such countries as
Germany and Britain began to fit locomotives with Automatic Warning
System (AWS) in-cab signalling, which automatically applied the brakes
when a signal was passed at "caution". In Britain, these became
mandatory in 1956. In the United States, the
also fitted their locomotives with such devices.
The booster engine was an auxiliary steam engine which provided extra
tractive effort for starting. It was a low speed device, usually
mounted on the trailing truck. It was dis-engaged via an idler gear at
a low speed, eg 30 km/hr. Boosters were widely used in the US and
tried experimentally in Britain and France. On the narrow-gauged New
Zealand railway system, six Kb
4-8-4 locomotives were fitted with
boosters, the only 3-foot-6-inch-gauge (1,070 mm) engines in the
world to have such equipment.
Booster engines were also fitted to tender trucks in the US and known
as auxiliary locomotives. Two and even three truck axles were
connected together using side rods which limited them to slow-speed
The firedoor is used to cover the firehole when coal is not being
added. It serves two purposes, first it prevents air being drawn over
the top of the fire, rather forcing it to be drawn through it. The
second purpose is to safeguard the train crew against blowbacks. It
does however have a means to allow some air to pass over the top of
the fire (referred to as "secondary air") to complete the combustion
of gases produced by the fire.
Firedoors come in multiple designs, the most basic of which is a
single piece which is hinged on one side and can swing open onto the
footplate. This design has two issues, first it takes up lots of room
on the footplate the second is the draught will tend to pull it
completely shut, thus cutting off any secondary air. To compensate for
this some locomotives are fitted with a latch that prevents the
firedoor from closing completely whereas others have a small vent on
the door that may be opened to allow secondary air to flow through.
Though it was considered to design a firedoor that opens inwards into
the firebox thus preventing the inconvience caused on the footplate,
such a door would be exposed to the full heat of the fire and would
likely deform, thus becoming useless.
A more popular type of firedoor consists of a two piece sliding door
operated by a single lever. There are tracks above and below the
firedoor which the door runs along. These tracks are prone to becoming
jammed by debris and the doors required more effort to open than the
aforementioned swinging door. In order to address this some firedoors
use powered operation which utilized a steam or air cylinder to open
the door. Among these are the butterfly doors which pivot at the upper
corner, the pivoting action offers low resistance to the cylinder that
opens the door.
Numerous variations on the basic locomotive occurred as railways
attempted to improve efficiency and performance.
Main article: Cylinder (locomotive)
Early steam locomotives had two cylinders, one either side, and this
practice persisted as the simplest arrangement. The cylinders could be
mounted between the main frames (known as "inside" cylinders), or
mounted outside the frames and driving wheels ("outside" cylinders).
Inside cylinders are driven by cranks built into the driving axle;
outside cylinders are driven by cranks on extensions to the driving
Later designs employed three or four cylinders, mounted both inside
and outside the frames, for a more even power cycle and greater power
output. This was at the expense of more complicated valve gear and
increased maintenance requirements. In some cases the third cylinder
was added inside simply to allow for smaller diameter outside
cylinders, and hence reduce the width of the locomotive for use on
lines with a restricted loading gauge, for example the SR K1 and U1
Most British express-passenger locomotives built between 1930 and 1950
4-6-2 types with three or four cylinders (e.g. GWR 6000
Class, LMS Coronation Class, SR Merchant Navy Class,
Class A3). From 1951, all but one of the 999 new
British Rail standard
class steam locomotives across all types used 2-cylinder
configurations for easier maintenance.
Main article: Valve gear
Early locomotives used a simple valve gear that gave full power in
either forward or reverse. Soon the
Stephenson valve gear
Stephenson valve gear allowed
the driver to control cut-off; this was largely superseded by
Walschaerts valve gear
Walschaerts valve gear and similar patterns. Early locomotive designs
using slide valves and outside admission were relatively easy to
construct, but inefficient and prone to wear. Eventually, slide
valves were superseded by inside admission piston valves, though there
were attempts to apply poppet valves (commonly used in stationary
engines) in the 20th century.
Stephenson valve gear
Stephenson valve gear was generally
placed within the frame and was difficult to access for maintenance;
later patterns applied outside the frame were more readily visible and
Main article: Compound locomotive
U-127 Lenin's funeral train, a
4-6-0 oil burning De Glehn compound
locomotive, in the Museum of the Moscow Railway at Paveletsky Rail
Compound locomotives were used from 1876, expanding the steam twice or
more through separate cylinders – reducing thermal losses caused by
cylinder cooling. Compound locomotives were especially useful in
trains where long periods of continuous efforts were needed.
Compounding contributed to the dramatic increase in power achieved by
André Chapelon's rebuilds from 1929. A common application was in
articulated locomotives, the most common being that designed by
Anatole Mallet, in which the high-pressure stage was attached directly
to the boiler frame; in front of this was pivoted a low-pressure
engine on its own frame, which takes the exhaust from the rear
Main article: Articulated locomotive
More-powerful locomotives tend to be longer, but long rigid-framed
designs are impractical for the tight curves frequently found on
narrow-gauge railways. Various designs for articulated locomotives
were developed to overcome this problem. The Mallet and the Garratt
were the two most popular, both using a single boiler and two engines
(sets of cylinders and driving wheels). The
Garratt has two power
bogies, whereas the Mallet has one. There were also a few examples of
triplex locomotives that had a third engine under the tender. Both the
front and tender engines were low-pressure compounded, though they
could be operated simple (high-pressure) for starting off. Other less
common variations included the Fairlie locomotive, which had two
boilers back-to-back on a common frame, with two separate power
Main article: Duplex locomotive
Duplex locomotives, containing two engines in one rigid frame, were
also tried, but were not notably successful. For example, the 4-4-4-4
Pennsylvania Railroad's T1 class, designed for very fast running,
suffered recurring and ultimately unfixable slippage problems
throughout their careers.
Main article: Geared steam locomotive
For locomotives where a high starting torque and low speed were
required, the conventional direct drive approach was inadequate.
"Geared" steam locomotives, such as the Shay, the Climax and the
Heisler, were developed to meet this need on industrial, logging, mine
and quarry railways. The common feature of these three types was the
provision of reduction gearing and a drive shaft between the
crankshaft and the driving axles. This arrangement allowed the engine
to run at a much higher speed than the driving wheels compared to the
conventional design, where the ratio is 1:1.
In the United States on the Southern Pacific Railroad, a series of cab
forward locomotives were produced with the cab and the firebox at the
front of the locomotive and the tender behind the smokebox, so that
the engine appeared to run backwards. This was only possible by using
oil-firing. Southern Pacific selected this design to provide air free
of smoke for the engine driver to breathe as the locomotive passed
through mountain tunnels and snow sheds. Another variation was the
Camelback locomotive, with the cab situated halfway along the boiler.
Oliver Bulleid developed the
SR Leader class
SR Leader class locomotive
during the nationalisation process in the late 1940s. The locomotive
was heavily tested but several design faults (such as coal firing and
sleeve valves) meant that this locomotive and the other part-built
locomotives were scrapped. The cab-forward design was taken by Bulleid
to Ireland, where he moved after nationalisation, where he developed
the "turfburner". This locomotive was more successful, but was
scrapped due to the dieselisation of the Irish railways.
The only preserved cab forward locomotive is
Southern Pacific 4294
Southern Pacific 4294 in
In France, the three Heilmann locomotives were built with a cab
Ljungström steam turbine locomotive with air preheater, c.1925
(Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology).
Steam turbine and
Steam turbine locomotive
Steam turbines were created as an attempt to improve the operation and
efficiency of steam locomotives. Experiments with steam turbines using
direct-drive and electrical transmissions in various countries proved
mostly unsuccessful. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway
built the Turbomotive, a largely successful attempt to prove the
efficiency of steam turbines. Had it not been for the outbreak of
World War II, more may have been built. The Turbomotive ran from 1935
to 1949, when it was rebuilt into a conventional locomotive because
many parts required replacement, an uneconomical proposition for a
"one-off" locomotive. In the United States, Union Pacific, Chesapeake
and Ohio and Norfolk & Western (N&W) railways all built
turbine-electric locomotives. The
Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) also
built turbine locomotives, but with a direct-drive gearbox. However,
all designs failed due to dust, vibration, design flaws or
inefficiency at lower speeds. The final one remaining in service was
the N&W's, retired in January 1958. The only truly successful
design was the TGOJ MT3, used for hauling iron ore from Grängesberg
in Sweden to the ports of Oxelösund. Despite functioning correctly,
only three were built. Two of them are preserved in working order in
museums in Sweden.
Main article: Fireless locomotive
In a fireless locomotive the boiler is replaced by a steam
accumulator, which is charged with steam (actually water at a
temperature well above boiling point, 212 °F/100 °C) from
a stationary boiler. Fireless locomotives were used where there was a
high fire risk (e.g. oil refineries), where cleanliness was important
(e.g. food-production plants) or where steam is readily available
(e.g. paper mills and power stations where steam is either a
by-product or is cheaply available). The water vessel ("boiler") is
heavily insulated the same as with a fired locomotive. Until all the
water has boiled away, the steam pressure does not drop except as the
temperature drops.
Another class of fireless locomotive is a compressed-air
Main articles: Steam diesel hybrid locomotive, Electric-steam
locomotive, and Heilmann locomotive
Steam diesel hybrid locomotive
Mixed power locomotives, utilising both steam and diesel propulsion,
have been produced in Russia, Britain and Italy.
Under unusual conditions (lack of coal, abundant hydroelectricity)
some locomotives in Switzerland were modified to use electricity to
heat the boiler, making them electric-steam locomotives.
Heilmann locomotive No. 8001, Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest
A steam-electric locomotive is similar in concept to a diesel-electric
locomotive, except that a steam engine instead of a diesel engine is
used to drive a generator. Three such locomotives were built by the
French engineer Jean Jacques Heilmann (fr) in the 1890s.
The Gov. Stanford, a
4-4-0 (using Whyte notation) locomotive typical
of 19th-century American practice
Steam locomotives are categorised by their wheel arrangement. The two
dominant systems for this are the
Whyte notation and UIC
The Whyte notation, used in most English-speaking and Commonwealth
countries, represents each set of wheels with a number. These numbers
typically represented the number of un-powered leading wheels,
followed by the number of driving wheels (sometimes in several
groups), followed by the number of un-powered trailing wheels. For
example, a yard engine with only 4 drive wheels would be categorised
as a "0-4-0" wheel arrangement. A locomotive with a 4-wheel leading
truck, followed by 6 drive wheels, and a 2-wheel trailing truck, would
be classed as a "4-6-2". Different arrangements were given names which
usually reflect the first usage of the arrangement; for instance the
"Santa Fe" type (2-10-2) is so called because the first examples were
built for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. These names were
informally given and varied according to region and even politics.
UIC classification is used mostly in European countries apart from
the United Kingdom. It designates consecutive pairs of wheels
(informally "axles") with a number for non-driving wheels and a
capital letter for driving wheels (A=1, B=2, etc.) So a Whyte 4-6-2
designation would be an equivalent to a 2-C-1 UIC designation.
On many railroads, locomotives were organised into classes. These
broadly represented locomotives which could be substituted for each
other in service, but most commonly a class represented a single
design. As a rule classes were assigned some sort of code, generally
based on the wheel arrangement. Classes also commonly acquired
nicknames, such as "Pugs", representing notable (and sometimes
uncomplimentary) features of the locomotives.
In the steam locomotive era, two measures of locomotive performance
were generally applied. At first, locomotives were rated by tractive
effort, defined as the average force developed during one revolution
of the driving wheels at the rail head. This can be roughly
calculated by multiplying the total piston area by 85% of the boiler
pressure (a rule of thumb reflecting the slightly lower pressure in
the steam chest above the cylinder), and dividing by the ratio of the
driver diameter over the piston stroke. However, the precise formula
displaystyle t= frac cPd^ 2 s D
where d is the bore of the cylinder (diameter) in inches, s is the
cylinder stroke, in inches, P is boiler pressure in pounds per square
inch, D is the diameter of the driving wheel in inches, and c is a
factor that depends on the effective cut-off. In the US, c is
usually set at 0.85, but lower on engines that have maximum cutoff
limited to 50–75%.
The tractive effort is only the "average" force, as not all effort is
constant during the one revolution of the drivers. At some points of
the cycle only one piston is exerting turning moment and at other
points both pistons are working. Not all boilers deliver full power at
starting, and the tractive effort also decreases as the rotating speed
Tractive effort is a measure of the heaviest load a locomotive can
start or haul at very low speed over the ruling grade in a given
territory. However, as the pressure grew to run faster goods and
heavier passenger trains, tractive effort was seen to be an inadequate
measure of performance because it did not take into account speed.
Therefore, in the 20th century, locomotives began to be rated by power
output. A variety of calculations and formulas were applied, but in
general railways used dynamometer cars to measure tractive force at
speed in actual road testing.
British railway companies have been reluctant to disclose figures for
drawbar horsepower and have usually relied on continuous tractive
Relation to wheel arrangement
Whyte classification is indirectly connected to locomotive
performance. Given adequate proportions of the rest of the locomotive,
power output is determined by the size of the fire, and for a
bituminous coal-fuelled locomotive, this is determined by the grate
area. Modern non-compound locomotives are typically able to produce
about 40 drawbar horsepower per square foot of grate. Tractive force,
as noted earlier, is largely determined by the boiler pressure, the
cylinder proportions and the size of the driving wheels. However, it
is also limited by the weight on the driving wheels (termed "adhesive
weight"), which needs to be at least four times the tractive
The weight of the locomotive is roughly proportional to the power
output; the number of axles required is determined by this weight
divided by the axleload limit for the trackage where the locomotive is
to be used. The number of driving wheels is derived from the adhesive
weight in the same manner, leaving the remaining axles to be accounted
for by the leading and trailing bogies. Passenger locomotives
conventionally had two-axle leading bogies for better guidance at
speed; on the other hand, the vast increase in the size of the grate
and firebox in the 20th century meant that a trailing bogie was called
upon to provide support. In Europe, some use was made of several
variants of the
Bissel bogie in which the swivelling movement of a
single axle truck controls the lateral displacement of the front
driving axle (and in one case the second axle too). This was mostly
applied to 8-coupled express and mixed traffic locomotives, and
considerably improved their ability to negotiate curves whilst
restricting overall locomotive wheelbase and maximising adhesion
As a rule, "shunting engines" (US: switching engines) omitted leading
and trailing bogies, both to maximise tractive effort available and to
reduce wheelbase. Speed was unimportant; making the smallest engine
(and therefore smallest fuel consumption) for the tractive effort was
paramount. Driving wheels were small and usually supported the firebox
as well as the main section of the boiler. Banking engines (US: helper
engines) tended to follow the principles of shunting engines, except
that the wheelbase limitation did not apply, so banking engines tended
to have more driving wheels. In the US, this process eventually
resulted in the Mallet type engine with its many driven wheels, and
these tended to acquire leading and then trailing bogies as guidance
of the engine became more of an issue.
As locomotive types began to diverge in the late 19th century, freight
engine designs at first emphasised tractive effort, whereas those for
passenger engines emphasised speed. Over time, freight locomotive size
increased, and the overall number of axles increased accordingly; the
leading bogie was usually a single axle, but a trailing truck was
added to larger locomotives to support a larger firebox that could no
longer fit between or above the driving wheels. Passenger locomotives
had leading bogies with two axles, fewer driving axles, and very large
driving wheels in order to limit the speed at which the reciprocating
parts had to move.
In the 1920s, the focus in the United States turned to horsepower,
epitomised by the "super power" concept promoted by the Lima
Locomotive Works, although tractive effort was still the prime
consideration after World War I to the end of steam. Goods trains were
designed to run faster, while passenger locomotives needed to pull
heavier loads at speed. This was achieved by increasing the size of
grate and firebox without changes to the rest of the locomotive,
requiring the addition of a second axle to the trailing truck. Freight
2-8-2s became 2-8-4s while 2-10-2s became 2-10-4s. Similarly,
passenger 4-6-2s became 4-6-4s. In the United States this led to a
convergence on the dual-purpose
4-8-4 and the
configuration, which was used for both freight and passenger
service. Mallet locomotives went through a similar transformation,
evolving from bank engines into huge mainline locomotives with much
larger fireboxes; their driving wheels were also increased in size in
order to allow faster running.
Main article: List of locomotive builders
Most manufactured classes
0-10-0 at Varshavsky Rail Terminal, St. Petersburg
The most-manufactured single class of steam locomotive in the world is
Russian locomotive class E
Russian locomotive class E steam locomotive with around
11,000 produced both in Russia and other countries such as
Czechoslovakia, Germany, Sweden, Hungary and Poland. The Russian
locomotive class O numbered 9,129 locomotives, built between 1890 and
1928. Around 7,000 units were produced of the German DRB Class 52
2-10-0 Kriegslok. The British GWR 5700 class numbered about 863 units.
The DX class of the
London and North Western Railway
London and North Western Railway numbered 943
units, including 86 engines built for the Lancashire and Yorkshire
Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway No. 6833 Calcot Grange, a
4-6-0 Grange class
steam locomotive at Bristol Temple Meads station. Note the Belpaire
Before the 1923 Grouping Act, production in the UK was mixed. The
larger railway companies built locomotives in their own workshops,
with the smaller ones and industrial concerns ordering them from
outside builders. A large market for outside builders existed due to
the home-build policy exercised by the main railway companies. An
example of a pre-grouping works was the one at Melton Constable, which
maintained and built some of the locomotives for the Midland and Great
Northern Joint Railway. Other works included one at Boston (an early
GNR building) and Horwich works.
Between 1923 and 1947, the "Big Four" railway companies (the Great
Western Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, the London
and North Eastern Railway and the Southern Railway) all built most of
their own locomotives, only buying locomotives from outside builders
when their own works were fully occupied (or as a result of
government-mandated standardisation during wartime).
From 1948, British Railways allowed the former "Big Four" companies
(now designated as "Regions") to continue to produce their own
designs, but also created a range of standard locomotives which
supposedly combined the best features from each region. Although a
policy of "dieselisation" was adopted in 1955, BR continued to build
new steam locomotives until 1960, with the final engine being named
Some independent manufacturers produced steam locomotives for a few
more years, with the last British-built industrial steam locomotive
being constructed by Hunslet in 1971. Since then, a few specialised
manufacturers have continued to produce small locomotives for narrow
gauge and miniature railways, but as the prime market for these is the
tourist and heritage railway sector, the demand for such locomotives
is limited. In November 2008, a new build main line steam locomotive,
60163 Tornado, was tested on UK mainlines for eventual charter and
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, most Swedish steam locomotives
were manufactured in Britain. Later, however, most steam locomotives
were built by local factories including NOHAB in
Trollhättan and ASJ
in Falun. One of the most successful types was the class "B" (4-6-0),
inspired by the Prussian class P8. Many of the Swedish steam
locomotives were preserved during the Cold War in case of war. During
the 1990s, these steam locomotives were sold to non-profit
associations or abroad, which is why the Swedish class B, class S
(2-6-4) and class E2 (2-8-0) locomotives can now be seen in Britain,
Germany and Canada.
California Western Railroad No. 45 (builder No. 58045),
built by Baldwin in 1924, is a
2-8-2 Mikado locomotive. It is still in
use today on the Skunk Train.
Locomotives for American railroads were nearly always built in the
United States with very few imports, except in the earliest days of
steam engines. This was due to the basic differences of markets in the
United States which initially had many small markets located large
distances apart, in contrast to Europe's higher density of markets.
Locomotives that were cheap and rugged and could go large distances
over cheaply built and maintained tracks were required. Once the
manufacture of engines was established on a wide scale there was very
little advantage to buying an engine from overseas that would have to
be customised to fit the local requirements and track conditions.
Improvements in engine design of both European and US origin were
incorporated by manufacturers when they could be justified in a
generally very conservative and slow-changing market. With the notable
exception of the
USRA standard locomotives built during World War I,
in the United States, steam locomotive manufacture was always
semi-customised. Railroads ordered locomotives tailored to their
specific requirements, though some basic design features were always
present. Railroads developed some specific characteristics; for
Pennsylvania Railroad and the Great Northern Railway had
a preference for the Belpaire firebox. In the United States,
large-scale manufacturers constructed locomotives for nearly all rail
companies, although nearly all major railroads had shops capable of
heavy repairs and some railroads (for example, the Norfolk and Western
Railway and the
Pennsylvania Railroad, which had two erecting shops)
constructed locomotives entirely in their own shops. Companies
manufacturing locomotives in the US included Baldwin Locomotive Works,
American Locomotive Company
American Locomotive Company (Alco), and Lima Locomotive Works.
Altogether, between 1830 and 1950, over 160,000 steam locomotives were
built in the United States, with Baldwin alone accounting for a
majority, nearly 70,000.
Steam locomotives required regular and, compared to a diesel-electric
engine, frequent service and overhaul (often at government-regulated
intervals in Europe and the US). Alterations and upgrades regularly
occurred during overhauls. New appliances were added, unsatisfactory
features removed, cylinders improved or replaced. Almost any part of
the locomotive, including boilers, was replaced or upgraded. When
service or upgrades got too expensive the locomotive was traded off or
retired. On the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad two
2-10-2 locomotives were dismantled; the boilers were placed onto two
new Class T
4-8-2 locomotives and the residual wheel machinery made
into a pair of Class U
0-10-0 switchers with new boilers. Union
Pacific's fleet of 3-cylinder
4-10-2 engines were converted into
two-cylinder engines in 1942, because of high maintenance problems.
The 200th steam locomotive built by
Clyde Engineering (TF 1164) from
Powerhouse Museum collection
Clyde Engineering and the workshops in Eveleigh both built
steam locomotives for the New South Wales Government Railways. These
include the C38 class 4-6-2; the first five were built at Clyde with
streamlining, the other 25 locomotives were built at Eveleigh (13) and
Cardiff Workshops (12) near Newcastle. In Queensland, steam
locomotives were locally constructed by Walkers. Similarly the South
Australian state government railways also manufactured steam
locomotives locally at
Islington Railway Workshops
Islington Railway Workshops in Adelaide.
Victorian Railways constructed most of their locomotives at their
Newport Workshops and in Bendigo, while in the early days locomotives
were built at the
Phoenix Foundry in Ballarat. Locomotives constructed
at the Newport shops ranged from the nA class 2-6-2T built for the
narrow gauge, up to the H class
4-8-4 – the largest conventional
locomotive ever to operate in Australia, weighing 260 tons. However,
the title of largest locomotive ever used in Australia goes to the
263-ton NSWGR AD60 class 4-8-4+
4-8-4 Garratt, built by
Beyer-Peacock in the United Kingdom. Most steam locomotives used in
Western Australia were built in the United Kingdom, though some
examples were designed and built locally at the Western Australian
Government Railways' Midland Railway Workshops. The 10 WAGR S class
locomotives (introduced in 1943) were the only class of steam
locomotive to be wholly conceived, designed and built in Western
Australia, while the Midland workshops notably participated in the
Australia-wide construction program of Australian Standard Garratts
– these wartime locomotives were built at Midland in Western
Clyde Engineering in New South Wales, Newport in Victoria
and Islington in South Australia and saw varying degrees of service in
all Australian states.
The end of steam in general use
Steam railroading is a pain in the butt.
— George Thagard, owner of the Sandstone Crag Loop Line, 2006
The introduction of electric locomotives around the turn of the 20th
century and later diesel-electric locomotives spelled the beginning of
a decline in the use of steam locomotives, although it was some time
before they were phased out of general use. As diesel power
(especially with electric transmission) became more reliable in the
1930s, it gained a foothold in North America. The full transition
away from steam power in North America took place during the 1950s. In
continental Europe, large-scale electrification had replaced steam
power by the 1970s. Steam was a familiar technology, adapted well to
local facilities, and also consumed a wide variety of fuels; this led
to its continued use in many countries until the end of the 20th
Steam engines have considerably less thermal efficiency than modern
diesels, requiring constant maintenance and labour to keep them
operational. Water is required at many points throughout a rail
network, making it a major problem in desert areas, as are found in
some regions of the United States, Australia and South Africa. In
places where water is available, it may be hard, which can cause
"scale" to form, composed mainly of calcium carbonate, magnesium
hydroxide and calcium sulfate. Calcium and magnesium carbonates tend
to be deposited as off-white solids on the inside the surfaces of
pipes and heat exchangers. This precipitation is principally caused by
thermal decomposition of bicarbonate ions but also happens in cases
where the carbonate ion is at saturation concentration. The
resulting build-up of scale restricts the flow of water in pipes. In
boilers, the deposits impair the flow of heat into the water, reducing
the heating efficiency and allowing the metal boiler components to
The reciprocating mechanism on the driving wheels of a two-cylinder
single expansion steam locomotive tended to pound the rails (see
hammer blow), thus requiring more maintenance. Raising steam from coal
took a matter of hours, and created serious pollution problems.
Coal-burning locomotives required fire cleaning and ash removal
between turns of duty. Diesel or electric locomotives, by
comparison, drew benefit from new custom-built servicing facilities.
The smoke from steam locomotives was also deemed objectionable; the
first electric and diesel locomotives were developed in response to
smoke abatement requirements, although this did not take into
account the high level of less-visible pollution in diesel exhaust
smoke, especially when idling. In some countries, however, power for
electric locomotives is derived from steam generated in power
stations, which are often run by coal.
Northwestern Steel and Wire
Northwestern Steel and Wire locomotive number 80, July 1964
The first diesel locomotive appeared on the Central Railroad of New
Jersey in 1925 and on the New York Central in 1927. Since then, diesel
locomotives began to appear in mainline service in the United States
in the mid-1930s. The diesel engines reduced maintenance costs
dramatically, while increasing locomotive availability. On the
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad the new units delivered over
350,000 miles (560,000 km) a year, compared with about
120,000–150,000 miles (190,000–240,000 km) for a mainline
steam locomotive. World War II delayed dieselisation in the US. In
Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad
Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad became the first large
mainline railroad to convert completely to diesel locomotives, and
Life Magazine ran an article on 5 December 1949 titled "The GM&O
puts all its steam engines to torch, becomes first major US railroad
to dieselize 100%". The Susquehanna was one of the earliest
railroads in America to fully dieselize by 1947 and retiring their
steam locomotives by 1949. The final
2-8-4 Berkshire built in the
world was Nickle Plate Road's 779 built in 1949. The last steam
locomotive manufactured for general service was a Norfolk and Western
0-8-0, built in its Roanoke shops in December, 1953. In Spring of
1960, Norfolk and Western Y6b 2190 and S1 290 doused their fires for
the last time in a Williamson, West Virginia roundhouse. The Age of
Steam was over that ended steam locomotive common carrier service in
the United States. 1960 is normally considered the final year of
regular Class 1 main line standard gauge steam operation in the United
States, with operations on the Grand Trunk Western, Illinois Central,
Norfolk and Western and Duluth Missabe and Iron Range Railroads,
as well as Canadian Pacific operations in Maine.
However, the Grand Trunk Western used some steam power for regular
passenger trains until 1961, the last instance of this occurring
unannounced on trains 56 and 21 in the Detroit area on 20 September
4-8-4 6323, one day before its flue time expired. The
last steam-powered standard-gauge regular freight service by a class 1
railroad was on the isolated Leadville branch of the Colorado and
Southern (Burlington Lines) 11 October 1962 with
Narrow-gauge steam was used for freight service by the Denver and Rio
Grande Western on the 250-mile (400 km) run from Alamosa,
Colorado to Farmington, New Mexico via Durango until service ceased on
5 December 1968. The
Union Pacific is the only Class I railroad in
the US to have never completely dieselised, at least nominally. It has
always had at least one operational steam locomotive, Union Pacific
844, on its roster. Some US shortlines continued steam operations
into the 1960s, and the
Northwestern Steel and Wire
Northwestern Steel and Wire mill in Sterling,
Illinois, continued to operate steam locomotives until December
1980. Two surviving sections of the Denver and Rio Grande
Western's Alamosa to Durango narrow-gauge line mentioned above, now
operating separately as the
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad
Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad and the
Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, continue to use steam
locomotives and operate as tourist railroads.
By the end of the 20th century, around 1,800 of the over 160,000 steam
locomotives built in the United States between 1830 and 1950 still
existed, but with only a few still in operating condition.
British industrial steam in the 1970s: a
Robert Stephenson &
Hawthorn 0-4-0ST shunting coal wagons at Agecroft Power Station,
Pendlebury in 1976
Trials of diesel locomotives and railcars began in Britain in the
1930s but made only limited progress. One problem was that British
diesel locomotives were often seriously under-powered compared with
the steam locomotives against which they were competing. Moreover,
labour and coal were relatively cheap.
After 1945, problems associated with post-war reconstruction and the
availability of cheap domestic-produced coal kept steam in widespread
use throughout the two following decades. However the ready
availability of cheap oil led to new dieselisation programmes from
1955, and these began to take full effect from around 1962. Towards
the end of the steam era, steam motive power fell into a state of
disrepair. The last steam locomotive built for mainline British
Railways was BR Standard Class 9F 92220 Evening Star, which was
completed in March 1960. The last steam-hauled service trains on the
British Railways network ran in 1968, but the use of steam locomotives
in British industry continued into the 1980s. In June 1975, there
were still 41 locations where steam was in regular use, and many more
where engines were maintained in reserve in case of diesel
failures. Gradually, the decline of the ironstone quarries, steel,
coal mining and shipbuilding industries – and the plentiful supply
British Rail diesel shunters as replacements – led to
the end of steam power for commercial uses.
Several hundred rebuilt and preserved steam locomotives are still used
on preserved volunteer-run 'heritage' railway lines in the UK. A
proportion of the locomotives are regularly used on the national rail
network by private operators where they run special excursions and
touring trains. A new steam locomotive, the
LNER Peppercorn Class A1
60163 Tornado has been built (began service in 2009), and more are in
the planning stage.
After the Second World War,
Germany was divided into the Federal
Republic of Germany, with the
Deutsche Bundesbahn (founded in 1949) as
the new state-owned railway, and the German Democratic Republic (GDR),
where railway service continued under the old pre-war name Deutsche
For a short period after the war, both Bundesbahn (DB) and Reichsbahn
(DR) still placed orders for new steam locomotives. They needed to
renew the rolling stock, mostly with steam locomotives designed for
accelerated passenger trains. Many of the existing predecessors of
those types of steam locomotives in
Germany had been lost in the
battles or simply reached the end of their lifetime, such as the
famous Prussian P 8. There was no need for new freight train engines,
however, because thousands of the Classes 50 and 52 had been built
during the Second World War.
The VEB Lokomotivbau Karl Marx Babelsberg (LKM) built this steam
locomotive, No. 991777-4. Today it pulls the locomotives on the
Radebeul–Radeburg heritage railway in Germany.
Because the concept of the so-called "Einheitslokomotiven", the
standard locomotives built in the 1920s and 1930s, and still in wide
use, was already outdated in the pre-war era, a whole new design for
the new steam locomotives was developed by DB and DR, called
"Neubaudampflokomotiven" (new-build steam locomotives). The steam
locomotives made by the DB in West Germany, under the guidance of
Friedrich Witte, represented the latest evolution in steam locomotive
construction including fully welded frames, high-performance boilers
and roller bearings on all moving parts. Although these new DB classes
(10, 23, 65, 66 and 82) were said to be among the finest and
best-performing German steam locomotives ever built, none of them
exceeded 25 years in service. The last one, 23 105 (still preserved),
went into service in 1959.
The Democratic Republic in East
Germany began a similar procurement
plan, including engines for a narrow gauge. The
DR-Neubaudampflokomotiven were the classes 23.10, 25.10, 50.40, 65.10,
83.10, 99.23-24 and 99.77-79. The purchase of new-build steam
locomotives by the DR ended in 1960 with 50 4088, the last
standard-gauge steam locomotive built in Germany. No locomotive of the
classes 25.10 and 83.10 was in service for more than 17 years. The
last engines of the classes 23.10, 65.10 and 50.40 were retired in the
late 1970s, with some units older than 25 years. Some of the
narrow-gauge locomotives are still in service for tourism purposes.
Later, during the early 1960s, the DR developed a way to reconstruct
older locomotives to conform with contemporary requirements. The
high-speed locomotive 18 201 and the class 01.5 are examples of
designs from that programme.
Around 1960, the Bundesbahn in West
Germany began to phase out all
steam-hauled trains over a period of ten years, but still had about
5,000 of them in running condition. Even though DB were very assertive
in continuing the electrification on the main lines – in 1963 they
reached 5,000 km (3,100 mi) of electrified routes – and
dieselisation with new developed stock, they had not completely
removed steam locomotives within the ten-year goal. In 1972, the
Hamburg and Frankfurt departments of the DB rail networks became the
first to no longer operate steam locomotives in their areas. The
remaining steam locomotives began to gather in rail yards in Rheine,
Tübingen, Hof, Saarbrücken, Gelsenkirchen-Bismarck and others, which
soon became popular with rail enthusiasts.
In 1975, DB's last steam express train made its final run on the
Emsland-Line from Rheine to Norddeich in the upper north of Germany.
Two years later, on 26 October 1977, the heavy freight engine 44 903
(computer-based new number 043 903-4) made her final run at the same
railway yard. After this date, no regular steam service took place on
the network of the DB until their privatisation in 1994.
Narrow-gauge Chiemsee-Bahn Railway steam locomotive in southern
In the GDR, the
Reichsbahn continued steam operation until 1988 on
standard gauge tracks for economic and political reasons, despite
strong efforts to phase out steam being made since the 1970s. The last
locomotives in service where of the classes 50.35 and 52.80, which
hauled goods trains on rural main and branch lines. Unlike the DB,
there was never a large concentration of steam locomotives in just a
few yards in the East, because throughout the DR network the
infrastructure for steam locomotives remained intact until the end of
the GDR in 1990. This was also the reason that there was never a
strict "final cut" at steam operations, with the DR continuing to use
steam locomotives from time to time until they merged with the DB in
On their narrow-gauge lines, however, steam locomotives continued to
be used on a daily year-round basis, mainly for tourist reasons. The
largest of these is the Harzer Schmalspurbahn (Harz Narrow Gauge
Railways) network in the Harz Mountains, but the lines in Saxony and
on the coast of the Baltic Sea are also notable. Even though all
former DR narrow-gauge railways have undergone privatisation, steam
operations are still commonplace there.
P36-0031, the last steam passenger locomotive built in Russia, on a
heritage run during Expo 1520 exhibition in Scherbinka, Moscow Oblast.
In the USSR, although the first mainline diesel-electric locomotive
was built in USSR in 1924, the last steam locomotive (model П36,
serial number 251) was built in 1956; it is now in the Museum of
Railway Machinery at the former Warsaw Rail Terminal, Saint
Petersburg. In the European part of the USSR, almost all steam
locomotives were replaced by diesel and electric locomotives in the
1960s; in Siberia and Central Asia, state records verify that L-class
2-10-0s and LV-class 2-10-2s were not retired until 1985. Until 1994,
Russia had at least 1,000 steam locomotives stored in operable
condition in case of "national emergencies".
China Railways QJ
China Railways QJ (前进, "Qiánjìn") heavy freight steam
locomotive, kept in China Industrial Museum
China Railways SY
China Railways SY industrial steam locomotive, kept in front of Dalian
China continued to build mainline steam locomotives until the late
20th century, even building a few examples for American tourist
operations. China was the last main-line user of steam locomotives,
with use ending officially on the Ji-Tong line at the end of 2005.
Some steam locomotives are as of 2018[update] still in use in
industrial operations in China. Some coal and other mineral operations
maintain an active roster of
China Railways JS
China Railways JS (建设, "Jiànshè")
China Railways SY
China Railways SY (上游, "Shàngyóu") steam locomotives bought
secondhand from China Railway. The last steam locomotive built in
2-8-2 SY 1772, finished in 1999. As of 2011,[update] at
least six Chinese steam locomotives exist in the United
States – 3 QJs bought by the
Rail Development Corporation
Rail Development Corporation (Nos.
6988 and 7081 for IAIS and No. 7040 for R.J. Corman), a JS bought by
the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad, and two SYs. No. 142
(formerly No. 1647) is owned by the NYSW for tourist operations,
re-painted and modified to represent a 1920s-era US locomotive; No. 58
is operated by the Valley Railroad and has been modified to represent
New Haven Railroad number 3025.
Owing to the destruction of most of the nation's infrastructure during
the Second World War, and the cost of electrification and
dieselisation, new steam locomotives were built in Japan until 1960.
The number of Japanese steam locomotives reached a peak of 5,958 in
With the booming post-war Japanese economy, steam locomotives were
gradually withdrawn from main line service beginning in the early
1960s, and were replaced with diesel and electric locomotives. They
were relegated to branch line and sub-main line services for several
more years until the late 1960s, when electrification and
dieselisation began to increase. From 1970 onwards, steam locomotion
was gradually abolished on the JNR:
Shikoku (April 1970)
Kanto area (Tokyo) (October 1970),
Kinki (Osaka, Kyoto area) (September 1973)
Chubu (Nagoya, Nagano area) (April 1974),
Tohoku (November 1974),
Chugoku (Yamaguchi area) (December 1974)
Kyushu (January 1975)
Hokkaido (March 1976)
The last steam passenger train, pulled by a C57-class locomotive built
in 1940, departed from
Muroran railway station to
Iwamizawa on 14
December 1975. It was then officially retired from service, dismantled
and sent to the Tokyo Transportation Museum, where it was inaugurated
as an exhibit on 14 May 1976. It was moved to the Saitama Railway
Museum in early 2007. The last Japanese main line steam train,
D51-241, a D51-class locomotive built in 1939, left Yubari railway
station on 24 December 1975. That same day, all steam main line
service ended. D51-241 was retired on 10 March 1976, and destroyed in
a depot fire a month later, though some parts were preserved.
On 2 March 1976, the only steam locomotive still operating on the JNR,
9600-39679, a 9600-class locomotive built in 1920, made its final
journey from Oiwake railway station, ending 104 years of steam
locomotion in Japan.
The first steam locomotive in South Korea (Korea at the time) was the
Moga (Mogul) 2-6-0, which first ran on 9 September 1899 on the
Gyeong-In Line. Other South Korean steam locomotive classes include
the Sata, Pureo, Ame, Sig, Mika (USRA Heavy Mikado), Pasi (USRA Light
Pacific), Hyeogi (Narrow gauge), Class 901, Mateo, Sori and Tou. Used
until 1967, the Moga is now in the Railroad Museum.
New steam locomotives were built in India well into the early 1970s;
the last broad-gauge steam locomotive to be manufactured, Last Star, a
WG-class locomotive (No. 10560) was built in June 1970, followed
by the last meter-gauge locomotive in February 1972. Steam
locomotion continued to predominate on Indian Railways through the
early 1980s; in fiscal year 1980–81, there were 7,469 steam
locomotives in regular service, compared to 2,403 diesels and 1,036
electrics. Subsequently, steam locomotion was gradually phased out
from regular service, beginning with the Southern Railway Zone in
1985; the number of diesel and electric locomotives in regular service
surpassed the number of steam locomotives in service in 1987–88.
All regular broad-gauge steam service in India ended in 1995, with the
final run made from Jalandhar to Ferozpur on 6 December. The last
meter-gauge and narrow-gauge steam locomotives in regular service were
retired in 2000. After being withdrawn from service, most steam
locomotives were scrapped, though some have been preserved in various
railway museums. The only steam locomotives remaining in regular
service are on India's heritage lines.
In South Africa, the last new steam locomotives purchased were
2-6-2 Garratts from Hunslet Taylor for the 2-foot (610 mm)
gauge lines in 1968. Another class 25NC locomotive, No. 3454,
nicknamed the "Blue Devil" because of its colour scheme, received
modifications including a prominent set of double side-by-side exhaust
stacks. In southern Natal, two former South African Railway 2-foot
(610 mm) gauge NGG16 Garratts operating on the privatised Port
Alfred County Railway
Alfred County Railway (ACR) received some L.D. Porta
modifications in 1990, becoming a new NGG16A class.
By 1994 almost all commercial steam locomotives were put out of
service, although many of them are preserved in museums or at railway
stations for public viewing. Today only a few privately owned steam
locomotives are still operating in South Africa, including the ones
being used by the 5-star luxury train Rovos Rail, and the tourist
trains Outeniqua Tjoe Choo,
Apple Express and (until 2008) Banana
Further information: List of South African locomotive classes
In other countries, the dates for conversion from steam to diesel and
electric power varied.
On the contiguous North American standard gauge network across Canada,
Mexico and the United States, the use of standard gauge main line
steam locomotion using 4-8-4s built in 1946 for handling freight
between Mexico City and
Irapuato lasted until
1968.[page needed] The Mexican Pacific line, a standard gauge
short line in the state of Sinaloa, was reported in August
1987[full citation needed] to still be using steam, with a roster
of one 4-6-0, two 2-6-2s and one 2-8-2.
By March 1973 in Australia, steam was no longer used for industrial
purposes. Diesel locomotives were more efficient and the demand for
manual labour for service and repairs was less than for steam. Cheap
oil also had cost advantages over coal. Regular scheduled steam
services operated from 1998 until 2004 on the West Coast Railway.
In New Zealand's North Island, steam traction ended in 1968 when AB
832 (now stored at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, Auckland, but owned
by MOTAT) hauled a
Farmers Trading Company
Farmers Trading Company "Santa Special" from
Frankton Junction to Claudelands. In the South Island, due to the
inability of the new DJ class diesel locomotives to provide in-train
steam heating, steam operations continued using the J and JA class
4-8-2 tender locomotives on the overnight Christchurch-Invercargill
expresses, Trains 189/190, until 1971. By this time sufficient FS
steam-heating vans were available, thus allowing the last steam
locomotives to be withdrawn. Two AB class
4-6-2 tender locomotives, AB
778 and AB 795, were retained at Lyttelton to steam-heat the coaches
for the Boat Trains between Christchurch and Lyttelton, until they
were restored for the
Kingston Flyer tourist train in 1972.
In Finland, the first diesels were introduced in the mid-1950s,
superseding steam locomotives by the early 1960s. State railways (VR)
operated steam locomotives until 1975.
In the Netherlands, the first electric trains appeared in 1908, making
the trip from Rotterdam to The Hague. The first diesels were
introduced in 1934. As electric and diesel trains performed so well,
the decline of steam started just after World War II, with steam
traction ending in 1958.
In Poland, on non-electrified tracks, steam locomotives were
superseded almost entirely by diesels by the 1990s. A few steam
locomotives, however, operate in the regular scheduled service from
Wolsztyn. After ceasing on 31 March 2014, regular service resumed out
Wolsztyn on 15 May 2017 with weekday runs to Leszno. This operation
is maintained as a means of preserving railway heritage and as a
tourist attraction. Apart from that, numerous railway museums and
heritage railways (mostly narrow gauge) own steam locomotives in
In France, steam locomotives have not been used for commercial
services since 24 September 1975.
In Spain, the first electric trains were introduced en 1911, and the
first diesels in 1935, just one year before the Spanish Civil War.
National railway company (Renfe) operated steam locomotives until 9
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, some steam locomotives are still used for
industrial purposes, for example at the coal mine in Banovići
ArcelorMittal factory in Zenica.
In Thailand, all steam locomotives were withdrawn from service between
the late 1960s and early 1970s. Most were scrapped in 1980. However,
there are about 20 to 30 locomotives preserved for exhibit in
important or end-of-the-line stations throughout the country. During
the late 1980s, six locomotives were restored to running condition.
Most are JNR-built
4-6-2 steam locomotives with the exception of a
B 5112 before being reactivated in
Ambarawa Railway Museum, Indonesia
Indonesia has also used steam locomotives since 1876. The last batch
0-10-0 rack tank locomotives were purchased in 1967 (Kautzor,
2010)[full citation needed] from Nippon Sharyo. The last locomotives
– the D 52 class, manufactured by the German firm
Krupp in 1954 –
operated until 1994, when they were replaced by diesel locomotives.
Indonesia also purchased the last batch of mallet locomotives from
Nippon Sharyo, to be used on the Aceh Railway. In
Sumatra Barat (West
Ambarawa some rack railways (with a maximum gradient of
6% in mountainous areas) are now operated for tourism only. There are
two rail museums in Indonesia,
Taman Mini and
Pakistan Railways still has a regular steam locomotive service; a line
operates in the North-West Frontier Province and in Sindh. It has been
preserved as a "nostalgia" service for tourism in exotic locales, and
is specifically advertised as being for "steam buffs".
In Sri Lanka, one steam locomotive is maintained for private service
to power the Viceroy Special.
List of heritage railways
List of heritage railways and Steam locomotives
of the 21st century
60163 Tornado, a new express locomotive built for the British main
line, completed in 2008
Reading and Northern Railroad number 425 being readied in
Pennsylvania, US, for the daily tourist train in 1993.
Er 774 38
0-10-0 on Steam
Special Train in Moscow 11 July 2010
2-6-0 type "N3" steam locomotive built by Beyer Peacock in 1910 and
restored 2005–2007 by the Uruguayan Railfan Association (AUAR). The
photo shows the locomotive with a passenger tourist train in March
2013 at a Montevideo railway station museum.
South African Class 26, the Red Devil
Dramatic increases in the cost of diesel fuel prompted several
initiatives to revive steam power. However none of these has
progressed to the point of production and, as of the early 21st
century, steam locomotives operate only in a few isolated regions of
the world and in tourist operations.
Several heritage railways in the UK have built new steam locomotives
in the 1990s and early 21st century. These include the narrow-gauge
Ffestiniog and Corris railways in Wales. The Hunslet Engine Company
was revived in 2005, and began building steam locomotives on a
commercial basis. A standard-gauge
LNER Peppercorn Pacific
"Tornado" was completed at Hopetown Works, Darlington, and made its
first run on 1 August 2008. It entered main line service
later in 2008, to great public acclaim. Demonstration trips in France
Germany have been planned. As of 2009[update] over
half-a-dozen projects to build working replicas of extinct steam
engines are going ahead, in many cases using existing parts from other
types to build them. Examples include BR Class 6MT Hengist, BR
Class 3MT No. 82045, BR Class 2MT No. 84030, Brighton Atlantic
Beachy Head, the LMS "Patriot 45551 The Unknown Warrior" project,
GWR "47xx 4709, BR" Class 6 72010 Hengist, GWR Saint 2999 Lady of
Legend, 1014 County of Glamorgan and 6880 Betton Grange projects.
These United Kingdom based new build projects are further complimented
by the new build
Pennsylvania Railroad T1 class No. 5550 project in
the United States, which will attempt to surpass the speed record held
LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard when completed.
In 1980, American financier
Ross Rowland established American Coal
Enterprises to develop a modernised coal-fired steam locomotive. His
ACE 3000 concept attracted considerable attention, but was never
In 1998, in his book The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of
Steam, David Wardale put forward the concept of a high-speed
high-efficiency "Super Class 5 4-6-0" locomotive for future steam
haulage of tour trains on British main lines. The idea was formalised
in 2001 by the formation of 5AT Project dedicated to developing and
building the 5AT Advanced Technology Steam Locomotive, but it never
received any major railway backing.
Locations where new builds are taking place include:
GWR 1014 County of Glamorgan & GWR 2999 Lady of Legend, both being
built at Didcot Railway Centre.
GWR 6880 Betton Grange, GWR 4709 & LMS 45551 The Unknown Warrior,
all being built at Llangollen Railway.
LNER 2007 Prince of Wales, Darlington Locomotive Works.
LNER 2001 Cock O' The North, Doncaster.
PRR 5550, Pottstown, Pennsylvania
BR 72010 Hengist, Great Central Railway.
BR 77021, TBA.
BR 82045, Severn Valley Railway.
BR 84030 &
LBSCR 32424 Beachy Head, both being built at Bluebell
MS&LR/GCR 567, Ruddington Great Central Railway, Northern Section.
VR V499, Victoria, Australia.
In 2012, the Coalition for Sustainable Rail project was started
in the US with the goal of creating a modern higher-speed steam
locomotive, incorporating the improvements proposed by Livio Dante
Porta and others, and using torrefied biomass as solid fuel. The fuel
has been recently developed by the
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota in a
collaboration between the university's Institute on the Environment
(IonE) and Sustainable Rail International (SRI), an organisation set
up to explore the use of steam traction in a modern railway setup. The
group have received the last surviving (but non-running) ATSF 3460
class steam locomotive (No. 3463) via donation from its previous
owner in Kansas, the Great Overland Station Museum. They hope to use
it as a platform for developing "the world's cleanest, most powerful
passenger locomotive", capable of speeds up to 130 mph
(210 km/h). Named "Project 130", it aims to break the world
steam-train speed record set by
LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard in the UK
at 126 mph (203 km/h). However, any demonstration of the
project's claims is yet to be seen.
In Germany, a small number of fireless steam locomotives are still
working in industrial service, e.g. at power stations, where an
on-site supply of steam is readily available.
The Swiss company Dampflokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik
DLM AG delivered
eight steam locomotives to rack railways in Switzerland and Austria
between 1992 and 1996. Four of them are now the main traction on the
Brienz Rothorn Bahn; the four others were built for the Schafbergbahn
in Austria, where they run 90% of the trains.
The same company also rebuilt a German
2-10-0 locomotive to new
standards with modifications such as roller bearings, light oil firing
and boiler insulation.
Steam locomotives in popular culture
Steam locomotives have been present in popular culture ever since they
were first introduced in the 19th century. Folk songs about steam
engines from that period including I've Been Working on the Railroad
and the Ballad of John Henry are a mainstay of American music and
Over the years, steam engines have become a very popular subject for
the representation of trains as toys. Many toy trains based on steam
locomotives are made, making the steam train an iconic image for
children. Their popularity has led to steam locomotives being
portrayed in fictional works about trains, most notably The Railway
Series by the Rev W. V. Awdry and
The Little Engine That Could by
Watty Piper. They have also been featured in many television shows
about trains, such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, based on
characters from the books by Awdry.
Another example of a steam locomotive in fiction is the Hogwarts
Express from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, which in the films is
portrayed by the
GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall
GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall steam engine in
special Hogwarts livery. The
Hogwarts Express is so popular in its own
right that it led to the creation of an elaborate themed funicular
railway attraction of the same name in the
Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando Resort in
Florida, connecting the Harry Potter-themed sections in the Universal
Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure theme parks.
The Polar Express
The Polar Express children's book by
Chris Van Allsburg
Chris Van Allsburg and the
animated movie of the same name have inspired numerous
Christmas-themed trips on heritage railroads throughout the United
States, including the North Pole Express pulled by the Pere Marquette
1225 locomotive, which is operated by the Steam Railroading Institute
out of Owosso, Michigan. According to Van Allsburg, this specific
locomotive was the inspiration for the story and it was used in the
production of the movie. Models of the engine are available from
One of the earliest computer simulation games by game creator Sid
Meier, Railroad Tycoon (1990), was critically hailed as "one of the
best computer games of the year". The game is set in the era of early
and mid-term rail usage and development, with four geographic
segments: Western United States, Northeast United States, Great
Britain, or Continental Europe. The player constructs different types
of stations, lays out railways (paying attention to grades and the
capabilities of the available locomotives, which improve steadily as
the game progresses) and scheduling and distributing trains between
different resources (mail, passengers, coal, etc.) and sinks for the
same resources. Also in effect are some elements of the stock market,
leading to you acquiring other railways and competing with noted
historical figures (Vanderbilt, Brunel, etc.) for control of your own
railway. The game also encourages the user to become familiar with the
type, carrying capacity and wheel layout of different classic
The Biedermeier Period coin featuring a steam locomotive
The state quarter representing Utah, depicting the golden spike
Steam locomotives are a popular topic for numerous collectors and
The 1950 Silver 5 Peso coin of Mexico has a steam locomotive on its
reverse as the prominent feature.
The recent 20 euro Biedermeier Period coin, minted 11 June 2003, shows
on the obverse an early model steam locomotive (the Ajax) on Austria's
first railway line, the Kaiser Ferdinands-Nordbahn. The Ajax can still
be seen today in the Technisches Museum Wien.
As part of the
50 State Quarters
50 State Quarters program, the quarter representing the
US state of Utah depicts the ceremony where the two halves of the
First Transcontinental Railroad
First Transcontinental Railroad met at Promontory Summit in 1869. The
coin recreates a popular image from the ceremony with steam
locomotives from each company facing each other while the golden spike
is being driven.
History of rail transport
List of steam technology patents
Steam locomotive production
Steam turbine locomotive
Timeline of railway history
Types of steam locomotives
Geared steam locomotive
High-pressure steam locomotive
5AT Advanced Technology Steam Locomotive
Steam turbine locomotive
Canadian Pacific 374
Catch Me Who Can
City of Truro
Locomotion No. 1
LMR 57 Lion
N&W J class (1941)
Santa Fe 3751
Sir Nigel Gresley
Soo Line 2719
Southern Pacific 4449
Union Pacific 844
Union Pacific Big Boy
Union Pacific Challenger
Union Pacific No. 119
Western Pacific 94
John Blenkinsop - English inventor".
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TV and Radio programmes from the
BBC archives celebrating steam trains
Database of surviving steam locomotives in North America
UK heritage railways and preserved locomotives database
Advanced Steam Traction Trust
Locomotive running and valve gear
Valve gear types
AAR type A switcher truck
Radial steering truck
Schwartzkopff-Eckhardt II bogie
Other running gear elements
Steam locomotive wheel arrangements
Single engine types
Divided drive and
Duplex engine types
Fairlie, Meyer and
(includes Triplex types)
Other notation forms: AAR
Pre-1830 steam locomotives
Cugnot's fardier à vapeur (1769)
Murdoch's model steam carriage (1784)
Puffing Devil (1801)
London Steam Carriage
London Steam Carriage (1803)
Coalbrookdale locomotive (1803)
The Pen-y-Darren locomotive (1804)
The Newcastle locomotive (1805)
Catch Me Who Can
Catch Me Who Can (1808)
Puffing Billy (1813)
Steam Horse (1813)
Wylam Dilly (1815)
Steam Elephant (1815)
Locomotion No. 1
Locomotion No. 1 (1825)
The Royal George (1827)
Lancashire Witch (1828)
Stourbridge Lion (1829)
Rainhill Trials locomotives
John Urpeth Rastrick
History of steam road vehicles
History of rail transport
History of rail transport in Great Britain to 1830