Sunday, May 19, 2019

I REALLY Needed to RTFM!

And I didn't.

Which resulted in my GoPro Hero video camera turning on, but not going into "Record" mode.

So I didn't get any video of the Union Pacific 4014 "Big Boy" locomotive chugging up the hills of Tie Siding, Wyoming.

But we had a great time finally meeting up with Well Seasoned Fool and his sister, and learned a lot about the railroad out here.

(Picture from Wikipedia)


This was the first time I'd seen Live Steam, and it was wonderful! I've been around a lot of locomotives in my career, but none recently. I used to go to Conrail in Enola, PA and do Field Service work on the electric locomotives that used a big upgrade kit the company I worked for sold them. Most current locomotives are diesel-electric, meaning the big diesel engine spins a generator, which supplies DC voltage for the Traction Motors used in the trucks under the loco. The Conrail ones ran "Under The Wire", like an old street car, and since the overhead wires carried AC, you needed to rectify it to DC to feed the motors. Why all the emphasis on DC motors? Because until recently, a series-connected (Field coils and Armature in series, like a starter motor) DC motor was the most powerful way available. They make maximum torque at ZERO RPM, exactly where you want it to get an extremely heavy load moving from a standstill.

And I was around all the big diesel-electric locomotives, too, because the yard we did the upgrade in also had them around to move cars in the yard.

Diesels, are big, noisy, smelly, vibrating things that seem alive as they rumble the ground they travel over. The electric ones were much quieter, didn't stink, and ran "Like an electric motor".

When Big Boy went by, it was almost ethereal. Steam puffing out out of the pistons, the melodious sounds of the big steam whistle, and smoke pouring out of the stack as she came over the crest.

And as they passed, she just glided by!

UP 844 was also in the convoy, along with a diesel-electric, but it sounded, and felt, like the diesel was just along for the ride, and was maybe pulling it's own weight. Pretty much just idling, which made the hammering, clattering, diesel noise and vibration you feel from 50' greatly diminished.

(UP 844 from Wikipedia)



You could tell the two steam engines were working, but the sound was totally different than anything I've heard before. Very little vibration coming in through your feet, and none of the hammering impulse noise of a diesel's firing cylinders. This was a different sort of power, different even than the other steam powered things (ships with steam turbines) I've been around. This was a Reciprocating Piston steam engine, and the first 'real' one I've ever heard run. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has a small scale model of a Triple Expansion steam engine that was supposedly capable of actually running, and the SS Lane Victory has the working prop engine used in the movie "The Sand Pebbles", but it's turned by an electric motor.

And you could sense the power of these two engines, but it didn't hammer you over the head like a triple diesel-electric would have. It seemed alive, like a few other machines I've had the good fortune to get to know, and I connected with it as solidly as I did to the P-51 Mustang and the McClaren CanAm cars when I first met them.

An amazing display of technology, and it thrills me that people care enough about them to spend the time and (SERIOUS) money to restore them, keep them running and usable, and share them with others.

And thanks again to Well Seasoned Fool and his Sisty that made this possible!

15 comments:

  1. That Big Boy is one huge, honkin' locomotive. And it must have cost a fortune to bring this back to life after 61 years in moth balls.

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    Replies
    1. It's definitely BIG!

      I think WSF said they spent $5 million restoring it.

      Delete
    2. I've restored antique cars over the years, and typically a completely deteriorated car that cost $300 a hundred years ago costs around $9000 to bring up to snuff. That Big Boy was probably under a million dollars brand new in the 1940's.

      Delete
    3. AFAIK, the UP Steam Shop did a "Frame Off" restoration of her.

      Delete
  2. Too bad about the GoPro. The diesel is along to provide dynamic braking and additional air pressure for all the brakes. While we were waiting for the steamers a freight train came down the hill (3% grade) with four diesel locomotives in the lead. y sister noticed the first three were idling while the fourth was turned into a generator and was noticeable "working" hard.

    We enjoyed your company!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My fault entirely. I upgraded the firmware in the little guy, and it cleared all my 'custom' settings, like the "One Button Record" I had set up so it was 'point, press, shoot video'.

      Delete
  3. I remember live steamers growing up in 1940's Long Beach, CA. Wish I could have seen this big one in person. Watched it on you tube.

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    Replies
    1. I remember seeing a few steamers when I was very small, but for the most part it was all diesel-electric by the early 1960's.

      Delete
  4. I'm sure you noticed this on the Wikipedia live steam page, but there's a pretty substantial hobby of guys who build miniature railroads with live steam engines pulling miniature trains. There's a magazine devoted to the hobby. Published by Village Press, who publish Digital Machining, Home Shop Machinist and more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, yeah! I had a high-school friend that was into the small live steam engines, and was very good at it. He and his Dad had a "railroad" that ran around their backyard, and into the empty lot next door.

      Delete
  5. Not on the scale of the Big Boy, but Greenfield Village in Dearborn has a working steam locomotive I've ridden since I was a kid.
    Really nice post. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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    Replies
    1. That's part of the Ford Museum, isn't it? Went there sometime in the mid 1970's and was quite impressed with the collection.

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. Not quite the same as going aboard a Battleship a couple of times per week, but definitely a magnificent sight and sound.

      I was suitably impressed.....

      Delete
  7. https://nysteamengineassociation.com/pageant-of-steam/

    Canandaigua, NY

    Lots of fun for the whole family with the smell of hot oil, the shuff, shuff, shuff of the engines, and the silent majesty of large steam powered machines...

    Also, noise, movement, crashes and bangs, and LOTS of cranes, tractor engines, models, hit and miss engines, food, swapmeet, and did I mention fun??

    zuk

    ReplyDelete

Keep it civil, please....