Thursday, December 11, 2008

The beauty of an ugly machine

A comment by KurtP under the Tornado post reminded me of something I'd like to share.

I mentioned that the Tornado looked to me almost like a brand new model locomotive. It's not just because of the clean, fresh appearance, but also because of its general design, and to a great extent, the design of steam locomotives which was common in England. Great care was obviously taken in designing this Peppercorn class engine, and while its semi streamlined design is intentionally quite smooth and uninterrupted, the fact that it is practically devoid of visible piping and accouterments hanging on and around the boiler gives it deliberately tidy look which shouldn't be surprising for an English design.

For comparison, I would like to show you this locomotive. The Chicago and Illinois Eastern 1010.

This locomotive has the same basic wheel configuration. It was also intended for passenger service and it is similar in size, yet the two machines are worlds apart.

While one has its fixtures tucked under shrouds and concealed behind running gear, the other proudly flaunts its fittings, pipes and air tanks out in the open. One has a streamlined cab with polished brass window frames, the other has a square cab with a canvas sunshade hanging lazily over the engineer's window. The Tornado has graceful running boards which follow the line of the boiler and firebox, seeping back to a streamlined. The 1010 looks square and clunky by comparison.

Still, the fact that everything is visible is much more appealing to me. You can see all of the major external components of the locomotive, upgrades and modifications are usually quite obvious and sometimess tell a story about the locomotives history. One interesting item in this case is that the driving wheels do not all match. The middle driver is a boxpok wheel, short for box spoke. These wheels are made with wide, hollow spokes (hence the box label) which made the wheels lighter and easier to balance. I'm not certain whether or not this locomotive was built with this wheel, but it was not unusual for railways to upgrade their locomotives with these wheels when they were upgraded in the 30s and 40s. Rather than go to the expense of replacing all of the wheels, shops would replace only the drivers that had the most need for counterbalancing. It looked odd, and I'm sure no English engineer would want anything to do with such an 'unsightly' practice but it was a cost effective and common practice in the states.

Of course to be fair, the Tornado is a much more modern design. The Peppercorn class came about some 30 plus years after this locomotive was built in 1911. Had the 1010 been built later on it might have had a very different appearance. One of it's sister locomotives, number 1008, was built at the same time as the 1010, but was 'shrouded' in 1940 to pull the Dixie Flagler, a passenger train that ran from Chicago to Miami.

This picture of the 1008 is available from Yesteryear depot. The appearance is much like other locomotives streamlined in the 1930s and 40s. Shrouds were simply placed over the locomotives to give them a more streamlined look. It did give slightly cleaner lines, but didn't really give them the polished look of the Tornado, and locomotives like this were the exception in America, not the norm.

The Tornado may be a beautiful engine, but I'd still rather see something like the C&EI 1010.


At 6:06 PM, Blogger Brigid said...

It's beautiful. . in any year.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger DirtCrashr said...

The big steam locos we rode in India had a sort of half-streamline look to them, of course they were English inspired but most of the guts were Indian made, especially the boilers.


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