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Steam & Excursion > Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives

Date: 02/24/07 23:37
Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: Red

We all know that steam locomotives do not ride like passenger cars, or, diesel locomotives for that matter. They have a unique, extra stiff action, are rather "stiffer", and under tremendous load, great torquing sensations.

Now...I've only ridden/run a 2-8-2 at about 25 to 30 MPH. So I know the "feeling", but, have not directly experienced Super Power Steam at track speed. I have a pretty good video collection, which leads me to believe that both the SP 4449 and UP 844 are "rather bouncy," in the case of the 4449, I saw some very bouncy cab footage AFTER the installation of new springs and a complete running gear overhaul.

Much harder, here, for people who run these locomotives to "compare" as is the case when people ask the same question about diesels. A guy that runs SP 4449 may never set foot on any other locomotive, but, there may be some "well-connected folks" out there who can provide anecdotal comaparison info.

This can include engines currently in operation (the best example I can think of would be UP steam crew people who naturally can compare the riding qualities of 3985 and 844), fan trip engines that racked up a lot of miles but aren't currently operating (TP 610, Frisco 1522, Cotton Belt 819), or, second-hand history about engines "in the day", perhaps of which there are no surviving members.

Since there is so much variation with regards to the ride quality of diesel locomotives, even with engines from the same manufacturer, with the vast differences in design specs, I suspect that the variation among steam locomotives was far greater. And, just as some steamers from the same class--some were known as better "steamers" than others, even though of the same order--you see where I'm heading.

Please do not consider my observation from videos that I'm "dissing" the SP 4449 or UP 844. This is a technical observation, not a slam. For example, the UP 6936 DDA40X Centennial was one of the roughest-riding engines at speed that I've ever experienced, but I wouldn't trade the memory for ANYTHING.

I do, however, want to limit the conversation to the riding characteristics of steam locomotives...

Date: 02/25/07 07:33
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: Robert

The AT&SF 3751 rides very well. At 79 MPH you can stand in the cab, not holding on to anything, and you don't get bounced or thrown about. Also for an open cab it is surprisingly quiet. This has been true for slower speeds as well.

Date: 02/25/07 08:27
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: shay2977

Any steam engine rides better than a dismal any day. Matt Ritchie

Date: 02/25/07 08:52
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: Frisco1522

1522 was an exceptionally smooth riding engine, both in my opinion and that of folks who have been on quite a few other engines.
Remember that the track you are running on dictates a lot of how the engine will ride. I have run over track which sees heavy coal train trackage and it is considerably rougher than super mainline trackage. I have also run over 79 MPH Amtrak routes that were rough as a cob at grade crossings to the point where I slowed down from 60 MPH track speed to 50 because of the roughness. I believe that track was better maintained in steam days because it got more attention.

Date: 02/25/07 09:12
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: Red

I might have thought that the ATSF 3751 was a good-riding engine. I think it is unfortunate that there are not any cab ride videos of it (there may be...but I have not seen any advertised).

As for "Cab Ride Video" observations, I will add that the Frisco 1522 appeared to be more stable than the SP 4449 or the UP 844. The UP 3985 also appears to be stable, perhaps more so than the 1522.

The extended cab ride footage (the whole tape being mostly in the cab...a few excellent runbys...but the best cab ride video that "makes you a member of the crew") would be "RUNNING THAT NEW RIVER TRAIN" with Rich Melvin at the throttle of the Nickle Plate 765 in the early 1990s. From what I could see, the 765 appeared to be a well-behaved locomotive.

I know that videos are not going to give you the complete picture, and, I'm well aware (from running diesels), that the RR and territory that you are running over also greatly affects the riding qualities of any given steamer.

However, having said that, I can tell that when the SP 4449 was running at high speed over the Sunset Route in the "WORLD'S FAIR DAYLIGHT 1984" video by Video Rails (not sure if Pentrex picked up this title), when you can see the headout shots of the engine bouncing and swaying, and an across the cab shot of the fireman in which if he was a few feet taller, his head would be thumping against the roof (OUCH!!!), it is apparent that this engine would not fall into the category of a smooth-riding locomotive, per Robert's description of the ATSF 3751. While I wouldn't agree with the characterization, I once talked to a locomotive engineer who had been a pilot engineer on the SP 4449 years ago, a man who was naturally used to running diesels, who said that while it was a "somewhat unique experience," (he was obviously not a "foamer rail"), he said that this locomotive was the "roughest damn riding piece of junk he'd ever been on," and that the locomotive had "no suspension to speak of."

Please do not flame me for this...I like the SP 4449, also. I am simply repeating a first-hand account from a man who made a trip across his crew district aboard the locomotive. I know that Doyle McCormack and his crew keep this engine in top operating condition, and know full well that the locomotive is not "junk."

As I said up top: there is great variety in locomotive design and construction, and there is going to be great variance in the riding qualities between, say, ATSF 3751, UP 844 and 3985, NKP 765, SP&S 700, and, all the rest of them. I think that it would be safe to say that none of them ride alike, although there are certain commonalities in the riding characteristics of large Super Power Steam Locomotives at speed.

And, "in the day," a good example would be the Texas & Pacific's 900-Class 4-8-2s and 600-Class 2-10-4s, which when rebuilt with better counterbalancing and the addition of Boxpok main drivers, became capable of much higher speeds (70 MPH with ease for the 2-10-4s, 90-plus for the Mountains), they also became much "better behaved" locomotives at higher speeds.

Date: 02/25/07 10:27
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: MarkD

It has been said by many, and I have to agree, that the Milwaukee Road S3 engines ride like a Cadillac. (261)
For one of the worst riding engines, though I would not claim it to be the worst, for ride quality I'd pick a Chinese "QJ" type. You really need to develope your sea legs on one of those.
Mark D.

Date: 02/25/07 10:48
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: Frisco1522

I'm uploading a short video courtesy of Tom Kelcec shot in the 1522's cab as she was on her way up to Hannibal,MO in 1996. The track was in good shape and the old girl was riding like a Lincoln Town Car.

Date: 02/25/07 11:52
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: tolland

Here's my observation on UP Steam: The 844 is much smoother than the 3985. Steve Lee describes 3985's movement as sort of a "waddle" down the track. It may be that because it has more mechanics, the 3985 has more vibration. I picked up that the 4449 may be smoother than the 844.

Jim Burrill

Date: 02/25/07 14:04
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: Guitarman

Track has a lot to do with the ride. I hope that Ross Rowland will respond since he has operated many 4-8-4's over many main lines.

Date: 02/25/07 15:37
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: nycman

Red, just for info, Pentrex offers a DVD titled "20th Anniversary Daylight Combo" featuring "World's Fair Daylight 1984" and "By Daylight to the Fair." I have no personal experience in cabs at track speed, but plenty in excursion cars, and I think track conditions have a lot more to do with the ride than anything else. Concrete tie/ribbon rail tracks are usually smooth. The Deschutes Canyon track is not.

Date: 02/25/07 21:56
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: DanE

I had the pleasure of riding in the cab of 3985 from Dale (I think) to Laramie. Up to the top of the hill the ride was very smooth I thought. As we went down the other side there was more vibration and movement as we went faster. I thought at the time that much of that was due to the track, but I really have nothing to sompare it to. I have been in Nevada Northern #40 also. Rougher ride aven though not as fast.

Date: 02/25/07 22:28
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: jdc3751

Red Wrote:
> I might have thought that the ATSF 3751 was a
> good-riding engine. I think it is unfortunate
> that there are not any cab ride videos of it
> (there may be...but I have not seen any
> advertised).

The Goodheart Productions video of the trip to Railfair 99 has great cab footage of 3751 as it tackles the Tehachapi's on the return trip.

Date: 02/26/07 10:35
Re: Best Riding/Worst Riding Steam Locomotives
Author: Finderskeepers

I do believe that Doyle said that CP 4-6-4 2816 rides "like a baby buggy", a little slippery at start up, but once in motion rides real nice.

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