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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:18 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3031
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
I concur with some here that the change to diesel was, in some cases, hasty and wasteful.

It's interesting to note that the rail systems in a number of countries, notably Germany, France, and Japan, did commit to a diesel or electric conversion about the same time many American roads did, but did so with what was apparently a more logical, measured approach. The Japanese, to cite one example, were quoted in Trains as planning to retire the last of their steamers by the early 1970s--and that's exactly what they did, claiming it would be a waste of capital to scrap steam prematurely.

I wonder if a big difference was government vs. private ownership. In the other countries, the rail systems were government owned, and other considerations besides just profit may have been in play, including the effect on employment, government budgets, and so forth. These managers also had the relief of not having to please bankers and shareholders, and of working in countries where motor fuel for competing highway traffic was much higher.

In contrast,American railroad management had to deal with taxes, heavily regulated rates, and unregulated and heavily subsidized competition, along with the demand of shareholders for profit. To consider themselves public servants and to not have to worry about profits were unknown luxuries to them.

I look at Amtrak's cost recovery ratios today, and look at the horrific cost recovery ratios for the highway system (88% vs. about 50%), and wonder how different things might have looked if we were honest about how much the road system cost, and priced it accordingly.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:39 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 3:37 pm
Posts: 1055
Location: Pacific, MO
I know all of the reasons that dieselizing made obvious as Lincoln Penn mentioned.
I think some railroads with newer power should have run the miles out of them. The Frisco had a smattering of 4500 class 4-8-4s stored that still had the equipment trust plates on them into the '60s. Maybe they could have kept their more modern and versatile power concentrated on one division in order to run their money out of them, then dieselize.
I don't always understand everything I know. Clark Hungerford changed the Frisco completely when he took over in the mid '40s. Frisco dieselized completely on 2-29-52.
Ruined everything for me. MP didn't last too much longer on the west side of the Mississippi in the St. Louis area.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:04 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
Posts: 1438
Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
http://articles.herald-mail.com/1997-08-12/news/25140281_1_letter-suppliers-michael-ross
Quote:
Hennessy Products Inc. was founded in 1921 by James J. Hennessy Sr., who started out
manufacturing products for the railroad industry.
He made a lubricator powered by the lost motion of steam locomotive driving wheels. His
descendant Michael made Slidewell boxcar door openers.
Quote:
The company entered into the telecommunications industry in the early 1980s when it
began making outdoor cabinets for traffic signals, telephone and cable television controls.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:52 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 453
Location: B'more Maryland
It also makes sense to have seen all steam, the old and new alike.

If it was expensive keeping maintenance facilities and employees around for a whole fleet, it's not a lot cheaper keeping them available for half a fleet, or even a quarter.

If you need a coal dock, you need it if you're filling 100 engines or 2. The only difference is how often you need to fill it.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:06 am 

Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2007 8:03 pm
Posts: 905
Location: Brampton, Ontario
Apparently the CNR had plans to concentrate a whole pile of Northers at the Mimico Roundhouse in Toronto, with the intent of keeping steam going into the 70's.

I have a list of steam locomotive assignments from Nov 1959 (possibly the final such list complied) and it shows that virtually all of the motive power (with the exception of a handful of 2-8-2's and an 0-8-0) are all Northerns.

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CNR 6167 in Guelph, ON or "How NOT To Restore A Steam Locomotive"


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:33 am 

Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:40 pm
Posts: 710
Ed Kapuscinski wrote:
It also makes sense to have seen all steam, the old and new alike.

If it was expensive keeping maintenance facilities and employees around for a whole fleet, it's not a lot cheaper keeping them available for half a fleet, or even a quarter.

If you need a coal dock, you need it if you're filling 100 engines or 2. The only difference is how often you need to fill it.



If you had a coal dock for 100 engines, it probably had a staff of 30 or 40 people tending the place on an around the clock basis. If you cut down to 2 engines, does anyone really think they'd keep more than 1 or 2 people around to do the work? Nope. And, if you can replace the whole thing with one or two diesel fuel hoses, you will, and quickly.

The sheer number and type of facilities required to operate and maintain steam (not counting backshops, foundries and such) was astonishing. Every little yard had to have water and an ash pit at minimum.

Look at employment in the various mechanical crafts before and after dieselization, and you'll find a big part of the answer to why it went so rapidly.

Suppliers either adapted or died.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:20 am 

Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:32 pm
Posts: 46
To me it seems our greatest wasted resource is people.


Last edited by prosser on Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:01 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8353
Location: Baltimore, MD
prosser wrote:
So you replace the 40 or so workers with a diesel fuel hose. One of the factors that seems to be missed is that a diesel fuel hose doesn't buy things or pay taxes. Granted it doesn't require vacation or sick pay or any other perks but it has a cost that we might not see. Sure it might seem trivial but as you reduce the workforce to save money, the people you let go buy less until they can get back on their feet. All the people working to keep the steam locomotive running also in a way kept the box cars full of merchandise being sold to the public and workers. I have simplified it quite a bit but you get the idea.
To me it seems our greatest wasted resource is people.

The argument can be made--nay, has been made repeatedly--that it is better for humankind to reduce the quantity of unskilled, high-risk/exhaustion jobs such as the "40 or so" (which I feel is an exaggeration, but let's take it for the sake of argument) workers employed when we did things in the misnamed "good old days"--engine wipers, coal loaders, steam fitters, call boys, ashpit shovelers, etc.--and apply them to "gentler," less risky jobs in other fields. The same argument has been made with all sorts of other jobs: steelworkers, coal miners, lumberjacks, assembly line workers, fishermen, etc.

Many of the jobs back then could only be described in the 21st century as "makework" jobs, warranting barely even today's minimum wage at best. They are the moral equivalent of the person hired to stand at the doors of the "big box" stores and greet people while watching for shoplifters, with seemingly little or no chance of career advancement. And it only works, such as it does, in an economy where the entire economy is "committed" to such a socioeconomic policy of "full employment"--places such as Cuba and the former Eastern Bloc countries. You can't have one industry employing engine-wipers and messenger boys and slate pickers and guys loading coal hoppers with hand shovels, and still adhering to the "100-mile day" or "16-ton day," when the competition is automating production and loading lines, driving 500 miles in one shift, and using cell phones and satellite communication. And the socioeconomic and sociopolitical ramifications of the transition of labor to mechanization/replacement is a entire field of academic study that can't even be summarized coherently here, let alone debated. (Ever seen videos of locomotives being fueled by "bucket brigades" and long lines of people carrying coal baskets on their heads in a line resembling ants in places like India and South Africa? I have. Would you wish that job, all day every day, on even the homeless American/etc. sleeping under a bridge?)

To return to the original topic, I will recommend, once again, Albert Churella's From Steam to Diesel as the definitive text on the subject of the steam locomotive builders transitioning unsuccessfully from steam to diesel construction, and why they failed. The out-of-print book is still commanding obscene prices in the typical markets, but it's available as an e-book/on Kindle.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:39 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:26 am
Posts: 3724
Location: Maine
I'm going to have to check out that Kindle book. Good recommendation.

I've often wondered about the economic impact of reducing the number of taxpayers, buyers, local consumers. For what they added to the economy, I can't justify investment by a major employer in "unskilled" labor or the infrastructure. I'm a die-hard steam guy and a live-steamer to boot. When I go to a meet, it's not the firing up that takes so long, but the cleaning, lubing, wiping, prepping for the next run that eats up time. The "live Diesel" guys turn a switch and either turn over a gasoline motor or switch on the batteries. You learn the distinction between romance and convenience very quickly.

Companies which produced steam locomotive appliances, markets directly connected to the continued operation of steam locomotives, are the big losers in this conversion. How a company like Baldwin looked at the men on the shop floor and at the dwindling boiler market must have been a painful series of meetings.

Concentrating steam power where fuel was located in abundance (ala' N&W plans) would have made sense until parts suppliers could not longer be counted upon. The size of a backshop had to be a staggering economic reality for any company. The technological paradigm simply changed. While one 4-8-4 could handle a train requiring three GP9's of F7's, the advantage in terms of comparative availability had to be overwhelming.

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"It's only impossible until it's done." -Nelson Mandela


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:17 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 3:25 am
Posts: 1025
The comparison of work forces necessary to support steam vs. diesel brings to mind the story about two men who were watching a construction project. A large yellow machine was busily rearranging the landscape, and the first man, a mechanical engineer, commented, "See that machine? I helped design it. It does the work of a hundred men." But he had picked the wrong audience, because the other man was the president of the local Laborers Union. He said, with some asperity, "I'd rather see a hundred men with picks and shovels." To which the engineer replied, "Let's go all the way. How about a thousand men with teacups and tablespoons?"

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Southern California


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:10 pm 

Joined: Sat Apr 15, 2006 9:55 pm
Posts: 252
Location: San Diego area
The impact of “modernization” on employment at railroads was huge, not only in the back shops and roundhouses, but in other trades as well. Along with diesels, track machines became larger and able to do more, so track gangs were reduced in size. HyRails replaced speeders; more highways near the tracks reduced the need for section houses. Modern communication eliminated train order clerks and telegraphers.

But railroads weren’t the only businesses that lost employment due to modernization. When I was a kid there were telephone operators, elevator operators, and service station “attendants” (my first job. When was the last time, except in Oregon, that the guy in the gas station put the gas in your car?). We also had a milkman, a laundry man, and door to door bread vendors and vegetable vendors. Offices had switchboard operators. Few, if any, of those occupations exist any more.

Businesses exist to make money; when they have an opportunity to reduce costs, they will take it. Since costs for labor are usually a large part of their overall costs, that is where a large part of cost reductions will take place, if a suitable machine is available. And, not only private businesses, but government, too. What if AMTRAK existed in the ‘50‘s, and they wanted to keep their steam locomotives running for another 20 years? Think they have funding problems with Congress now?......


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:20 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:40 pm
Posts: 710
One of the businesses that comes to mind that did adapt is The Superheater Company. They became part of Combustion Engineering, which is now part of a larger company.

Prime is still around, even though they don't make washout plugs any more. Worthington, too.

I do wonder about Franklin, Viloco, and Standard Stoker.

The steel companies survived by concentrating on their other product lines, as did the castings businesses, large and small.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:08 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2012 7:32 pm
Posts: 46
OK


Last edited by prosser on Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:33 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:40 pm
Posts: 710
prosser wrote:
So you replace the 40 or so workers with a diesel fuel hose. One of the factors that seems to be missed is that a diesel fuel hose doesn't buy things or pay taxes. Granted it doesn't require vacation or sick pay or any other perks but it has a cost that we might not see. Sure it might seem trivial but as you reduce the workforce to save money, the people you let go buy less until they can get back on their feet. All the people working to keep the steam locomotive running also in a way kept the box cars full of merchandise being sold to the public and workers. I have simplified it quite a bit but you get the idea.
To me it seems our greatest wasted resource is people.


The hose doesn't pay taxes, that is correct. But then, how about the guy who made the hose, the people who transported the raw materials to make it? The people who drilled for oil, found it transported it to a refinery, refined it into diesel fuel, transported it again, and pumps it into locomotives? All of whom buy things and pay taxes.

We're getting silly here, IMO. A lot of jobs are gone and are not coming back. This will continue as it always has. New jobs seem to spring up to replace them, though usually not as many.

Example: How many truck drivers would it take to haul all those containers and autos we see on the rails every day? And how many fewer railroad people would that result in having jobs today?


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:00 am 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
Posts: 3031
Location: Inwood, W.Va.
Just some thoughts on the jobs that go away:

http://www.roadsideonline.com/component ... not-wanted

http://www.roadsideonline.com/component ... he-mistake

My own take is, why do we seem to get rid of too many good jobs, and keep too many dog jobs? What do we do with what might now be called "the excess population?"

There are some answers, but some would call them socialist, even though they might at least be worth looking at.


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