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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:39 am 

Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:31 pm
Posts: 138
Location: Elizabethtown,PA
Another aspect of WW 2's effect on dieselization is that the manufacturers, GM, Alco, Fairbanks Morse all had significant manufacturing momentum underway for supplying the prime movers for marine propulsion and auxiliary power. The submarines, destroyer escorts, Tank Landing Ships all had main propulsion units built by the Big Three, along with most being driven through electric transmissions, so the momentum included the generator / motor manufacturers, electrical switchgear builders and medium sized gearbox shops. Diesel fuel was 12 cents a gallon. With all new motive power, the maintenance and operational costs were very low. Builders were very willing to write sales orders with sharp pencils, to keep the momentum and profits rolling, high up on the economies of scale.

With steam, each order was a special. With diesel, the product is mostly uniform. The " Old Line Thinking " manufacturers could not compete with the assembly line thinking and production of the diesel buiders.

http://www.thebhc.org/publications/BEHprint/v027n2/p0378-p0389.pdf


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:17 am 

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 3:25 am
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Back in 1990, I visited a preserved World War II submarine in Philadelphia, and the retired submariner who was showing us around the boat pointed out the EMD diesel engines in the engine room. He told us that before Pearl Harbor, the US Navy had consulted with the Santa Fe Ry., because Santa Fe had the most experience with GM diesels, and the Navy experts could see that diesel powered subs would play a major role in the war. They were reasonably sure we'd be involved sooner or later, and the question of "when" was answered on Dec. 7, 1941.

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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:44 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:31 am
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Location: South Carolina
Very pertinent to this discussion is HF Brown's 1960 paper, "Economic Results of Diesel Electric Motive Power on the Railways of the USA":

http://5at.co.uk/uploads/Articles%20and ... motive.pdf

BLUF: dieselization didn't save any the railways any money

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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 7:55 am 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
Posts: 896
I think there is not so much a 'panic' as a kind of 'negative synergy' (I don't think there's a semantic term with the precise sense commonly used in English, as yet!)

If I remember correctly, the American Arch Brick company is an example. Their business model evidently depended on a very substantial volume of ongoing orders for specialized material. When those orders were no longer forthcoming *in the necessary sufficient volume*, their board made the business decision to shut down (presumably to salvege whatever shareholder value could be gotten). I came across this almost accidentally when researching the general time period from the middle-to-late '40s -- American Arch goes from being an advertiser in Railway Age to a casualty reported in their columns in a very short period.

Presumably other specialty firms that were unable, or unwilling, to find sufficient alternative markets to survive made similar choices. Others may have found that continuing to make and supply their appliances, even with low effective marginal cost, was not worth continuing.

This by itself would tend to produce the 'problem' that has been expressed occasionally in historical writing: that the progressive loss of avaiiability of the many proprietary auxiliaries and systems was a major reason for roads that kept steam IN&W and NKP being two relatively well-established examples) to give up on it. (Each such action, of course, further reducing volume and market for the suppliers remaining in the business...) There would have been a progressive trend, with each railroad having a 'tipping point' beyond which the perceived advantages of dieselization (and general increased access to capital by many railroads post-WWII revenue boom, relative ease of GM financing, etc.) would prevail over other capital concerns.


One other thing that may bear on the 'panic' is the history of Alco's welded-boiler 'annealing' facility. This was a structure that permitted large locomotive boilers to be hung vertically while being heat-soaked to normalize the weld stresses. Alco tore down this builiding with what seemed to be almost ungodly haste very soon after deciding not to produce more steam -- even though, as a number of writers have noted, such a facility would have been of enormous value just a few years later for nuclear-vessel fabrication. I'd be interested to see the correspondence regarding this, if it's survived, as that might give us another example of decision-making regarding steam-oriented capitalization in the period of initial mass dieselization.

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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:08 am 

Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:11 am
Posts: 141
Location: North Carolina USA
Another reactive aspect that came to mind was consolidation and mergers. Specifically, the downward spiral of Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton which tried to retain a foothold in both foreign markets and heavy equipment. My uncle was President of Armour and I remember his bemoaning the purchase of Greyhound as well as the travails of BLH. To think of these failed transformations as an end result of diesel's taking over and entire industry, it seems the cascading effects went on for some time.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:18 pm 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
I've always wondered what the US would have been like through the mid-40s if Germany had stopped at their annexations and Japan stopped in China. Would steam have died earlier on US railroads? Would the depression have continued unabated for another several years and rendered diesels moot?
Would superpower never have happened?
We'll never know.
Bob Davis wrote:
They were reasonably sure we'd be involved sooner or later, and the question of "when" was answered on Dec. 7, 1941.

Other than the isolationist movement (which was bigger than the history books would lead you to believe today), just about everyone knew that war was inevitable for the US. Remember, a peacetime draft (our first as a nation) had been initiated over a year before Pearl Harbor by the Burke-Wadsworth Act, which had the service timeframes extended beyond their original 1-year intent . This seems to support that FDR originally expected our entry into the war before the winter of 1941.

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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:27 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 7:24 am
Posts: 478
Location: Canada
Just curious if railways stockpiled resources such as firebrick when the end was near and these companies were shutting down? How did Canadian railroads manage to soldier on into 1960...were they refurbishing everything such as superheater headers?


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:53 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:58 am
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Canadian National originally planned to run steam into the 1970s, but various factors (most touched on in this thread already) combined to allow complete dieselization by early 1960. Widespread steam retirements began quite a bit later than in the US.

Their huge roster was supported by several massive shops, which allowed them to easily rebuild virtually anything. No doubt they hoarded materials and parts as shortages began. It is very possible that many of the Canadian suppliers hung on longer due to the size of the domestic market. It's quite likely that toward the end, irreplaceable components were stripped off retired locomotives for future use.

When the axe finally fell, the CNR's major shops were still actively rebuilding steam power that was intended to run another decade or more.

Steve Hunter


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:54 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 12:08 pm
Posts: 254
Location: Western Railroad Museum - Rio Vista
Bob Davis wrote:
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?"


Steam railroad power in China lasted much longer than elsewhere because China had a full employment policy until recently. When I was in Shanghai about thirty years ago recording a radio documentary, the gardeners in a park next to my hotel were using scissors to cut grass. They were "fully employed."


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 5:16 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
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And I recall a photo in National Geographic of two guys in China using a hand-held hacksaw to cut a rail.....


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2013 7:07 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:30 am
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I remember reading in Collier's Encyclopedia ca 1950 that each type had its advantages: diesels had their place for starting equipment and were thus ideal for switchers while steam was best for continuous pulling. The article was written by an official of ALCO.

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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:05 am 

Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 12:11 am
Posts: 141
Location: North Carolina USA
Another aspect of a technological or economic force creating a severe readjustment is the inability to forecast trends and this also applied to the interurbans. I was comparing the Interstate to the Indiana Railroad and right up to the end, they both were fine tuning their operations and making significant investments in capital projects right before the ax fell. It made me think about the sort of ongoing investments in steam especially in terms of what sort of engineering was going on with suppliers to improve their products before that ax fell. The histories of these suppliers is a tough nut to crack inasmuch as the focus has been on either major builders or the roads themselves. Was or is there any significant change in the technology on the drawing boards from suppliers that became "lost" by never having been implemented?


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:59 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
Posts: 2447
Location: S.F. Bay Area
Lincoln Penn wrote:
prosser wrote:
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.

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.

I don't care about those guys. I'm concerned with the other ones that Prosser talked about. Where'd THEY go? And the answer usually is, "working for that new business along the tracks making heat exchangers" or something like that.

Before:
Employees: dead end job
Railroad: Burden on the payroll
Economy: nothing

After:
Employees: More money and a career path
Railroad: more paying customers
Economy: new production improves economy

I find most people only have compassion for the laid-off man, and think Society is doing them a favor by holding them too long in a useless job. No. Seriously, no. Another year in the dead-end job... is a year not advancing his career. That is a permanent and irrecoverable loss of economic power both to the individual and the economy.

Quote:
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?

None. All of them would be driving trucks at that point. The economic damage would occur because they'd need a lot more drivers still: those extras get yanked out of productive jobs where they were adding to the economy, to take a useless job where they are not. They are yanked by paying them more money, which comes out of your cost of shiping. Much worse - the businesses they were yanked out of are now left in the lurch. At best, they must also overpay to fill the seats, which steals people from other businesses in a sad game of musical chairs... and the strain will certainly kill many businesses. Anyway you slice it, production and quality decline, for a net loss to the economy.

It's the same situation if the heat-exchanger manufacturer were shut down so its employees could go back to servicing steam locomotives (because some government agency got it in its head that it was "economic waste" to retire not-yet-depreciated steam engines.)


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 7:26 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
Posts: 951
I've worked or known a number of men over the years who left the railroads when steam was retired. These included a boilermaker's helper, a hostler, a machinist, and two firemen. All of them said they missed the railroad, and all found other, more lucrative jobs from which they retired. Only one of them, the boilermaker's helper, returned to the railroad after his retirement. That individual landed a job in engine service on a well-known steam tourist railroad and actually accumulated enough service months that he was able to receive Railroad Retirement benefits.


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 Post subject: Re: The age of steam panic?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 2:57 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 10:49 am
Posts: 634
Steam should have hung on a little longer in certain applications because it would have made economic sense to do so. Scrapping steam locomotives which had not even been paid for while ordering diesels was simply a waste of capital. Worn out steam should have been replaced with diesel, but on some territories, steam could have held on.

I wonder why a railroad with good, modern steam power ( ATSF, NW, NKP ) didn't strip off the components ( air pumps, injectors, feedwater heaters ) of older locomotives, or locomotives of other railroads which scrapped steam and gave themselves a ready inventory of spare parts. Steam could have held on in some places quite a bit longer in those cases.


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