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 Post subject: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 7:50 pm 

Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2017 11:33 am
Posts: 111
A friend recently sent me a screenshot of a Facebook comment very enthusiastically espousing their idea of a "Second American Flying Scotsman" tour "after the virus ends!" At first I laughed and rolled my eyes, it seems silly and impossible enough that I found it ridiculous.

Then I paused for a minute... and decided to play devils advocate here...

There is a long history of 20th century mainline locomotives from overseas (Britain) visiting the USA, while the Flying Scotsman's 1970's tour is the most fresh in recent memory both a Royal Scot and a GWR 6000 class King George V visited the US during the 20th century on exhibition tours. Not only that, there are two static standard gauge British locomotives in North America both A4's Dominion of Canada and the Dwight D. Eisenhower that have already in this century made the round trip over the Atlantic to be part of the "Great Gathering" back on British soil then back again to North America. So it is certainly possible to ensure a round trip for a visiting overseas locomotive, avoiding the embarrassing San Francisco impound lot that ended Scottsman's 70's trip.

So to further this mental exercise I thought if Scotsman would make a good candidate for a US visit still. As part of the NRM and due to its historical heritage, Scotsman would certainly be a crowd pleaser and has made two international trips before... but it feels almost to historically entwined with British history now to feel like it really should ever leave its home island again. However there are certainly other mainline British steamers that could make the trip feasible, such as the A1 Tornado which has similar specs to Scotsman but has the benefit of being a new build locomotive with 21st century design elements.

The next few obstacles would be operational ones. Any tour would be, limited by how well they could cooperate with the mainline. CSX and NS have relatively recently hosted visiting steam operations, with planned visits of NKP 765 and the ongoing CO engine restoration by Kentucky Steam suggesting CSX would be currently willing to host a visiting steam engine. NS might be a bit trickier, since NW 611's last steam trip on the NS on the route to Strasburg was with a diesel leader for its PTC equipment. Any steam locomotive to visit any mainline railroad in the US would need either a PTC exemption, or the fabled "PTC for steam engines" to be developed and installed.

The next big issue is the fuel issue. The western US routes are not a welcome home for Britain's favorite fuel of choice, coal. No western Class 1 railroad has hosted coal burners in decades, and while BNSF has had some cooperation with steam such as the SP 4449 program in recent years; the engine is an oil burner. For any foreign visiting engine to go out west it would require it to be either converted to oil, or to get exceptions from the normally oil-only western lines. Or perhaps less dignified, it would have to be deadheaded not on steam out to display or even trucked to coal friendly heritage lines to be hosted.

Again... I do not honestly think a British (or any other international mainline engine) making a trip to the US for a summer steam tour is currently possible... but its a mental exercise I certainly can't help but think about. What obstacles would face such a scheme? Perhaps most importantly, compared to the international visitors of the 20th century what can we learn about how the railroading environment in USA 2020 has changed vs say last century when several British engines crossed the Atlantic to operate on US mainlines?


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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 9:49 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:36 pm
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The situation with mainline steam excursions has been pretty dire for the last couple years, with no real way for most big steam engines to run excursions on Class I rails now. This is due to a conflation of factors including PTC, Amtrak ending its insurance coverage for excursions, and the PSR craze making most railroads extremely hostile to literally everyone that isn’t in management, up to and including their own employees and customers. And now corona has put an end to what little was left after all of that.

It would be a small miracle if even one of the well-established steam groups with a popular, ready-to-go engine like the 765, 611, 261 or 4449 were allowed a mainline excursion again. I’d like to see a steady future for these groups before anything super unnecessary and costly like trying to run a rather unimpressive little british or european engine over here.


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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 12:37 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:28 am
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Location: Ipswich, UK
You may find another loco doing a trip in the opposite direction in 2022 though.....

That year marks the 150th anniversary of the introduction of the "Terrier" class 0-6-0T locomotives in the UK and there is going to be a gathering of all preserved examples (or as may as they can get...) during 2022.
Exporail in Delson, PQ, have apparently been approached and have agreed to the principal of their one ("Waddon") being loaned - presumably if someone else pays for it all!!
Attachment:
Wad.JPG
Wad.JPG [ 261.83 KiB | Viewed 2315 times ]

We'll just have to wait and see how that one progresses.......

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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 10:20 am 

Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2017 11:33 am
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RTL-III wrote:
The situation with mainline steam excursions has been pretty dire for the last couple years, with no real way for most big steam engines to run excursions on Class I rails now.


Hence why I pointed out in the original post that the idea was already far fetched and unlikely, I just figured it was worth bringing up more as a theoretical discussion; and perhaps to highlight some of the situations that are impeding domestic mainline steam.


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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 11:14 am 

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First, the description of British steam power as unimpressive is simply not true. Everything is of course smaller since the loading gauge is smaller, but they pack a lot into that smaller envelope. I think we'd need a consortium of organizations with some leadership in the railroad executive as well as political spectrum to work it out. What's the bicentennial of the John Bull's inauguration of steam locomotives in America? Good hook to hang the hat of this idea on........

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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 4:12 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:36 pm
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Dave wrote:
First, the description of British steam power as unimpressive is simply not true. Everything is of course smaller since the loading gauge is smaller, but they pack a lot into that smaller envelope. I think we'd need a consortium of organizations with some leadership in the railroad executive as well as political spectrum to work it out. What's the bicentennial of the John Bull's inauguration of steam locomotives in America? Good hook to hang the hat of this idea on........

I think as it relates to the general public, there are two points of interest that steam locomotives have. One is a sort of quaintness/cutesy factor, which is where Thomas and all that stuff comes in. I think a lot of tourist railroads try to capitalize on this one, which I don't fault them for at all if it helps pay the bills. Stuffed and mounted steam locomotives can only capture this point of interest.

But the other is the one we all know and love: the sight, sound, smell, and ground shaking sensory assault of a big mainline steam locomotive at speed or working hard. This one is easy for us railfans to appreciate but much harder for everyone else - they simply don't get it if it is shown on a screen or even if a live locomotive is not big, fast and loud enough at the moment they happen to see it. The larger and more impressive the locomotive, the easier this is to capture for the general public to see. NKP 765, in my opinion, is the best at enabling this experience - it looks and sounds like an absolute brute and has the most expressive whistle I have ever heard. I think there was a reason the Berks were seen as the quintessential steam locomotive back in the day. This is what we risk losing if steam is restricted to plodding along on 15 mph branch lines, and once that happens there will be no way to demonstrate to the public what we have lost.

British steam risks missing this gut-punch wow factor. As you pointed out, the loading gauge is absolutely diminutive, but in addition you also have the added factors of the slightly peculiar looks (kind of similar to early British cars that can perhaps best be described as "frumpy"), and the hilarious pipsqueak whistles. All of this stuff screams Thomas. If we want to be taken seriously, and if we want people to understand what it is we love about steam, then that is not exactly putting our best foot forward.


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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 4:25 pm 

Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2017 11:33 am
Posts: 111
RTL-III wrote:
But the other is the one we all know and love: the sight, sound, smell, and ground shaking sensory assault of a big mainline steam locomotive at speed or working hard. This one is easy for us railfans to appreciate but much harder for everyone else - they simply don't get it if it is shown on a screen or even if a live locomotive is not big, fast and loud enough at the moment they happen to see it. The larger and more impressive the locomotive, the easier this is to capture for the general public to see. NKP 765, in my opinion, is the best at enabling this experience - it looks and sounds like an absolute brute and has the most expressive whistle I have ever heard. I think there was a reason the Berks were seen as the quintessential steam locomotive back in the day. This is what we risk losing if steam is restricted to plodding along on 15 mph branch lines, and once that happens there will be no way to demonstrate to the public what we have lost.

British steam risks missing this gut-punch wow factor. As you pointed out, the loading gauge is absolutely diminutive...


I'd argue the most impressive locomotive I have ever seen in operation is V&T 29 the ex-LP&N 2-8-0 the modern heritage line runs. That locomotive with 50" drivers is probably the loudest engine I have ever heard in person, shaking the ground and working its heart out to pull up the grades of the rebuilt line with just three short Pullmans in tow. Most of the mainline brutes I have seen in person (844 and 4014) sound more like fine tuned Swiss watches, and while I have enjoyed every single time I see them I personally think V&T 29 might be my favorite engine to see in person.

As Master Yoda would say, "Judge me by my size do you not?" I certainly think many of the smaller locomotives can put on a big show. Yes I think some smaller engines look almost toy like, but there are a few which can make more noise and shake the ground as easily as the big steamers can.


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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 5:01 pm 

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xboxtravis7992 wrote:


As Master Yoda would say, "Judge me by my size do you not?" I certainly think many of the smaller locomotives can put on a big show. Yes I think some smaller engines look almost toy like, but there are a few which can make more noise and shake the ground as easily as the big steamers can.


Some small locomotives were quite powerful for their size. Even small switchers could generate a lot of drawbar pull. I would expect that performance would be more up to the skill of the engineman than design limitations of the locomotive.

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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 5:05 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:36 pm
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xboxtravis7992 wrote:
I'd argue the most impressive locomotive I have ever seen in operation is V&T 29 the ex-LP&N 2-8-0 the modern heritage line runs. That locomotive with 50" drivers is probably the loudest engine I have ever heard in person, shaking the ground and working its heart out to pull up the grades of the rebuilt line with just three short Pullmans in tow. Most of the mainline brutes I have seen in person (844 and 4014) sound more like fine tuned Swiss watches, and while I have enjoyed every single time I see them I personally think V&T 29 might be my favorite engine to see in person.

As Master Yoda would say, "Judge me by my size do you not?" I certainly think many of the smaller locomotives can put on a big show. Yes I think some smaller engines look almost toy like, but there are a few which can make more noise and shake the ground as easily as the big steamers can.

That's absolutely fair! There are plenty of smaller locomotives that are very impressive, for example SP 2472 has been called the loudest steam locomotive of all time by many experienced preservationists who post online. And even my personal example, NKP 765, is not the largest out there by any means. As far as 844 and 4014 sounding more like Swiss watches, I think that might have more to do with how the UP chooses to run them nowadays. Very rarely are they seen working hard like the 844 and 3985 were 10+ years ago. You can go see 79mph pacing videos of the 844 posted by SteamUP on YouTube if you want to see impressive. And that is not by any means an attempt at Ed-bashing, I think they have a right to run that program however they see fit. Of course I wish they ran them hard still, but at least they run.

I would still argue though that almost all British steam power I have seen crosses the "toy-like" line. Like you said, it's not about sheer size, it's about all factors combined. I occasionally show train stuff to a couple of non-railfan friends of mine as a way to gauge how the general public might react. Both of them literally laughed when I showed them the Flying Scotsman with its whistle. A few years ago, I showed one of them a video of the 765 I was working on and they simply said "yeah, ok, it's a steam train?" With that reaction, I think the 765 would have a solid chance at being taken seriously as a powerful machine by someone who saw it working hard in person, where unfortunately UK steam might not be able to surmount that ridiculousness barrier, even if it is deserving of respect purely as an example of engineering.


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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2020 12:54 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 12, 2009 5:57 pm
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The impression of brisitsh steam depends on the context. You may like to view this film of two locomotives assaulting the climb to Cauldon Lowe, assuming it is available to american viewers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSDjk6dl7Fo


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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2020 6:11 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:36 pm
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sleepermonster wrote:
The impression of brisitsh steam depends on the context. You may like to view this film of two locomotives assaulting the climb to Cauldon Lowe, assuming it is available to american viewers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSDjk6dl7Fo

Well you can’t really see the locomotive for the whole video,
so that might help, lol. But yes, from the photos in the beginning that one does look a bit less toy-like than some of the others. Still far more toy-like than most American steam though, and I didn’t hear the whistle in that video but I bet it’s a Thomas style one.


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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 12:41 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:28 am
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RTL-III wrote:
Well you can’t really see the locomotive for the whole video,
so that might help, lol. But yes, from the photos in the beginning that one does look a bit less toy-like than some of the others. Still far more toy-like than most American steam though, and I didn’t hear the whistle in that video but I bet it’s a Thomas style one.


Both of those locomotives would be fitted with an LMS Hooter rather than a "whistle" - Think Norfolk & Western......
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWkwWY2BKrY

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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 2:41 am 

Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:36 pm
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70000 wrote:
RTL-III wrote:
Well you can’t really see the locomotive for the whole video,
so that might help, lol. But yes, from the photos in the beginning that one does look a bit less toy-like than some of the others. Still far more toy-like than most American steam though, and I didn’t hear the whistle in that video but I bet it’s a Thomas style one.


Both of those locomotives would be fitted with an LMS Hooter rather than a "whistle" - Think Norfolk & Western......
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWkwWY2BKrY

Ehhhh... it is better than the Thomas whistles, but the N&W hooter whistles had a whole lot more punch and balls to them, and SO much personality too! Check this clip out:
https://youtu.be/Sv1qTf7IHW8


Last edited by RTL-III on Sat Aug 22, 2020 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 8:31 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:28 am
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Location: Ipswich, UK
RTL-III wrote:
Ehhhh... it is better than the Thomas whistles, but the N&W hooter whistles had a whole lot more punch and balls to them. Check this clip out:
https://youtu.be/Sv1qTf7IHW8


Before this gets more into the realms of Sigmund Freud ("mines bigger/louder than yours")...
What you have to bear in mind is that the RoW here in the UK was (and still is) totally seperated from the surrounding property and securely fenced off by law.
Likewise, there are very few grade crossings that are ungated/barriered - even agricultural farm crossings are all gated. That meant that locomotive whistles didn't actually need to be as loud as their North American counterparts.
Loud enough to give a warning when passing through stations at speed, for MoW staff on the line, short bursts before grade crossings, and for signalling messages to traincrew/station staff/signal towers and that was it!
We had single note "Thomas", as you call them, whistles, two note whistles (GWR), hooters (CR, LMS), chime whistles (LNER, BR), and even bells on some lines that ran in the street....

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 Post subject: Re: International Locomotive Visits in the 21st Century
PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2020 12:11 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:36 pm
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70000 wrote:
RTL-III wrote:
Ehhhh... it is better than the Thomas whistles, but the N&W hooter whistles had a whole lot more punch and balls to them. Check this clip out:
https://youtu.be/Sv1qTf7IHW8


Before this gets more into the realms of Sigmund Freud ("mines bigger/louder than yours")...
What you have to bear in mind is that the RoW here in the UK was (and still is) totally seperated from the surrounding property and securely fenced off by law.
Likewise, there are very few grade crossings that are ungated/barriered - even agricultural farm crossings are all gated. That meant that locomotive whistles didn't actually need to be as loud as their North American counterparts.
Loud enough to give a warning when passing through stations at speed, for MoW staff on the line, short bursts before grade crossings, and for signalling messages to traincrew/station staff/signal towers and that was it!
We had single note "Thomas", as you call them, whistles, two note whistles (GWR), hooters (CR, LMS), chime whistles (LNER, BR), and even bells on some lines that ran in the street....

Like I said before, I think UK steam is just as deserving of respect for its engineering as US or any other steam. My opinion here is based on not only my own reaction, but that of others I have experienced as well over time. Honestly, I think Thomas messed you guys up. The ridiculousness factor of a lot of UK steam may not have been there if the Thomas characters hadn’t been made so prototypical to real UK trains.

And like I said before, size is definitely not the only factor. It is, however, somewhat unavoidable in its influence. There is plenty of smaller US steam that is quite impressive, but they mostly make up for it with other traits and are all bigger than UK steam anyway. It’s all factors combined, looks, whistle, size, loudness, etc. that gives off a certain vibe, and size is quite present in the mix.

This is sort of the same issue as steam vs. diesel as far as impressing the general public. I think there is a sort of “wow factor” spectrum that on one side would have perhaps a truck passing by. We would all probably agree that that is basically just noise and not too exciting. Further along we have EMUs, electrics, new Tier 4 diesels that sound like vacuum cleaners...all the way to the other end where next to big, loud US road diesels we start getting into steam. Here we have UK steam, world steam, and then at the very far end we have mainline late-era US steam. The further you are towards this end of the spectrum, or “max wow factor”, the easier it will be to get the general public to understand and appreciate the power and awe of the machine, and in turn, keep your operation alive for the sake of this effect and not the cutesy/Thomas tourist train effect.

Finally, with all this being said, I want to emphasize that I am not anti-UK or anything stupid like that. This is purely qualitative, not a nationalist thing. You guys do a lot of things vastly better than us Americans, especially nowadays. I visited London when I was little, and one of the formative moments of me as a railfan was standing on the platform at Slough as a Valenta-powered HST roared by at 125mph. Class 37s make an awesome sound, the Eurostar at speed is fascinating, and much more. It is mainly the steam and older stuff like those tiny wheelbarrow sized freight cars that I think we should avoid at all costs in the US if we want to be taken seriously. Thomas ruined it.


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