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 Post subject: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 12:30 am 

Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:40 am
Posts: 107
I've got a interesting question I would like to ask? Why does steam locomotives do better in preservation over diesels?

There was a discussion not long ago that someone suggested half of the older diesels are destined to become garbage cans and SUV's.

It seems several diesels are sold for scrap and hardly anyone sheds a tear. Yet, If I was to go and cut up a NKP Berkshire or a UP Bigboy everyone would be up in arms over it. It seems there would be more folks who remember the diesel electrics than steam locomotives and yet steam does better than historic diesels even with a smaller percentage of folks who remember them.

Just a interesting question I have been pondering now.

P.S. Yes, I know there is a lot of preserved diesels.

Robert


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 8:42 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8353
Location: Baltimore, MD
Two aspects that come into play:

1) Steam is "completely gone" from American railroads, aside from exceptions like the UP steamers, Strasburg, etc. Diesels still rule today. Therefore, there's a minor detachment going on.

2) Steamers are, with a few exceptions (USRA models, industrial switchers, etc.), all unique to a railroad, whereas diesels, even "customized" models like DeWitt Geeps, Paducah rebuilds, and CF7s, are more mass-production models shared by lots of railroads. Rest assured that a truly unique model like the B&O EA or Alco/GE/I-R boxcab (both B&O Museum), the sole surviving E7A (RR Museum of Pa.), the UP Centennials (several out there) or a CNJ double-cab Baby-Face Baldwin (yeah, good luck with that) is going to get far more respect and effort than "just another" SW1, GP9, F7A, U25B, RS3, etc.

The syndrome you have noticed is a long-term concern, to be honest. With the duplication (supposedly) out there, it's far too easy to simply presume "someone else" will save an F40PH, GP40-2, E8, etc, until one day we turn around and realize they ALL got away from us, and that we even scrapped a preservation example here and there assuming the others were "safe." The almost-poster-child for this is the E7 at the RR Museum of Pa.--it's the only one, so it has to get held in permanent reserve in the track space that could have held a piece more unique to railroading in Pennsylvania while another museum held a different E7.

All this, of course, presumes that there's actually a "need" to save "one of everything," even such orphans as the DL-109, Baldwin Sharks, F-M C-Liner, F40C, U30CG, or C430. That's simply the obsessive-compulsive part of us at work. We are indeed fortunate that several museums out there have made it their mission to pursue representative examples from all railroading (IRM and NRM Green Bay, for example) or even models from a particular local railroad (Reading Co T&HS, URHS NJ) or manufacturer (Lake Shore in North East, Pa. and GEs).


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:15 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 686
Location: Warren, PA
There's still an undeniable interest factor in steam, even though it's now 60 years since retirement in common carrier service (I'm arbitrarily selecting 1956 here, I know).

It's in art, music, Christmas specials, children's literature, the whole 'choo-choo', thing. There's still enough people that can still know that it's different from the locomotives they see every day that it's recognized as old, and perhaps, important. I'll also be the first to say a lot of people don't know, either, and regularly mis-identify diesels as a a 'choo-choo' in a museum setting, particularly if it has a Hancock air whistle on it.

That's still not true with vintage diesels. I may get all weepy at the Catskill Mountain RS1, but I'll guarantee you the neighbors don't - they see it as no different from CSX, just smaller and smokier. No appreciation that it's older than some surviving steam, and in some ways, more historically significant and unusual that it's still running.

It does appear to happen with carbody units - E's, F's, FPA's, PA's - the whole 1950s thing and the streamliner era. Those are visually different enough to attract some attention, plus the color schemes. Same thing - music, art, the entire cultural period is reflected in memory. It appears to have even carried over into FP45's.

When you get into more modern stuff, it's far worse. Lake Shore's U25B 2500 is one of six survivors from 478 or so, and it's hard to get people excited about it even though it's about as revolutionary and landmark a locomotive in context as you'll find. Roadswitcher configuration units are about as difficult to convey excitement about as a Volkswagen Beetle museum.... you have to love 'em to appreciate the evolution.


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 12:11 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:05 pm
Posts: 555
I am the first to admit that mainline diesels are not my thing. My interest peeked in the late 1960s. After that they all looked the same to me. But that is not the point. I believe the lack of interest in preserving diesels comes from the railroads actively driving people away for the last 30+ years. To most people a train is just something that blocks them at a crossing or causes a horrible wreck somewhere. Even so I still see little kids thrilled to watch a train from the pedestrian overpass in the park near my home.


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:04 pm 

Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:40 am
Posts: 107
One of the most landmark diesels that sadly has gotten away is the NJT U34CH. There is only one still around and sadly it most likely will not operate again because of a lack of spares for it. Without another unit as a parts source there is nothing that can be done if the lone survivor suffers a mechanical or electrical failure. I would like to just once take a ride on one of these with them working in full HEP mode. Hands down one of the loudest diesels in passenger service.

I remember reading that these even caused a twisting in their frames from the engine operating at full rpm which the crews did not like.

Robert


Last edited by BigBoy 4023 on Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 1:54 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 9:54 am
Posts: 794
Location: NJ
I'm very curious as to what parts would not be available for a U34CH. Just a U-36 with HEP capability, should be very supportable, even today.


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:56 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2015 5:55 pm
Posts: 328
As someone who is mostly a diesel buff but is a latecomer to interest in steam I concur with the above statements. I think also steam will put as*es in the seats even if it isn't operational in a way that a diesel won't. A steam engine is quite different from the diesels pulling mainline trains today, but a 60 yo diesel not so much, at least to the gp.

For example, in just the last few weeks we learned that one of two surviving M&StL steam engines is being liberated from a bad situation (although not sure of the details at this time):

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=40032&p=254668&hilit=minneapolis#p254668

At the same time a former M&StL Alco RS1 (GN painted) is being deaccesioned from a museum in British Columbia, and to this point I don't believe anyone has stepped up, it may actually be gone already:

http://www.atrrm.org/blog/2016/07/wcra- ... ollection/

I can think of a number of places it would be a good fit (the Wheels O'Time museum in Peoria, which has an ex-RI steamer, is around 10 miles from the ex M&StL tracks) but would it be responsible for bringing new people in to justify the moving expense? I doubt it, other than fans like me.


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:30 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5250
Location: southeastern USA
Diesels aren't visually and audibly interesting in the way steam locomotives are. Diesels didn't tie the country together and open the frontier to population and development. These are the things rather than economic and technological concerns that breed the interest and generate response form our prospective audience, the general public.

Assuming the railroad isn't particularly scenic or relying on other merits, steam does fill seats. One museum / tourist line I know is about to lose steam after 15 years of its benefit when the only operating steamer dies on the calendar. Estimates of probable loss of income reach almost half of this year's level....... even though the cost of borrowing funds to hire contractors to do the 15 year overhaul during the winter off season are about half the estimated loss of revenue, and will be more than recovered in the first year of operation, there's a debate about it. Numbers aren't that incomprehensible.

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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:34 pm 

Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:40 am
Posts: 107
EDM wrote:
I'm very curious as to what parts would not be available for a U34CH. Just a U-36 with HEP capability, should be very supportable, even today.



Not sure exactly. I just know that a lack of a spares donor and the high fuel consumption were stated as factors in not restoring the Bluebird to operating condition.

I understand that NJT 4176 was slated for preservation in working order but ended up in Mexico.

Robert


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:51 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:18 am
Posts: 155
I see diesels as just as worthy as steam locomotives, when it comes to preservation. Sadly, this isn't the feeling of many around. Who can forget when the B&O Railroad Museum decided to get rid of a L&N U25B, due to it not fitting their mission statement? It went to a scrapper,then to a private company, then finally to the Southern Appalachia Railroad Museum. Who knows what the future holds for it now that the SARM has been banned by its host railroad to do excursions?

Sayre, PA tried in vain to relocate one of a few Lehigh Valley U23Bs (The last new locomotives built for the LV) from RDMI to Sayre for restoration. One by one they fell, however, with none remaining. The amount needed to transport one from the scrap yard to Sayre? $5,000. Even a public Fundraiser couldn't gain enough to save one of these locomotives.

Another such example is WM 5634. It belonged to the Pittsburgh Transportation Museum (Now Defunct). It was the last surviving GP7 from the WM, unique due to their home-built chopped noses. She was scrapped a decade ago when the museum could no longer afford to keep its collection, and refused to give her up.

My final example would be Conrail 6670. The only Ex-EL SDP45 to be donated to a museum. Deaccesioned and sitting forlorn in Roanoke. 3 SDP45s are left in existence, all Ex-EL. Will the cries of the savior come too late for the last of the SDP45s?

While I agree steam should be treated as well as it has been, these examples can be found among diesels across the board. Where are the C628s preserved? Where are the U33B/C and U36B/C models preserved? The answer is 1. Australia and Mexico, and 2. Most if not all have been scrapped. The plight of the diesel seems to be non-existent. Many see them as modern, unless it is a streamlined or visually appealing locomotive. Ignore the fact that locomotives such as the non dash-2 SD38/SD39/SD40/SD45 are now between 45 and 51 years old. the GP30 almost 56, etc.

If you want comprehensive coverage, you cannot leave gaps. Never assume anyone but yourself/your organization will be there to save something. Shall we just preserve Steam and 1st Generation/Early 2nd generation diesels? The choice is yours. I'd love to see 1960s-1980s equipment saved before its for naught. What about you?


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 5:56 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 10:52 pm
Posts: 909
Hi,

Most diesels look more or less the same to me - I can tell a covered wagon from a hood unit but little beyond that.

Steam is associated with the peak of railroad greatness (or maybe largest mileage). The Railroads since WWII especially have had shrinking mileage for many reasons. Few if any Powder River Basin extensions have been made since WWII.

To many (as has been already mentioned) steam locomotives seem to "live and breath" while a diesel just is there.

I recall in the 1970s when Delaware & Hudson purchased four PAs and then some other diesels (Shark noses I think) and I assumed they would be protected forever due to the historical value. I was in my 20s and had the innocence of youth.

I am glad a BL109(?) was saved and some F units and so forth, but by and large, few items reached out like steam. The main exception I know of is the PRR GG1 whose image was still on the Amtrak timetables long after they were retired.

Doug vV


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 6:57 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:17 pm
Posts: 13
I love Alcos, BL-2s and any F and E series. Steam I like small steam 2-6-0 and smaller. Granted 611 and 614 are awesome to see in person.
Mike Arnold


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:08 pm 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
Posts: 1235
Location: Strasburg, PA
As my boss put it, "Watching a steam locomotive is like watching a fire in the fireplace. Watching a diesel locomotive is like watching an electric oven." And who would want to do that?

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Strasburg Rail Road Mechanical Department


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 9:36 pm 

Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2014 11:58 am
Posts: 53
Quote:
As my boss put it, "Watching a steam locomotive is like watching a fire in the fireplace. Watching a diesel locomotive is like watching an electric oven." And who would want to do that?


Well put. I had a professor once suggest that the appeal of dinosaurs to kids was related to their being a bridge between reality and fantasy. Sure they were real, but they weren't that much different that imagined monsters and dragons. A hot steam locomotive is a man-made monster--an iron horse--and plays that same role. A diesel locomotive doesn't come across as much different from a diesel truck. My first wife wept the first time she saw a steam locomotive rush past in all of its glory. It was like being confronted by another reality. I'm sure a dead steamer doesn't have that effect. I think our future relevance depends upon keeping a few of these monsters alive.


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 Post subject: Re: Why does steam fair better than diesels?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:43 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:26 am
Posts: 3719
Location: Maine
A steam locomotive is a living, breathing, creature of dynamic mechanical interplay. It snorts, it purrs, it roars, and it always seems faithful, like a big dog. References to steam locomotive go back in literature, described by Longfellow, Dickinson, Whitman, and others - remembering they wrote about steam locomotives long before Hudsons and Duplexes. We know of cases where engineers referenced a specific locomotive in the same manner as cowboy referred to his horse.

I've heard railfans get excited listening to a string of EMD's or ALCO"S wind up. I distinctly remember listening to FM C-Liners throaty growls out of Mineola, in the early 1950's. Other than that, there is little to distinguish one from the other. I can appreciate a rare style of Diesel locomotive, I just wouldn't get up before dawn to photograph on as the sunrises.

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