When Steam Was King In The USA

A Long, Long Time Ago….

In a modern soulless world, where multiple units rule, we can only dream of the days when steam locomotives pounded the rails, speeding at up to 100 mph on crack express trains. Even more so in the USA, when there was not much left after 1960. So much so, that I never saw a regular steam operation in that country. In fact by the time I was born in 1952, the days of the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha’s and other great US icons, were at an end.

20th Century Limited back in steam days. Source Unknown

One thing for sure is that there were some massive machines operating back then, as this rare colour photo of a 2-8-2 on the Pensylvania Railroad demonstrates

2-8-2 at Renovo PA in 1956. Photo Ron Wright

US Railway Photographer, Ron Wright was around in those days and managed to capture some of the last days of US steam in his excellent website.

Due to this being so long ago, there is not a lot of decent footage around for us to review. I found this classic of a photo on the famous Horshoe Curve.

PRR J1 nearing Kittanning Point on Horseshoe Curve. Source Pinterest

It must have been something to ride on massive double headers on the Union Pacific Railroad, or the huge compounds on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Mind you, in Australia double headed AD60 class put on quite a display, and that was in 1972, well after the demise of US steam.

Double headed 2-6-6-2 Mallets on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway

As an Aussie, please excuse me for adding my take on steam power unleashed in Australia as a pair of 60 class garratts haul a heavy coal load from a standing start on a 1 in 40.

Massive stream power of 126,980 pounds tractive effort, as NSW AD60 class Garratts back to back haul a load up the 1 in 40 grade on Fassifern bank. Photo by John Gaydon December 1972

These days are long gone, as we only have preserved locos hauling feeble loads, often with diesel assistance these days. What is the world coming too?

Here is a video of mainline steam action In the USA back in the 1940s and 50s.


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