Facebook Page
The Ultimate Steam Page

TUSP Title Image

Steam Locomotion in the 21st Century

The Recent History of Steam Locomotive Development

Steam Locomotive Information Resources

updated 16 February 2022

This page provides lists of resources and links about the technical aspects of steam locomotives.

On-line References

The website for the Railroad Passenger Car Alliance provides an extensive on-line library of documents, including quite a few steam-locomotive specific references including:

Steam Locomotive Boilers
New York Air Brake Duplex Air Pump
How To Fire A Steam Locomotive
Steam Locomotive Valves & Gears
Steam Locomotive Break Downs
Steam Locomotive Lubricators
Steam Locomotive Electrical Systems
Steam Locomotive Valve Gear
Steam Locomotive Valve Settings
The Steam Locomotive Description & Details
ALCO Standard Practices -1
ALCO Standard Practices- 2
ALCO Standard Practices- 3
ALCO Standard Practices -4
ALCO Standard Practices- 5
Canadian Pacific Railroad Steam Maint - Superheaters & Fittings
Canadian Pacific Railroad Steam Maint - Brick Arches
Canadian Pacific Railroad Steam Maint- Steam Locomotive Painting

Their on-line libary can be found here:

Technical Papers

White Papers at the Coalition for Sustainable Rail The Coalition for Sustainable Rail, working in conjunction with the University of Minnesota, the Porta Family Foundation, and other not-for-profit rail and biomass research organizations, is bringing scholarly works pertinent to biofuel, modern steam locomotive and transportation research into the public discourse through its White Paper Program.  We upload papers periodically, providing a factual database of information regarding all aspects of CSR's research areas. Subjects include alternative solid fuels, boiler water treatment, and drive wheel balancing, among other subjects.

The Economics of Coal as a Locomotive Fuel on US Class I Railroads  2008 paper written by John Rhodes comparing then-current economics for coal-fired and diesel traction on US Class I railroads. Steam fuel costs would have been far cheaper. This change would have required considerable investment in new locomotives and facilities, but the break-even point would occur in only eleven years.

Lectures on Steam Locomotive Operation in the 21st Century

PDF from the FEDECRAIL (European Federation of Museum & Tourist Railways) from the 1998 conference in Barcelona, Spain. Includes presenations by L. D. Porta, Jose Olmo Perez of Cuba, Roger Waller and Reinhard Serchinger of DLM, and Jurgen Quellmalz of Germany.

ASME Technical Paper No. 82-RT-2

"A New Coal-Fired Steam Locomotive For A New Era", the ACE 3000.
(check the references at the end of this document for more information on the technical aspects of steam)

Theory of the Lempor Ejector as Applied To Produce Draught in Steam Locomotives

L. D. Porta's 1974 paper on the design of his Lempor exhaust system.

For a listing of the technical papers written or contributed to by Porta, go here: Porta bibliography

National Transportation Safety Board
JUNE 16, 1995

Letter from Ing. L. D. Porta to the NTSB
Providing His Observations and Comments on the Above Report, Including Introduction by Gary Bensman
thanks to Gary Bensman for providing this document
(document edited and format converted by me- any mistakes are mine)

Ing. Porta makes some very interesting comments on the report, and on steam locomotive design, construction, and operations in general, in this letter. It's an excellent read.

Computer Software

Steam Engine Valve Gear on the Computer by Charles Dockstader (link updated 22 December 2011). This link will take you to a page where you can download an amazing free program for your PC. It provides a moving graphic simulation of virtually any type of valve gear ever applied to a steam locomotive (or any other steam engine for that matter). It also allows various design graphs to be viewed on the screen or printed for study. Dimensions of the various parts can be altered to see the affect on the valves' actions. It's really an excellent tool for visualizing what actually happens within the valves and cylinders of a steam engine and can be used for actual design as well.

Valve Gear Simulation Software by Dr. Allan Wallace (link added 23 December 2011).  Another valve gear simulation program.

Model Engineering Clearinghouse- Software [1 February 2022: Page is currently listed as offline for routine maintenance.]
Includes a computer program by Professor Bill Hall which models steam locomotive performance based on major dimensions. Also includes several valve gear modeling programs, steam data calculating software, and other useful programs which are free for download.


See the Modern Steam Patents page.

Magazine Articles

These are just a few articles related to modern steam from magazines published in the U.S.

"Did We Scrap Steam Too Soon?", William Withuhn, Trains Magazine, June 1974

"In Profile: L. D. Porta, the World's Most Active Advocate", Gary A. Hunter, Locomotive & Railway Preservation, Issue 63, January-February 1997 (final issue)

"The Tiny Giants of Patagonia", Gary A. Hunter, Locomotive & Railway Preservation, Issue 44, November-December 1993

"New Steam Locomotives: A Solution to Imported Fuel?", Bill Paul, Modern Railroads Magazine, September 1982

ICS (International Correspondence School) Books

(some titles now avaialable on CD, see below)

Published ~1920-1943 by International Textbook Company of Scranton, PA. Set of 18 individual 5" x 7 5/8" black hardcover railroad instruction manuals. Also published in parts as pamphlets. Many pull-out diagrams and sketches. These can also occasionally be found on E-bay. Known titles include:

501 Locomotive Boilers, J.W. Harding  1941  part 1, 57 pages  part 2, 96 pages
502B The Steam Locomotive, J.W. Harding 1934  part 1, 123 pages, part 2,  153 pages 
503B Locomotive Valves and Valve Gears, J.W. Harding 1937, 90 pages, Covers valves, Stephenson (62p) and Southern (23p) valve gear
504C Walschaert and Baker Valve Gears, GEARS  J.W. Harding, 1940, part 1, Walschaert, 44 pages, part 2, Baker, 57 pages
505C Locomotive Valve Setting
506 Firing of Locomotives, J.W. Harding, 1928, Covers hand firing, 68 pages, oil firing, 63 pages, and C-2 type booster, 36 pages.
507C Locomotive Stokers, J.W. Harding, 1943, Covers numerous types, 105 pages.
508D Locomotive Boiler-Feeding Devices, J.W. Harding and G.V. Williamson, 1937, Covers injectors, 76 pages, and feedwater heaters, 76 pages.
509B Lubricators-Headlights, J.W. Harding and H.H. Ketchum, 1943, 155 pages.
510C Locomotive Management, J.W. Harding and A.B. Carson, 1942, Covers inspecting and running locomotives, 92 pages, and superheaters, 66 pages.
511C Locomotive Breakdowns and Appliances, J.W. Harding and C.W. Cavey , 1943, Covers various breakdowns, 40 pages, and safety valves, power reverses, valve pilots, etc., 71 pages.
512B Train Rules
514B Compressors and Brake Equipments
515C #6 & #8ET Brake Equipment
516B Air Brake Troubles - Brake Rigging
517 Passenger Brake Equipment
517C Passenger Brake Equipment
518 Car Heating--Train Control
518N Brake Equipment for High Speed Trains
519 Automatic Control Equipment
520 Car Trucks
521 Draft Gears
522 Stock Cars, Car Roofs, and Doors
524B Yard Inspection of Trains
525 Railway Car Lighting
526 Westinghouse Air Brake
527 Erecting Work, Shoes and Wedges
528 Locomotive Frame and Cross-Ties
529B Rod, Wheel, and Pin Work
530 Automatic Train Control
560 Steel-Car Repairs Car-Shop Millwork
598 Freight Car Brake Equipment
598B Freight Car Brake Equipment
598C Freight-Car Brake Equipment
623 #6ET Locomotive Brake Equipment
624 #8ET Locomotive Brake Equipment
637 Diesel Locomotive - Trucks & Draft Rigging
638 2-Cycle Diesel Locomotive Engines
640 4-Cycle Diesel Locomotive Engines
641 Diesel Locomotive Auxiliaries
642 Electrical Equipment of Diesel Locomotives - I
643 Electrical Equipment of Diesel Locomotives - II
644 Diesel Locomotive Operation
645 #8EL Diesel Brake Equipment

Note: Subletters denote later editions of same title.

Update January 4, 2008- The following ICS titles are available on CD from MAXCOW Online:

Vol 501 Locomotive Boilers
Vol 503B Locomotive Valves and Valve Gear
Vol 504C Walschaert and Baker Valve Gear
Vol 505C Locomotive Valve Settings
Vol 506 Firing of Locomotives
Vol 507B Locomotive Stokers
Vol 508D Locomotive Boiler Feeding Devices
Vol 510C Locomotive Management
Vol 512 Train Rules
Vol 514B Compressors and Brake Equipment
Vol 515D Number 6 and Number 8 ET Brake Equipment
Vol 516B Air Brake Troubles - Brake Rigging
Vol 519 Automatic Control Equipment
Vol 530 Automatic Train Control


The following is a list of books (in no particular order) for those interested in learning more about the technical aspects of steam locomotives. See my Book Links page for a list of suggested sources for finding these books.

Thanks to Richard Bradford, Mike LaPlante, Mick Duncan, and others for assistance in compiling this list

La Locomotive a Vapeur, Andre Chapelon, English translation published November 2000 by Camden Miniature Steam Services, ~600 pages. The first English translation of Chapelon's 1952 treatise on steam locomotive design and the state of the steam locomotive art of that time. Includes a section on the work of those who have followed in Chapelon's footsteps, including Porta, Wardale, Girdlestone, et al.

The Red Devil and Other Tales From the Age of Steam, David Wardale, published 1998 by the author, ISBN 0-9529998-0-3, 522 pages. A highly technical diary of one man's attempt to improve and perpetuate the steam locomotive in the 1980's. Go here: The Red Devil for a detailed review of the book. At least two editions of the book have been printed, but it is currently out of print.

The Fire Burns Much Better, J. J. G. Koopmans, published 2004, ISBN-13: 978-90-6464-013-1, "200 Years of Steam Locomotive Research- 1804-2004".  The book is the author's thesis for the degree of Ph.D. of the University of Sheffield, U.K. It describes the historical research into the subject of smoke ejection by steam locomotives. More information at:

The following German books were highly recommended by reader Richard Bradford. His comments are included.

Die Dampflokomotive Ing. Johannes Schwarz (Editor in chief). Pub: Transpress Verlag, Berlin ISBN: 3-344-70791-4. Still published as a reprint of the 1983 edition.
"There is no better single source of information on the development and operation of the steam locomotive (from a largely though not exclusively German perspective), that is up to the early 1960s when many steam locos were 'modernised'. I'm sure that if this was buried in a 'time capsule' and unearthed after all steam locos had disappeared, it would be possible (with suitable engineering knowledge and skill) to build a loco from the information contained therein, as well as to set about driving and firing it." (info from Richard Bradford)

Dampflokomotivkunde Pub: ELV Eisenbahn-Lehrbuch-Verlagsgesellschaft, München. (Overseas sales: Verlag Eisenbahn, Gut Vorhard, CH-5234 Villigen, Switzerland). ISBN: 3-85469-899-0.
This covers much the same ground as 'Die Dampflokomotive' but with less engineering and fewer calculations. It is written for budding loco crews, the German equivalent of the British 'Handbook for Steam Locomotive Enginemen, though with more background theory and detail. The publishers also have individual books covering operation of steam locomotives: - 'Die Dampflokomotiv im Betrieb': General overview including maintenance scheduling - 'Der Dienst des Heizers auf der Lokomotive': The fireman's duties on a loco... Says it all! - 'Betriebsmaschinentechnische Anlagen für Dampflokomotiven': All you need to know about laying out and equipping a steam loco engine shed.

Leitfaden für den Dampflokomotivdienst Niederstrasse. Pub: Verkehrswissenschaftliche Lehrmittelsgeschaft, Frankfurt.
The classic exposé on steam locomotive operation and construction. Now out of print but secondhand copies do turn up.

"I would suggest that any one of the three main titles goes far beyond any commonly-found British publication. Certainly the basic knowledge from 'Die Dampflokomotive' together with the practical and theoretical possibilities expounded in Wardale's 'Red Devil and other Tales of Steam' would truly put the steam loco in its rightful place."

Steam Railways of the World, Patrick Whitehouse, published 1988 by Chartwell Books, Inc., ISBN 1-55521-232-8, 256 pages. Not very technical, but provides a good overview of the current (1988) world steam scene.

World Steam in the Twentieth Century, E.S. Cox, 1969, printed by Ian Allen, SBN 7110 0079 4, 191 pages. Cox was a designer and he compares the designs of America, Britain, France, Germany and central Europe.

Bulleid of the Southern, H.A.V. Bulleid, published 1977 by Ian Allen Ltd., 229 pages, ISBN 0 7110 0689 X. An interesting biography of O.V.S. Bulleid, certainly the most innovative steam locomotive designer in Britain. Includes details and photos of his radical Leader prototype and the "turf burner" for Ireland.

Chapelon, Genius of French Steam, Col. H.C.B. Rogers, published 1972 by Ian Allen Ltd., SBN 7110 0281 9, 175 pages. An interesting biography of French steam designer Andre Chapelon. Not terribly technical, but supplies more than enough details to interest the reader in Chapelon's work.

The following four books cover the Lima Locomotive Works of Lima, Ohio, USA. Note that "Lima" is pronounced with a long "I" as opposed to Lima, Peru (all due to a misunderstanding when the town was named according to the first book below!). Lima was generally considered to have the best engineering department and to produce the highest quality locomotives of the three major U.S. commercial steam builders (Lima, ALCO, and Baldwin).

Lima- the History, Eric Hirsimaki, published 1986 by Hundman Publishing, Inc., Library of Congress #86-081238, 351 pages.

Superpower- The Making of a Steam Locomotive, David Weitzman, published 1987 by David R. Godine, ISBN 0-87923-671-X, 107 pages. A fictionalized account of a young apprentice who goes to work at the Lima Locomotive Works during the construction of the A-1 2-8-4 demonstrator, the first "Superpower" locomotive. A very interesting book which gives a great interpretation of what went on "behind the scenes" at a locomotive works. Beautiful ink drawings showing every stage of locomotive fabrication and assembly.

Super Power Steam Locomotives, Richard Cook, 1966, printed by Golden West Books, 144 pages, SBN 87095-010-X.  Mostly about Lima and their concepts for super power, including many Lima catalog pages.

Building a Lima Locomotive, Scott Trostel,  1990, printed by Cam Tech Publishing, 87 pages.  ISBN 0-925436-05-4  A photo series taken in 1924 at Lima while building Illinois Central 2-8-2s.

The American Steam Locomotive, Volume I, Evolution, Frank M. Swengel, published 1967 by Midwest Rail Publications, Libraary of Congress Catalogue Card No. 67-29846, 268 pages. A chronological look at the evolution of U.S. steam locomotives, from the ornate 4-4-0's of the 1870's to the massive articulateds of the 1940's. Gives good explanations for the developments of various locomotive wheel arrangements.

Garratt Locomotives of the World, A.E. Durrant, published 1981 (revision of The Garratt Locomotive of 1969), ISBN 0-7153-7641-1, 207 pages. Provides a detailed comparison of Garratt and other articulated locomotive types and a listing, by country, of every Garratt built.

Articulated Locomotives, Lionel Wiener, published 1970 (reprint of 1930 edition with a new introd. by R. A. Le Massena.) by Kambach Pub. Col., LCC TJ608.W5 1970, 628 pages. A detailed history of articulated locomotives.

Locomotive Cyclopedia, 1925, 1938, 1941, 1944, 1948, etc.- Originally published by Simmons Boardman Publishing Co., some reprinted by Kalmbach Publishing Corporation, 1312 pages (1941 edition). A "trade" book published for railway motive power men, consisting of collections of locomotive photos, statistics, diagrams, drawing details, manufacturer and supplier advertisements, and technical discussions covering all aspects of locomotive design and maintenance.

Basic Steam Locomotive Maintenance, Rail Heritage Publications, published 1980 by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Co., 333 pages. Reprint of a series of railwaymen's correspondence courses in a single book. Includes a section on firing steam locomotives and sections on various locomotive components, including operation, maintenance, and repair.

The Steam Locomotive in America, Its Development in the Twentieth Century, Alfred W. Bruce, published 1952 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., First Edition, 443 pages.  Presents the engineering history of steam locomotives from the beginning (early 1800s) through the early 1950s, with particular emphasis on the period from 1901 through 1952.  In some respects it's a less technical than Ralph Johnson's book (fewer formulas and tables), but it covers a wider span of history, and goes into some detail with respect to different types of boilers, cylinder and valve design, front ends and drafting, as well as a commentary on each type of wheel arrangement with photos and specifications.  A good complementary book to The Steam Locomotive (see below).

The Steam Locomotive, Ralph P. Johnson, published 1942, 1944, and 1981 by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Co., 564 pages. A technical treatise on steam locomotive design, operation, and economics by the then Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Baldwin Locomotive Works.

Steam Loco Design,Data&Formulae  E.A.Phillipson Locomotive Publishing Co., London,1936, ratios & proportions, a bit like Ralph Johnson's book.  

The Norfolk & Western Railway in the U.S. was one of the few railways to design and construct their own steam locomotives, and was the last major U.S. railway to abandon steam development. The N&W's intelligent operating practices which maximized steam's advantages were unequaled on any other U.S. railroad. The next four books are good sources of information on steam development and operation on the N&W.

N&W: Giant of Steam, Colonel Lewis Ingles Jeffries, published 1980 by Pruett Publishing Co., ISBN 0-87108-547-0, 333 pages. Second edition published 2005 by the Norfolk & Western Historical Society, ISBN No. 0-9704794-5-X, 350 pages. A detailed history of the Norfolk & Western Railway from a motive power perspective. Includes chapters on compound mallet development, steam/diesel comparison tests, and the development of the steam-turbine-electric locomotive Jawn Henry.

The A, Norfolk & Western's Mercedes of Steam, Ed King, published 1990 by Trans-Anglo Books, ISBN 0-87046-096-X. A detailed look at the 2-6-6-4's of the N&W, arguably the best all-around steam locomotive class to operate in the U.S.

Rails Remembered Volume 4, The Tale of a Turbine, Louis M. Newton, published 2004 by the author, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 92-92856, 211 pages. Detailed history of the construction and testing of the Norfolk & Western's experimental steam turbine electric locomotive no. 2300, often referred to as "Jawn Henry" after the legendary U.S. railroad figure. Mr. Newton details the trials and tribulations with this last, best hope for the continued use of coal as a locomotive fuel in the U.S. The locomotive showed great promise, but continued and accelerating failures of "proven" components (feed pumps, generators, steam turbine, etc.) doomed the project.

Norfolk and Western Class J, The Finest Steam Passenger Locomotive, Kenneth L. Miller, printed 2000 by Walsworth Publishing Company, ISBN 0-615-11664-7, 134 pages. History of the N&W's streamlined Class J 4-8-4 passenger locomotives.

American Steam Locomotives- Design and Development, 1880-1960, William L. Withuhn, published 2019, ISBN 978-0-253-03933-0, 451 pages. A thorough and engaging history of the invention that captured public imagination like no other, and the people who brought it to life.

Other Reference Books:

Locomotive Valves and Valve Gears, Jacob Yoder and George Wharen, published 1921,  reprinted 1994 by Camden (UK), ISBN 0 9519367 1 9, 272 pages. Describes slide and piston valves, valve settings and many types of valve gear, i.e., Stephenson, Walschaerts, Baker, Southern, Joy, Young, Gooch and Allen.

Valves & Valve Gears for Steam Locomotives, G. S. Lake & A. Reidinger, published 1940, reprinted 1981 by TEE Publishing, 142 pages. Similar to above, but also includes Cossart and Caprotti poppet valves.

Modern American Locomotive Construction and Operation, Frederick Prior, published 1925, reprinted 1982 by Simmons Boardman, 291 pages. Very good, covers a lot of ground.

Fundamentals of the Steam Locomotive, published 1949, reprinted 1992 by Simmons Boardman, 44 pages. Very good for beginners.

Compound Locomotives, J. T. van Riemsdijk, published by 1994, ISBN 0 906899 61 3, 140 pages. More than you ever wanted to know about compounds.

Locomotives - Their Construction, Maintenance and Operation, A. Morton Bell, 2 volumes, published 1949, seventh edition, 464 pages. From a British perspective.

Enginemen's Manual, W. P. James, published 1926, 465 pages. Questions and answers for engineers, firemen and mechanics.

The Concise Encyclopedia of World Railway Locomotives, P. Ransome-Wallis, published 1959, 512 pages. Covers quite a lot, excellent chapter on testing steam locomotives.  Also covers electric and (expletive deleted) locomotives.

For information on the earlier phases of steam locomotive development:

Locomotive Performance Prof,W.F.M.Goss of Purdue University, Wiley & Sons, New York,1907. Deals with work involved in producing the Master Mechanics Front End, the exhaust system used on many U.S. steam locomotives in the 20th century.

The Development of the Locomotive 1803-1896, Clement Stretton, published 1896, reprinted 1989 by Bracken Books,      ISBN 1 85170 247 4, 251 pages.British history.

Development of the Locomotive Engine, Angus Sinclair, published 1907, reprinted 1970 by MIT Press and annotated by John H. White, ISBN 0 262 19068 0, 707 pages. American history, but with photos and drawings of many foreign engines.  The annotations make it very worthwhile.

Modern Locomotive Construction, J. G. A. Meyer, published 1892, reprinted 1994 by Lindsay, ISBN 1-55918-144-3, 658 pages. Worth the price just for the hundreds of exquisite drawings.


Live Steam Locomotives ( offers drawings for UP Big Boys, Challengers, 4-8-4's, and quite a few other U.S. steam locomotives.

The Norfolk and Western Historical Society has an incredibly extensive collection of technical drawings from the N&W's steam department. Copies can be purchased through the society's webpage: N&W Historical Society Rolling Stock Drawing Search Form

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has an extensive archive of drawings and photographs associated with both the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baldwin Locomotive Works, among others. 
Search their archives here: Railroad Museum of PA Archives Search Page
Ordering information can be found here: Railroad Museum of PA Ordering Forms

If you know of other good books about steam locomotives, please e-mail me at:


Back to TopBack to Top

Return to The Ultimate Steam Page