|This page provides news on
working operation of steam locomotives, construction
of new steam, technical improvements to existing steam
locomotives, and similar news items.
See the Steam News Archive
for older news stories.
Book News from Camden Miniature Steam Services
The following news comes from Adam Harris of Camden Miniature Steam Services, a bookseller in the UK who specializes in steam as well as a variety of other interesting subjects:
(1) Famed French steam locomotive designer André Chapelon's book "La Locomotive a Vapeur" (English version) is now available as a 'Digital Edition' - see: https://www.camdenmin.co.uk/collections/digital-books/products/la-locomotive-a-vapeur
This isn't an ebook, but a downloadable file which can be read on any computer, laptop, or even, if your eyesight could cope, on a iPhone or similar. The UK price is £29.95 but this includes VAT, so anyone outside the EU doesn't pay this, and the price is £24.96. No delivery charge and instantly available from our website when payment made. Actually, as it is a very large file, 'instantly' available isn't quite correct, as the download time is quite long, depending on the speed of the customer's internet connection.
(2) Dave Wardale's book 'The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of Steam' is now Out of Print again, and we cannot currently supply it. It is possible this will be made available as a digital edition at some point in the future.
New Build Steam (updated)
Some time ago I stumbled across another great steam-related website, "New Build Steam". Following the success of the new 4-6-2 "Tornado" in the UK, numerous other projects have popped up to build new steam locomotives. The site was recently updated (November 2016) to a new format and it looks as if updates will be made more regularly. The site lists 21 new build steam projects currently under construction, I believe all in the UK, and it's worth noting this only includes the standard gauge locomotives. Another 3 locomotives are currently in the planning stage. Read more at the website:
Big News from Argentina
Following over 10 years of effort, steam is once again set to return to Argentina's Ramal Ferro Industrial de Rio Turbio (RFIRT). Located in the far south of South America, the RFIRT operated a fleet 20 advanced steam locomotives hauling immense quantities of coal from the late 1950's until the mid-1990's. Ing. L. D. Porta served as manager of the railway for several years, and performed signficant development work there improving the line's steam locomotives. The RFIRT mainline trains have been diesel-hauled since November 1996 when the last steam locomotives were retired and stored.
The RFIRT's locomotives are of the 2-10-2 wheel arrangement and were built by Mitsuibishi Heavy Industries in Japan. An initial order of 10 locomotives had been received and placed in operation when Ing. Porta arrived at the line in the late 1950's. These locomotives were modernized under his guidance and later, in the early 1960's, a second series of locomotives was built by Mitsuibishi incorporating the modifications made to the first locomotives as well as other improvements.
Recently, two of the line's locomotives were shipped from the port of Rio Turbio to Buenos Aires where they are currently being rebuilt. The locomotive number 116 (originally number 107) of the first series of locomotives and locomotive number 119 of the second series of locomotives are being rebuilt. In addition, a Sentinal steam wagon, used to haul coal prior to the completion of the railway, is being rebuilt. The locomotives will not only be overhauled, but all Porta-designed modifications many of which had been removed or disabled by later railway management will be reinstated.
A rapid pace has been set for the work and it is hoped that the locomotives can be completed by August 2015. Photos of the work can be seen at the CSR's Flickr site at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/csrail/sets/72157650305202348/
UPDATE, November 2015- The restoration of locomotive #119 has been completed and the locomotive has been returned to the RFIRT.
Once returned to Rio Turbio, the locomotives will initially be used to power passenger trains, using new passenger cars which are currently under construction in Argentina.
Read more about the project at the CSR 130 Project's News page here: http://www.csrail.org/index.php/news-information
Read more about the locomotives of the RFIRT here: http://www.trainweb.org/tusp/rt_2_10_2s.html
Developments from CSR 130 Project
The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) has been retained by the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen, GmbH (HSB) of Wernigerode, Germany, to design modifications for a 1918-built steam locomotive. The steam engine number 99-5906, is an 0-4-4-0T "Mallet"-type steam locomotive that has been modified many times over its service life.
Image courtesy of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail
Members of the project travelled to Germany in the summer of 2012 where they installed temporary instrumentation and collected detailed data from the locomotive in normal operation. This data is being used to engineer a new Lempor exhaust system as well as a "Master Mechanic's" spark arrestor arrangement. The new components will be constructed in the HSB's shops this spring (2015).
Read more about this project here: Modernized Exhaust for German Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotive
New Book on SAR Class 25 4-8-4's
Modern steam engineer Phil Girdlestone has recently published a book on the famous Class 25 4-8-4's of the South African Railways titled Camels and Cadillacs: A History of the South African Railways 25 Class Condensers and 25 NC 4-8-4's. The book is available from Camden Miniature Steam Services at this link:
Group Spins Off from 5AT Project
The Advanced Steam Traction Group, established in 2012 following the closure of the 5AT Project, recent introduced their own website. The projects noted below (Developments from the 5AT Group) are actually projects of the AST Group. Visit their website at:
Reprint of "the Fire Burns Much Better"
Dutch engineer and steam enthusiast Jos Koopmans has announced the release of a second edition of his book The Fire Burns Much Better which is being sold through Camden Miniature Steam Services. The book provides a comprehensive history of steam locomotive exhaust development from the birth of the steam locomotive through the latest development, and includes Jos' work to develop a comprehesive theory for explaining the function of steam locomotive exhausts. This second edition contains corrections, clarifications and amendments, many made in consultation with leading steam locomotive designers.
Additional information is available at Camden's page: http://www.camdenmin.co.uk/collections/books-published-by-camden/products/the-fire-burns-much-better-second-edition-to-be-published-late-april
Developments from the 5AT Group
The 5AT Group in the UK, originally formed to oversee the detailed design and construction of David Wardale's 5AT "Advanced Technology" steam locomotive, has recently branched into a couple of other projects.
In collaboration with the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in the UK, the 5AT group has installed a Lempor exhaust system on the recently overhauled USATC S160 No 5820 'Big Jim'. The locomotive has recently re-entered service and is performing satisfactorily. The group plans to do detailed testing this summer to measure the performance benefits of the new exhaust system. Visit the 5AT page for more information, including a link to a youtube video of the locomotive in operation and a PDF presentation on the exhaust system:
In other news from the 5AT Group, the Clan Group has invited the 5AT Group to perform a Feasibility Study to suggest and evaluate improvements that might be incorporated into their locomotive. The Clan Group is working on a new-build Clan Class locomotive No 72010, Hengist. More information on this project is avaiable here:
Union Pacific "Big Boy" 4014 Restoration
Probably the biggest steam news since the debut of the Rocket was announced last year; the Union Pacific Railroad has acquired one of the eight remaining "Big Boy" 4-8-8-4 steam locomotives from the Southern California Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society. The locomotive, number 4014 had been displayed at the RailGiants Train Museum at Fairplex at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in California. This locomotive was deemed to be in the best condition of any of the remaining Big Boy locomotives.
A crew from the Union Pacific has worked for the last few months preparing the locomotive for towing to the steam shop in Cheyene, Wyoming. Bearings were checked and relubricated, parts of the machinery have been removed and stored, and the locomotive has been thoroughly inspected. The locomotive has been moved approximately one mile across a parking lot using panel track and now sits adjacent to Metrolink tracks. On January 26, the temporary tracks will be joined to the Metrolink tracks to allow the locomotive to begin its move. From here, the locomotive will be towed to Union Pacific's Colton Yard. In the spring, the locomotive will continue to Cheyene where it will undergo a 4 to 5 year restoration.
The Union Pacific has posted regular video updates on the project to youtube; these videos can be accessed at this link:
Here's a good story from a local newspaper on the locomotive:
Group Seeks to Build Replica Pennsy T1 4-4-4-4 Locomotive
From the group's website:
"The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) T1 Steam Locomotive Trust is a non-profit organization formed for the express purpose of constructing PRR T1 5550, the fifty-third locomotive of its class. The goal is to provide mainline excursion service, and to set the World Speed Record for a steam locomotive. "
Read more at the group's website here: http://www.prrt1steamlocomotivetrust.org
More White Papers from CSR 130 Project
The Coalition for Sustainable Rail has added several white papers to their site over the last few months, including papers on steam locomotive rail/wheel dynamics and the work of French locomotive designer Andre Chapelon. The papers are availble for download here: http://www.csrail.org/index.php/news-information/white-paper-series
"Red Devil" Reprint
(Updated 18 January 2014)
Newman (5AT Webmaster), David Wardale and
Adam Harris, Camden
Miniature Steam is offering a new
print-run of the book for sale.
For those who don't know,
"The Red Devil and Other Tales from the Age of
Steam" provides a comprehensive account of Wardale's
work in South Africa, the USA and China, and
of Modern Steam developed by L.D.
Porta upon which Wardale's work was
based. There is more information on modern steam design and its practical application than any other publication. If you're a real steam enthusiast, this book should be in your library.
To order a copy, visit the group's website at: http://5at.co.uk/index.php/sales/Red-Devil-Orders.html
White Paper Series from CSR 130
The Coalition for Sustainable Rail, the group
currently working to modernize a former Santa Fe 4-6-4
and convert it to burn biomass-based fuel (see story
immediately below), has just announced a very
interesting effort. Working in conjunction with
the University of Minnesota, the Porta Family
Foundation, and other non-profit rail and biomass
research organizations, they intend to make relevant
scholarly works available to the public through their
White Paper Program. The intention is that
papers will be periodically uploaded to their website
where they will be available for download.
The first of these papers has just been made
available, "the Case for a Better American Steam
Locomotive". This paper was written by Ing. L.
D. Porta in the 1970's in response to the "oil crisis"
of the time when oil-based fuel prices skyrocketed due
to an oil embargo by middle-eastern nations. The
paper was written in response to two articles
published in the U.S. railway enthusiasts magazine
"Trains", titled "the Case for the French Steam
Locomotive" and "the Case for the American Steam
Locomotive". These articles are also available
through the CSR 130 website.
While Ing. Porta was a prolific writer (see list of
known papers here: http://www.trainweb.org/tusp/porta_biblio.html),
most of these papers have never been made available to
the public. Hopefully this program by the CSR 130
Project will eventually make many of these papers
available to steam enthusiasts around the world.
Bio-Fueled Steam Project from the
University of Minnesota
A group known as the Coalition for Sustainable Rail
(CSR) associated with the University of Minnesota,
announced this week a project to develop a bio-fuel
burning steam locomotive, using Atkinson, Topeka, and
Santa Fe (ATSF) 4-6-4 number 3463 as the basis.
The 3463 is a "modern" 4-6-4, built for the Santa
Fe by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1937. It is
the only remaining U.S. steam locomotive with 84 inch
diameter drivers, the largest used apart from some much
older experimental steam locomotives.
Image from the collection of Warren M. Scholl, photographer unknown.
The project is known as "Project 130" as it intends to
establish a new world record top speed for steam
locomotives of 130 MPH. The current record of 126
MPH was set by the British 4-6-2 "Mallard" in
1937. The fuel to be used in this locomotive is
called "biocoal" produced from "cellulosic biomaterial"
and is said to be "a fuel with the same energy, density
and material handling properties of coal, without the
associated carbon footprint, heavy metal or sulfur
content." This fuel is being produced by the
University of Minnesota's Natural Resources Research
Institute (NRRI) and the locomotive will partly serve as
a showcase for the use of this fuel.
At least a couple of people associated with the project
should be well-known to modern steam locomotive
enthusiasts: Shaun McMahon and Bill Withuhn.
Shaun worked closely with Ing. L. D. Porta for several
years, and has been working on several advanced steam
projects in Argentina since the 1990's. Bill
Withuhn, a Curator Emeritus with the Smithsonian
Institution's National Museum of American History, was
heavily involved with the American Coal Enterprises "ACE
3000" project to build a modern, diesel-equivalent steam
locomotive for U.S. freight service in the 1980's.
It is expected that the 3463 will undergo a host of
Porta-type improvements, including the Gas Producer
Combustion System, an improved exhaust system, a
streamlined steam circuit, and others, all of which will
dramatically increase its efficiency and potentially its
Read more about the project at the group's website at: