Ing. L. D. Porta
|Although commercial steam locomotive
development ended about 1950, at least one
man realized that the steam locomotives
built up to that time did not reflect the
maximum that could be achieved with steam
Ing. Livio Dante Porta was a colleague and student of Chapelon, who continued to advance steam locomotive design from the 1940's until his death in 2003. Ing. Porta's single best-known innovation is the Gas Producer Combustion System (GPCS). A relatively simple modification to any solid-fueled steamer, the GPCS nevertheless greatly improves boiler efficiency, eliminates spark throwing and smoke, and greatly reduces boiler maintenance. Other major innovations developed by Porta include the Kylpor and Lempor exhaust systems. These exhaust systems are backed up by detailed theories which explain their application and design based on proven thermodynamic principles. Porta continued and refined Chapelon's practice of applying rigorous engineering analysis to steam locomotive design- as opposed to the "trial and error" approach so often used by other steam designers.
Follow this link for an explanation of how the Gas Producer Combustion System Works:
Porta's First Project Engine Argentina
from the collection of Juan Carlos Gonzalez
More photos of
this engine can be seen at Juan's pages
Porta later more-extensively modified one of these commuter engines, enabling it to outperform far larger 4-6-2's in passenger service. Unfortunately, the diesel was already making inroads in Argentina and no further locomotives were modernized. About this time (1957), Porta was given the opportunity to take over the coal-hauling Rio Turbio Railway as general manager. This proved to be a fertile ground for Porta's work.
photo from the Richard Campbell collection
courtesy of Roberto Yommi
|These 2' 5-1/2" gauge 2-10-2's were built in the 50's and 1960's by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan for service on the Rio Turbio Railway in Argentina, at the southern tip of South America. The first batch of engines, present when Porta arrived, proved highly capable and quickly displaced older 2-8-2's. However, Porta soon set about the systematic modification of these engines to improve their efficiency, power, and availability. So successful were these modifications that when additional engines were ordered in the 1960's, these refinements and others were incorporated in their construction. As a result of these developments, the Rio Turbio 2-10-2's were one of the most efficient groups of steam locomotives ever operated. Tests document that the engines routinely achieved 12% efficiency, nearly equaling Chapelon's famed 4-8-0's, and could attain up to 15% efficiency under controlled conditions. Furthermore, their routine day-to-day efficiency, including idle time, was much higher than that attained by previous engines.|
photo by Ron Johnson
|These engines feature gas producer
fireboxes, Kylpor exhaust systems, and
massive 6-axle tenders which contain mostly
coal. Auxiliary tenders provide ample water
capacity for extended runs. Aside from the
major modifications to these engines, Porta
developed numerous detail design
improvements on these engines.
photo from the Richard
4-6-2 #4674 was a project to show that the plentiful low-grade coal from the mines at Rio Turbio could be used in coal burning locomotives for all of Argentina. This engine was originally designed and built to burn imported high-BTU Welsh coal (similar in characteristics to U.S. Pocahontas coal). Using his Gas Producer Combustion System, Porta successfully converted the engine to operate on Rio Turbio coal (very similar to the low-grade coal burned in the Union Pacific's locomotives), while maintaining the same performance it had achieved with the original fuel.
Porta achieved his successes through careful attention to small details and by the application of strict engineering principles to steam locomotive design. No single change could produce dramatic improvements; Porta applied many small improvements to areas that had been ignored before. These included items such as water treatment, lubrication, materials, servicing techniques, mechanical fasteners, and others. Not only was power and effiency greatly increased, but maintenance was greatly reduced and the operator's jobs were made easier. After a few years at the Rio Turbio, Porta moved back to Buenos Aires to join the Instituto Nacional de Tecnologica Industrial (INTI) where he became the head of the thermodynamics department. At INTI, Porta was able to devote time to thinking about the next generation of steam locomotives.
In 1969, the railways in Argentina seemed to suffer an epedemic of water quality problems, and they asked for Porta's assistance. 4-8-2 No. 1802 of the Belgrano Railway was chosen as a test engine, and Porta developed an on-board water treatment system based on the French TIA system. The water treatment system was so successful that it was eventually possible to operate the engine with boiler wash-outs only twice in a full year. The engine was also modified by Porta with multiple improvements, including improved exhaust, improved valve events, and a high adhesion tire profile.
4-8-2 #1802 (Baldwin 73545)
|Porta proposed several new designs for
steam locomotives for various railway
inquiries in the 1960's and 1970's,
incorporating his principals for greatly
increased efficiency, reliability, and
power. One proposal was a roller bearing, 3
cylinder compound meter gauge 2-10-0 for
Argentina. Before anyone had heard of ACE,
Porta had laid out a ultra-high pressure
(850 PSIG), 3 cylinder, triple expansion
compound 2-10-0 for U.S. fast freight
service. Bigger engines were considered for
the Rio Turbio to provide power to move much
longer coal trains. Initially, 2-10-10-2
mallets were proposed, but as the design was
fine-tuned it evolved into the monster shown
above. These massive 2-12-12-0's were
proposed as replacements for the 2-10-2's in
the 1970's to allow far heavier trains to be
operated, and a contract to construct them
in Argentinian shipyards was almost let.
Unfortunately, changed circumstances killed
the project. Other arrangements were
proposed for new locomotives even including
a massive Mallet-Garratt, but none of these
ever came to fruition.
Porta's 2-10-2's were doing the majority of the work on this remote rail line until November 1996 when they were gradually replaced by imported diesels. For more information on these engines go here:
Proposed "Third Generation" 2-10-0 for U.S. Fast Freight Service (~1978)
By 1980, Porta had developed a clear philosophy of steam design based on his over 30 years of work in the field. Porta's concept was that steam development could be broken down into three classes:
1- First Generation Steam (FGS)- Steam locomotives which had been previously built. He viewed the French designs as being the climax thermodynamically, while he considered American engines the best mechanically. No engines in existence had ever incorporated all of the proven concepts of FGS.
2- Second Generation Steam (SGS)- Steam locomotives which could be built immediately with little or no research and development, which would incorporate and maximize all proven thermodynamic principals for improved performance, plus state-of-the-art materials, design methods, and construction techniques.
3- Third Generation Steam (TGS)- Steam locomotives which would incorporate advanced concepts which would require significant research and development, best acquired through trials on SGS locomotives.
Porta felt that many existing steam locomotives could be significantly improved with the limits of FGS. He also believed that SGS locomotives could successfully compete on modern railroads, if they were given modern servicing facilities (as developed in the U.S. by the Norfolk & Western Railway) and if proper maintenance and operating techniques were used, which were equally important to good design.
In 1980, Porta was called in by American Coal Enterprises as the foremost authority on steam locomotive development. See the ACE page for information.
Other steam projects in the 1980's were performed by Porta. The railways of Paraguay, which operate a fleet of wood-burning locomotives, called him in to assist in modernizing their railways. At least one engine was modified with a GPCS adapted for wood and other improvements. Later, Porta moved on to Brazil to the famous Donna Teresa Christina coal-hauling railway. This railway was famous for its fleet of U.S. built meter gauge 2-10-4's. By the early 1980's, the 2-10-4's had worn out beyond the ability of the railways to rebuild them, and European built 2-10-2's were imported from other parts of South America. Porta was called in to see if the smoke emissions of the line's locomotives could be reduced. Naturally, the GPCS was just the answer to this, and one 2-8-2 and several of the 2-10-2's were so modified. Unfortunately, demand for coal from the mines has evidently declined in recent years and no further locomotives were modernized. Read more about these locomotives here.
photo by Gary Bensman
Cuban 2-8-0 No. 1816
No. 1816 after completion
on display at "Ecovapor 1999"
photo by Shaun McMahon