05 September 2023

Not Old West

The vid of Santa Fe No. 3751 and some of the Big Boy from Union Pacific No. X4014 reminded me that many of these steam locomotives are not as old as lots of people think they are.

Diesel didn't really take over until the 1960's.  Diesel-Electric, to be precise.

No. 3751 was made in 1927 by Baldwin Locomotive Works.

No. X4014 was made in 1941 by the American Locomotive Company.

People have an image of steam being long gone by the time WW2 started.

The oldest engines running in the US are younger than the "Old West."

Hard to find one that's older than the 1920's that still hauls anything.

The older ones are narrow gauge.


  1. Steam was still a thing in back areas up to the 70's here in the US, mostly mining trains in weird areas.

    Steam still is a thing elsewhere in the world.

    One wonders if small reactors could bring back the age of steam, with triple expansion systems and all that. Probably not.

    1. There were some experiments comparing steam and diesel on IIRC Norfolk Southern in the 70s. Steam locomotives required more hours of servicing and were much harder on track, which would increase track maintenance requirements. Diesels require less servicing, distribute track loads better and operationally more flexible. It's less romantic and individual units are less powerful but more efficient. Diesels are like Lego, you can assemble multiple units, add radio controlled locomotives. mid train, form slug sets for more power and in passenger service use a control car for push pull operations

  2. China was still building new steam engines up until the 1980s. Supposedly one of the last ones made in China was bought by the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad in Central Iowa. Of course it is totally a touristy thing, not serious passenger transport.


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