Have You Ever Wondered?

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Mountain Man

Well-Known Member
Have you ever wondered why the mountainous narrow gauged mining railroads in the Rockies never sued geared locomotives?

I wonder about it every time I read something about them - step grades, low speeds and always needed to double-head for as little as five pieces of rolling stock or less.
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
I know what you meant. :)

Geared locomotives are slow. And they tend to be light. So, where a rodded engine on narrow gauge might weigh 90 tons loaded up, a geared locomotive might weigh only 70 tons loaded up. There is a healthy range, of course, but I'm using a general comparative, all things considered across roads. And, being geared, a geared engine's top speed will be near 20 mph, compared to the rodded engine's top speed closer to 50 mph.

So, while the advantages of a geared locomotive make it suitable for rough tracks and short distances, the narrow gauge lines in the Rockies had runs between stops nearing 15 miles, even further. When you go on to compare their respective tractive efforts, the rodded engine wins out rather convincingly in terms of ton-miles over time.

The grades at Cass, and in the back woods, tend to be in the 6% range, which is where the rodded engine falls back. But on the Durango and Silverton, and the others, if they get to a section in the 4% range, they simply add a helper. But a single engine can get most of the way, and still average above 20 mph with about the same load or more.
 
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Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Have you ever wondered why the mountainous narrow gauged mining railroads in the Rockies never used geared locomotives?

I wonder about it every time I read something about them - step grades, low speeds and always needed to double-head for as little as five pieces of rolling stock or less.
What mining railroads in the Rockies are you referring to? I have or can get access to books on most of them and look it up. For example the Florence & Cripple Creek was also in commuter service with the Denver & Rio Grande from Denver to Cripple Creek. It had six passenger trains daily, and at least as many freights squeezing through the Phantom Canyon. I am guessing there is no way they would want to let it clog up with a slow moving geared locomotives.

But no I have never wondered about the primary question.
 
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Mountain Man

Well-Known Member
I know what you meant. :)

Geared locomotives are slow. And they tend to be light. So, where a rodded engine on narrow gauge might weigh 90 tons loaded up, a geared locomotive might weigh only 70 tons loaded up. There is a healthy range, of course, but I'm using a general comparative, all things considered across roads. And, being geared, a geared engine's top speed will be near 20 mph, compared to the rodded engine's top speed closer to 50 mph.

So, while the advantages of a geared locomotive make it suitable for rough tracks and short distances, the narrow gauge lines in the Rockies had runs between stops nearing 15 miles, even further. When you go on to compare their respective tractive efforts, the rodded engine wins out rather convincingly in terms of ton-miles over time.

The grades at Cass, and in the back woods, tend to be in the 6% range, which is where the rodded engine falls back. But on the Durango and Silverton, and the others, if they get to a section in the 4% range, they simply add a helper. But a single engine can get most of the way, and still average above 20 mph with about the same load or more.
Excellent points; however, the speed limit of most of the mountain mining railroads was, in fact, only 20 mph. Steep grades and tight curves plus loads drastically limited the speed at which a train could be safely operated. Take a look at the Florence and cripple Creek narrow gauge railroad as a perfect example of the type. 4% ruling grade and 6% maximum grade, and everything headed uphill needed a helper. Meanwhile,anybody going faster than 20 mph on the Durango and Silverton would have been a dead man!

Helpers, BTW, must be kept steamed up and ready to go, crew and all, all day long at additional expense, If you have to climb, why not use only one loco to do it with?

So the geared locos perfectly fit the needs of those mountain railroads - good tractive effort, able to handle heavy loads and steep grades without the need to constantly double-head at twice the operating expense.

So again, I find myelf wondering why those railroads did not make use of more suitable engines? One or two of them did, in fact, but the habit doesn't seem to have caught on.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Seems like the Florence & Cripple Creek started with leased power from the D&RG all built before 1882. Perhaps there weren't any gear locomotives to lease? They then purchased new consolidateds from Baldwin, then later a few ten wheelers for passenger service from Schenectady. Just skimming through, of course, I cannot find anything in any reference I can lay hands on that says why they choose those types of locomotives.
"Cripple Creek Railroads" Leland Fritz
"A history of the Florence & Cripple Creek and Golden Circle Railroads" Wilkins
Somewhere I have two more but can't find them McClellan's "A Colorado Shortline" and can't even remember the author of "The Gold Belt Line"

According to "Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad" by Allan Lewis the helper district was from Cramer to Alta Vista. The helper engines also worked the Vesta Branch, and "rounded up empties at Florence and Cyanide". Looking at maps that was about 23 miles of helper.

Below is one of the schedules I found in same book. So my theory doesn't hold and at least from a pure schedule perspective I believe if they ran the loco full throttle and it could reach and sustain near max speed, one of the large 3 or 4 truck shay type of geared locomotive could have worked in the helper district. Oh you know *&@&^$#^what...! I just realized I calculated the speeds on the downhill side of the schedule. Looks like it is taking 19 minutes longer through the helpler in the uphill direction. That would make the argument better for the geared loco.

I still think over all the geared locomotives would have been more practical on the tens of Colorado railroads that were actually specifically for mining rather than the common carriers. for example the F&CC would not had to swap locos at the beginning and end of the helper district. I am thinking of things like the Otto Mear's lines Silverton Railroad, Silverton Northern, and Silverton Gladstone and Northerly Railroad. The whole topic does make one wonder if these railroads even considered other types of locos than what they were accustomed to from their known history. Maybe these locos were just too "new fangled" technology at the time??!?
florence&cripplecreektimetable.jpg
 

Selector

Well-Known Member
Excellent points; however, the speed limit of most of the mountain mining railroads was, in fact, only 20 mph. Steep grades and tight curves plus loads drastically limited the speed at which a train could be safely operated. Take a look at the Florence and cripple Creek narrow gauge railroad as a perfect example of the type. 4% ruling grade and 6% maximum grade, and everything headed uphill needed a helper. Meanwhile,anybody going faster than 20 mph on the Durango and Silverton would have been a dead man!

Helpers, BTW, must be kept steamed up and ready to go, crew and all, all day long at additional expense, If you have to climb, why not use only one loco to do it with?

So the geared locos perfectly fit the needs of those mountain railroads - good tractive effort, able to handle heavy loads and steep grades without the need to constantly double-head at twice the operating expense.

So again, I find myelf wondering why those railroads did not make use of more suitable engines? One or two of them did, in fact, but the habit doesn't seem to have caught on.
Trains are timetabled. The helper can be one engine doing uphill...or downhill braking...work. It needn't be more than one engine on a single main line. Where there is a pinch point, and two trains meet, then you'd have two helpers. A rodded engine would be able to take at least the same load, with the occasional boost, but somewhat faster. If you look at videos of the D&S, you'll soon see there are plenty of opportunities to speed up to 30 mph, far in excess of what a geared locomotive can do. How about down grade, where the line warrants, say, 40 mph? The geared locomotive is again out of play.

Obviously, there are compromises and risks to be considered. You wouldn't run a heavy consist down 4.6% grades at 40 mph if you knew there was a 10 degree curve coming up in 600 meters. But, you could accelerate out of the last curve, run for most of a mile, and then slow for the next curve, say across the flats or a run mostly paralleling a river, which tends to run through a valley with some meandering.

Bottom line, leaving speed out, a heavy model two-truck Heisler might top out at 39K in TE, whereas a K-59 was closer to 62K TE. That's a whack of freight, and it's more powerful boiler could run all that freight at the same speed if the line were speed limited throughout. The K-59 was standard gauge, though, so we would compare the K-36 with the Heisler, and they compare in tractive effort. If I were running, and optimizing, a narrow gauge railroad like the Cumbres & Toltec, or the Rio Grande Southern, I would want to move tonnage as quickly as I can. That means a rodded engine.
 
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GeeTee

Well-Known Member
As a general rule narrow gauge as a whole is unsuitable for heavy mining . you need heavy rail to support the loads. Thats why when you look at narrow guage railroads its mainly boxcars and flats. In addition most of the mining in the Rockies is Silver and Gold , It makes more sense to process on site thousands of tons of ore , to get a few ounces of precious metal , which can easily be transported in boxcar or baggage car. The main function of the railroad is to bring in the heavy equipment , supplies , and fuel for the operation.

Most of coal mining is on the Overland Route ...UP standard gauge.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Trains are timetabled. The helper can be one engine doing uphill...or downhill braking...work. It needn't be more than one engine on a single main line. Where there is a pinch point, and two trains meet, then you'd have two helpers. A rodded engine would be able to take at least the same load, with the occasional boost, but somewhat faster. If you look at videos of the D&S, you'll soon see there are plenty of opportunities to speed up to 30 mph, far in excess of what a geared locomotive can do. How about down grade, where the line warrants, say, 40 mph?
Exactly, even if the locomotive can make the schedule speed at full throttle, the schedule is actually an average over the time. There are stops and meets in there. So a train has to be able to exceed the mph per segment in order to make the average. I stopped for a meet for 12 minutes. I now have to make up that 12 minutes somehow.
 

Mountain Man

Well-Known Member
Seems like the Florence & Cripple Creek started with leased power from the D&RG all built before 1882. Perhaps there weren't any gear locomotives to lease? They then purchased new consolidateds from Baldwin, then later a few ten wheelers for passenger service from Schenectady. Just skimming through, of course, I cannot find anything in any reference I can lay hands on that says why they choose those types of locomotives.
"Cripple Creek Railroads" Leland Fritz
"A history of the Florence & Cripple Creek and Golden Circle Railroads" Wilkins
Somewhere I have two more but can't find them McClellan's "A Colorado Shortline" and can't even remember the author of "The Gold Belt Line"

According to "Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad" by Allan Lewis the helper district was from Cramer to Alta Vista. The helper engines also worked the Vesta Branch, and "rounded up empties at Florence and Cyanide". Looking at maps that was about 23 miles of helper.

Below is one of the schedules I found in same book. So my theory doesn't hold and at least from a pure schedule perspective I believe if they ran the loco full throttle and it could reach and sustain near max speed, one of the large 3 or 4 truck shay type of geared locomotive could have worked in the helper district. Oh you know *&@&^$#^what...! I just realized I calculated the speeds on the downhill side of the schedule. Looks like it is taking 19 minutes longer through the helpler in the uphill direction. That would make the argument better for the geared loco.

I still think over all the geared locomotives would have been more practical on the tens of Colorado railroads that were actually specifically for mining rather than the common carriers. for example the F&CC would not had to swap locos at the beginning and end of the helper district. I am thinking of things like the Otto Mear's lines Silverton Railroad, Silverton Northern, and Silverton Gladstone and Northerly Railroad. The whole topic does make one wonder if these railroads even considered other types of locos than what they were accustomed to from their known history. Maybe these locos were just too "new fangled" technology at the time??!?
View attachment 125824
Exactly, and especially for some of those railroads like the Argentine branch of the DR&G.

Another factor I failed to mention was the heavy cost of upgrading the rails thremselves. The narrow gaugers were laid rapidly with light rail, after which followed a constant process of replacing that rail with heavier and heavier rail to accommodate the necessary newer and heavier locomotives, and filling in the wooden trestles before it became necessary to replace those as well, and for the mining rr's, speed was never really the issue. Profit was.

The Cripple Creek Railrod faced a huge amount of competition from three other railroads, one of them - the Midland - a standard gauge. Meanwhile, the Durango and Silverton and some few others ended up with the biggest, heaviest narrow gauge locos ever built - the K-36.

1615587860946.png
 

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GeeTee

Well-Known Member
speed was never really the issue. Profit was.
Speed and profit are inextricably linked. Slower locomotives means you have to buy more locomotives to do the same job leading to higher capital investment. The faster you haul , the more you can haul , at a cheaper price ( the labor cost is the same at 60 mph or 30 mph).

Even a geared locomotive with the same size boiler can't move freight fast enough on any railroad. The shaft speeds are simply to high the locomotive would tear itself apart. The higher shaft speeds lead to higher wear on the piston and cylinders causing failures and high maintenance costs.

The only place a geared locomotive makes any sense is in logging , where the capacity is underutilized. And thats usually the only place you find them.
 

Mountain Man

Well-Known Member
Speed and profit are inextricably linked. Slower locomotives means you have to buy more locomotives to do the same job leading to higher capital investment. The faster you haul , the more you can haul , at a cheaper price ( the labor cost is the same at 60 mph or 30 mph).

Even a geared locomotive with the same size boiler can't move freight fast enough on any railroad. The shaft speeds are simply to high the locomotive would tear itself apart. The higher shaft speeds lead to higher wear on the piston and cylinders causing failures and high maintenance costs.

The only place a geared locomotive makes any sense is in logging , where the capacity is underutilized. And that's usually the only place you find them.
True, but adding a helper doubles the fuel, crew and maintenance costs for the same weight of freight, and on a line like the Florence and Cripple creek, 20 mph is the safe max anyway. The crews had to lock down the brakes drifting back down just to stay on the tracks! Th only engineer to ever make a run for it was outrunning a flood coming down Phantom Canyon right behind him, and he barely made it!

And for a total of four box cars and a caboose, two locos is a high cost.

And then there is the wonder of the Argentine Line, who laid track all the way to the summit of Mt. McClellan- over 11,000 feet! - just to carry wildflower excursions for about one month out of the year! Fuel alone made that a lousy business venture, and he had to break the cardinal rule about backing a train full of passengers down the steep grade all the way back.

All in all, I still can't help but consider the geared locos the best bet for this particular vertical stretch of railroading, seen below:

1615836702452.png


BTW, that is definitely "end of track"! (When they final tore up the track after abandonment, the snowdrifts prevented the operation for SIX years!!!)

Lest you think this is an exaggerated example, herewith the typical geography from Florence up Phantom Canyon to Victor and Cripple Creek:
1615837364874.png


Note the "sweeping, gentle curves..." This kind of terrain and grade are typical of the mining railroads on the High Rockies. Incidentally, the railroad crossed the river 28 times in the entire 22 mile journey - 20 mph or swim!
 
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