• How do you "MU" Steam Locomotives?

  • Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads
Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads

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  by gprimr1
I was thinking about my time in MA today and I remembered in a restaurant seeing a picture of two steam locomotives pulling a train up a mountain.

Now I know in today's modern world, we have train line cables which let engine computers communicate. The head end of the Vermonter can talk to the back end and each provide 50% of the power, down to a science. An engineer leading 4 engines can sometimes isolate the head unit, but still control the others.

So how did they do it back them? How did they keep the two engines working together?

Or was what I saw an inaccurate historical recreation?
  by DutchRailnut
a Double header, each engine with its own crew, lead engine controls brakes, and power, the power commands were given by by lead engineer and his whistle to second engineer.
sometimes very little whistle commands were needed, the second engineer would listen to stack noise from first engine and just follow suit.
  by eddiebehr
Some roads had four or more steamers on heavy trains. Sometimes one or two on head end, one cut into the middle and one or two pushers. And this was not always in the Western U. S. or Canadian Rockies. WM was one Eastern road that had multiple steams engines on heavy coal trains.
  by David Benton
i have been on a couple of double headed steam train excurisons . there certainly didnt seem to be any problems with jerking or other ride problems due to the 2 independently operated engines .if anything it was smoother than a single loco , as the 2 tended to smooth each other out .
  by D.Carleton
If you ignore the diesel gibberish at the end this is a rather good thread to peruse.
  by 2nd trick op
One factor that hasn't been raised here yet is that while steam-era engineers would "bunch up" the slack between the cars for easier starting, (but a rougher ride and more damage to freight), Diesel power required the train to be stretched out before full power was applied, to minimize the risk of breaking a drawbar.

Haven't seen that point noted in quite a while .... and the number of people who remember steam and could offer a first-hand comment is dwindling.

And as an asdie to eddiebear's post, PRR operated coal and ore moves on its Northern Region (Harrisburg-Williamsport-Renovo-Buffalo and branches) with up to four locos - usually I-1 2-10-0''s, until the last days of steam. The Pennsy Decapods were reportedly nototrious for a rough ride, but if the commodity hauled is damage-proof .....
  by hi55us
Kinda of a strech, but if anyone has been on the green line in boston this is how 2 car trains work, with an engineer in each car.
  by Komachi
I happened to chat with the former depot agent from my hometown about this subject not too long ago. His response was akin to DutchRailnut's posting. From what he siad, the engineers knew the given route well enough, that they knew what the power requirements were and could adjust their speed accordingly.
  by Aa3rt
Greg-I believe your question has already been answered by the follow up posts already presented. Both 2nd trick op and eddiebehr have mentioned eastern railroads (WM & PRR) where multiple locomotives were used on single trains, each locomotive being operated by its own engineer. In fact, the Western Maryland used to regularly use 7 or 8 locomotives on one train in mountainous West Virginia.

At the risk of taking this thread too far off topic, the only example that I'm aware of where a steam locomotive was "remotely controlled", was on Great Britain's Great Western Railway where small tank engines (0-4-2's or 0-6-0's) powering a passenger train were coupled to what we would today call a "cab-car" with an arrangement of mechanical levers connecting the cab to the controls of the locomotive. These were commonly referred to as "Auto Trains".

More information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GWR_Autocoach

Note that this arrangement was only used when the cab car was coupled directly to the locomotive. The text notes that if more than one passenger car was used, the locomotive was usually "spliced" between the passenger cars. The locomotive still needed the services of the fireman in the locomotive cab.

A video of one of these trains on the Bluebell Railway:

  by Juniatha
Hi everybody

SNCF in France and DB in Germany also had bi-directional operation commuter trains with steam:

On the SNCF the system was inaugurated by the NORD railway, operating commuters from Paris to the suburbs and vicinities. Locos were de Caso designed powerful 2-8-2 tank engines equipped with remote control of throttle and cut-off from a driver’s cab at the head of the leading coach the other side of the train. Brake control was then directly from that car. The fireman remained on board the loco. These 141.TC class tank engines worked stack-in-front at the head of train out of Gare du Nord and in reverse remaining at was then end of train on the return leg, remote controlled from driver’s cab in leading coach.

On DB a similar system was established with 65 class 2-8-4 tank engines working from Darmstadt into the hilly surroundings and with T18 series (DR / DB 78 class) 4-6-4 tank engines working commuters in the Hamburg area. It was also installed on Munich based P8 series (DR / DB 38 class) TenWheelers while the T18 of Munich ran around the train at Holzkirchen, end of out-bound run, to do the return leg in reverse if heading train.

The French system was somewhat more sophisticated – what else would you expect – than the German one in that on DB the fireman had to assist in driving by adjusting cut-off. Reportedly, both French and German crews did not really like this kind of operation: drivers lacked the feel of response from the loco and working in isolation without a little cab chatting sure must have felt somewhat unsocial, I guess.
Bi-directional working continued with diesel and electric traction until loco-&-train commuters again got replaced by MU-trains with cabs at both ends.

Below you find a side elevation of the de Caso 2-8-2 tank engine, series 4.1200 of the Chemin de Fer du Nord (SNCF series 141.TC)
and a data table comparing the series (at right) with other French 2-8-2 t and the German standard type 86 class

= J =