• PRR T1 Steam Loco Trust (Rebuild 5550)

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

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  by Fan Railer
This would be great to see in operation:
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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. The PRR T1 represents the pinnacle of steam locomotive design in the United States. These locomotives had the capability of achieving speeds in excess of 120 mph, and anecdotal reports indicate that speeds of up to 140 mph were attained. In all, 52 class T1 locomotives were produced, 25 at the PRR's Altoona shops and 27 at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. Sadly, not a single example of this magnificent machine escaped the scrapper's torch.

The production of PRR T1 5550 will fill a large gap in historical locomotive preservation. Perhaps more importantly, this locomotive will inject new life blood into an aging heritage fleet. Most US built steam locomotives operating today are over 60 years old. Wear and tear are taking their toll. Efforts such as this one, to create a powerful new machine, will become increasingly important if steam excursion service is to be present in another 60 years.


1. How Much Will It Cost?
The short answer is 10 million dollars.
How did we get there? That's the fun part, but only if you like math. There are several ways to approach the question.
The most obvious way to estimate cost might be to consider inflation. The average cost of a T1 in 1945 was about $320,000. Using data from the Federal Reserve, and its Consumer Price Index (CPI), the cost of a new T1 in 2013 is an estimated $4,175,324.68. Unfortunately, that number does not take into account lost skills, knowledge, and tooling that will have to be relearned, rebuilt, or replaced with modern alternatives as the T1 project progreses. In the worst case scenario, the cost could be seven times as high. Consider for a moment the following example. An original A1 built in Darlington cost £16,000 in 1948. The inflation in Britain over the time period 1948 to 2008 was 2,623%. At that rate, one would expect the final cost of Tornado to be £419,680. It was in fact more, seven times more. The final price tag for Tornado was in excess of £3 million. Why is that? In many instances batch production tends to spread cost, whereas the production of a single unit tends to add cost. There is however a silver lining. In the case of Tornado cost savings of up to 33% of the original cost were achieved during some stages of construction. For example, fabricating a disposable mold used for one part is less expensive than manufacturing a mold which will be used repeatedly to produce 50 parts. In order to reduce expense, the 5550's construction will employ modern techniques such as CNC, and rapid prototyping when, and where-ever possible. Smaller castings with specialized joints for welding may help to further reduce costs, especially in the case of the T1's large frame.

Another method of calculating cost, is to do so by weight. Tornado weighs 167 tons and cost 5 million dollars. That's a cost of $30,000 per ton for Tornado, and we'll use that to calculate the T1's cost based on its weight. Depending on who you read, production model T1 weight is reported from 318 to 346 tons. The average is 332 tons, almost exactly twice the weight of Tornado. So that should be just about twice the cost, or $9,960,000. Let's call it 10 million. Next, we consider total heating surface, and firegrate area. Total heating surface for Tornado is 2,461 sqft, and at a total cost of 5 million dollars, that's $2,031 per sqft. Total heating surface for the T1 is 5,639 sqft, at $2031 per sqft, that's $11,452,809. Turning to firegrate area, Tornado has a grate area of 50 sqft, and that's pricey real estate at $100,000 per square foot. Grate area for a T1 is 92 sqft, so 9.2 million dollars.

Finally, we look at length. Tornado measures 73' buffer to buffer. That's $68,500 per foot. The T1's wheelbase is 107' which gives us $7,329,500. That helps take the edge off the earlier 11.45 million dollar figure. In the end, it's going to come in really close to 10 million dollars.