Discussion relating to the PRR, up to 1968. Visit the PRR Technical & Historical Society for more information.
  by Allen Hazen
We've had some discussions suggesting that the T-1 may not have been as bad as popularly supposed; I've just been looking at something that suggests the Q-2 might also have been better than its comparatively early retirement (most out of service by 1952, all sold for scrap by 1955, at which time there were still J1 in service!) suggests.

The Q-2 was retired because of high costs. I have seen references to their fuel and water appetites, but I doubt that their consumption relative to their power was out of line: they were just big! So the main cost problem would have been maintenance. "At Columbus Shop, the Q2 cost over $30,000 to perform intermediate work that cost less than $20,000 on a J1" (quoted from book cited below). Not all that surprising: a Q-2 had twice as many cylinders as a J-1, and had a number of unusual (at least on the PRR) "hi-tech" features.

But... "The consensus of these people [I think that refers to PRR maintenance types-AH] was that if the Q2 would have significantly outperformed the J1 it might have been worth the effort, but the locomotives were so close in actual performance that it was not worth the extra cost." So: in normal use, the PRR wasn't getting any more train-pulling work out of a Q-2 than it got out of a simpler, lower-maintenance J-1. Which, given the far higher power the Q-2 attained on test is a bit surprising....

"The 50 m.p.h. general freight train speed limit effectively eliminated any horsepower advantage the Q2 had over the J1, so operating costs became the determinant." !!! The Q-2 was designed for fast-freight service: internal PRR documents when it was being designed and built refer to it as a "High Speed Freight Locomotive." Apparently, however, its superiority over the J-1 only became noticeable at... speeds higher than the PRR ran freight trains!

So, fantasy: suppose the PRR had decided to go to "mile-a-minute" freight service between Pittsburgh and Chicago. (O.k., they may have had good economic reason not to try that: I said this was a fantasy. If you want to make a plausible "alternative history" scenario, maybe you could have the containerization revolution take place a few decades earlier than in @ (that is, than in the actual world), and imagine the PRR running fleets of intermodal trains in 1949.) Perhaps in this service the higher capacity of the Q-2 would have been put to good use. In other words, maybe the early retirement of the Q-2 doesn't reflect an intrinsic inferiority of the design, but an "environmental" condition: the Q-2 was adapted to a niche that didn't, on the PRR in the WW II / Korean War period, exist.


Thoughs occasioned by looking at "Pennsy Q Class: classic power 5" by E.T. Harley, published by N.J. International -- I can't find a date on it, but the LC number given starts with 82, so probably within a yaear or two of 1982. Quotations are from this book, which reproduces some PRR paperwork referring to the Q-2 class as a "High Speed Freight Locomotive."

(Also posted to "Steam Locomotives" forum.)
  by mp15ac
One of the best observations made about the Duplexes (T1 and Q2 especially) was that even if they were 100% perfect, 76 locos out of a fleet of several thousand would probably not made much of a difference. Dieselization would most likely have happened anyway, and probably at the same pace that it did occur.

  by jaygee
Alas, the issues with the Q2, and T1 go far beyond the locomotives themselves. Any modern steam power of that time
was doomed by economic pressures that were only trivial when the machines were designed. Even the incomparable
Texas Jay ultimately lost out to being too large for effective system wide use, obsolete work and labor cost issues,
infrastructure costs, and the usual items associated with steam power. Had PRR not been feeling the financial heat
in the early fifties, Dieselization could have come perhaps a year or so earlier than it did.