• When was the dynamo introduced?

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

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  by SteamTourist
Hi everybody,

What year was the dynamo introduced to steam locomotives? Thanks!

  by Eliphaz
I can tell you the Siemens dynamo was introduced in 1867, and it was probobly a few years before a commercial system for railroads appeared.
  by SteamTourist
Thanks! Very specific follow up question, Would the two trains that met at promontory summit in 1869 have dynamos? Do the replicas that are at the park in utah now have them?
  by Eliphaz
no, and no. Those big boxes are either oil, or carbide gas burning lamps.
  by Allen Hazen
Thanks, Eliphaz, for the date of original invention of the dynamo! In a steam locomotive context the interesting question is how MUCH later did the use of dynamo-powered electric headlights become common on locomotives? I tried to look this up, but neither of the steam locomotive defence/history books I own (Alfred Bruce and Angus Sinclair) seem to have anything about headlights or dynamos.

Looking at Stauffer's "Pennsy Power," I think it MAYbe that the Pennsylvania Railroad didn't start using dynamos and electric headlights until 1900 or so. Their standard mounting (in the 1920s/1930s, say: at the end of the steam era they moved the dynamo to the front) had the dynamo on top of the smoke-box, just aft of the headlight (which was mounted high on the front of the boiler-- top of headlight above top of smokebox). This is very visible in side views. On the other hand, photos of late 19th C power, and even some from the very beginning of the 20th C, show big, boxy, headlights with a "finial" at the top that may be an exhaust outlet for an oil or gas burning light, and do NOT show dynamos behind them.

Sorry I can't be more informative: the books I thought might answer the question didn't. The PRR photos... well, my guess about them is what I have written, but I can't be sure: it's possible that early electric headlights were housed in boxes like the preceding oil or bass ones, and the dynamo might have been mounted somewhere else.
  by Steffen
Well, from the point of view from Germany, the dynamo was known in the 19. century - founded by Siemens. The Problem was, that there wasn't a small unit available to propel it. Dynamos in the past were huge and heavy, driven by complex water wheels and turbines, as well as large and heavy steam engines.
With the introducing of steam turbines - founded 1883 by Laval - this started to change.
It took time, and after the first world war the Laval tubine was small enough to drive a small generator and thus the steam turboset was born, which meaned turbine and generator on the same shaft.
This was later give birth to the AEG locomotive generator, and thus lead to electric illumination of steam locomotives in Germany, but this happend within the years 1920 to 1930... there was no improvement of this auxillary engine.
  by SteamTourist
Thanks guys!

All of this is invaluable info. I posted this question because I came to the same conclusion during my research, I can't find any definitive info on when the dynamo became widely used.
  by Eliphaz
Pyle-National was the first big name in electric lighting in North America.
The earliest date I could find is their 1895 patent locomotive headlight.

edit to add 1918 operating manual(pdf)