Fire Breathing Hogs


Engineer Lothar Schneider walked into the crew office. Glancing up he checked out the assignment boards and spotted his name. Yeah, there it was. He had received the first run.

He turned and saw his fireman hang up his time card. “Otto, are you ready?”

Otto sauntered over, wiping beer from his mustache. He must have just come from breakfast at the inn. “Ja, I think so.”

Lothar stuck his thumbs in his overalls. He was very proud of this opportunity. “Today we are assigned to the large new engine on its first run.”

Otto pulled the job assignment board off the wall, and looked at all the pages. “Lothar, are you sure it will pull a train that big?”

The engineer nodded. “The Locomotive Werk says it will. They have not been wrong before.”

Out in the yard the hostler, Carl, had placed the engine on the drill track. Lothar started at the nose, walked down the fireman side, and around the tender at the rear, then all the way back to the engineer window.

The hostler came out and followed Lothar on his inspection walk. “This locomotive’s a real monster, with twice as many driving wheels as anything anybody has ever seen before. Do you think you can handle it, Lothar?”

Without answering the hostler, Lothar and Otto climbed into the cab. The hostler had done his work well. There was a full head of steam and the fire was burning nicely.

Lothar stuck his head out of his window. “Yes, Carl. I think we can handle it. You got everything just right.”

Otto put the lunch buckets on the oil shelf attached to the backhead. Together they made the checks to see that all was ready. Lothar opened the starting cocks, grabbed the throttle, and notched the link up. Gently easing the throttle open, toggling the sanders and adding a little sand to the track, he began to move the giant machine.

* * *

Industrialization the way we have described it in the 1632 universe will demand enormous amounts of material to be moved from one location to another. Perhaps the largest material movement will be that of supplies and raw materials for the steel industry. In the quantities we need, steel cannot be made by hand. By 1635 steel manufacturing will need to be producing thousands of tons of steel a year. Each ton of steel requires the movement of three to five times as many tons of raw material that are required to produce one ton of steel. All of this material cannot be moved by hand with the available workforce. Also, all of this material does not exist on the production site and must be brought to the production area. This means that we have to move a lot of stuff to get to the industry level we want. Moving all that stuff will be mostly the job of the railroads and river barges. These are the only two forms of transportation that will have the capacity to move the quantities we need. This will require the railroads to grow in size and capacity, and it will require material-handling equipment for the barges.

In addition to material handling, transportation of people and transportation of finished goods will demand much higher capacity from the railroads. In fact, finished goods and agricultural production will consume much of the railroads’ capacity. Large urban areas are supported by the countryside around them. Food, finished goods, and many essentials will need to be transported into the cities from that countryside. This transportation, especially over a long distance, will require the railroads.


To increase in size, a railroad will need to put more track on the ground. This will require the acquisition of the right of way (the land the railroad is built on), and large gangs of men to build the railway. To increase capacity, the railroad will need more cars. These cars will need to be capable of moving the cargo that will be given to the railroads care in a safe and swift manner.

The increased capacity and the longer distances serviced by the larger railroads will mean more cargo will move across the rails. This will require longer and heavier trains. To move these trains, the railroad will need either multiple locomotives or a much stronger locomotive.

In our timeline the railroads responded to this need by first adding a third set of drivers and then almost immediately a fourth set of drivers to the locomotives. The Whyte classification of this locomotive is 2-8-0; meaning that the locomotive will have two pilot wheels and eight driving wheels. The locomotives were commonly called “Consolidations” in our timeline.

This class of locomotive was built in greater numbers than any other. The driving wheels were smaller in diameter than the wheels of dedicated passenger or even dual-purpose locomotives. With 55 or 60 inch drivers, the locomotives had a limited top speed but were able to pull much larger loads. This is because the smaller drivers allowed the use of more torque, giving a higher adhesion, and a much greater draw bar pull. At a weight of 60 to 200 tons these locomotives were the beginning of what we now call superpower. With a draw bar pull of 20,000 to 40,000 pounds they are capable of pulling 30 to 60 fully loaded freight cars. These locomotives became the backbone of the freight moving capability of the railroads.

In the new timeline, there will be a need to move really large quantities of raw materials. This will demand large, powerful, machinery. The locomotives don’t need to be very fast; top speeds of 45 to 60 miles an hour are more than sufficient, but they do need to be strong and reliable. The Consolidation class fulfills this need in every respect.

By the time the locomotives are needed, the Locomotive Works will need to have been moved outside of Grantville. A locomotive building shop is a large noisy industry. There will be a need for heavy tooling, large riveting equipment, and heavy fabrication machinery. The first of this class locomotives will probably be constructed by doubling the frame of a 4-4-0. This will also involve using larger cylinders and stronger driving rods. The suspension will probably be equalized by connecting the pilot truck and the first two drivers as one suspension point and coupling the rear three drivers on each side as the other two suspension points. This will allow a smooth operating, well suspended locomotive.

Build time for the prototype will probably be on the order of two to six months. The design will incorporate as much of modern technology as possible. This locomotive will be the core of the motive power pool available to the industry. With this locomotive the railroads in the new timeline will achieve a plateau in development that will not need to be changed for a fairly long period of time. Not until roadbed quality and speeds increase greatly will larger power be needed. With the addition of this class, locomotives will begin to be numbered rather than named, as there will be many more locomotives in existence.

Because of the information available from Grantville, interesting developments could be added to these locomotives. Automatic lubricators, roller bearings, and powered stokers will be well within the capabilities of the builders.

Another interesting thing to add would be a condensing tender. This was developed in Germany in the 1940s, and reduced the amount of water needed per run. What they did was run the exhaust steam back into the water supply where it was condensed and re-used. Draft for the locomotive was accomplished by using large blowers mounted in the smokestack.


All of these improvements would significantly increase the capacity and efficiency of the locomotive. Further, because of information out of Grantville, the large locomotives would be able to leap over many of the dead ends and false starts experienced in our timeline. In my opinion, this, added to the pictures from the sources in Grantville, would combine to create locomotives that would look much more 1950s than 1850s. Also there is a large emotional component about what a locomotive should look like. This might add to the modern appearance of the locomotive.

With this locomotive we have a fully mature motive power industry. By their very nature these locomotives will inspire the people of the USE. Large numbers of mechanics, boilermakers, steamfitters, and other trades will be needed. This will move large numbers of people away from agriculture and into industry, creating a technically-minded culture. This will cause enormous changes in society. Labor and management, accountability and the division of profit will become a real concern. The people in this industry will be the very definition of workers. Therefore, this locomotive could become a symbol of how technology changes culture.

* * *


Leave a Reply