The High-Stepping Beauties



Joseph stood on the platform, his eyes tightly shut, straining with his whole self to hear the whistle. It was time. The schedule said it was time, the whistle would tell. There it was, the distant chime. It was the first notes of a hymn always played by Mr. Schneider. Then there was the cloud . . . all white steam. And then the engine, a gleaming sparkling thing of power. Big wheels with bright red centers, shining rods dancing up and down like they were at a ball, glittering brass, blue trim, and sparkling iron. Under the window of the cab it said “Thomas.” Joseph was excited. And today, he was to go, to Grandma’s.

As time passes in Grantville, geared locomotives will not meet all the needs of the railroads. Stronger, faster locomotives will be needed to fill the demands that shipping and transporting people will bring. While geared locomotives are strong enough, they are, by their very nature, slower; and longer distances will require higher speeds for the trains.

The faster locomotives will probably be what is known today as American-class locomotives. This locomotive has a four-wheel pilot truck and four driving wheels; with a pilot wheel being about 24 inches in diameter, and a driving wheel being as much as 70 inches in diameter. It was commonly designated as a 4-4-0, and was the first truly successful class of locomotive made in North America. The four-wheel pilot allowed the locomotive to follow tight curves on relatively rough track, and the four drivers allowed a balanced and even application of power from the cylinders to the track.

These locomotives weigh somewhere between 20 and 90 tons, and should be able to pull about 15 full-size passenger cars or 25 to 33 freight cars. The locomotives are known as dual-purpose locomotives, because they can haul freight or passengers, with almost equal capacity.

The first locomotives in this class built after the Ring of Fire will probably have wooden frames with the cylinders bolted on. Also, all the running gear and suspension will be bolted to the wooden frame. The driving wheels will be large castings made of iron with steel tires fitted to the outside of the wheel. The drivers will also need counterbalancing weights cast into the wheel itself. This balances the thrust from the cylinders and the driving rods.

The complicated form of the drivers will require significant progress in casting large pieces of iron. The cylinders of the locomotive will probably be around 15 inches in diameter and will also be cast of iron. They then must be bored out to the piston diameter. Steam enters into the cylinders via a valve system, which will select the proper end of the cylinder for the entry of steam, allowing the cylinder to both push and pull, making it dual acting. The valves are controlled from a cam mounted on one of the axles of the driving wheels. Fuel and water for the locomotive will be supplied from a tender that will be attached permanently to the back of the locomotive. The drivers and pilot wheels will all be mounted on springs and connected so as to be equalized. This will allow the entire weight of the locomotive to be evenly distributed upon the wheels. The equalization will be set up so as to provide three points of balance. In a 4-4-0 this is usually achieved by equalizing the two drivers on each side of the locomotive as separate units, and then having the pilot truck as the third point of equalization. This creates a kind of tripod that balances the locomotive and improves its performance. Equalizing means that two or more wheels are connected together in their suspension by means of springs and levers, thus creating a single load-bearing platform.

The largest challenges involved in building these locomotives are in the large castings required from the cast iron industry and the precise machining required to make everything work smoothly. Several new types of machine tools will have to be built in order to finish the parts needed for the locomotive. The most important of these will be the cylinder-boring machine and the wheel lathes. Boring machines will probably be mounted directly to the castings of the cylinder blocks and will bore straight through the cylinder. This will not be possible until after they have been aligned using precision measuring equipment. The wheel lathes will need to be big enough to turn the diameter of the wheels and also to turn the profile of the tires mounted on the wheels. Most wheel lathes will have an attachment that allows the crank pin on the wheel to be machined so that it is in perfect alignment with the axles. Specifications and standards for these machines are available in the Machinery’s Handbook which is available in the machine shops that came back through the Ring of Fire.

By the time these locomotives are needed, a locomotive and machinery works should be in existence. Therefore, large crews of workers will be available for the construction of these machines. The prototype, or first locomotives, of this class will probably take two or three months to build, but following locomotives should be completed in much less time. This will tend to create a group of locomotives that operate and are maintained in a similar manner. Furthermore, until we have a lot more locomotives and service, it is most likely the locomotives will have names and not numbers.

I feel that the 4-4-0 locomotive will be selected by the locomotive builders primarily because of its ability to fulfill the need for a better class of locomotive, but also because of the romantic attachment that most of the steam enthusiasts have to this particular locomotive style. Indeed, these locomotives, when they were made in the 1800s, were known as the High-Stepping Beauties.

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