Sunday, 30 August 2009
This pic credit to Bill Navari. Enjoying a just-laid egg with my bacon yesterday at breakfast in the peace and quiet of the staff kitchen at Diplo Hall, my senses received a jangle - the wireless was calmly delivering news of the Jacee Duggard kidnap, a house-front interview with an enthusiastic neighbour - "..well, can't say as we ever paid'em no mind ....". Oh lordy, a train whistle - just a feint mournful chord, the smallest hint - yes, there it is again, louder now ".. he was kind'a weird, spooked me out a coupla times ..." unmistakable now - a short blast followed by much longer trailing sigh. Back to the studio, unfortunately, before we could really get into full swing and possibly enjoy the magical Doppler pitch change that tugs at the weakened heart strings and could have us reaching for the 'phone number of the Virgin booking desk. American railroads still have the magic for me, much as I enjoy the big diesel-electrics and their moaning "whistles", I can't fail to think of the big old steamers that were being produced in the '40s. I go along with enthusiasts of the UP Big Boys, very commanding stance and they had some spectacular scenery to run through making them the photographer's choice - this may be why we often hear of them as the "biggest" steamers. Well, not so, less photogenic and much less glamorous are the Alleghenies produced at the Lima Loco Works in Ohio. Probably most famous for their association with The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad these 2-6-6-6 monsters where something else. They had a very grubby career hauling coal out of West Virginia, Eastwards over the Allegheny Mountains. Trains of 140 coal trucks with one header and a second loco pushing (just for the upgrade to a 2600 ft pass) plied this route from Hinton WV to Clifton Forge VA from '41 to '56 when diesel retired them. Lima built 60 (yes 60) of these for C&O, the first batch of ten in '41 for $270,000 each !!! They were specifically designed for the arduous climbing duties that were required of them - a massive boiler fed (at 260 psi) four cylinders of 22.5" bore, 33" stroke which drove twelve 67" drivers with a tractive effort of over 50 tons, the loco itself weighed 347 tons and at 40 mph was producing around 7,500 horsepower. The tender carried 25,000 gallons of water and 25 tonnes of coal. Can you imagine driving that ? MORE EFFORT !