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Submitted on
July 31, 2009
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An alternate evolution... by Atticus-W An alternate evolution... by Atticus-W
...of the oil-burning steam locomotive

I like to think that steam locomotives evolved the way they did for a reason... and when it comes to cab placement, that reason was fuel. The firebox and cab were always placed to the rear of a locomotive not for inherent convenience, but so that the crew could communicate while coal was being loaded by hand from a tender that was pulled behind the locomotive for safety’s sake. Thus, the crew had to perpetually peer around a huge boiler just to see ahead down the tracks... a significant nuisance that designers were quick to undo at the dawn of the diesel era.

So, my question of the day: why weren’t oil-burning locomotives built as cab-forwards as soon as oil-burning technology was developed, and a human stoker was no longer required to man the tender?
Well, the North Pacific Coast Railroad must have been thinking the same thing in 1901, because in that year they cobbled together a cab forward design out of a wrecked 4-4-0 by mounting a new oil-burning boiler “backwards” on the original chassis, putting the cab and firebox in front while preserving the stable 4-4-0 wheel arrangement. But engines aren’t really meant to be “cobbled,” and the resultantly awkward design, with the cylinders under the firebox, apparently didn’t perform very well and was shortly abandoned. But if the NPC had pursued the cab forward idea, they might have come up with a design like my first one up there... a Forney-like machine with a proper 4-4-0 wheel arrangement and a conventional engine-to-boiler layout. No complicated steam pipe plumbing to maintain, for starters...

The second design in my fictional cab forward history is the logical next step from the cab forward 4-4-0... the cab forward 4-6-0. This engine has a narrow-firebox boiler of nearly identical size to its coal-burning 4-6-0 counterparts of the era...

Finally, the third design is a cab forward “ Pacific”... in quotes because it is merely a rough counterpart to the true coal-burning Pacifics of the 1910s and ‘20s, and its 4-6-2 wheel arrangement is actually rather coincidental. The firebox doesn’t need a four-wheel truck to support it... the four-wheel truck on this design, like on the previous two designs, is necessary for speed, and is indeed designed more like a conventional lead truck than a conventional trailing truck (which is sort of the key to all cab forward designs, here and in real life). The two-wheel trailing truck on this design is arguably not necessary at all... I included it merely to stabilize the “hunting” motion of the rear-facing cylinders, and perhaps to better distribute the engine’s total weight.

So there you have it... an alternate evolution of the oil-burning steam locomotive. I suppose if I had to play devil’s advocate to myself, I’d point out that these machines would most certainly not be easily convertible to coal... unlike most real-life oil-burning engines. In real life, of course, the Southern Pacific was the only railroad to operate a successful fleet of cab-forward oil-burners... they being the exception, rather than the rule, as they might have been had I been a turn-of-the-century locomotive designer. =p

On the art itself: not the finest line art job, and I might have stuck this in scraps if the coloring job hadn’t saved it, which I think it did. =p Note too: the paint schemes are fictitious.
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watcher25 Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2014
This is a viable design option for the use of burn able oils and increased safety from forward facing cabs

I appreciate your innovation and your vision of progression to use bigger engines for heavier longer trips ... Not to say back cab designs are poor...(maybe some mirrors or an elevated cab would be adequate) Just with their orb advantages and drawbacks....

People like you could give steam new life on the rails...
Atticus-W Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2014
Thanks for the analysis. =) I would hardly say that these designs are relevant today, but... maybe if I had suggested them 100 years ago they might have found some following... ;)
watcher25 Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2014
relevant considering the correct niche

as in where diesel engines are not as viable as a stem alternative like this:

including that this design would be steam and have alike safety similar to diesels: more viability

but yes, it would have taken off quicker had it been introduced 100 years ago... still, it is a viable design, just need the right niche
Rockyrailroad578 Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
I'll race you! *climbs in 4-4-0 cab, wheeshing sounds instead of a thunderous chuff, missing cylinder cover* Better get out 'n push!
Atticus-W Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2014
Haha. XD
Rockyrailroad578 Featured By Owner Mar 14, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
*4-4-0 starts wheezing on it's own* "Aw crap" *reaches 2.5% hill* "You know what? I don't know, that's what!"
Rockyrailroad578 Featured By Owner Feb 8, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
finally, a non-articulated cab-forward!
Atticus-W Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2014
As I point out in my description, such machines have existed in real life, but, for some reason, they never proved especially popular...
BaronVonIron Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013

Very nice, glad that you did your research. But I would have to take issue with "The two-wheel trailing truck on this design is arguably not necessary at all... I included it merely to stabilize the “hunting” motion of the rear-facing cylinders, and perhaps to better distribute the engine’s total weight."

I would argue that it is absolutely necessary. Those cylinder castings are heavy, no matter which model loco it is. They would invevitably need support. If the cylinders were much smaller closer to the drivers, ie between the frames and centered above the first axle as in the Southern Q1 0-6-0, then elimination of the support axle would be possible.


As a matter of possibilities, looking at your 4-6-0, I would figure it would be more prudent to give it a deep/wide firebox than retain a narrow pit. It has already been established that about 50% of all heat absorbed by boiler is from the firebox, thus maximization of such surface area would be preferable. We now have a Hudson's trailing truck, so let's use it!


Otherwise, waiting for more!

Atticus-W Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2013

I believe that your advice regarding the cylinders, although logical-sounding enough, is a bit unwarranted. ;) I do not believe that a large set of cylinders requires a truck of any kind to support it-- for example, refer to the Union Railroad’s large 0-10-2s:… .  Other railroads converted locos to do away with their lead trucks, too:… -- and who can forget that the earliest American Mallets were huge 0-6-6-0s:… ?

Regarding the 4-6-0: well, of course you are absolutely right that a wide firebox would have been a more efficient choice than a narrow one given the space available.  You are talking to the king of firebox aficionados here. XD However, my goal was to portray a design that was likely to have been built around the Turn of the Century, when narrow fireboxes were still largely in vogue-- I wasn't trying to design a thoroughly efficient engine based on modern sensibilities.  Remember that the "modern" Superpower firebox, as used above "a Hudson's trailing truck," wasn't developed until 1925.  Again, the four-wheel truck on my 4-6-0 is designed as a simple guiding lead truck, not as a firebox-supporting trailing truck (two very different concepts).

Thanks for the great critiques-- I love this kind of thing. ^^ Hopefully you will indeed be seeing more from me soon!

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