Trains and Technology: The American Railroad in the Nineteenth Century - Vol. 1

By Anthony J. Bianculli | Go to book overview

General Description of the American Steam Locomotive

Before discussing locomotives, a prerequisite for understanding some of the text that follows is a basic description of several important engine parts, a fundamental explanation of their workings, and the definition of a few key terms. Figure B shows the left side view (sectioned at the steam chest elevation) of an American locomotive, circa 1873. Figure C is a side cross-sectional view of the same locomotive. The engine chosen as the model for this general description, a coal-burning, 4–4–0, “American” type, was built by the Grant Locomotive Works in Paterson, New Jersey. Its cylinders were 16 inches (inside) in diameter and accommodated a 24-inch stroke of the piston. The driving wheels were 61 inches in diameter and the total weight of the engine, with fuel and water, was about thirty-one tons. The tender held two-thousand gallons of water and was built on an oak frame.1 This locomotive type is about as generic and representative of a nineteenth-century American locomotive as can be found. Earlier designs were more individualistic; the industry had not reached maturity and development and experimentation was the rule. Later types were more specialized, representing engines designed for specific service. The 4–4–0 wheel arrangement was the most common, and for the purpose at hand, that is, describing a locomotive's features and operation, this engine serves admirably.


Basic Parts

Refer to side and plan views only.

ACylinders (defined by their inside diameter and the length of the piston stroke, in inches)
a,a'Boiler tubes (firetubes, or flues, carrying hot gases and surrounded by boiler water)
BMain driving axle (the axle carrying the wheels that are connected to the piston rod)
B'Main driving wheels
CMain connecting rods (sometimes called “connecting rods,” sometimes “main rods”)
C'Supply pipe (delivered water from the tender to the force pump)
DMain crankpins
EWheels of leading, or pilot or pony, truck
fExhaust nozzles (sometimes called blast pipes)
FEqualizing lever for driving wheels
GFirebox (sometimes called the furnace)
HFrames
JEccentrics (were used to drive the valve gear mechanism)
KRockers
k'Valve stem (attached at one end to the valve, at the other to the valve rod)
LLinks
lThrottle pipe (carries steam to the throttle valve)
MLifting shaft
mDry pipe (carries steam from the throttle valve to the steam pipe, thence to the steam chests)
NLifting arms
OReverse lever
oSteam pipe
PBoiler, cylindrical section
P'Feedwater pump (forces water through the feedpipe and into boiler against boiler pressure)
PPetticoat pipe (generates the exhaust blast)
QSmokebox (sometimes called a “sparkbox”)2
RSmokestack (sometimes called the chimney)
rPistons

-27-

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Trains and Technology: The American Railroad in the Nineteenth Century - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface: Comments from the Cab 9
  • Acknowledgements 13
  • Introduction 15
  • Locomotives 25
  • General Description of the American Steam Locomotive 27
  • 1: Introduction to Motive Power 33
  • 2: Motive Power Infancy, 1830–1850 38
  • 3: Motive Power Adolescence, 1850–1875 104
  • 4: Motive Power Maturity, 1875–1900 135
  • 5: Locomotive Appliances and Appurtenances 205
  • Notes 217
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 237
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