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

By Anthony J. Bianculli | Go to book overview

4
Motive Power Maturity, 1875–1900

Fast through the sombre pine forests I flash,
Pounding the track with monotonous crash;
Lighting the gloom with a comet-like glare,
Thrilling with noises unearthly the air,
—from “The Song of the Steam Engine”

Up to 1875, engines steadily increased in size, power, and complexity. Yet, despite improvements, a basic 4–4–0, inside-connected locomotive of the era still exhibited clean lines and an uncluttered appearance, figure 4.1. Locomotive progress had been predictable and fairly uniform, with incremental improvement year by year. In the last quarter of the century, locomotive size increased in dramatic steps and the “largest locomotive” record stood only for a year or two before it was displaced by the next contender. About this time it was recognized that the operating costs of a heavy train were not proportionately greater than a lighter one. But, in order

Figure 4.1: Central Pacific Railroad locomotive number 348 demonstrated clean lines and an uncluttered appearance.
The engine was decorated minimally on the cab, counterweights, and domes. Even the “sunflower” stack adhered to the
utilitarian, “no-nonsense” design. (Author's Collection)

-135-

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