9.3.03

RAILROAD READING. Backtrack editor Michael Blakemore speculates in the March issue (delivery times across the ocean vary) on some additional names for famous locomotive classes, e.g. Bouncy Castle (somebody help me with that reference), Elephant and Castle, Temperance Hall and others in a similar vein. He punts when it comes to the Granges (6840-6879). That would be a problem for a Cornishman, but a trivial exercise to a flatlander, where The National Grange is a political and social organization of and for farmers. Here, though, is a temptation: design a mixed traffic 4-6-0 called Grange Hall.

The substantive parts of the magazine include an article on the Western class diesel-hydraulics, which had some introduction difficulties attributable in part to their being rushed into use. Author Keith Hill's take: "In a perfect world, the existing diesel-hydraulic locomotives, supplemented by a stud of the best remaining steam engines, should have been allowed to plod on delivering the existing timetable until such time as a 'Western' prototype had been tested to destruction. This would have proved its capabilities and highlighted any flaws before work started on a production run." There is no railroad operation from Land's End east to Moscow capable of doing such a proof. Witness what happened to another German derivative of the so-called King of the Diesel Locomotives that attempted to become a mountain engine on the Rio Grande (scroll around, and enjoy that VW microbus, another failure on the mountains.) Three of the 4000 hp units went to Rio Grande in 1961, with high hopes for something light, powerful, and rail-holding. No joy. What was most telling, however, were differences in attitudes toward running trains. The German technicians who accompanied their locomotives to the States were startled to learn that "turning an engine" means refuelling it, checking the oil and water, inspecting a few things, and sending it right back out over the mountains. No eight hours of scheduled maintenance after each trip.

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