Astonishing Statistic

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Woodie, May 17, 2005.

  1. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    Have just read an article in the latest edition of Australian Railway Digest about the numbers of operating steam engines.

    It says:

    "Australia has a staggering 576 surviving steam locomotives of which an impressive 123 are operational. The number of locomotives in the USA, generally accepted to be about 300 for many years, is close to half that figure (161) now."

    The sources they quote are :

    Australian Steam - Preserved Steam Locomotives Down Under and "Serviceable U.S. Steam Locomotives, 2004" compiled by Jim Wrinn and Jeff Terry in Railfan & Railroad July 2004.

    Considering that Australia is about the same size as continental U.S., yet less the 10% of the population of the U.S. and the penetration of railroads that would imply, I find it rather astonishing that there are so few (comparitively) operating steam locos in the U.S.

    Any comments of why there would be (relatively) so few operational steam locos in the U.S.?
  2. Tileguy

    Tileguy Member

    Wealthy country and wealthy and healthy railroads dont need to keep old equipment.Accountants and business managers take advantage of the American tax laws.Large railroads gobbled up small upstarts and closed lines meaning no small railroads buying what they could afford.
    City laws made steam engines a thing of the past.environmental concerns meant buying a steam engine was out of the question for the few surviving roads.they had to have diesels to operate in the cities!!
  3. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    The working steam locos here are not owned by corporates or "railroads". They are owned by preservation societies, historical societies, and are used for holiday excursions, tourists, charities etc. and have, for the most part, been restored from derelict or donated disused equipment.
  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I think that's what Tileguy is implying though... The Class 1 roads here (North America) took advantage and/or were presssured by economics to completely dieselize their fleets in a relatively short period of time.

    Along with the engines, much of the infrastructure was destroyed as it provided no economic advantage, and in some cases a big disadvantage to keep it around (e.g. stations - no heritage incentives to keep, no interested buyers because of tax status, etc, etc).

    Sad, but true. Ian Wilson's books on steam in southern Ontario during the late 1950s (where steam lasted longest in Canada) have some heartbreaking photos of literally hundreds of steamers waiting in lines for the cutter's torch.

  5. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    The circumstances here were no different, Andrew. There ain't been a regular/scheduled steam service here for more than 40 years.

    There may be a little difference here. The infrastructre was not destroyed, but just left to rot. However, should a steam loco be off round the state or country on tour, it usually has a "support" train to carry coal, water etc, or is deisel hauled on parts of the track that cannot/does not have the appropriate support. A lot of the infrastructure here is gov't owned too, and steam tourist excursions etc are given free track rights too.

    This may be a bit too. The old disused and scrapped locos were not sent off to the cutter. They were just left to rot on some old siding somewhere, and a lot were "sealed up" and put in parks and playgrouds of country towns for kids to play on. Some of these were "rescued" and restored after many years too.
  6. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Sorry, I should have added... "so there was very little time for anyone to do anything." I would also add that that period in time in Canada and the US there was very little respect for heritage and history. The government and population were constantly looking to the future, and anything from the past was not worthy of attention. In railway terms this is the era of removing trolley tracks in favour of busses, demolishing (or nearly) downtown stations in favour of suburban stops, dieselization, amalgamation/abandonment of smaller railways, and so on.

    Also - Canada is not the best environment to let things sit. Virtually all the locos on "Static display" in parks, etc, are not restorable. The RRs did the "right" thing in scrapping the locos - in a few years, they would be piles of rust. At least (from their point of view) they got some $ back in scrap value.

    To say that I am disappointed that there are not more steamers is an understetement. CPR alone ran over 3000 steamers - there are only a handful left. CPR 2816 Empress (see is almost a complete rebuild, rather than a "restored" or "preserved" engine. It is still great though! :D

  7. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Economics and the bottom line. I was watching a PBS special on "Trains of the West" the other day and they mentioned one steam engine that the bean counters thought had a lot more value as scrap iron to the company than it did running, and they sure could use the money. One maintenance guy actually "hid" the engine from them, moving it around for 20 years so they no longer knew it existed. His plot was uncovered when he retired, but they then decided it was worth a lot more now then just scrap iron. As I remember, it is now being used on the Durango-Silverton Line in Colorado.

    No one looks that far into the future, especially when you need to convert hardware into cash, othewise I would have kept that first car I owned and the second and third ones too.:D:D
  8. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    Interesting statistic Woodie. Since most things seem to boil down to economics, it may have been the case that the RRs in Australia found it cheaper to just let things rot. Just speculation on my part though.

    I wonder now that China is getting rid of their last remaining steam how many of those engines will survive?

  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    China will probably do the same thing as India did 10 years ago, which (unfortunately) is the same thing that North American roads did in the 1950s... :(

    However, India did save (among others) the Daarjeeling (spelling?) tea train, a little narrow gauge engine that works its way up incredible grades to haul passangers and the tea harvest.

  10. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Another possible factor... Here in St. Louis a group of preservationists restored Frisco 1522 to operation. It hasn't run since early 2002 and if it's counted among those 161, it probably shouldn't be. The insurance on it in the post-9/11 world is too high to keep it running, so it sits in a museum.

    If it weren't so expensive, there might be more. I wonder if stories like 1522 are the reason the number used to be accepted at 300 and now is down to 161. Maybe those 139 others still exist but their owners just can't afford the insurance they would need to keep them running.

    But you guys are still right, the disdain we Americans have for our history didn't help. Progress=cookie-cutter subdivisions and strip malls and freestanding Walgreen Drug Stores. Anything that stands in the way of those three things (old diners, 100-year-old homes, old department stores, whatever) must be demolished. Drive through St. Louis on what used to be Route 66 today and you see a whole lot of suburban sprawl and not much indication of what it used to be.
  11. Bikerdad

    Bikerdad Member

    That sounds like the Ghost Train of Ely.
  12. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Part of the reason some countries have a hot steam preservation movement is that they saw what had happened in the US and realized that they had to jump fast while there still were operational steamers.
    And a lot has to do with taxes and liabilities. You may barely recover the cost of ripping up miles of rail from the scrap value, but you don't have the liability for someone who trips over a rail or falls off a bridge.
  13. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    hmmm.... interesting.

    The basis of this article was along the lines of a few comments. Public Liability Insurance cost, fitting of modern signal control equipment, health checks for drivers (don't want them having heart attacks while tooting along), fitting of deam-man handles etc, due to the fact that most of the preserved heritage stock shares mainlines etc with regularly scheduled freight and passenger services. So they have to be endorsed/reliability etc to be able to do that.

    However some of the heritage locos and carraiges societies do turn a small profit.

    Recently, NSW Heritage loco 3801 made a visit to my town. (from Sydney), about 900km. The standard return passenger fare is about $110, however they charged $850 for this weekend trip on a steam loco and carraiges. They filled an 8 carraige train too, at that price!!

    Just having a look just then, Eureka Models have hired it to launch their new HO model of it!!! :eek: :thumb: :cool: Not til August and it's fully booked out already!!

    Sun 21st Aug Sydney - Newcastle - Sydney

    Eureka Models 38 class launch
    3801 - BOOKED OUT

    Eureka Models have chartered 3801 to run to Newcastle to launch a new 38 class HO scale model. You will have from 11.30am until 3.30pm for lunch at Newcastle.

    The train departs Sydney at 8.20am picking up at Strathfield, Hornsby and Gosford. Arrive back in Sydney around 6.30pm.


    All passengers $30.00 - this fare has been subsidised by Eureka Models.
    Please note that no discounts apply.

    You can check it out here. :):)

    So there's hope for the old things yet!! :):) :thumb:
  14. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    This is a good explaination of what Happened at the PRR (The Standard Railroad of The World)

    From The Railroad Museum of PA Website....

    (Entire article)

    (Main Site Link)

    ............In 1915, Pennsylvania's railroads peaked at 11,693 miles of roadway, reflecting a national trend leading to the end of the Golden Age of Railroading in America by the 1930s. Other forms of transportation had arrived, often with government subsidy. Ironically, part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, opened in 1941, was built on land originally acquired for a railroad right-of-way. Overhead, airplanes carried passengers, mail, and even freight. The nature of our society was changing, and railroads suffered from the change.

    In one of the last expressions of the railroad industry's stature, the Eastern Railroads Conference sponsored a major exhibit at the New York World's Fair in 1939-40. Such exhibits were not new for railroads, which had participated in many worlds' fairs and expositions.

    As the railroads gathered together equipment to exhibit, the Pennsylvania Railroad, which lacked any formal program of saving important relics, searched for visually impressive and historically important locomotives, in some cases the last of their kind. It also constructed two full size replicas of very early locomotives.

    One was an operating replica of the John Bull, which had been shipped from England in 1831 to start the Stevens family's Camden & Amboy Railroad. The other was a replica of John Stevens' 1825 prototype locomotive.

    After the World's Fair, the equipment that the Pennsylvania Railroad had assembled found its way into storage, mostly at its Northumberland engine house. By the 1960s, facing financial collapse and eventual merger with its former rival New York Central into the Penn Central, the Pennsylvania Railroad began seeking a permanent home for these treasured relics. It endeavored to set conditions -- the equipment was to be cared for and preserved. Several rare locomotives made their way out of the Commonwealth. Fortunately, most of the equipment came to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, where it became the core of its collection. Yet in no way is the museum - the Museum of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It is the museum of all railroading in Pennsylvania, including all of its railroads, its manufacturers of locomotives and other railroad support, of the records, memories and dreams of hundreds of thousands of lives and businesses affected by the industry. It is the focal point of a story that is told throughout the Commonwealth, in other museums as well, in trains that still traverse the remaining trackage, in the faint impressions of abandoned rights of way up wooded valleys and through urban neighborhoods.


    (From Mikey)
    Basically, it was also because of supply & demand, there were Thousands of steam engines... so why should we keep them all??? :( Send most to be recycled (Scrapped) and maybe keep a few..... :( So, now, too late, we learn... that we didn't do enough........

    It's far more costly now, to preserve these engines, than it would have been back then.....
  15. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    A lot of old steam engines got chopped up for wartime recycling during WWII, which is why many of the steam engines still around were built during that era.

    Are there similar statistics for locomotives that were restored for appearance but not function? I know that the cab-forward at the California State Railroad Museum will never move an inch under its own power, but the fact that it's still here is noteworthy in itself, as well as the even older locomotives like the C. P. Huntington and the Gov. Stanford.

    And how about electrics? There are trolley/interurban museums that have operating restored equipment that is as old or older than many of the old steam engines whose passing we mourn here...
  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    And some of the railroads were actually ashamed of the fact that they had run on smokey, old-fashioned steam locomotives for so long when they could have been using modern unreliable diesels (Anyone guess I'm talking about BR?) that they made sure that any steam locomotives that escaped immediate meltdown were at least inoperable. BR insisted that the driving wheels be carved up with welding torches so as to be un-restorable.

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