Mannnn I really hate it when they do this!

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by TrainNut, Apr 4, 2006.

  1. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    I was just watching the latest Trains & Locomotives - Australian Steam, on RFD DTV and found it hard to not notice the diesel locomotive stuck in behind the steam engine. Is it just me or does this bother anybody else. Although I don't know for sure, I can hypothesize lots of logical reasons why they may do this. Still, it just seems to ruin the whole effect/ambiance. It's kind of like they don't trust the steam engine anymore so they have to give it a "helper". Sorry but this just really bugs me to no end especially when you see it over and over again.
  2. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    I have seen that on some of their other shows, usually when going up a really steep grade or in bad weather. They explain the need for the helper, but it makes you wonder what they did years ago before they had diesels to help. And yeah, it does spoil the purity of things.:cry:
  3. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    I agree that it sorta ruins the effect, but this happened back in the transition era, too. The CNR often stuck a steam-powered helper on the front end of a diesel-powered train: the diesel fans of the era were probably annoyed by that, too. Part of the reason that we often see a diesel tucked in behind steam on mainline fan trips is pure business. If that locomotive breaks down and ties up a busy railroad, we'll likely not see more steam trips over that railroad. Back when the Southern was running an extensive steam excursion program, they leased (from a private owner, I believe) a CPR Royal Hudson. To ensure that a road failure wouldn't tie up the whole railroad, they painted an EMD B-unit in CPR maroon, to match the tender, then outfitted the Hudson with an mu-type control, whereby the B-unit could be cut in when needed. A real classy solution, I'd say.

  4. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    for one it don't bother me to see a diesel helper behind a steamerits just showing respect for somthing that is basically irreplaceable.
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    The B-unit solution sounds pretty cool. The CPR 2816 Roayl Hudson had an accompanying diesel, but it often travelled a few miles behind, especially when they knew that people would want to be taking photos.

    In this case though, I can't really understand the reliability issue. 2816 was basically a new steam engine - completely rebuilt from the wheels up a few years ago. The diesel "backup" was much older than that!

  6. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Multi years ago, when the Royal Hudson came across Canada they had a diesel hooked behind it. Nicely painted maroon to blend with the train, and the steamer had an extra control stand for the diesel. The Hudson pulled the train and the diesel through the rockies and across the country.

    Again, British steam trips were for a while afflicted with an ETHEL -- Electric Train Heating something -- because they had converted all the coaches to electric heat but hadn't put a big generator on the steamers. Seems to me they could have painted it to blend with the coaches and even towed it at the back.
  7. Gary Pfeil

    Gary Pfeil Active Member

    On the local New York Susquehanna and Western, they have run the steam specails with a diesel (E8 or 9) at one end and the steamer at the other, lacking turning facilities. A nice combo, as you can take photos coming and going! Several years ago when Ross Weyland's (not sure I'm remembering his name correctly) ex C&O Greenbriar ran from Hobeken to Port Jervis, they ran diesel "protectors" ahead of the train, they served railfans as advance warning. Both these situations seem far prefarable to what you describe!
  8. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Up on the grand canyon railway, the summer trains nearly always have a diesel behind the steamer. The grades on that line are steep, and even the 2-8-2 can only handle 7-8 passenger cars. Their business is great enough that the trains are usually longer than that. Plus, many cars have electric appliances (air conditioning) that need a generator. If a diesel with HEP is not on the train, they must pull a generator car. And also, they must carry tank cars for water to the grand canyon to water the steamer for the return trip. They have never had more than two steamers operable at one time - and doubleheaders are rare. It is basically an issue of cost. If they doublehead steamers every day, they probably wouln't be running any at all. In the cab of each steamer is a diesel control stand. Yes, the grand canyon's steamers can be MUed with the diesels, and only one crew is needed.

    My brother works for the grand canyon railway, and he says they do get occasional complaints about a diesel being on the train. Usually the complainers quiet down once they are described the situation. I have ridden that train probably near 30 times, and I believe most passengers have no idea what the difference between a steamer and a diesel is. I once heard a conversation between two women: "Is there a steam or diesel engine on the train?" "I don't know, what's the difference?" "A steam engine is one of those old fashioned looking engines."

    The steamers are also not there just for "show". Every engine on the train is needed for the grades. More than once, one of the alco FP4's will shut down, and the train cannot make it up the hill. A rescue engine will have to be dispatched to help it the rest of the way. I rememeber once the 2-8-2's throttle got stuck while at the canyon, and the engine could not move. They had to send an extra engine to the canyon just to get the train home.

    The reality is, on the grand canyon railway, they probably would not lose much ridership if they dropped the steam program altogether. But eliminating the steamers would greatly reduce costs. If it wasn't for the fact the owner happens to like steam, there would be none running in arizona at all.

  9. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    Most "steam" excursions I have been on in recent years have the diesel along primarily as HEP. However, they do sometimes use it as a helper when needed. AFAIK, US steamers, for the most part, do not have diesel controls to MU; but I think that's a great idea.
  10. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Kevin, do you know if the Grand Canyon line regeared those FPs? When they operated up here, they were geared for pulling high-speed passenger trains, and often ran in regular service at 90-plus mph. There was a write-up in a 1998 issue of Trains magazine about these diesels, but no mention was made about regearing. They did mention a program to convert the Napa Valley units to run on a mixture of diesel and liquified natural gas.

  11. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I don't believe they were regeared, but I could be wrong. The GCRy has a track speed of 40mph. I can probably find out for you for sure.

  12. isboris4449

    isboris4449 Member

    The Owners/Operators of the line have several issues regarding their operations that the riders may not appreciate. Not knowing what the run is like, I can only speculate that if the grades don't warrant the diesel as an actual helper, that it may indeed be there as insurance in case of a problem with the steam locomotive. Based on the lenght of the run, the age of the steam locomotive, and the availability of another engineer and crew to run a "rescue" locomotive out to retrieve the train in case of a breakdown, they may feel their obligation to their ridership makes adding the diesel neccessary. They are, above all else, obligated to give their riders a safe trip that takes close to the time indicated in their marketing literature. Most of the ridership of steam powered Tourist railroads have a much more casual attitude towards these things than a dedicated steam fan would.

    I am a former employee of the American Freedom Train, working as a fireman for more than a year on the 4449 crew. Even with 23,000 gallons of water in the tender, we often used diesels to strech her legs on long runs over relativly flat terrain. Doyle would let the diesels do most of the work, but put them in idle and work the Daylight through towns and if he saw a crowd ot trackside. Many times the railroads we were operating on would include their Bicentennial units in the consist just to take advantage of the public relations and marketing oportunities.
    On the Amtrak excursion to bring her home to Portland, we towed a SDP40F all the way across the US to use as a helper, help strech the Daylight's legs, and to provide steam to the passenger cars wherever we stopped for the night.
    Even though I'm talking about mainline as opposed to tourist steam operations, they both must abide by the "prime directive" and do their very best to assure the train makes it over the line successfully.

  13. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    I think it makes sense to have a diesel along on a regularly scheduled tourist run, for all the reasons mentioned. In the case of a railfan special, I think that sometimes they will drop the diesel to do a photo runby, which is nice. The diesel is still available, however, just in case...
  14. YakkoWarner

    YakkoWarner Member

    The trip from williams to the Grand Canyon is great fun. From the coaches and locomotives they use to the people who provide the show. My son still talks about getting robbed on the way back from the rim. No mention of the river, the mules, the canyon anything else, just the robbery on the way back.

    It was my understanding that the only reason there are steam locomotives in operation there is that the current owners have a soft spot for it. The F units they run are just as historically accurate as the steam and may not be as romantic but allow for the modern comforts most people take for granted nowdays.
  15. TrainNut

    TrainNut Ditat Deus

    I don't mind diesels... in fact I like them a lot... & I love steam. I just really don't like it when they mix them. It's kind of like putting a caterpillar dozer behind a John Deer tractor - they are the same thing but they just don't go together. The Grand Canyon railway is a perfect example of a railway that I will not ride when they mix their power. I will and have ridden on lots of diesel excursions and lots of steam excursions as well but when they mix 'em... that just turns me off. If I go for a ride in an old Model T, I don't expect to have all the luxuries of a cadillac... but maybey I should tow one behind on a trailer so that if I get hot, I can jump inside and turn on the air conditioning. I guess for most, it seems like you are getting the best of both worlds by mixing power.... but not for me. sorry. Just my opinion though.
  16. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member

    Here is a photo that I just found on a news group that shows this. This is a Tom Moungovern Scan

    Attached Files:

  17. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    This photo is a few years old... If the diesels bother you, you shold see the train today. On the tender is now printed the website address "". Yes, tacky, but good business sense. Their best advertising is at the grand canyon, where tourists see the train and want more information. Rather than having people constantly ask the engine crews silly quesions like "is this a steam or a diesel engine" or "Does this train go to the north rim", they print a website on the locomotives and hope people can explore for themselves.

    It may seem the railroad could put that information on signs around the grand canyon depot - but the park service has strict rules and would not allow that. the national park service is pretty limiting as to what the grand canyon railway can do once inside the park boundaries. An overzealous fireman who creates too much smoke will recieve numerous complaiints about the air pollution. I think the park would rather see diesels only inside the park as a means to keep the air cleaner. The irony here is, the diesels usually smoke and spark more than the steamer!

  18. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    You're right about the diesels smoking. When I was at the Grand Canyon Rwy. a couple of years ago, I saw one of their trains starting up from the Williams station and those Alcos were spewing more black stuff than most steamers do!
  19. caellis

    caellis Member

    It was announced in the Phoenix , AZ newspaper last week that the Grand Canyon Railroad, hotel and all other assets are now for sale.

    The current owners are hoping to find an organization that will continue to operate the RR much as it does now.

    The reason for the sale is not because of operating loss or poor ridership but rather the current owners just want to retire.
  20. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    AFAIK, the GCRy has been for sale for a number of years now. The current owners have done well to reinvest earnings back into the operation. It is definitely a first-class operation, even if it is a little on the touristy side. Ridership has increased enough that this summer, two trains are scheduled for each day. Perhaps they will work it to where the steam engine will pull one train by itself without the helper. For those of you travelling through, or that live in the area, Williams is an interesting little town to stop by. There is both railroad and route 66 history there, and is a favorite for motorcycle enthusiasts. Nearly every weekend in the summer there is something going on. There are plenty of good places to eat, live music, camping and outdoor opportunities, and of course, the railroad.


Share This Page