So exactly how would it outperform these more “modern” diesel electrics, while also setting a new world speed record? CSR spells out that, noting that diesel-electric passenger locomotives develop maximum horsepower at low speed which, when combined with other factors, are hampered in their “ability to reach full potential at 110 or 125 mph.” By comparison, modern steam technology is said to develop and “maintain maximum horsepower above 40 mph, enabling higher speed acceleration than alternatives available today” What’s more, they say, is that this faster acceleration, making use of their steam engine technology, reportedly can be done “at or below the cost of the diesel-electrics” currently in use.
The locomotive being called upon to help prove all of this is old number 3463, acquired by the coalition from its former owner, Great Overland Station in Topeka, Kansas, this past November. Said to be the largest locomotive of its type left in the world and featuring the largest wheels of any North American engine, 3463 is being rebuilt and modernized, including converting it to burn biocoal. It will feature what CSR says are a “gas-producer combustion system, improved steam circuit, modernized boiler, low-maintenance running gear and steam-powered electric generator (to power the passenger train).”
It is a lot to place on the shoulders of an old lady from another era, especially when you consider this train was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1937 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. If it succeeds though, CSR folk feel, it could be a major breakthrough for modern train technology.
“This project presents a novel approach to U.S. locomotive development, looking to technologies of the past to inspire solutions for today’s sustainability challenges,” said SRI President Davidson Ward, in a statement. “I’m confident that the leading energy researchers we’re working with at the University of Minnesota, along with our team of engineers, will be able to bring this technology to the forefront of America’s energy and transportation conversations.”
Plans, say CSR, are to move the locomotive to Minneapolis within the next 12 months. Once moved, they will complete the detailed engineering needed to modernize and reconfigure the locomotive.