The Steam Locomotive Energy Story

  • Model: BK-21-985


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The Steam Locomotive Energy Story by Walter Simpson

This is one of the few books we have published that is not strictly C&O. However, it is such an important book in the historiography of the steam locomotive, we wanted to do it.

I believe it to be a landmark book in Steam Locomotive history.

Walter Simpson, who is the author, has written two important books recently:

Diesel-Electric Locomotives - Published by Simmons-Boardman, the old-line railroad publishers of Railway Age, etc. - We have been selling it for some time under C&OHS

BK-19-932. It details how energy-efficient railroading is and how it can get even better.

Turbine Power - Published by Kalmbach. We have been selling this under our BK-19-942 and many people have purchased it. It is unquestionably the best treatment of how railroads (including C&O) tried to use steam turbines.

The C&OHS has published Mr. Simpson has  latest book.

It is, in this reviewers' mind, the best discussion of steam locomotive efficiency ever done.

Simpson uses original sources from a variety of railroads, as well as authoritative books and articles by the mechanical engineers who worked so hard to make the steam locomotive ever more efficient, especially through the last four decades of steam operation.

His conclusion is that a good steam locomotive could convert 7% of its fuel to mechanical energy, and most didn't reach that level, while the very best got only up to the 8% range. A typical diesel-electric locomotive, by contrast, produces around 30-35%. And, for further comparison, an electric generating plant is 33% efficient, and an automobile about 25%.

Simpson understands and documents how the steam engine builders and railroads worked hard to increase efficiency, yet the very design of the machine prevented much increase in capability, even in the much heralded Super Power locomotives post-1925.

The study is a scholarly review, fully footnoted with an extensive bibliography, so it should assume an important place in the literature of steam power.

It is, at the same time, a highly readable and understandable discussion that the ordinary person can readily appreciate and enjoy.

It is a visually pleasing book as well as an authoritative one. The book is well illustrated with great photos both in B&W and color showing all types of steam locomotives at work.

This reviewer has read hundreds of books and probably thousands of articles about steam locomotives, and has written several himself, but this book gave me new insights and understanding I never had in 52 years of being involved in railroad history.

I will say again; this is a landmark book. If you are interested in steam railroading you need this, without question in my estimation.

--- Tom Dixon

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About the author:

Walter Simpson was energy officer for the State University of New York at Buffalo for 26 years. He has a master's degree in philosophy and environmental studies. Because of this education, experience, and background, he was able to approach this subject from an entirely different perspective from other railroad authors. It is cogent, well-thought, well- presented, though, well-illustrated, and highly documented! - TWD

Hardbound, 144 pages. 




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