Friday, June 2, 2017

Taking a closer look at a mighty little steam engine

There was no way to get my Royal Enfield Bullet next to the train,
so we'll resort to adding the virtual version of me and my Bullet.
We recently stopped by Fort Lauderdale's Holiday Park to take a closer look at the train engine that is the centerpiece of the city park's playground area.

When my children were young they were allowed to clamber aboard the little locomotive. That's not allowed any more even though the engine was off display for a long time for removal of harmful substances.

Switcher engine 1001-040 was built by Baldwin Locomotive about 1936. Baldwin fielded its first locomotive in 1832 and became the largest producer of steam locomotives. In the 1930s the company bet heavily that steam, not diesel, would power the locomotives of the future.

Bankruptcy followed and the company never fully recovered. You have to understand that steam made a lot of sense in the coal country of the northeastern United States, where the Pennsylvania Railroad was a prime customer.

Outside that region diesel power was practical and less expensive thanks to research and development by General Motors, which was committed to internal combustion.

Florida is far outside coal country. Fort Lauderdale's little switcher produced its steam by burning oil, not coal. But it still would have lacked diesel's ready-when-you-are flexibility.

1902 ad shows why they called a railroad an "air line."
Switcher 1001 belonged to the Seaboard Air Line Railway which, despite its name, never employed an airplane. At one time "air line" was a term used to mean the shortest distance between two points. The shortest route implied the fastest journey.

Not that the little engine in the park ever went on a journey. While it no doubt traveled many a mile in the yard, it never really got anywhere.

Only four wheels, but all of them are driven.
Its job was to push freight cars around the loading docks. The "040" designation meant it has no guide wheels in front of or behind the four driven wheels. That made it more maneuverable in the switching yard. Although the little engine is small in overall size, its equally small wheels gave it enormous power to push or pull — although slowly.

It's cute enough to make you want to take it home and run it around a (giant) Christmas tree.

Every playground ought to have train to fuel imaginations.

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