Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Transport: Triple-Headed Steam

Triple-headed Canadian Pacific steam locomotives--at 1/8th the size of the original prototypes--left the station at the Richmond Hill Live Steamers' International Meet in Richmond Hill, Ontario on 11-July-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - In the era of the diesel locomotives, the concept of multiple locomotives at the front of a train is not terribly exciting. As all trailing locomotives can be controlled from the one in the lead, needed traction and physics are about the only factors determining how many locomotives can work at the front of the train, and in certain mountainous portions of North America, six diesels at the front of a train is completely unremarkable.

Back in the steam era, things were different. There was no such thing as "multiple-unit" operation of steam locomotives; each one needed to have its own crew. Double-headers were generally restricted to "helpers" on severe grades, and triple headers were extremely rare. Even in the preservation era, triple-headers are an uncommon event, with the only major example in recent years involving the Milwaukee Road 261 and two Chinese-built steam locomotives combining for a triple-header in September 2006.

The triple-headed live steamers crossed a trestle at the Richmond Hill Live Steamers tracks in Richmond Hill, Ontario on 11-July-2009

I think the last triple-header I personally had seen may have been at Expo '86 in Vancouver, British Columbia as some rearrangement was done after "Steam Parade"--the last until this month, that is. The "International Meet" at the Richmond Hill Live Steamers on 11-July-2009 had brought out three live steamers (these were all one-eighth the size of the original locomotives on which they were based) representing Canadian Pacific steam locomotives. The operators decided it would be a great experience to triple-head the three engines.

Indeed, the sight of the three locomotives working together all around the extensive trackage of the Richmond Hill club was something to see. In any scale, a triple-header of steam locomotives is a memorable sight to behold.

No guarantees of a triple header, but the next scheduled public event at the Richmond Hill Live Steamers is the weekend of 12-13-September-2009; watch their web site for details.

The triple-header headed for another bridge during the Richmond Hill Live Steamers "International Meet" on 11-July-2009

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