The Chesapeake & Ohio Turbine-Electric Locomotives.

Updated: 31 Oct 2004
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Left: The Chesapeake and Ohio Steam-Turbine Electric.

Wach of the three built was 106 feet long and weighed no less than 856,000 pounds. They were intended for speeds of up to 100 mph.

Note the exhaust coming from the rear due to the backward-mounted boiler.

Although superficially similar to the Norfolk and Western steam-turbine loco, it was of quite different design; the N&W machine had a water-tube boiler.

This locomotive is another steam-turbine/electric; three were built. They had conventional coal-fired fire-tube boilers mounted backwards behind the cab and stretching back towards the tender. Steam was generated at the high pressure of 310 psi and fed to the turbine-generator. Power output was 6000hp, transmitted through eight traction motors. There were five bogies in a 2-C1-2-C1-B arrangement. Only the first three axles on the eight-wheel bogies were powered. The trailing bogie was powered, (hence that B) but the leading bogie and the one in the middle were not; the middle four-wheel bogie simply supported the large firebox. Coal was stored in a large hopper at the front of the loco, covered by a very ugly "streamlined" cowl. Water was carried in the trailing tender.

Number 500 was built in association with Baldwin and Westinghouse in 1947. Numbers 501 and 502 followed in early 1948. One of them appears to have also been called M-1, but quite what that's about I have yet to discover.

Left: Inside the cab of the C&O Steam-Turbine Electric.

We are looking back towards the rear of the loco, as the boiler was installed backwards compared with conventional practice.

The big central wheel is presumably the regulator controlling the flow of steam to the turbine. The big hump at bottom centre is the mechanical stoker housing, with a pair of fire doors labelled "Butterfly" just above. The row of big white T-handles at the top of the boiler controlled various pumps.

The electrical meter just to the right of the handwheel is almost certainly a pyrometer readout. One of the most important gauges would presumably be the turbine rpm meter, but it is not possible to identify it in this picture.

These impressive but complicated locomotives were introduced with considerable fanfare, inluding an appearance at the Chicago Railroad Fair. The intention was that they would pull a planned Washington DC-Cincinnati streamliner passenger service called The Chessie, but this was cancelled before it ever ran. The Baltimore & Ohio railway got there first, with a service starting in February 1948, and the results of this convinced the C&O that the passenger market they were hoping to exploit just did not exist.

This left three enormous locomotives that were too big for general use on the C&O system. However, the show-stopping problem was the sheer unreliability of this complex design. The locos spent much more time being repaired than working, and had far too many service failures. The C&O never once managed to get 500, 501 or 502 to go all the way from Washington to Cinncinatti; they always broke down.
Particular problems were coal dust getting into the forward traction motors, and leaking water short-circuiting the motors on the other two power bogies. These problems might have been soluble with further development of the design, but it was all too clear that the locomotives were always going to be expensive and difficult to maintain.

By 1949 all three locomotives were out of use, and they were quietly scrapped in 1950.

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