At the Throttle of a Giant “Pacific”
One of the giant Pacifics that haul the “Twentieth Century Limited”.
HAVE you ever wished that you could exchange places with one of the engine crew of a famous “Limited” express, in order to experience just for once the thrill of piloting one of these huge steel giants? Unfortunately it is given to few actually to stand at the throttle, but “second-
Now that we are all quite ready, let us go along to the engine-
A few yards farther on and here we are! No. 596, one of the newest productions of the American Locomotive Works, is standing, bright and shiny, awaiting us. She -
an auxiliary engine known as a “booster”.
Now we climb aboard and start up the turbo-
Backing slowly across the turntable, we stop to take water and coal and then move off to the Union Station, where on track four our train of nine 100-
And now we have just a few minutes to spare in which to examine our “make up”, so we will pass quickly along the platform and take a peep into the Pullmans. The first car is a combination baggage and buffet car. Here the chairs are arranged as in a club room, and every facility is provided for the business-
The cab of one of the giant Pacifics that haul the “Twentieth Century Limited”. This photograph gives an excellent idea of the complexity of the controls, etc, as compared with those of a British locomotive.
Just before we receive the starting signal let us take a look at the controls and gauges in the cab. Note how easily the engineer and the fireman can reach every lever and valve without leaving their cushioned seats. The gauges are all placed on one well-
Now look into the firebox. All you can see is just a few live coals and some ashes, and you wonder what will happen when the engine starts to exhaust on that fire! Well, watch closely. You will see that when the fireman starts the stoker the fire gradually brightens until it becomes a snow-
Look, there is the starting light gleaming, and here comes the “Right Away”. Open the throttle and we’re off -
Our engine soon settles down to business, and it is indeed surprising how easily these new engines handle in spite of their enormous size. The road ahead of us is very heavy and curves abound, so that here we shall have little time to watch the scenery. Our first stop is Worcester, 44 miles from Boston. Here we feel our bearings and prepare for the hard climb to Charlton Summit.
Now you will hear “596” bark! We are three minutes late, too, so that we must gather all the speed we can. Over the first couple of miles of level track in order to get a run at the hill. As the gradient gets steeper we feed the “notches” to our engine until the exhaust becomes a continuous roar. Peep into the firebox now; you see only the same snow-
Here is Charlton Summit, and we have picked up two minutes. From now on as far as Springfield the gradients are not so severe and the engine may be eased a little. With ordinary luck we shall make Springfield on time, which means 140 minutes for the 100 miles -
The “Twentieth Century Limited”, hauled by locomotive No. 596.
A few minutes later we swing into the New Station at Springfield exactly on schedule time. Water is running low so we must till up our tank and, while the rod cups -
Upward we go until at last, after 62 miles’ continuous climbing, we reach the summit of Mount Washington, From here after a sharp drop to Pittsfield, where we may touch 70 to 80 m.p.h. the scenery is just one beautiful panorama after another.
Through sleepy towns and villages we tear, the speedometer hanging steadily on at the 72 mark, until, as we start to cross the historic Hudson River we commence to decelerate in readiness for our entry into the great Union Station at Albany, New York. Here, two minutes to the good, we detach our train, leaving it to be taken forward to Chicago by one of the new “Hudson Speed” type of engines of the New York Central. Re-
No doubt you feel ready now for a wash and a sleep but that does not prevent tongues from chattering. How, asks some-
[From The Meccano Magazine, February 1929]
The author of this article, H. W. Pontin, was engineer of No. 596.
A coloured plate depicting “The Twentieth Century Limited” appeared with Part 14 of Railway Wonders of the World. The same illustration featured on the cover of