How Steam Locomotives Work

How Steam Locomotives Work Paperback, March 1, 2022 by Brian Solomon, ISBN 9781627008808

Not to be confused with How Steam Locomotives Really Work

This book does not replace How Steam Locomotives Really Work, although they cover the same subject. This book mostly has very well photographed images, covering North American steam locomotives. How Steam Locomotives Really Work has a larger proportion of diagrams, with a few not-as-well-photographed images thrown in. This book does not have the explanatory engineering diagrams that How Steam Locomotives Really Work contains.

It seems like there’s a lot of difference between how English Steam Giants like Gressley or Bullied made engineering tradeoffs, versus how US railroads and companies chose tradeoffs.

Both books spilled a lot of ink about valve gear. How Steam Locomotives Work has a lot more about “running gear”, wheels, rods etc.

main rod and driver wheel

You can see that locomotive designers put a lot of effort into making light weight rods. They’re essentially I-beams. The wheels are also carefully designed to counterweight the pushrods connecting driver wheels.

This book gives a much better feel for just how complicated steam locomotive were at the end of the steam period:

complexity of pistons and pump

That’s from a modern locomotive, I think made in the 1940s or 50s, much more complex than Black Hills Central No. 110 built in 1928. It’s also a good deal cleaner. Where is the insane grime?!?

A working steam locomotive cab was a good deal more complicated than the cabs in old, unrestored, locomotives at the Forney Transportation Museum, or the Colorado Railroad Museum.

steam locomotive

I enjoyed this book a lot, especially after having read the British counterpart book, and watched a real steam locomotive work. The excellent photographs made the text come alive.