American Steam Locomotive to Attempt to break the 1937 World Record for Fastest Steam Locomotive

‘e’s lost it. Right. Got chemo brain. For sure. Well, just before you write me off …. Read on.

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), Project 130 has a simple goal: create the world’s cleanest, most powerful passenger locomotive, proving the viability of solid biofuel and modern steam locomotive technology. The Coalition will put its technology to the test by planning to break the world record for steam locomotive speed, reaching 130 miles per hour and demonstrating the viability of this revolutionary, clean transportation technology.

Sustainable Rail International is the group which will be doing the work. Look at this great picture from with their mission statement on it:

SRI mission statement

SRI mission statement

How’s it gonna be done?

The locomotive will run on torrefied biomass (biocoal), a biofuel created through an energy-efficient processing of cellulosic biomass. Biocoal exhibits the same energy density and material handling properties as coal, but unlike coal, it is carbon neutral, contains no heavy metals, and produces less ash, smoke and volatile off-gases. Since it exhibits such similar characteristics to coal, biocoal has the potential to revolutionize the way the United States generates clean electricity.

CSR Project 130, as it is called, has the goal of creating not only the world’s cleanest locomotive to prove the viability of solid biofuel and modern steam locomotive technology, but also the most powerful, especially when compared to the diesel electrics commonly in use today.

The vision for the technology being developed in this process is to help build a locomotive that can reach speeds of 130 miles per hour, breaking the world record for steam locomotive speed, which is currently 126 MPH.

So exactly how would it outperform these more “modern” diesel electrics, while also setting a new world speed record? CSR spells it out, noting that diesel-electric passenger locomotives develop maximum horsepower at low speed which, when combined with other factors, are hampered in their “ability to reach full potential at 110 or 125 mph.”

Read more here.

What’s the test bed for this experiment? The Santa Fe Railroads number 3463 in 1937 regularly traversed the route from Chicago to Colorado at speeds in excess of 100 mph. The engine was acquired by SRI/CSR and will be modernized. Once its modernization is complete, CSR 3463 will have little in common with the smoke-belching steam engine it once was.

AT & SF 3463

AT & SF 3463

Featuring a gas-producer combustion system, improved steam circuit, modernized boiler, low-maintenance running gear and steam-powered electric generator (to power the passenger train), CSR anticipates 3463 will be able to pull a passenger train with electric-like performance for less than the cost of diesel-electric locomotives. In order to further prove the viability of biocoal and modern steam technology, CSR plans to test the locomotive in excess of 130 miles per hour, out-performing any existing diesel-electric on the market and breaking the world steam speed record.

AT &  SF 3463 waiting for her new role

AT & SF 3463 waiting for her new role

Just for the record, a sister engine to number 3463, number 3461 in December of 1937 led a train from Los Angeles all the way to Chicago, a distance of 2,227 miles, to set a world’s distance record for a steam locomotive.

This entry was posted in Locomotives. Bookmark the permalink.