What can be said about the intrigue and power of a large steam locomotive, especially one as finely engineered as former AT&SF locomotive number 3463?  There is little to compare to it.

When it is the last of its type, both on the railroad and in the U.S. as a whole, it means that the ownership and care for the machine is something that carries great merit, expecially when considering the historic fabric of the “artifact” and the patina it has collected in the three quarters of a century leading up to this date.  The leaders of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) understand and respect the history of the locomotive it acquired in 2011, and will do their part to ensure that its future is bright and preserved.

Some may consider it odd that a modern steam locomotive project, one in which an antique locomotive will be modified and “thermodynamized” should concern itself with history and preservation, but this one does.  The citizens of Topeka and the Santa Fe had foresight to save 3463 and place it in “long term storage,” it was given to Topeka Railroad Days (ultimately Great Overland Station) for safe keeping, and the Great Overland Station has bequeathed it to CSR to help prove the viability of modern steam locomotion, biofuel and to provide an operating and safe home to the locomotive. 

CSR will honor the tradition of preservation by doing its part to ensure that, if the time comes, the pieces will be in place and the locomotive could be returned to its original self following the testing and modification it intends to apply to the locomotive.  These guidelines outline how CSR will document, record and save what portions of the locomotive it chooses to modify. 

It is with great honor that CSR has the opportunity to showcase how one of the Santa Fe’s finest locomotives from an earlier era can be used to demonstrate a 21st century solution to some of the most pressing issues facing our nation and world today.


If an historic structure is to be updated or modified, local preservation societies often require that the existing historic fabric be thoroughly documented prior to modification.  This same principle applies to CSR and its work with locomotive 3463.

Prior to beginning its disassembly of the locomotive, CSR will undertake a thorough photographic documentation of the locomotive, organized down by component type (e.g. running gear, feedwater system, automatic blowdown device, etc.).  On the macro scale, this documentation will also include overview photographs of the locomotive, tender and combined unit.

Supplementing this photographic exercise will be the historic engineering document collection that CSR has already begun, acquiring a library of engineering drawings pertinent to the 3460-class locomotives and research undertaken by CSR. 

All photographic files will be maintained as .jpeg and/or .raw format files, taken in full RGB color.  Historic engineering documents will be maintained as Adobe Acrobat .pdf files in addition to .dwg engineering drawings, as available.  All files will be maintained on both physical drives on location and via remote storage in cloud-style networking.  This duplication will ensure that the data is backed up in the event of accidental deletion.

Removal and Replacement of Components

As anyone who has participated in a steam locomotive overhaul can attest, there are two types of fundamental materials in the steam locomotive: disposable and reusable.  As an example, most “1472 Day Inspections” undertaken in the U.S. require the complete replacement of all flues and tubes from the steam locomotive, parts which can be categorized as “disposable.”  The side rods of the locomotive, which connect the pistons to the wheels, however, are almost never replaced in full (even throughout the life of the locomotive).  These would be considered reusable.

As CSR looks to perform an overhaul of locomotive 3463, it will identify components of the locomotive that will need to be replaced in full, even though they may be traditionally considered “reusable.”  Instead of simply discarding those pieces of historic fabric, things which are not needed in the modern testbed form of locomotive 3463, CSR will take great care in saving them in a secure location in the even they are needed in the future. 

It is important to acknowledge that CSR will be rebuilding 3463 to operation, but it will be making slight modifications to the engine to allow it to burn torrefied biomass and interface better with modern day railroads.  The project will involve the modification and modernization of the locomotive to develop a series of test data, be they combustion, performance or maintenance in nature, that can be used in research, advocacy, and awareness.

These modifications, however, will not be so severe in nature that the locomotive will be modified irreversibly.  Point in case: it is certain that a new type of blast nozzle and stack will need to be fitted on 3463.  The existing, reusable components will be stored safely, the locomotive modified and, in the future, the work can be undone in the same manner with which it was performed; reversing the process.

A comparison of how 3463 will look when CSR has returned it to service as compared to how it looked in 1956 is shown below.




These guidelines are a description of the protocol CSR intends to adhere to in modernizing and rebuilding locomotive 3463, and it is a strong acknowledgement by the not-for-profit that research and preservation can coexist.  The locomotive engineers of the 1930’s were certain that their creations were not done in perfect form, and even the engineers at Santa Fe acknowledged the shortcomings of the 3460-class locomotives at the time, but they worked diligently at the time to continue to build upon their locomotives with the technology at hand [see below].

It has been 75 years since 3463 rolled off of the assembly floor in Philadelphia, and in that time a significant body of research has been created supporting the need to reinvestigate the steam locomotive.  As the engineers at Santa Fe would have done had they been privy to the information, CSR will rebuild locomotive 3463 in a way that does not squander the history of future generations, rather in a way that will provide an opportunity for all to see Santa Fe 3463 run again.