CSR White Paper Program

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail, working in conjunction with the University of Minnesota (U of M), the Porta Family Foundation, and other not-for-profit rail and biomass research organizations, is bringing scholarly works pertinent to biofuel, modern steam locomotive and transportation research into the public discourse through its White Paper Program.  It intends to upload papers periodically, providing a factual database of information regarding all aspects of CSR's research areas.

I applaud your efforts for modern steam power. Thank you for the excellent white paper program. Keep up the good work!
— CSR Donor "Mark" from Indiana

What Pressure for Old Locomotive Boilers?

This White Paper, was written by mechanical engineer L.D. Porta in 1999 and addresses some of the misconceptions and concerns surrounding old steam locomotive boilers.

The paper addresses a bit the history of riveted construction in bridges, including the famous Firth of Forth bridge. Apart from being one of the most iconic railroad structures in the world, it is also constructed of steel held together with millions of rivets, all of which have stood the test of time since their installation in the 1880's. Porta provides an interesting analysis of the stresses incurred in bridges as compared with locomotive boilers.

It is thanks to CSR's relationship with the Porta Family Foundation that we are able to provide these educational re-prints of some of Porta's more informative works to the General Public on an educational basis. Enjoy!

The Thermo-Mechanical Behavior of the Steam Locomotive Firebox

This never-before-published report on the fundamental principles of steam locomotive fireboxes is a unique glimpse into the mind of modern steam engineer Livio Dante Porta. The source paper has been emailed around among a few modern steam proponents for years, but it was a grainy, hand-written and hand-illustrated version of the digitized text presented here in this CSR White Paper.

The piece is an interesting look into the design process and, at times, struggles encountered in the pursuit of advanced steam locomotion. Porta wrote the paper at the time of preparing and testing former Chesapeake & Ohio Railway 4-8-4 number 614 as part of the ACE 3000 project. The way in which Porta organizes this paper provides a systematic, point-by-point analysis of firebox sheets, staybolts, tubes and water treatment, is of interest, in that it dispels a variety of the commonly-quoted shortcomings of steam locomotives with compelling facts. 

This paper has been transcribed from the original, hand written text and has been edited only slightly to allow clarity in reading. The diagrams have been redrawn digitally to also further aid in clarity of understanding. This White Paper also features images of C&O 614 provided by the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, a not-for-profit that has worked with CSR in the past in providing education and outreach. 

Development of Modern Steam 3: the Rio Turbio Railway and GPCS

This White Paper, which covers the history of the Rio Turbio Railway and the Gas Producer Combustion System, provides an in-depth look into one of the most unique railroad operations of the Twentieth Century.

With a track gauge of only 750 mm (2'-5.5"), the Rio Turbio Railway, or " Ramal Ferro Industrial de Rio Turbio" (RFIRT), operated with a fleet of 20, 2-10-2 type steam locomotives of advanced design. Arriving on the property in the late 1950's to address a series of mechanical issues with the locomotives, Engineer L.D. Porta's work on the railroad led to advances in combustion, maintenance, and boiler designs, laying the foundation for advanced steam work which followed across the globe.

This White Paper also features collaboration with the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, a not-for-profit that has worked with CSR in the past in providing education and outreach.  This white papers features images that CRPA graciously provided out of its vast Fred M. Springer Collection of images.  Thanks are also due to Ben Anderson and Jim Hebson for their photographs and narrative from an adventure they took to Argentina in 1991.

Development of Modern Steam 2: Argentina - Porta's First Locomotive

Porta had corresponded extensively with Andre Chapelon, the focus of CSR's last white paper, following his education as a Civil Engineer. At age 25, Porta was able to convince financiers to back the concept of modifying an antiquated 4-6-2 into a modern 4-8-0. Over the next three years (from 1947-1950), Porta completely rebuilt and modernized the locomotive, the results of which laid the foundation for developments he championed in the half-century to follow.

The story of Argentina shows the incredible drive of a young, very industrious engineer in successfully conceiving, coordinating, financing, designing, building and testing a very modern steam locomotive. Virtually every known thermodynamic improvement available at the time was applied in its construction.

The locomotive set world records for thermal efficiency and power-to-weight ratio for steam locomotives, one that stands to this day as a testament to Porta's genious. 

Development of Modern Steam 1: Andre Chapelon and his Steam Locomotives

CSR has invested significant time and effort into creation of its "White Paper Program" with the intent of providing substantial bodies of information about the history, principles and viability of modern steam technology, advanced biofuel research and the union thereof to the general public. As 2014 begins, CSR is venturing into completion of its most in-depth white paper series yet - a detailed history of the "Development of Modern Steam." This series will focus on the history and technological developments undertaken in Europe, South America, Africa and North America.

This first paper, "André Chapelon and his Steam Locomotives" focuses on the predecessor mechanical engineers of modern steam locomotives, primarily the French locomotive designer André Chapelon. The application of fluid and thermodynamics to the steam locomotive was most successfully undertaken by Chapelon on the Paris Orleans Railway and, once nationalized, the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF). His understanding of the "steam circuit," the utilization of advanced front end exhausts paired with large steam passages and his successful utilization of "compounding," that is using steam more than once, were as successful in theory as they were in practice.

Steam Locomotive Rail Wheel Dynamics Part 2 - Mechanical Balancing of Steam Locomotives

As the second part of a two-part series on locomotive balancing, this white paper provides an in-depth, yet approachable explanation of steam locomotive rail wheel dynamics.  From defining dynamic augment to explaining how a Franklin Radial Buffer helps alleviate the need for overbalance, the Mechanical Balancing of Steam Locomotives white paper provides the fundamentals of steam locomotive balancing.

This new white paper attempts to distill important concepts into more understandable verbiage. Beginning with defining key terms, CSR presents equations relevant to the rail wheel dynamics of steam locomotives, takes a closer look at the techniques and technology introduced to facilitate high speed operation and concludes with a discussion of how advances in materials science, physics, computing, and machine design over the last 50 years provide additional tools for the modern locomotive design engineer – tools which may just help CSR relegate dynamic augment to the history books.

Steam Locomotive Rail Wheel Dynamics Part 1 - Precedent Speed

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) has received a few pointed questions about the feasibility of a modern steam locomotive to operate efficiently and safely at higher speeds since announcing "Project 130" in May 2012. That in mind, it has decided to formulate a two-part white paper on steam locomotive speed and rail dynamics: 1.) Precedent Speed and 2.) Primer on the Mechanical Balancing of Steam Locomotives. This paper focuses on the anecodotal history of traditional steam locomotives at speed, while the next paper will provide an in-depth engineering investigation of locomotive wheel balancing and engineering.

The current interest in the Norfolk & Western Railway (N&W) J Class steam locomotive, due to the recent announcement of the Virginia Museum of Transportation's Fire Up 611 committee to investigate the feasibility of restoring locomotive 611 to operation, provides an ideal segway into a solid precedent on steam locomotives at high speed. In this white paper, the high-speed performance of the N&W Class J will be explored. While the 3460-class of locomotives, of which CSR's 3463 is a member, were well suited to running at 100+ miles per hour, it is valuable to take lessons learned from the Class J, which has 14" smaller diameter driving wheels and could attain similar operational speeds.


The Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), a research collaborator of CSR, has been studying the ability of converting invasive biomass species into torrefied biomass, or "biocoal." Working with the non-profit  Agency to Facilitate the Growth of Rural Organizations (AFGRO), NRRI has investigated the ability of turning Typha Australis, an invasive relative of the North American cattail that is choking the Senegal River in Mauritania and Senegal, Africa, into a usable, clean cooking, heating and electricity fuel source.

In late June 2013, CSR Board Member and Director for the Center for Applied Research and Technological Development (CARTD) at NRRI, Dr. Don Fosnacht, and Peter P. Strzok of AFGRO traveled to Mauritania to meet with officials and share information about the torrefaction technologies NRRI champions.  Prior to their visit, Mr. Ismaila Kane of the Mauritainian Ministry of Rural Development shipped roughly 100 kilograms of dried Typha stalks to Duluth for torrefaction and conversion.

This White Paper, "Visit to Mauritania to Explore NRRI-Developed Option for Conversion of Typha australisto Biocoal," provides a detailed summary of the trip taken by CSR's research partners and includes, following the main report, a copy of the presentation given by Dr. Fosnacht before multiple bodies in Mauritania. 


At the height of the Arab Oil Embargo, preceding most talk of modern steam locomotion in the U.S. (including prior to the famous Red Devil project in South Africa and ACE 3000 undertaking in the States), Ing. Livio Dante Porta wrote a paper in response to two articles published in Trains Magazine in the late 1960's concerning historic steam locomotive development.  Called "The Case for a Better American Steam Locomotive," it is a solid introduction to the concept of modern steam locomotive mechanical engineering and, through the success of other projects as mentioned in the Foreword, a concrete example of its success and efficacy.  

Never before published on the web, this paper is the first of many that CSR will publish supporting the research and development of CSR research areas, both in the field of modern steam locomotive engineering and torrefied biomass production.  Having developed a relationship with the Porta Family Foundation Archives, in part through a close interaction with Alejandro Dante Porta, L.D. Porta's youngest son, the Coalition will work to process and make available many of the concepts pioneered by Porta.

Also, thanks to the generosity of Kalmbach Publishing, CSR is able to offer  "The Case for the French Steam Locomotive" and "The Case for the American Steam Locomotive," the two articles that spurred Porta to write the subject work, free to download.