How to Operate a Steam Locomotive, with Santa Fe 3464!

Ever wonder how the Santa Fe trained its crews to operate steam locomotives? CSR worked with the Kansas Historical Society to have this Santa Fe Railway training video re-scanned at 1080p resolution from the original 16MM film. We then edited the piece together, complete with narration and some "period" music. It also provides some video evidence of the high speed running these locomotives provided - 90+ MPH!

More information to the "sister" locomotive to that which "starred" in this video can be found on the CSR webpage dedicated to 3463

Lawsuit Regarding Santa Fe Steam Locomotive Settled, CSR Rightful Owner of ATSF 3463

On July 6, 1948, Santa Fe steam locomotive No. 3463 rests between runs at Dearborn Station. Photographer unknown, from the collection of Warren Scholl, colorized by Jared Enos in 2015.

T O P E K A, K A N S A S | January 23, 2018 –  The ownership dispute over former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway steam locomotive number 3463 (ATSF 3463) has been settled by an agreement of four parties, with ownership finally vested in favor of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR). An agreement between CSR, the City of Topeka, the Attorney General of Kansas, and the Great Overland Station ratified last week clarifies that the 1937-built steam engine is the property of CSR. The Minnesota-based not-for-profit also announced this week that it will be shifting its goals with the locomotive from research to preservation.

“We are thankful to the hard work and dedication of the City of Topeka, the Kansas Attorney General, the Great Overland Station and, certainly, the outstanding team at Frieden, Unrein, and Forbes, LLP, that handled this unique and challenging case,” said CSR President Davidson Ward. “We look forward to continuing our work in Topeka, especially as we announced today our shift in plans for the one-of-a-kind locomotive from solid biofuel testbed to preserved artifact.”

When CSR initially announced its biofuel and steam technology project in mid-2012, it had sought to use ATSF 3463 as a centerpiece of the research and as a showpiece of the technology. This plan was put abruptly on hold in 2013 due to an ownership dispute over the steam engine, and CSR leadership pursued other avenues to keep the research progressing despite the delay.

“Instead of hoping and waiting for the lawsuit to be resolved in our favor, we decided to continue our pursuit of solid biofuel, steam locomotive, and advanced steam technologies,” said CSR Senior Mechanical Engineer Wolf Fengler. “Now that those initiatives are well underway, vetting the theories we had hoped to prove with the Santa Fe locomotive, we have opted to table our plans to modify the engine as a testbed. Instead, CSR will work with collaborators in Topeka to ensure the locomotive is moved, preserved, and, if practical, restored to operation.”

CSR will work with collaborators in Topeka to ensure the locomotive is moved, preserved, and, if practical, restored to operation.

CSR is launching a program today to ensure that ATSF 3463 is properly preserved. The goal is to raise funding to move the locomotive from the Kansas Expocentre grounds to a location in Topeka where it can be preserved, develop a covered home base for the locomotive in Topeka, and determine whether there is a viable case for returning the locomotive to steam as a preserved artifact. Depending on the outcome of the "go / no go" decision regarding operational restoration, CSR will either pursue overhauling the locomotive to operation, or perform a cosmetic restoration to return it to its appearance when donated to the City in 1956.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure the locomotive has a future where it is properly preserved, be that as an operational locomotive or as a static display,” explained CSR Board Member and Santa Fe Railway Historian Warren Scholl. “Now that the ownership of the artifact has been clarified, we look forward to working with all partners, local and national, to ensure the safe future of ATSF 3463.”

Everett Railroad Fundraising Gaining Steam!

CSR has made significant headway towards its goal of raising $20,000 in support of biofuel testing at the Everett Railroad. We closed out 2017 with raising just under $15,000 towards that goal, and work is still underway preparing for those tests later this year.

We recently released this video on Facebook supporting our fundraising efforts. We want YOU to ride along with us on these upcoming tests. Donors to CSR are invited to ride along! Details are found on our Everett Railroad page, or you may give online here.

Biofuel Tests at Milwaukee Zoo Train a Success, CSR and NRRI Look Ahead to Standard Gauge Trials

 Milwaukee County Zoo train on a trial - the first locomotive is burning 100% torrefied biomass, and the trailing locomotive is burning a 50/50 blend of torrefied biomass and coal.

Milwaukee County Zoo train on a trial - the first locomotive is burning 100% torrefied biomass, and the trailing locomotive is burning a 50/50 blend of torrefied biomass and coal.

Two steam locomotives at the Milwaukee County Zoo were fueled with a renewable wood-based solid fuel last week to reduce fossil coal emissions, and the tests were a success.

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) and the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) completed a final series of three biofuel trials following more than a year and a half of development of the fuel at NRRI’s Renewable Energy Lab in Coleraine, Minn. Thanks to the generosity of the Milwaukee County Zoo, its small 15-inch gauge railroad has served as a demonstration platform for CSR and NRRI to see how a wood-based torrefied biomass fuel product burns in locomotive-style boilers. Tests in June and October 2016 revealed that the biofuel could make sufficient steam, but improper pelletizing methods resulted in spark emissions from the locomotive.

“Following the first trials, our researchers set about devising a better method to densify the material, including acquiring an industrial scale densification machine that we installed at our lab in Coleraine,” explained NRRI Associate Director, and CSR Board Member, Don Fosnacht, Ph.D. “Combined with a food-grade binding agent, we were able to make dense, pill-shaped pellets for use with these Zoo test trials that burned exactly like coal.”

 No. 1924 hauls the test train up the steepest grade on the Zoo railroad burning 100% torrefied biomass.

No. 1924 hauls the test train up the steepest grade on the Zoo railroad burning 100% torrefied biomass.

NRRI is currently researching the opportunities in “torrefied biomass,” a wood-based biofuel that is made in a kiln not unlike a coffee roaster. After being “roasted,” the wood is transformed into a fuel that burns and reacts much like coal,  with virtually no heavy metal pollutants and reduced carbon emissions. NRRI provided three blends of torrefied biomass to the Zoo for testing: 1) a blend of 99 percent torrefied biomass and 1 percent binder agent; 2) a blend of 49.5 percent torrefied biomass, 49.5 percent Powder River Basin coal, and 1 percent binder; and 3) a 100 percent torrefied biomass pellet with no binder. Each of the fuels was tested in the Zoo train locomotives, and two were found to be ideal stand-in fuels for fossil coal.

 Pre-blended torrefied biomass / Powder River Basin fuel pellets ready to load in the tender of No. 1924.

Pre-blended torrefied biomass / Powder River Basin fuel pellets ready to load in the tender of No. 1924.

“The torrefied biomass with binder, and the 50/50 blend of coal and biofuel, worked quite well in both locomotives,” said CSR President Davidson Ward. “Both fuels burned nearly identical to coal, including building a decent coal bed on the grates and maintaining pressure under a wide variety of operational circumstances, while being nearly smoke and odor free.”

Initial temperature data also indicate that the biofuel heating value is equal to coal. The maximum firebox temperatures recorded during the biofuel trials were in excess of 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit (1149 Degrees Celcius).

“I am quite impressed with what I saw from this round of biofuel testing, and I look forward to burning it in our steam locomotive,” said Zach Hall, Steam Operations manager at the Everett Railroad, who was on site to participate in the tests. “From my observations, both the biomass with binder and 50/50 blend of fuel will do just fine to make steam and minimize smoke, both of which are good things in my book.”

CSR and NRRI are ramping up for the next round of tests: manufacturing 10 tons of fuel for use by Everett Railroad steam locomotive No. 11 early next year. In support of these tests, CSR is undergoing a matching grant fundraising process, whereby donations to the non-profit made between now and December 15 will be matched dollar-for-dollar (up to $10,000).  

Zoo Tests: a sneak peek


The Coalition for Sustainable Rail, in conjunction with staff from the Natural Resources Research Institute, completed a third round of torrefied biomass fuel tests with the steam locomotives at the Milwaukee County Zoo this past Monday.  CSR will be providing more details about the findings of that research next week but, in short, it was a success!

Until then, check out the following video of Zoo train 4-6-2 No. 1924 hauling our test train. The locomotive is burning torrefied biomass fuel.

The deep "humming" noise is the locomotive "drumming." Similar to pulse jet engines, the fuel is generating so much combustable matter that the firebox is consuming more air than it can bring in at one time. As air comes through the firebed, it flash ignites, causing a small "boom." Multiply this by hundreds of bursts of air coming through the firebed at once, you get drumming. This is alleviated through better ash pan design, installing overfire tubes (like most late-model steam engines), or cracking the door a bit. Notice that the noise stops when the engineer opens the door to shovel each scoop of fuel into the firebox.

New White Paper - Preserving Solid Fuel Firing in a Post-Coal World

This white paper addresses how economic and environmental concerns are shifting global energy markets away from coal towards natural gas and other technologies, making preservation of the skills associated with solid fuel firing increasingly difficult for heritage operators. The Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR), in association with the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota - Duluth (NRRI), is working to stay ahead of this eventuality by developing a direct coal replacement employing sustainable biomass.

Preliminary results are detailed in the paper, outlining steps being taken by CSR to perform instrumented testing and refinement of this material to-date. The project is specifically designed to reduce risk associated with development of the fuel by first conducting tests in quarter scale locomotives and then systematically moving toward larger, and larger equipment. 


UPDATE: A newer version of this paper was re-uploaded in November 2017 that includes minor corrections to the text and content.