Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rail Quiz #7 Solution: City Streamliners

We had more than a dozen responses to our Rail Quiz #7. Those who guessed this is the stern of the M-10004 "City of San Francisco" were correct. This is a 38-passenger "coach - buffet car."

Union Pacific built ten of these remarkable radically designed lightweight high-speed trains, dubbed "streamliners." Manufactured by Pullman Car & Manufacturing, they were in a constant state of flux, as performance adjustments and improvements were incorporated.

The bow of the "City of San Francisco" was likewise radical, with the automotive "radiator" motif.

One respondent speculated that the quiz photo might have been "the rear of a motorized inter-city rail car of some type." And that was a reasonable assumption, given the fact that Union Pacific's E.H. Harriman held discussions with William McKeen about the development of a streamlined, gasoline-powered prototype could achieve between 40 and 60 miles per hour on sustained runs. [ed note: Edward H. Harriman. Union Pacific railroad baron. Born February 20, 1848. Passed September 9, 1909]

As I remarked in my recent article on the Gas Turbine-Electric Locomotive, Union Pacific exhibited "Big, Bold, and Brash" ideas for advancing railroad technology solving operating obstacles.

Facing a catastrophic loss of business during the Great Depression, Averell Harriman, Chairman of the Union Pacific, envisioned a streamlined train, made of lightweight material, sculpted for speed, using an internal combustion diesel engine rather than steam, to recapture travel by rail.

Most important, it had to cut in half the time it took to run from Chicago to Los Angeles. [ed note: William Averell Harriman, the son of the railway magnate, E. H. Harriman, was born in New York City, November 15, 1891. He joined his father's Union Pacific Company in 1915 and became chairman of the board from 1932 through 1946. Passed in 1986.]

Meanwhile, to answer the need for short haul passenger locals, William Bushnell Stout, a noted aircraft engineer, had designed a radically streamlined rail vehicle for Pullman Car & Manufacturing.

Looking similar to an airplane without wings or tail section, 50-passenger "Railplane" was constructed of chrome-molybdenum steel tubing and duralumin. Not to be confused with the British Railplane.

While the single car concept did not address Union Pacific's need for cross-country travel, its streamline design and lightweight construction techniques did appeal to the UP. Hence, the "Railplane" became the base technology incorporated into the M-10000.

The final design approval followed extensive wind tunnel testing at the University of Michigan.

Indeed, both the "Railplane" and "M-10000" debuted at the Chicago Worlds Fair in 1933. Following the Chicago Worlds Fair, the "Railplane" went into service on the Gulf, Mobile & Northern.

Following the 1933 Worlds Fair, and a cross country demonstration run, the M-10000 gained a forth car, a sleeper named "Overland Trail." And the four-car streamliner, first in the USA, began revenue service as the "City of Salina."

Consist of the "City of Salina:"

•The lead car - power car. Housed the Winton 600 HP distillate horsepower prime mover, a Rail Post Office (RPO) compartment, and baggage compartment. The M-10000 used a spark-ignition engine running on "petroleum distillate", a fuel similar to kerosene. [Ed Note: Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC), supervised installation of the Winton engine.)

• The second car was 2 by 2 60-passenger coach. (Only the airlines came up with the iniquitous 3x seating, and worse 8x on larger aircraft.)

• Sleeper "Overland Trail."

• The fourth car was a 2 x 2 56-passenger compartment plus a buffet. Food was distributed to passengers via a trolley mounted hot table.

In addition to the futuristic design of the M-10000, Marie Harriman, wife of the CEO, designed the interiors.

The train was unveiled in a startlingly new color - Amour Yellow, and brown. The only change made over time, was to replace the brown highlighting with Harbor Mist Gray.

Just as Averell Harriman envisioned, the original three-car M-1000 configuration, some 204-feet long, weighed in at 85 tons! The entire lightweight train weighed less than a single steel Pullman car!

To further save weight, two cars shared a common bogie, using Jacob's trucks. Jacob's trucks, named after Wilhelm Jakobs (1858-1942), a German railway engineer, eliminated the weight of a wheel set per car over the length of the train. The principle is in common use to this day.

On many occasions, the "City of Salina" would arrive from Chicago in Kansas City with 250 souls aboard a train with seating for 112! Standing in isles or sitting on each other's laps, they were obviously bound and determined to ride the new lightweight train of the future!

Nicknamed the "Tin Worm" or "Little Zip," the M-10000 "City of Salina" was scrapped in Omaha in 1942, contributing her aluminum to wartime aircraft production. Successive "City" streamliners were increased in length from three cars, including the power car, to 11 cars, with a corresponding increase in power packs.

On October 22, 1934, the M-10001 departed Los Angeles for New York. It arrived in New York in 55 hours and 56 minutes. Union Pacific's "Big, Bold, Brash," lightweight train had beaten, by 14.4 hours, the previous steam train record, cutting by more than a day, cross country travel.

But, like a vulture circling overhead, a new threat to passenger service. In April 1935, a Trans World Airlines (TWA) DC-2 set a transcontinental speed record covering the distance from Los Angles to New York, to New York in 11 hours and five minutes.

Don Strack, in, presents a comprehensive history of the "City" streamliners. And additional details here.

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