Friday, November 7, 2008

Upside down Aeroplane!

Northern Pacific 2626, deadline, Stacy Street, Seattle, June 1958. My family had driven down from Prince Rupert for a two-week vacation, and I was spending time with my friends.

Since I wasn’t old enough to drive, I connected with one of my buddies by letting him know – via standard land line rotary dial telephone on a 4-way party line - what bus I’d be on, so he could join me down by his place. Furse Stage Lines, precursor to Seattle Transit, ran a fleet of strange looking engine aft buses, Kenworths I believe, with floor shifters.

We connected. Our first stop at Sears-Roebuck down on First Avenue South, giving us access to Stacy Street Yard. In the parking lot, we spotted a brand new caddy. Hey, let’s do some posing!

There was entire line of dead steam engines, parked behind the Sears-Roebuck store on 1st Avenue South.

Now for this story to work, you have to understand that at the time I took these photos, all they were to me was a line of steam engines sitting on death row, awaiting the burner’s torch down in Tacoma! Remember, I was a mere lad of 15, and freshman ferroequinologist.

Now. Fast forward to last week. I have boxes of slides, negatives and prints that I rummage through to share with you. I found today’s slide in a steel box, along with about a dozen other Northern Pacific Railroad engines, mostly on this deadline.

So it wasn’t until I did further research on this particular engine, Northern Pacific 2626, did I discover I had an “upside down aeroplane” in my photo collection – the famous “Four Aces!”

A fellow by the name of
Tracy Buckwalter, Vice President of Engineering for the Timken Roller Bearing Company, urged the construction of a demonstrator locomotive to prove the tremendous reduction in running resistance.

In fact, three women in high heels, pulled Timken 1111 in Chicago, demonstrating starting friction – said to be 1/20th of a standard locomotive. Because of it’s distinctive number, this locomotive gained the nick-name, “Four Aces.”

Northern Pacific Railroad ended up purchasing this locomotive from Timken, when, following a test run, she developed crown sheet damage! Timken didn’t want a damaged engine, and came to an agreement for the Northern Pacific to purchase her.

Whyte Notation 4-8-4 was dubbed “Northern Pacific” in honor of this first in class, which was shortened to “Northern.”

As rail legend goes, this wheel arrangement was adopted by other roads, many of whom shrugged off the “Northern” nomenclature, assigning their own localized identification; e.g. Canadian National Railways dubbed this wheel arrangement “Confederation.”

Railroad Stuff: Timken Roller Bearing 1111, built as 4-8-4 “Northern Pacific” by ALCo-Schenectady 1930. Tractive effort: 63,700 lbs, boiler pressure: 250 psi, cylinders: 2X 27”x30”, grate area: 88.3 sq ft, weight over-all: 417,500 lbs, drivers: 73” diameter, length: 107’ 7”. Sold to Northern Pacific in February 1930. Retired Seattle, August 4, 1957. Scrapped in Tacoma.

Yup. I have boxes full of postage stamps and stamp albums. Perhaps later today I shall peruse them to see if I DO have a stamp with an up-side-down aeroplane!

2 Comments - Click here:

LinesWest said...

Great find, thanks for sharing it! 2626 has always been a legend in my mind. You got a very unique shot of it as a lad. You can still sense that power behind the old 4-8-4 as it sits in the dead line.

SDP45 said...

The uproar the scrapping of the 2626 was huge. Many wanted it saved because of its unique status.

I've seen a picture somewhere on the net, of a steam locomotive cab on the ground numbered 2626. Sad sight.

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