American Steam Locomotives

American Steam Locomotives

Design and Development, 1880–1960
William L. Withuhn
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/01/2019
ISBN: 978-0-253-03934-7
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For nearly half of the nation's history, the steam locomotive was the outstanding symbol for progress and power. It was the literal engine of the Industrial Revolution, and it played an instrumental role in putting the United States on the world stage. While the steam locomotive's basic principle of operation is simple, designers and engineers honed these concepts into 100-mph passenger trains and 600-ton behemoths capable of hauling mile-long freight at incredible speeds. American Steam Locomotives is a thorough and engaging history of the invention that captured public imagination like no other, and the people who brought it to life.

Author Bio

William L. Withuhn (1941–2017) was the long-time transportation curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. He was a licensed locomotive engineer who ran dozens of steam engines, from saddle-tankers to Northerns. Withuhn was also the chairman of the Federal Railroad Administration's Engineering Standards Committee, which re-wrote regulations for the 21st century and thus helped ensure continued operation of heritage locomotives. He was author of The Spirit of Steam and Rails Across America.



American Steam Locomotives: Design and Development, 1880–1960 figures to be an authoritative reference for generations to come, written by that rarest of men who not only understand the engineering, but who have the writing skill to communicate it.




"The book, which features one of the all-time great U.S. locomotives, a Nickel Plate Road Berkshire, on its cover, is a highly readable, entertaining, information packed volume."



"Now, with Withuhn, we have pretty much all we need: the details, the analysis, the scholarship, along with a wealth of supportive photography. But we also get something much more, and that's Bill engaging prose. More than any reference book I've ever encountered, this one has wit and style. You can curl up with it and read it for pleasure."



American Steam Locomotives is, and will continue to be, a landmark title in the field of railroad literature. If you are seriously interested in the history of steam locomotives, this is a volume that you have to purchase and read.




A unique book, filling a glaring void in the literature of an important transportation technology. It is comprehensive and covers 'all the bases' in the development of steam motive power from the latter decades of the 19th century to the end of steam innovation and production by 1960. Withuhn places his complex story into the larger context of railroading and national and international happenings.


 (H. Roger Grant, author of Railroads and the American People)

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Table of Contents

1. High-Wheeled Racers

2. More Wheels and Bigger Fireboxes

3. Vehicular Design for Horsepower

4. Big Wheels Turnin': A History of Counterbalancing

5. Innovation and Risk in Design: From Compound Cylinders to Superheating

6. Superheating: Design and Risk

7. Francis Cole and his Triumph of Empiracl Science

8. Locomotive Safety Regulation: The Locomotive Inspection Act of 1911 and the Nationwide Shopmen's Strike of 1922

9. Leadership in Industrial Research

10. Federal Takeover: Engineering and Politics -The U.S. Railroad Administration, 1917-1920

11. The Formative Contest

12. The Steam Locomotive's Final Form - The Hudson

13. The Steam Locomotive's Final Form - The Texas

14. The Steam Locomotive's Final Form - The Hudson - Part 2

15. The Steam Locomotive's Final Form - The Northern

16. Giants in the Earth

17. Counterpoint: Why the Diesel?

18. "Big Boy" and Allegheny: The Most Powerful of All

19. The T1 and Poppet Valves: The Last Important Innovation

20. The "Big Three" of the Norfolk & Western

21. Resisting the Revolution

22. Industrial Beauty and the Beholder