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Shay, Climax and Heisler geared Steam Locomotives[Inhalt]
View of a Shay
View of a Shay
Steven Fine

The need for wood for a wide range of uses grew rapidly in North America in the second half of the 19th century as new regions were developed and settled. This also increased the amount of felled wood that had to be transported from its place of origin to the sawmills. The transport of logs by horses or on rivers had proven its worth, but the transport volumes could not be increased indefinitely. The solution was rail transport.

However, since each logging area could only be used for a limited period of time and the trees needed many years to grow back at this point, another problem arose: the construction of railway tracks was time-consuming and costly, which opposed use over a limited period of time. The solution were provisionally laid rail tracks, partly made of prefabricated sections, which were placed on the forest floor without a ballast bedding. This resulted in an uneven track with steep inclines and sometimes tight curves. Even when crossing smaller rivers, the construction of bridges was sometimes not worthwhile, so that the rails were sometimes even laid directly into the river bed, as long as the water depth was not too great.

It was now important to find suitable locomotives for these routes. At best, small, two-axle tank locomotives were suitable for the uneven ground with tight curves. However, these were soon no longer strong enough and larger locomotives with multiple axles had a more or less rigid frame, which prevented them from being used on such routes. With the cars in North America it has long been customary to bed them on two bogies due to the fact that the tracks in many places were laid with less care than in Europe. Therefore, various types of steam locomotives were soon developed, which also rested on bogies. New approaches were also taken to power transmission, as the usual cylinders located near the ground were susceptible to water and dirt. This led to the well-known, typically North American designs such as the Shay, the Climax and the Heisler. What they all had in common was that they were available in significantly different sizes, but all sizes shared the same basic structure.

The first type, which was the most successful of the three with around 2,770 built until 1945, went back to the sawmill owner Ephraim Shay. In search of a suitable locomotive for his company, he created the first locomotive of this type in the winter of 1873/1874. It was based on a flat car, on which he placed a vertical boiler, which supplied two vertical cylinders mounted on one side. All four axles were driven via drive shafts and bevel gears. After some improvements, he turned his design to the Lima Machine Works in Lima, Ohio, which delivered the first locomotive in 1880. In the following year, Shay transferred all rights to Lima, enabling the company to achieve strong growth.

Basic construction of the running gear of Climax locomotives
Basic construction of the running gear of Climax locomotives
US Patent 421894

The first Shay locomotives looked similar to the prototype until they switched to a horizontal long boiler and the locomotives came closer to the appearance of conventional steam locomotives. Now there was a clearly recognizable front and rear end and the cylinders and drive gear were always mounted on the right-hand side. In order to balance the weight, the boiler was moved slightly to the left. After the first copies had two cylinders, almost all larger models were later built with three cylinders for smoother running. Despite the good running smoothness, no Shay reached more than 20 mph, but a very high traction compared to its weight.

Appearing only a few years later and with a total of a little more than 1,000 units, the locomotive of the Climax type was not quite as successful. There were similar designs by different men, some of whom were also involved in legal disputes. However, the idea is generally credited to Charles D. Scott, who approached the Climax Manufacturing Company of Corry, Pennsylvania to implement it. The two cylinders of the Climax were basically arranged on both sides as in conventional steam locomotives, but they were usually much higher and drove a jackshaft. This in turn transmitted the power to the bogies via a driveshaft mounted centrally under the locomotive. The axle differentials still used in the first drafts proved to be counterproductive and were soon no longer installed. What was special about the Climax locomotives was that most of the locomotives had a two-speed gearbox. Baldwin also made geared locomotives that were very similar to the Climax locomotives.

The third of the three most successful types of geared locomotives from the USA came from Charles Heisler and shared the central driveshaft with the Climax. Here, however, the cylinders were arranged in a V-shape directly behind the first bogie, similar to a V-engine. While the drive shaft on the Climax drove each individual wheel set directly, on the Heisler it only drove one axle per bogie directly. The second axle in each case was driven via coupling rods which were visible from the outside. The first Heisler locomotives were built in 1891 by the Dunkirk Engineering Company in the city of the same name in New York State. Larger numbers began to appear in 1894 at the Stearns Manufacturing Company in Erie, Pennsylvania, which renamed itself the Heisler Locomotive Works in 1907. A total of around 850 copies were made by 1941. The Heisler is often said to have been the fastest of the three types.

T.L. Hackney Lumber Co. No. 1 (Shay A-8-2)
United States | 1885 | only one produced

The smallest design of the Shay, referred to as Class A, was available in different sizes between 6 and 24 tons. One of the oldest engines had the serial number 131 and was built in 1885 for the logging company T.L. Hackney in Texas. It had a service weight of nine short tons and was built for a gauge of 36 inches. The boiler was still arranged vertically and instead of a driver's cab there was only a large roof without side panels. After its service life at T.L. Hackney it came to the Rusk Iron Works, also in Texas

General
Built1885
ManufacturerLima
Axle config0-4-4-0T (Shay) 
Gauge3 ft 0 in (Three feet)
Dimensions and Weights
Empty weight10,000 lbs
Service weight18,000 lbs
Adhesive weight18,000 lbs
Water capacity400 us gal
Fuel capacity2,240 lbs (wood)
Power
Power sourcesteam
Top speed15 mph
Starting effort1,339 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter26 in
Boiler pressure80 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylinderstwo, 8 x 8 in
Boiler
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
Shay
geared steam locomotive
narrow gauge
freight
last changed: 04/2022
Gilpin Tramway Co. No. 1 (Shay A-9-2)
United States | 1887 | only one produced
Gilpin Tramway No. 1
Gilpin Tramway No. 1

A few years after the construction of the first engines, the design of the Shay locomotives changed from the vertical boiler to a classic, horizontal boiler barrel with clearly visible steam and sand domes. One of these nine-ton-class models was procured by the Gilpin Tramway in 1887 for its 15.5-mile route in Gilpin County near Denver, with a two-foot gauge. It had the factory number 181 and was given the number 1 and the name “Gilpin” by its owner. Four more Shays followed in the years up to 1902 with 12, 15, 17 and 18 tons. The first two were sold in 1905, the others remained in service until the line was closed in 1917.

General
Built1887
ManufacturerLima
Axle config0-4-4-0T (Shay) 
Gauge2 ft 0 in (Two feet)
Dimensions and Weights
Empty weight23,300 lbs
Water capacity456 us gal
Fuel capacity1,500 lbs (coal)
Power
Power sourcesteam
Top speed14 mph
Starting effort1,822 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter24 in
Boiler pressure150 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylinderstwo, 7 x 7 in
Boiler
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
Shay
geared steam locomotive
narrow gauge
freight
last changed: 04/2022
Lake Independence Lumber Co. No. 1 to 5 (Shay B-50-2)
United States | 1910 | 5 produced
collection George R. Kadelak

One of the standard models of the Shay built in larger numbers was the class B in the version with a service weight of about 50 short tons. Like all B, C and D class models, they had three cylinders. Some of the B-50-2 model locomotives already had a boiler pressure of 220 psi, while most others were still operated at 200 psi. In the meantime, the gear parts on the right side of the locomotives were covered to protect them from dirt while working in the forest. Curb weight was 85,800 pounds for early examples and approached 99,000 pounds for locomotives from the mid-20's.

The Lake Independence Lumber Company in Michigan operated a total of five B-50-2s in addition to one B-42-2. Two of these had been built in 1910 and 1911 for other logging companies and came to this company later. Two more had been built directly for the Lake Independence Lumber Co. in 1914 and 1925 and an identical 1923 example had been purchased from Lima stocks. All five were resold in the 1920s, four of them to the Brunswick Lumber Company.

General
Built1910-1914, 1923, 1925
ManufacturerLima
Axle config0-4-4-0T (Shay) 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Empty weight85,800 lbs
Water capacity1,750 us gal
Fuel capacity6,500 lbs (coal)
Power
Power sourcesteam
Top speed17 mph
Starting effort22,563 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter32 in
Boiler pressure200 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylindersthree, 11 x 12 in
Boiler
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
Shay
geared steam locomotive
freight
last changed: 04/2022
Western Maryland No. 6 (Shay C-150-3)
United States | 1945 | only one produced
In May 1950 in Knobmount, West Virginia
In May 1950 in Knobmount, West Virginia
collection Taylor Rush

The heaviest Shays belonged to class C and had three two-axle bogies with a service weight of 160 short tons. Likewise, the class D with four bogies up to 150 short tons was offered, which could score with slightly lower power figures with larger reserves and a higher adhesive weight. A common model with three bogies in the 150 ton weight class is presented here. In terms of the number of cylinders, it did not differ from the smallest B-class models, but the cylinders were significantly larger with a diameter of 17 inches and a piston stroke of 18 inches.

No. 6 in front of a freight train
No. 6 in front of a freight train
www.mountainrailwv.com

The Western Maryland Railway already had one C-70-3 and one D-150-4 type and procured another C-150-3 in 1945. The special thing about this locomotive is that it was the last of about 2,770 Shays built. After the Western Maryland introduced diesel locomotives on main lines beginning in 1949, the number 6 was retired in September 1950 after only five years of service. In 1953 it came to the Baltimore & Ohio Transportation Museum and from there it has been on loan to the state of West Virginia since 1980 for use on the Cass Scenic Railroad. It is considered the largest operational Shay today.

General
Built1945
ManufacturerLima
Axle config0-4-4-4-0T (Shay) 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Empty weight269,960 lbs
Service weight308,000 lbs
Water capacity6,000 us gal
Fuel capacity18,000 lbs (coal)
Power
Power sourcesteam
Top speed23 mph
Starting effort59,742 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter48 in
Boiler pressure200 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylindersthree, 17 x 18 in
Boiler
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
Shay
geared steam locomotive
freight
passenger
last changed: 04/2022
Olds Lumber Co. No. 1 (Climax class B 50 tons)
Hillcrest Lumber Co. No. 9
Canada | 1915 | only one produced
Number 9 on display at the BC Forest Discovery Center in 1995
Number 9 on display at the BC Forest Discovery Center in 1995
Foto: SoftwareSimian

While the first Class A Climax locomotives still had a vertical boiler and vertical cylinders, the majority of the later classes A, B and C got a horizontal boiler and laterally mounted, horizontal or inclined cylinders. The machine last run as Hillcrest Lumber Company No. 9 was a two bogie class B example. Classified in the 50-tons category, it was actually quite a bit lighter. It used oil as fuel. The maximum train loads of locomotives in this class were over 2,000 tons on level ground and 130 tons on a six percent incline.

The locomotive was built in 1915 for the M.D. Olds Lumber Company in Michigan, but turned out to be too light for their purpose and was sold to Vancouver in Canada in 1917. There it was involved in the collection of wood for aircraft construction, but after the end of the war the demand collapsed and led to another sale. After another change of ownership, it finally came to the Hillcrest Lumber Company, where it served from 1936 to 1968. It was then used a few more times for special trips and today it is on display at the British Columbia Forest Discovery Center in Duncan.

General
Built1915
ManufacturerClimax
Axle config0-4-4-0T (Climax) 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Length33 ft 5 15/16 in
Empty weight88,000 lbs
Service weight100,000 lbs
Fuel capacitycoal
Power
Power sourcesteam
Starting effort13,239 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter31.3 in
Boiler pressure180 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylinderstwo, 13 x 16 in
Boiler
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
Climax
geared steam locomotive
freight
last changed: 04/2022
San Joaquin & Eastern No. 105 to 109 (Climax class C 70 tons)
United States | 1916 | 5 produced
No. 108 in April 1933 in Auberry, California
No. 108 in April 1933 in Auberry, California
G.M. Best

The 55-mile-long San Joaquin & Eastern was built in Fresno County, California in 1912 to serve the Big Creek hydroelectric dam site. Since it was sometimes described as the most crooked railway line in the world, steam locomotives with bogies were used on the mountainous sections. After five Shays from 1912, six more Climax were purchased between 1916 and 1923.

The first five of these were of the three-truck C class with 70 tons. Like many railroads in the region, they were fired by oil. When the unprofitable line closed in 1933, No. 108 shown was shipped overseas. The sixth Climax with number 110 from 1923 was of the B class with 45 tons.

General
Built1916-1922
ManufacturerClimax
Axle config0-4-4-4-0T (Climax) 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Service weight140,000 lbs
Adhesive weight140,000 lbs
Axle load23,335 lbs
Fuel capacityoil
Power
Power sourcesteam
Starting effort16,339 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter35 in
Boiler pressure200 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylinderstwo, 14 1/2 x 16 in
Boiler
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
freight
Climax
geared steam locomotive
last changed: 01/2024
Taupo Totara Timber Co. No. 9 (Heisler type 32-8-30)
New Zealand | 1921 | only one produced
Taupo Totara Timber Co. number 9
Taupo Totara Timber Co. number 9
Albert Percy Godber

Geared locomotives could also be exported to other countries if their use was appropriate due to local conditions. One customer was the Taupo Totara Timber Company, TTT for short, which was founded in 1903 in Mokai on the North Island of New Zealand. They laid a 50-mile cape gauge main line from the NZR network to Mokai, and from there fanned out sidings into the forest. Due to the connection to the national route network, the main line was built with great effort, while the sidings were simply laid in the forest, as is usual for logging railways. Therefore, locomotives were needed that allowed safe operation on rough, winding and mountainous routes, but were also fast enough for the main line.

Of the ten locomotives that TTT purchased between 1903 and 1937, four were of the Heisler design. The last of these was number 9 shown, which had been delivered in 1921. It belonged to the type 32-8-30, which indicated a service weight of 32 short tons, eight powered wheels and a wheel diameter of 30 inches. It had a boiler pressure of just 160 psi, compared to the 180 or 200 psi of the larger variants.

The Heisler locomotives were used together with conventional and geared locomotives from different manufacturers. A point of interest on their route was the bridge over the Waikato at Ongaroto, which at the time had the longest span in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, this bridge in particular could not benefit from an urgently needed renovation after the sawmill in Mokai burned down in 1928 and the TTT therefore lacked the financial means. It is said that the condition of the bridge soon became so bad that the crew and passengers jumped off the train just before the bridge. This then crawled across the bridge without a driver while the people waded through the river and got back on at the other side. The company finally closed its doors in 1944 and part of the main line was then operated by the state railway.

General
Built1921
ManufacturerHeisler
Axle config0-4-4-0T (Heisler) 
Gauge3 ft 6 in (Cape gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Length30 ft 4 in
Service weight64,000 lbs
Fuel capacitywood
Power
Power sourcesteam
Starting effort8,500 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter30 in
Boiler pressure160 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylinderstwo, 12 1/2 x 12 in
Boiler
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
geared steam locomotive
Heisler
freight
last changed: 04/2022
Cass Scenic No. 6 (Heisler type 90-12-40)
United States | 1929 | only one produced
James St. John / Cass Scenic Railroad # 6 steam locomotive (Heisler 3-truck)

The largest type among the Heisler locomotives was the 90-12-40. This meant a service weight of 90 short tons, twelve wheels and a wheel diameter of 40 inches. With this, an additional tender was stored on a third, two-axle bogie, which was also connected to the drive shaft. Although Charles L. Heisler's patent originally included four-cylinder locomotives, the largest locomotives were also built with two cylinders and an increased boiler pressure of 200psi. The maximum train weight was around 600 tons on a gradient of two percent and 225 tons at five percent. In theory, up to 4,000 tons were possible on the flat, but these geared locomotives were not intended for the flat country.

A surviving example of the large design is the standard gauge number 6 of the Cass Scenic Railroad. The latter operates an eleven mile long, very hilly line in the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia, which was built in 1901. On the Cass Scenic Railroad, the Heisler, built in 1929, is the only one of its kind, while the other engines consist of a Climax and otherwise only Shays. Today, like the rest of the fleet, it is still owned by the state of West Virginia, but is now used in Durbin by the operating company Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad. The locomotive was originally built for the Meadow River Lumber Company, which at the time operated one of the largest sawmills in the world.

General
Built1929
ManufacturerHeisler
Axle config0-4-4-4-0T (Heisler) 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Length48 ft 1 1/2 in
Service weight180,000 lbs
Fuel capacitycoal
Power
Power sourcesteam
Starting effort19,393 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter38 in
Boiler pressure200 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylinderstwo, 17 x 15 in
Boiler
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
geared steam locomotive
Heisler
freight
passenger
last changed: 04/2022
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