Some Fictional Locomotives.

Updated: 2 June 2010
More info on Sigi Strasser
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With some trepidation I introduce a page on wholly fictional locomotives. I don't want anyone thinking that the other Unusual Locomotive exhibits are anything other than real, or, in a few cases, serious projects. However, the offerings here are so bizarre that I think they deserve a little exposure.

FROM THE RAILWAY GAZETTE, 1931

Above: Joke loco from the American journal Railway Gazette, 6 Dec 1931. Author unknown.

The wheels-upon-wheels format is clearly inspired by The Holman Horror. A few excerpts from the naming of parts in the accompanying text will give you an idea of the rather heavy-handed humour:

"1) A high-power triple X-ray electric searchlight of 9340 candlepower, to enable the driver to see round curves and through mountains."

"3) A new, and vastly improved, smoke-pipe or "carbowallop" for the swift conveyance of smoke, cinders and gases back to the firebox for reincineration."

"5) A complicated arrangement of steam-operated main cylinders, forming a "trunk-cross-steeple-tandem-compound" system of such marked economy as to effect a proved saving of 87.8% over the steam consumption of the best designs of the then standard locomotives."

Whether the original text went on to describe all 96 of the numbered parts in the drawing above is unknown, as I do not have a complete copy. If it did it may have got just a bit tedious before reaching its conclusion.

It would be churlish to underline the impracticability of the above monstrosity, but I will do it anyway. The middle driving wheels (53, 57) are coupled with a rod to the lower driving wheels (54,56) but these would rotate in opposite directions, so one is reluctantly forced to conclude that this tour-de-force of locomotive virtuosity... is going nowhere.


THE SIGI STRASSER DRAWINGS

I first came across these remarkable drawings by Sigi Strasser in the railway section of the Vienna Technology Museum (a truly wonderful museum place) Lorenzo Ricotti has done an impressive amount of research, and I am glad to report that Sigi (short for Siegfried) is alive and well. Sigi Strasser was born in 1929 and is an Alumnus of the Linz Arts School (currently Linz Arts University), and has been since 1964 active as independent artist. He describes his artistic stance as "off the beaten track of tradition and modernity". His most important individual exhibitions took place in Hamburg, Mannheim, Milan, Turin, Vienna and New York. Mr Strasser is retired but is currently organising an exhibition of his ideas for gradient-climbing locomotives in Switzerland this summer. He has sent Lorenzo Ricotti some more of his drawings that are not in the Vienna museum, and these will be added to this page.

Left: The "Pyramidal Drive" Locomotive by Sigi Strasser

This monstrosity also appears to have been inspired by The Holman Horror, but Mr Strasser has gone one better; here there are four layers of wheels. The text reads: "the new way to gain speed without haste".

Picture in Vienna Technology Museum. Author's photo.

Left: Imaginary rack locomotive by Sigi Strasser

Apparently capable of climbing 34 degree gradients

Translation of the text:

Track course of the "hornligrat" railway
a) valley station 2104 m
b) Hornli hut 3155 m
c) Solway hut 4002(?) m,
d) Schulter- meaning "shoulder", expression for a kind of mountain
saddle- (Toilet) 4299 m,
Terminus 4568 m

Climbing locomotive 101 in ideal position, 34° gradient

Picture in Vienna Technology Museum. Author's photo.
Translation kindly provided by Roland Röpnack.

There is of course nothing fictional about rack locomotives climbing very steep gradients. The Pilatus railway in Switzerland is the steepest in the world; it opened in June 1889 with steam operation. The gradient is 48% maximum and 38% average.The maximum gradient of 48% meant that none of the existing rack systems were up to the job, and the line's engineer, Eduard Locher, developed a rack system specifically for this line. In the Locher system, the cog wheels on the train are mounted on vertical axles and their teeth engage with gear teeth cut in the sides, rather than the top, of the rack rail.

Left: Another imaginary rack locomotive by Sigi Strasser

This one is apparently intended to work on level track as well.
Of course there have to be some compromises...

Translation of the text:
The climbing loco "Alois Trenker" shown hereby visualises the problem of such locomotives when used in flat terrain. Because the boiler is tilted 34 degrees to the driving level in horizontal direction, it may happen in this extremal position that all the water is collecting in the smoke chamber, the lowest point, where it will not heat up enough, because the fireplace is positioned in the back and too far away from the water concentration.

Picture in Vienna Technology Museum. Author's photo.
Translation kindly provided by Roland Röpnack.

Roland Röpnack comments:
"Indeed this problem is the reason for the tilting of steam cog locos on big gradients. Strasser does not mention the danger of overheating when the fire chamber is not surrounded by water, though. Alois Trenker was a famous actor starring in numberous sentimental movies which show a pastoral mountain world full of backward ideology."
See
Wikipedia on Trenker.

Left: The grappling-hook locomotive by Sigi Strasser

For really severe gradients

Translation of the text:
Grappling hook engine "Chamois" (This alpine goat is famous for its legendary climbing abilities) The grappling hook locomotion, in short hook loco, designated expecially to the Hörnligrat railway to the Matterhorn peak, transfers the piston pull of the cylinders to a roller in front, which itself throws out three grappling hook booms by means of rotation via a complicated system of levers and rods, which link into the cross beams of the ladder-shaped constructed track system. Should a hook ever miss its goal, this is of no significant importance, because four of six grappling hooks are enough to still push the vehicle forward. One hook is enough to hold the engine.

Picture in Vienna Technology Museum. Author's photo.
Translation kindly provided by Roland Röpnack.

Left: The mobile-monument engine by Sigi Strasser

These specialised locomotives were allegedly sent to any town in pressing need of a monument. Note the clever use of the vertical boiler format.

Translation of the text:

THE MOBILE MONUMENT
"There are many smaller or bigger townships lacking decorative monuments. If such a town has the occasion to use one or more of such monuments, the appropriate monuments are sent via railway. A connection line must exist, though. Here we see Kaiser Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria, together with two allegorical figures Eros and Fondness."

Picture in Vienna Technology Museum. Author's photo.
Translation kindly provided by Roland Röpnack.

Left: The 0-16-0 Quartemperon locomotive by Sigi Strasser

This locomotive is a bit of mystery. It appears the tidal forces of the moon are in some way claimed to equal out the tractive effort. It has a unique 0-16-0 wheel arrangement which is one in the eye for Stalin. Since the cranks are bigger than the wheels, the rails have to be raised to let the cranks clear the ground. What was this man smoking?

Picture in Vienna Technology Museum. Author's photo.

Translation of the text kindly provided by Roland Röpnack:

"With every full turn of its machine the Quartemperon only covers a distance of a quarter wheel turn, so the tractive output on a gradient of +/- zero stays constant with the squared, waning moon. In practise, this means for haulage it needs an engineer, a fireman and rails with a bar of 48 cm height."

Roland Röpnack comments:
"Because of the missing words, the mathematical connection between moon phase and tractive effort is not clear. Also, it is not clear whether the gradient of the railroad track is constant or the solution to this mathematical function has a constant gradient of zero."

Left: The triple-rack locomotive by by Sigi Strasser

This locomotive does not just have a central cog-wheel, like a normal rack design, but also has teeth on the outside wheels.

Translation of the text:
"For extreme mountain tracks - The Bergfex, (or Mountain ghost, a term also used for people with a special affinity to the mountains) a cog wheel locomotive system Abt-Papst, where the cog wheels are fixed to the driving axles. Bravo!
The mountain is calling!"

Picture in Vienna Technology Museum. Author's photo.
Translation of text kindly provided by Roland Röpnack.

Norman Clubb has alerted me to a subtle joke hidden here. He says:
"The name Abt (which means "abbot") refers to the inventor of the real rack system with two staggered racks. The name Papst (which means "pope") is not known to me in a railway context. It seems to me that Strasser is just making a little play on clerical words here..."
Presumably a triple-rack Papst system outranks a mere double-rack Abt.

You can learn more about the Abt rack system at Wikipedia.

Above: A complete panel of Strasser drawings, supplied by Mr Strasser. This replaces my photograph, which was of indifferent quality

The headline reads: "The very latest novelties in the field of locomotive construction"
In the lower left corner is a complete picture of the mobile-monument engine. Top left is the Springbrunnen or mobile fountain, once again making good use of the vertical-boiler format; the text reads: "The desert lives!". Just below is the red Golflok Windsor subtitled "Sportsmen need not walk". Is this a cryptic reference to the British Royal Family?

At top centre there is a blue single-axle drive streamline express loco, under which is written: "What, pray, is this?". Apparently this design is called "The Blue Angel" though what connection, if any, there is with the famous film starring Marlene Dietrich I have no idea. The triple-rack locomotive is at top right.

Left: The mobile-monument engine by Sigi Strasser

These specialised locomotives were allegedly sent to any town in pressing need of a monument. Note the clever use of the vertical boiler format.

Translation of the text:
"There are many smaller or bigger townships lacking decorative monuments. If such a town has the occasion to use one or more of such monuments, the appropriate monuments are sent via railway. A connection line must exist, though. Here we see Kaiser Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria, together with two allegorical figures (illegible)and Fondness."

Picture in Vienna Technology Museum. Author's photo.
Translation kindly provided by Roland Röpnack.

MODELLING THE STRASSER LOCOMOTIVES

Left: "The Blue Angel" logo

An HO model of the Blue Angel has been built by Walter Richter, a member of the Modellbahnclub Grieskirchen, who use it as their logo. Here it can be seen that the single driving wheel is enormous, almost twice the height of the cab.

Left: Model of the "Golflok Windsor" by Walter Richter

Walter Richter has built several other Sigi Strasser models, including the Golflok Windsor shown here. Note that the model has minor differences from the drawing; the chimney is taller (though still impractically short from the point of view of the crew) and the golf bags are not present.

Walter has produced some other models based on designs which do not appear in the drawings above.

MORE FICTIONAL LOCOMOTIVES

For a wealth of fantasy locomotive designs, see the site of S Berliner.
I must admit I find the layout of this site very confusing and I am by no means sure that the above link is the home page for locomotive jollity. Try also here.

There is also the Ruhnian State Railway, which could use some work on its navigation, but is otherwise quite brilliant. I finally found the RSR home page.

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