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The Altoona shops occasionally built reproduction or replica historical locomotives. The shop in 1927 reproduced the "John Bull" locomotive and tender. The next year the shop reproduced the "John Stevens" locomotive along with 680 feet of track. [87] Recently, the Juniata shops restored a K4 locomotive, number 1361.


A. The Test Department in the Nineteenth Century

The Pennsylvania Railroad in 1874 established the Department of Physical Testing under the direction of the Superintendent of Motive Power Theodore N. Ely. In August 1874, John W. Cloud was placed in charge of the newly created department. This was not the first such testing facility in the world as the British railway opened a chemical testing laboratory in Crewe, England, in 1865. [88]

The next year the Pennsylvania Railroad added a chemical laboratory under Dr. Charles B. Dudley. Dr. Dudley faced the challenge of organizing a chemical testing department and proving the value of the department to the railroad. The newly organized department adopted the following program: first, to determine what materials were best for any given job; second, to prepare detailed specifications for purchasing materials in free market competition; third, to devise methods for testing the acquired material to determine if it met specifications; and fourth, conduct independent research and keep in touch with the scientific community in order to reduce costs for the railroad. [89]

The chemical testing department made the first tests on tallow use for lubrication of engine cylinders to determine if it had been adulterated. The samples tested contained a large amount of organic impurities and so a search began for a better quality of tallow. The laboratory next tested various lubrication oils, steel plate, and boiler water to determine what quality of these items were needed to keep an engine running smoothly. The test department personnel soon began publishing their findings in scientific and professional journals of the day. [90]

Soon the Pennsylvania Railroad required most of its suppliers to give samples to the test department to determine if they met railroad standards. The laboratory developed a number of machines for their testing program. In a short time, the test department developed a machine which tested steel plate tensile strength while another tested the lubrication oils quality. The department grew in staff and importance with John W. Cloud in 1879 becoming the first Engineer of Test in charge of the department. [91]

The testing department role went beyond the mere analyzing of materials. In 1878, representatives from that department traveled around Great Britain and Continental Europe to inspect their railroads. The representatives came back from this trip with ideas on how to improve the test department and general railroad operations. General Manager Frank Thomson, following the their report's recommendations, ordered that the English manner of freight handling be adopted by the Pennsylvania Railroad. [92]

At first, the Superintendent of Motive Power located the test department in a section of the Master Mechanic's building on Ninth Avenue at Twelfth Street. By 1896, the test department occupied two stories of that building. The first floor served as a storehouse and testing room with offices and the chemical laboratory on the second and third floors. [93] A major task facing the testing department in the late 1890s was the problem of making sure that the potable water supplied to coaches, shops, diners, and stations was of good quality. The Pennsylvania Railroad utilized water at 100 locations in 13 states for their trains and this water required testing. These factors resulted in the creation of a bacteriological laboratory in 1899 as part of the chemical department to test water quality. [94]

Also in the 1890s, the Pennsylvania Railroad used the test department for public relations purposes. A large portion of the railroad's exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago, Illinois, in 1893 consisted of demonstrations by the physical and chemical testing departments. The public could observe how railroad products were tested and developed. [95]

B. The Development of the Locomotive Test Plant

The first locomotive test plant was constructed in Russia in the 1880s under the direction of Alexander Borodin for the purpose of gaining information on steam locomotive operations. In the early twentieth century, professor William F. Gross of Purdue University, unaware of Borodin's work, designed and constructed a locomotive test plant at Lafayette, Indiana. Pennsylvania Railroad officials studied this testing system when they designed theirs for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. [96]

The first formal announcement on the development of the locomotive test plant came on June 25, 1903, at a joint convention of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Railway Master Mechanics' Association in Saratoga, New York. A Pennsylvania Railroad spokesperson announced that a locomotive laboratory would be constructed and set up in the transportation building as part of the Pennsylvania exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Pennsylvania Railroad officials requested the two organizations to nominate people for an advisory committee to help in laying out the programs and tests to be run on locomotives. [97]

The test plant held an engine stationary, with driving wheels revolving and a full head of steam in the boiler. This was accomplished through the use of a wheel configuration on heavy metal bedplates which simulated the wheel arrangement on the locomotive. These support wheels matched up with all the locomotive driving wheels and could be varied as to resistance to simulate various speeds and grades. Hydraulic brakes absorbed the energy generated by the locomotive and retarded the revolution of the wheels. The mechanical system used water to dissipate the heat generated by this activity and to create frictional resistance. The locomotive's drawbar was attached to a dynamometer. This mechanism helped to hold the locomotive steady and measured the drawing power of the engine. Other instruments measured the steam's quality and indicated the heat of the flue gases, firebox, and steam. Still other devices analyzed the steam and gases and the steam's actions in the cylinders. A flexible stack was used to vent smoke out of the test area. The test plant was designed by Pennsylvania Railroad engineers and manufactured by the William Sellers and Company of Philadelphia. [98]

At the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, twelve locomotives were tested on the test plant between May 2 and November 30, 1904, with each locomotive tested from fourteen to twenty days. The first locomotive was a French engine of de Glehn type purchased by the Pennsylvania Railroad for experimental purposes. The exhibit received a special commemorative gold medal for scientific and engineering investigation. In 1905, the Pennsylvania Railroad dismantled the test plant and took it to Altoona and installed it in a building near Sixteenth Street especially constructed for it. The locomotive testing in St. Louis resulted in a few modifications being made to the test plant to increase its efficiency before the railroad rebuilt it in the Altoona works. The test plant as operated in Altoona required a staff of twenty-six people. [99]

C. The Test Department In the Twentieth Century

The expansion of the testing department work in the twentieth century resulted in the need for additional building space. This resulted in the Pennsylvania Railroad authorizing the construction of a new building in 1913. In September of 1914, the test department moved out of the Master Mechanic's office into a new fireproof laboratory building in the west end of the Altoona machine shop yard at Margaret Avenue and Sixteenth Street. By 1924, the test department occupied four buildings in the Altoona machine shop yard and had a whistle testing facility in South Altoona. The various divisions of the test department were the physical and chemical laboratory, the locomotive test plant, the manufacturing laboratory, and the brake shoe testing building. The test department cost the Pennsylvania Railroad more than a half a million dollars a year to staff and operate. The department performed thousands of tests and experiments to find ways and products that helped the railroad operate more efficiently and safeguarded the health of the employees and the public. [100]

Two incidents occurred in 1929 of interest. First, the Pennsylvania Railroad closed the whistle testing plant. Second, sparks from the locomotive testing plant set fire to the roof of Enginehouse No. 3. This incident led Pennsylvania Railroad officials to have the abandoned enginehouse demolished. [101] Until 1930, the railroad directed that all research conducted in the test department focused on solving specific problems faced by the railroad. That year fifteen full-time engineers were given permission to conduct pure research which may or may not directly benefit the railroad. [102]

By 1936, the main test department was housed in a five-story building. Nearby stood the locomotive test plant, the brake shoe test machine, and the drop test machine. Also in the old tank shop on Twelfth Street was the magnetic test laboratory. Organizationally, the engineer of tests supervised the test department while the chief chemist supervised the chemical laboratory. These people reported directly to the chief of motive power in Philadelphia. The functions of the test department included administration of the physical laboratory, metals laboratory, rubber laboratory, electrical laboratory, cement laboratory, photographic studio, road test department, locomotive test plant, brake shoe test machine, drop test machine, and inspection department. The chemical laboratory supervised the general chemistry laboratory, bacteriology laboratory, and water laboratory. The test department and chemical laboratory staff totalled 201 people. [103]

In 1937, the test department developed a squeeze test machine for testing the structural strength of a passenger car. The machine attached to the coupler system of the car and simulate the pressure of an 800,000-pound load. Examiners then inspected the car body for any defects. Other railroad companies adopted the use of this machine in testing new passenger car designs and the first car of new orders. [104]

By 1940, the staff for the test department totaled 269 people and this increased to 275 people in 1944. In the latter year, the department cost the railroad $1,500,000 to operate on a yearly basis. [105] In 1948, the railroad undertook a series of actions designed to improve their testing programs. These actions included the opening of a x-ray laboratory to help in the examination of steel and locomotive parts and the moving of the magnetic test laboratory closer to the test department complex in order to provide easier access and better testing conditions there. [106]

The merger of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad in 1968 resulted in the closing of the testing facilities on Sixteenth Street on September 1, 1968, and the people transferred to the Cleveland Technical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Also the Penn Central management demolished the test plant building. Earlier, in 1955, the Pennsylvania Railroad dismantled the test plant. The Penn Central Railroad in the late 1960s and early 1970s demolished most of the remaining test department buildings and facilities. Today, a small testing facility remains in the Juniata shops complex. [107]

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Last Updated: 22-Oct-2004