Re: 1940s tank car questions

Dennis Storzek <destorzek@...>

--- In STMFC@..., "eric petersson" <newyorkcentralfan@...>

As I understand it early diesel engines had a low horsepower to
weight ratio which made them unsuitable for other than stationary
applications and that's why gas engines were used for electro-motive
railcars at first.
Indeed. Pre WWII diesel engines tended to be massive, heavy, and low
RPM machines, not at all suitable for applications where excessive
weight was detrimental, such as highway vehicles or off road vehicles
like farm tractors.

There were a few applications, such as John Froelich who created a
oil engine farm tractor in 1892.
The operative word here was "oil" engine. These were not diesels, and
neither were the "all fuel" farm tractors someone mentioned. The
defining characteristic of the diesel engine is that it uses solely
compression to ignite the fuel. The farm tractors mentioned used an
electric spark to ignite the fuel, and ran on the rather volatile
distillates until the cylinders were hot enough to adequately vaporize
kerosene, which was still ignited by an electric spark.

As far as I know, all the land based vehicles used by the US in WWII
were gasoline powered; jeeps were, I believe the classic "6x6" truck
was, and even Sherman tanks were powered by air cooled radial aircraft
style engines. The local owner of a Stearman trainer claims that his
replacement engine came with the mounting studs for mounting in a tank
installed in the block; they were exactly the same engine.

I had the opportunity (misfortune?) to deal with a fleet of late
1940's heavy trucks at the railway museum back in the seventies; these
were some of the heaviest models International made at the time, KB-10
and KB-11 models, and they were all gassers. I don't think IH offered
a diesel truck until the R series came out in the early fifties.

When involved with moving a collection of streetcars in about 1972,
the driver from the trucking company we used was a thirty year veteran
of the business, and the sight of the museum's antique truck fleet
brought back fond memories. He reminisced how when he was assigned his
first diesel semi tractor in the early fifties, he could "run rings
around" all the other trucks on the road, to the point where one day
some of the other drivers on a stretch of four lane highway got fed up
and "boxed him in", so he couldn't pass them on the hills for miles.
It would appear that, as late as the mid fifties, a good portion of
the trucks on the highway were still gasoline fueled.


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