In the United States, in 1926, rail passenger travel was in its glory years. That year, the New York Central Railroad, one of the most prestigious, powerful, and largest railroad corporations in the world at the time, wanted a faster and stronger locomotive to pull the longer and heavier passenger trains required by the increase in passenger travel in the United States.
That year, although the elegant and mightily Pacific steam locomotives had been handling the bulk of the fastest and longest passenger lines in the United States by most of the first world national railroad companies, the New York Central ordered the mighty 4-6-4 wheel arrangement “Hudson” locomotives, as they were to be called by the New York Central Railroads.
The Hudsons were popularized in the US American public via an intense publicity campaign. Television ads, new movies, billboard signs and magazine articles abound. Model trains pushed the “Hudson” as the epitome of the beautiful, grimy, energetic and powerful passenger steam locomotive that was constructed in the social imaginary during these times.
Later, the Hudson locomotive was re-designed on the exterior with a silver and gray streamlined body, which were assigned to the famous passenger trains: The 20th Century Limited and the Empire State Express.
Even later, as Diesel locomotives began erasing steam locomotives off their roster and into their garbage heaps, a stronger, faster and more efficient locomotive was to enter the New York Central Railroad’s roster–the Niagara. I will cover this locomotive more in detail later.
If I were to be asked what is my most favorite of favorite locomotives of all time and I had to begrudgingly decide, it would have to be the NIAGARA. But i am off-topic here. Here I cover the Hudson locomotive, which dutifully and proudly served the New York Central from 1927 to the demise of steam in the mid-to-late 50s in the US. Versions of the Hudson remained popular throughout the world however, into the 70s.
More reading: http://www.steamlocomotive.com/hudson/
On July 3rd, 1938, in Great Britain, the A-4 class locomotive “Mallard” broke the world train speed record for steam, at 125mph. It was in the family of other elegant ‘streamlined’ locomotives that were popular for a short period around the world, then losing favor to the more ‘traditional’ design of the steam locomotive with boilers and other parts in plain view, giving them the grittier feel.
Before that record, the Empire State Express in New York, with the Locomotive #999, still proudly and beatufiully standing in the Museum in New York, was the first engine in the world to break the 100mph barrier, so it is said.
The Niagara locomotive, of the famous New York Central Railroad, was the most powerful, efficient, and fast locomotive in the late 1950s, before all were completely destroyed. In Time trials with the up-and-coming Diesel locomotives, the Niagara class locomotive was equal. It made the diesel engine promoters quite uncomfortable. But alas, they were working with the oil companies and the demise of steam was certain. Not one glorious ‘Niagara’ class locomotive is alive today. However, its earlier cousin, the ‘Mohawk’ locomotive, as of this day, is being talked about as being revived for later excursion trains.