Locomotives

Boston and Maine Railroad locomotive number 3713
Boston and Maine Railroad locomotive number 3713. National Park Service photograph

Maintenance, Machines & Technology

Countless tools are necessary to keep locomotives and railroads operating smoothly. Efficient communication was essential to coordinate the movement of cargo and people. Schedules were organized, and a system of signals developed. In particular, railroads were one of the first industries to use the telegraph. Signal towers were sprinkled along the route and manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A complicated system of signals was developed as the railroads expanded. Railroads were also at the forefront of wireless radio communications.

Maintenance

Open End Wrench

Open End Wrench

Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 509

Alligator Wrench

Alligator Wrench

Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 530

Bending Tongs

Bending Tongs

Steamtown NHS, STEA 515

Flat Chisel

Flat Chisel

Steamtown NHS, STEA 548

Socket Wrench

Socket Wrench

Steamtown NHS, STEA 895

Wheel Jack

Wheel Jack

Steamtown NHS, STEA 1602

Oil Can

Oil Can

Steamtown NHS, STEA 3320

Kerosene Can

Kerosene Can

Steamtown NHS, STEA 4789

Oil Cup

Oil Cup

Steamtown NHS, STEA 896

Ratchet Socket Wrench

Ratchet Socket Wrench

Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 2680

Monkey Wrench

Monkey Wrench

Steamtown NHS, STEA 3828

Wrench

Wrench

Steamtown NHS, STEA 6982

Jointer Plane

Jointer Plane

Steamtown NHS, STEA 3231

Gasoline Torch

Gasoline Torch

Steamtown NHS, STEA 7004

Car Knocker's Torch

Car Knocker's Torch

Steamtown NHS, STEA 5138

Stenciling Brush

Stenciling Brush

Steamtown NHS, STEA 7261

Air Brake Examination Questions For Locomotive and Car Inspectors and Repairmen Engaged In Air Brake

Examination booklet

Steamtown NHS, STEA 5444

Baldwin locomotive no. 26 restoration

Baldwin locomotive no. 26 restoration

National Park Service photograph

Wheel lathe presentation

Wheel lathe presentation

National Park Service photograph

Baldwin locomotive number 26 restoration

Baldwin locomotive number 26 restoration

National Park Service photograph

Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire

National Park Service photograph

Boiler Wash

Boiler Wash

National Park Service photograph

Park staff working in the Steamtown locomotive shop

Park staff working in the Steamtown loco

National Park Service photograph

D.L.&W. Locomotive boiler

D.L.&W. Locomotive boiler

Steamtown NHS, STEA 7469. B1390

Machines in Locomotive Shop

Arbor Milling Machine

Arbor Milling Machine

National Park Service Photograph

Pneumatic Grease Gun

Pneumatic Grease Gun

National Park Service Photograph

Hydraulic Press

Hydraulic Press

National Park Service photograph

Boring Mill

Boring Mill

National Park Service photograph

Flanger

Flanger

National Park Service photograph

Hydro Test Pump

Hydro Test Pump

National Park Service Photograph

Shaper

Shaper

National Park Service Photograph

(D.L.&W locomotive shop grinder

D.L.&W locomotive shop grinder

Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 7469 Safety Misc 18

Forge Shop interior, DL&W RR

Forge Shop interior, DL&W RR

Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 7469. B0813

Radial Arm Drill Press

Radial Arm Drill Press

National Park Service photograph

Wheel Press

Wheel Press

National Park Service photograph

Technology

Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad accident documentation

D.L.&W. Railroad accident

Steamtown NHS, STEA 280

Hospital Ward Table Car

Hospital Ward Table Car

Steamtown NHS, STEA 915

Analomink Wreck D.L.&W. R.R.

Analomink Wreck D.L.&W. R.R.

Steamtown NHS, STEA 5032

Insulator

Insulator

Steamtown NHS, STEA 345

Western Union Display Rack

Western Union Display Rack

Steamtown NHS, STEA 976

Instruction Book

Instruction Book

Steamtown NHS, STEA 3245

Erie Railroad Magazine

Erie Railroad Magazine

Steamtown NHS, STEA 1401

Instructional Poster

Instructional Poster

Steamtown NHS, STEA 1305

Relay

Relay

Steamtown NHS, STEA 2687

"Big Boy" Union Pacific Railroad number 4012
"Big Boy" Union Pacific Railroad number 4012. National Park Service photograph

Individual Locomotives

Replacement of iron rails by larger, heavier steel rails led to the production of bigger and more powerful locomotives. Improved wheel arrangements efficiently transferred energy produced by the boiler. Rolling stock became larger and more specialized to improve transportation of goods and passengers. Light wood boxcars, passenger cars and others were replaced with steel cars.

Railroad Lamp
Railroad Lamp, Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 2733
In the 20th century, coal replaced wood as the fuel of choice for steam locomotives, and petroleum-based lubricants replaced tallow. Wheel arrangements were expanded to support larger locomotives. Trains became safer as braking systems were improved and gas lights were replaced with electrical systems. Travel by train became as luxurious as on ocean liners, and railroads began advertising vacation adventures in the 1920s.

The second half of the 20th century saw the decline of the railroad. Overbuilding, competition between railroads, and competition from the subsidized interstate highway system led to the merger of some large railroads, while others went bankrupt. The American love of the automobile has replaced the railroad as the primary mode of personal travel, and rail shipping has largely been superseded by trucking. While railroads will never again see the activity or track mileage of the early 1900s, railroading continues to be a vital part of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
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The Scranton Limited, sounds of the Baldwin 26 locomotive pulling two Central Railroad of New Jersey passenger cars full of park visitors, 2018

The yard shuttle, or "Scranton Limited," is the park's three-mile train ride. National Park Service video

Bell

Bell

Steamtown NHS, STEA 2746

Whistle

Whistle

Steamtown NHS, STEA 2752

Steam Pressure Gauge

Steam Pressure Gauge

Steamtown NHS, STEA 998

Award

Award

Steamtown NHS, STEA 2701

Locomotive Builder's Plate

Locomotive Builder's Plate

Steamtown NHS, STEA 3210

Brake Wheel

Brake Wheel

Steamtown NHS, STEA 3851

Locomotive Builder's Plate

Locomotive Builder's Plate

Steamtown NHS, STEA 3212

Light Locomotive Details

Light Locomotive Details

Steamtown NHS, STEA 7951

How a Steam Engine Works

How a Steam Engine Works

National Park Service Photograph

("Big Boy" near Lackawanna Station)

"Big Boy" near Lackawanna Station

National Park Service photograph

Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive

Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive

National Park Service photograph

Baldwin Locomotive no.26 crossing bridge

Baldwin Locomotive no.26 crossing bridge

National Park Service photograph

NY Ontario & Western Railway train

NY Ontario & Western Railway train

Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 6

NY Ontario & Western Railway no.3

NY Ontario & Western Railway no.3

Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 6

D.L &W. Railroad locomotive number 832

D.L &W. Railroad locomotive number 832

Steamtown National Historic Site, STEA 1389

"Cutaway" locomotive being moved

"Cutaway" locomotive being moved

National Park Service photograph

Baldwin 26 leaving platform

Baldwin 26 leaving platform

National Park Service photograph

Park Ranger at Spang Chalfont boiler

Park Ranger at Spang Chalfont boiler

National Park Service photograph

Dinner Plate

Dinner Plate

Steamtown NHS, STEA 1322

Celery Dish

Celery Dish

Steamtown NHS, STEA 745

Deck of Cards

Deck of Cards

Steamtown NHS, STEA 4756

Commemorative Matchbook

Commemorative Matchbook

Steamtown NHS, STEA 7475

Lehigh Valley Business Car

Lehigh Valley Business Car

National Park Service photograph

Louisville & Nashville Post Office Car

Louisville & Nashville Post Office Car

National Park Service photograph

Mailbag

Mailbag

Steamtown NHS, STEA 2861

Louisville & Nashville Post Office Car

Louisville & Nashville Post Office Car

National Park Service photograph

Mail Hook

Mail Hook

Steamtown NHS, STEA 3292

Date Stamp

Date Stamp

Steamtown NHS, STEA 7093

Last updated: November 1, 2022