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The History of the Locomotive: Old Peppersass (1869)
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The History of the Locomotive: Old Peppersass (1869)

 

By James Burke


The first locomotive built for the Mount Washington Cog Railway, "Old Peppersass" was designed specifically to climb extremely steep gradients. During the mid-1850s, when the railway was being planned to provide passenger service to the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, it was evident that the climb would be too steep for an engine that was propelled by ordinary smooth driving wheels. The railway's average gradient was 25 percent—and was nearly 38 percent at its steepest point.

As a result, engineer Sylvester Marsh conceived the idea of applying the rack and gear principle to give the locomotive the needed climbing ability. This concept was adopted for "Old Peppersass" when the railway was opened in 1869.

The engine received its nickname when one of Marsh's friends observed, "Looks like a peppersass bottle doesn't she, Sylvester?" The resemblance came from the engine's upright boiler which was angled to keep it nearly vertical while the locomotive was on steep grades. This was essential to keep the water level in the boiler as even as possible. "Old Peppersass" had a single pair of drivers linked by a chain drive to a conventional piston. There was another pair of small wheels to support the frame. The drive wheels were affixed to an axle on which a gear was mounted to engage a rack between the running rails.

"Old Peppersass" continued in service until 1893 when it was replaced by newer engines. It was subsequently exhibited at the World Columbian Exposition and at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. It is now on exhibition at Base Station of the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

Since "Old Peppersass" was introduced, its principles of operation have been copied in other parts of the world, notably on a number of cog railways in Switzerland. Thus the engine pioneered a method of operation that has proved invaluable in mountainous areas where traditional railways could not operate.
     

This article has been read 684 times. Last read on 4/23/2014 11:00:57 AM


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