Decapod : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

I know that the NC Transportation Museum in Spencer has a Russian Decapod. How were the Decapods used. Where they freight/passenger or both? I believe Bachmann is supposed to do one in their Spectrum series either this fall or next spring, and was wondering if it makes sense to have it on my railroad. Thanks for your responses. Phil

-- Phil Adams (cptsail@AOL.COM), May 27, 2000



Coming in strickly from left field on this matter, one interesting fact about the Russians was that they were built to the Russian standard track gauge of five feet. When they were orphaned by the Communist Revolution, the U.S. builders (ALCO and Baldwin split the order)offered them for sale to the U.S. railroads at bargan basement prices. To compansate for the gauge difference, they placed over wide driver tires on the drivers so that the wheels would fit our 4foot 81/2 inch gauge track. Obviously, the pilot truck axle and the axles on the tender were simply changed out. Many railroads purchased them, one of the most prominate being the Erie up here in my neck of the woods. The Erie leased and sold several to the New York, Susquehanna and Western in the 1920's. The Susquehanna used them in freight and milk train service and even in mixed passenger/freight service. They were reported to be great haulers, but had a tendancy to "trip over their big feet" when they moved through switch frogs. Hope this is of some help.

-- John V. Pasquariello (GRIZZLETOAD@AOL.COM), July 01, 2000.

Locomotive Quarterly, Summer 1999, Volume XXII No.4, has an excellent article on SAL Decapods. The article includes several good quality photos of Russian Decapods, including one of Engine 548 in passenger service.

-- Dan Driscoll (, June 17, 2000.

Of course I have to add my 2 cents worth! Some interesting info is in the Prince books-both of which just happen to be available from the Society-still? Anyway, Prince had a lot of interesting data on these old timers. The quality of the reproduction is fair at best, but the information overcomes the aesthetics of the books. Be sure to get both volumes-and see how the two roads coped with their equipment needs.

As a rule, the greater the number of drivers-the greater the need for tractive effort-therefore-the use was mostly freight-at low speeds. Only when you get into the late 1920's, 1930's and 1940's did you start seeing locomotives with more than 6 drivers being used in passenger service-even then, 8 drivers was the limit.

Decapods were slow speed lugggers.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, May 31, 2000.

Lamar and others - All this would make an interesting Lines South article about the Russian decapods. If anyone is willing to write a little more and turn this into an article, let us know. Lamar, I tried to e mail you a message directly but there must be an error in your e mail address.

-- Larry Goolsby (, May 31, 2000.

Phil--As previous answers to your question indicate, the old Decapods (called "Russians") by most men on SAL) were versatile engines well suited to freight service on light rail and undulating terrain-- that's why Gainesville Midland bought a bunch of them secondhand from SAL and got good service out of them. As far as I know, the only preserved SAL steam road engines are the Russians that went to the GM. One very typical assignment for the Russians was in drag freight service pulling trains of iron ore from Cartersville GA to the junction with the SAL main at Rockmart. If you're familiar with the line (now a hiking trail) from Rockmart east, you know that eastbound SAL trains were "down on their knees" from the Rockmart depot up Braswell grade to the "easy spot" just before Divide Tunnel--my father said that a Russian would sometimes shove the rear of a freight on Braswell. I grew up at Rockmart (though I'm too young to remember steam)--the only photo I have of a steam engine at Rockmart is a good shot of Russian 507 with the Rockmart coal chute and a '29 Chevy in the background.

-- Lamar Wadsworth (, May 30, 2000.

Phil: The SAL loved decapods. The railroad owned 51 Decapods according to SEABOARD AIR LINE RAILWAY ALBUM by Langley,Beckum and Tidwell. They were used on SAL's lighter rail lines in Georgia and Alabama. The SAL lso acquired some "decs" when they absorbed the Georgia,Florida and Alabama railroad. The ten drivers allowed the weight of the locomotive to be spread out better thereby lessening the chance to damage light rail. In the diesel period SAL used ALCo RSC-2's and RSC-3's for the same reasons. I'm sure there are better SAL steam experts out there that maybe able to elaborate on this question better than I. I gave it my best shot!:)

-- Richard Stallworth (, May 30, 2000.

Russians were generally freight locomotives, although I have seen a photo one one pinch-hitting on a local passenger train on the SL-SF.

Because of their low (51 inches or so) drivers, anything over about 35 MPH was approaching the speed of light for most Russians.

Bob Hanson

-- Robert H. Hanson (, May 30, 2000.

An answer based purely on "dim memory."

My Dad, was a Section Foreman of 40+ years ACL service. Accordingly, my early life was lived in trackside section houses.

I "think" on the ACL, they were in the 8000 number series. I only saw them on the weed scalders. The "Russian" engines were double headed with a regular freight engine on the weed scalder. The large boilered Russian engine was used to provide large volumes of steam for the weed scalder, while the other engine provided the propulsion of the work train. I seem to recall several tank cars of water being in the work train that were connected to the Russian engine.

It was customary for the section laborers to help fire the Russian engine since so much steam was used scalding the weeds on the road bed. Quite a continuous shoveling of coal that would soon fatigue a fireman. The other laborer's helped with the operation of the weed scalder itself. Quite an early environmentally friendly way of weed control without pesticides.

I remember once in 1948, the work train was tied up for the weekend near our section house in Bartow, Florida. My Dad, kept the firebox's stoked and banked with coal for Monday's work. The railroad may have been on either a 44 hour or 48 hour work week then. I don't remember when the ACL went to the 40 hour work week.

What I do remember was wondering why a Russian engine was on the ACL. Remember this was in the "Better Dead, than Red" days of anti- communism. It was many years later before I learned the story behind the USRA engines that were to be exported to Russia.

-- Curtis E. Denmark Jr. (, May 30, 2000.

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