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Submitted on
April 7, 2012
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81 (who?)

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Canon EOS 1000D
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1/197 second
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33 mm
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Apr 7, 2012, 2:39:52 PM
Aperture 3.2.3
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The Fastest by ZCochrane The Fastest by ZCochrane
My parents' house is right next to a railway line, and it happens rather frequently that we hear a steam engine. Sometimes we rush out, get the car and try to catch it. Not always, but 18 201 is a very good reason. It did not stop for long in Goslar (all locations in Germany), but we were able to overtake it through Langelsheim and finally found a picture site on a field just outside Langelsheim. Sadly, on the wrong side of the tracks as far as the sun was concerned, but I think this image is pretty nice anyway.

18 201 is a locomotive with a very long history. The GDR never had any own need for fast locomotives; most lines didn't allow for speeds higher than 120 km/h, and even that was rare. However, the GDR also was a huge exporter of passenger rail cars (if you look at pictures of trains from eastern europe, the passenger cars will almost always have been built in the GDR), and to test them at higher speeds, they needed a specific test engine. Only one, and it should be cheap, though.

So the testers took the frame and wheels come from 61 002, a prototype high speed tank engine from before the war, as well as parts of various other prototypes and normal locomotives. The green paint scheme was non-standard, but for a one-off locomotive, nobody seemed to mind. And it worked! The pacific, named 18 201 in honor of the saxon type of pacific (which was the original class 18.2, but all were gone by then) reached speeds of up to 182 km/h. Today, its top speed is 160 km/h, and even that is reached only on special occasions (last in june 2011). Still, it's pretty fast, and it holds the world record as fastest active steam engine. Screw Tornado.

A fun fact: To increase its range in a time when most stations have no facilities to provide water or the oil it burns, 18 201 usually travels with two tenders these days, although on special events, it is more common to hide the second one. It is not alone in that regard; 01 1066 is another locomotive that is usually seen with double tenders.
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SteamRailwayCompany Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Railways have always put safety first. That is a good thing, although their safety policies have often resulted in unnecessarily slow speed limits that inhibit speeds decent enough to compete with highways and airliners. Steam engines alone can handle today's passenger traffic at high speeds as it is. There are many plans to build new high speed electric railways from scratch. It would be a colossal waste of money to do so rather than simply use the existing lines. Slow speeds on railways have no excuse as long as the tracks are well maintained and aligned.
This engine is a very fine late steam era locomotive. :) It does I believe have reasons to be called the fastest steam engine running. Although there are many other steam engines such as British Railways Tornado and LNER Flying Scotsman that I believe could give it a run for its money. ;)
ZCochrane Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2013  Student Photographer
A comparison with Tornado would be interesting indeed. Apparently (according to Wikipedia) Tornado has more indicated power, while Flying Scotsman has about the same. Of course, what I'd really like to see is another attempt at a speed record with one of the remaining operational A4s (although I imagine their owners might be a bit worried).

It's true that there's no good reason why steam engines couldn't run as fast as modern electrics if you just let them, but the speed limits in general are there for a good reason. Old track can't take really high speeds without compromising safety beyond an acceptable limit. Of course, that's only part of the reason why high speed lines are needed. The other is that there are simply not enough tracks in the country to run all the trains that need to be run. If you have to build a new railway line, why not do it high speed from the beginning?

Steam engines can't handle today's passenger traffic, though. It's one thing to reach 200 km/h once; it's quite another to do so every day with a fully loaded train, let alone 250 or 300 km/h. Then there are the maintenance requirements, the need to add water, the need to turn the locomotive around at the end, environmental concerns… nah, steam is better left as an exotic spice rather than a main dish. :D
SteamRailwayCompany Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Any railway line in existence can be constructed for high speed just so long as there are are not sharp curves nor steep grades and the tracks are properly built and maintained. I find it quite impressive though that your country is actually constructing new railway lines in addition to the presently operable ones however. America sadly has not seen much new railroad construction because of inflexible government regulations placed upon such heavy industries including railroads. Amtrak is also a total mess, for the trains are infrequent, rather late, untimely, not widely available to all cities like trains should, and they are not making as good times as they should. :( Since the number of passenger trains in America is lenient, steam like the Southern Pacific GS-4 could definitely handle it, especially considering the heavy American engineering that Yankee steam has. :flagus: The Hiawatha for instance was a steam locomotive built intended for regular 100 mile an hour or more running on regularly scheduled trains. There are also words of the Hiawatha having gone 125 miles an hour, for it certainly could compete with the British A4s. The LNER A4s however scarcely even went over 90 miles an hour, let alone 100. When it comes to railway travel, steam should always be the main dish.
Vineyard86 Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2013
Definitely my favourite steam engine! And a very good picture! :)
ZCochrane Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2013  Student Photographer
Thank you! :)
Vineyard86 Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2013
Joseph-W-Johns Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Professional Photographer
Placed at #50 on the 2012 TRFN top 50 deviations and deviants list [link]
ZCochrane Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2013  Student Photographer
loganberrybunny Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
I love Tornado, and would never want to say "Screw" that loco... but the sheer speed of 18 201 is amazing in the 21st century. I doubt Tornado will ever go 100 mph -- maybe 90 -- so this one should keep the record for a long time. And such a fine sight here.
ZCochrane Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2012  Student Photographer
I'm joking a bit. Of course Tornado is amazing. But some rail fans keep arguing that Tornado is the best steam locomotive ever built in any regard, which is a bit of an exaggeration.
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