Steam dummy

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Mammoth Cave Railroad steam dummy engine.

A steam dummy or dummy engine, in the United States and Canada, was a steam locomotive enclosed in a wooden box structure made to resemble a railroad passenger coach.[1] Steam dummies had some popularity in the first decades of railroading in the U.S., from the 1830s but passed from favor after the Civil War.[dubious ] In Europe, locomotives of this type were described as Tram engines.


It was thought that the more familiar appearance of a coach presented by a steam dummy, as compared to a conventional steam locomotive, would be less likely to frighten horses when these trains had to operate in city streets.[2][3] Later it was discovered that it was actually the noise and motion of the operating gear of a steam engine that frightened horses, rather than the unfamiliar outlines of a steam engine.


Baldwin Locomotive Works manufactured Steam Dummy or Steam Motors for many American tramways.[4] Baldwin exported to places such as Sydney, Australia - where they were known as 'steam tram motors' - and New Zealand, where two both built in 1891 survive at Museums today.

H. K. Porter, Inc. preferred the term "noisless steam street motor" in their 20th-century catalog, although they used the term "dummy" (in quotes) in the 19th century. In the 20th century, they offered 0-4-0 and 0-4-2 wheel arrangements.[5] In the 19th century, they also offered a double-ended dummy with a 2-4-2 wheel arrangement.[6] Porter recommended using anthracite or coke as a fuel in order to avoid smoke. Side flaps to hide the mechanism were optional. Operating speeds between 15 and 25 miles per hour (24 and 40 km/h) were reported by 19th-century users.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Debra Brill (2001). History of the J.G. Brill Company. Indiana University Press. pp. 15–. ISBN 0-253-33949-9.
  2. ^ Ralcon Wagner (3 October 2016). Nashville's Streetcars and Interurban Railways. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-1-4671-1686-2.
  3. ^ Jeff Suess (22 June 2015). Lost Cincinnati. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-1-62619-575-2.
  4. ^ Baldwin Locomotive Works Illustrated Catalogue of Locomotives, 2nd Ed., Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1881; pages 150-152, with photograph.
  5. ^ H. K. Porter Company Builders of Light Light Locomotives, 10th Ed., Pittsburgh, 1908; pages 102-105, with photos.
  6. ^ Light Locomotives, 6th Ed., H. K. Porter & Co., Pittsburgh, 1889; pages 32-33 (0-4-0) and 42-45 (0-4-2 and 2-4-2), 61-66 descriptive text, 94-95 empirical use data.