By Richard Palmer
Much has been written over the years about the famous Rainhill Trials of 1829, a public spectacle to determine what locomotive was best suited to become the first to be operated by the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in England. This involved comparatively small homemade locomotives.
At a much later period, a similar event was staged on the Boston & Lowell Railroad that tested the capacity, speed and pulling power of 10 commercially-built locomotives. This was, more or less, also a public event sponsored by the New England Association of Railway Superintendents. Prizes were awarded to the winning locomotives. This event occurred in October, 1851.
Very few are aware that locomotive trials were also staged on the Cayuga & Susquehanna, Delaware, Lackawanna & Western and the New York & Erie in 1853. Here, we will deal only with the C.& S. and the D.L.& W.
At Owego the 4-6-0 engine "Tunkhannock," built by the firm of Rogers, Ketchum and Grosvenor, took 100 cars containing 502 tons of anthracite coal, over the Cayuga & Susquehanna Railroad to Ithaca, a distance of 35 miles, at a speed of nine miles per hour, without incident or slippage . Ten miles of the distance was over an ascending grade of 21 feet to the mile, and 2,000 feet on an ascending grade of 30 feet per mile.
The trials on the D.L. & W. mainline were supervised by H. L. Martine, superintendent of the railroad's machine shop in Scranton, Pa. , and occurred on June 18, 1853. Two 4-6-0s, the"Wyalusing" and the"Ontario," were chosen for the experiment since they were of almost identical. The "Ontario" was built by Danforth Cooke & Co. and the "Ontario" by Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor, locomotive builders of Paterson, N.J.
Dimensions of the "Ontario" were:
Drivers: 4 feet, 6 inches
Cylinders: 17 inches in diameter, 24 inch stroke
Weight on drivers, 50,500 lbs.
Weight on trucks 17,700 lbs.
Total weight of engine 68.200 lbs
Weight of tender with wood and water 40,400 lbs.
Weight of engine and tender 108,600 lbs.
Dimensions of the "Wyalusing" were:
Drivers: 4 feet, 6 inches
Cylinders: 17 inches diameter, 24 inch stroke
Weight on drivers 48,200 lbs.
Weight on trucks 17,600 lbs.
Total weight of engine 65,800 lbs.
Weight of tender, wood and water 40,400 lbs.
Weight of engine and tender 106,200 lbs.
In the first experiment, the "Ontario" was coupled at Tunkhannock station to 100 four-wheel coal jimmies whose gross weight was 790 tons loaded.The train started up a grade of 21 feet in the mile, at the rate of five miles per hour for one mile, and came to a stand on a reverse curve. There, nine cars were cut off. leaving 91 cars, weight 725 tons. The train then proceeded to Hopbottom at seven miles per hour on the same grade.
The "Wyalusing" was then attached to the whole train of 100 cars, at 10:28 a.m., and arrived at Oakley's Station at 10:55, making the run up a grade of 21 feet, through continuous curves of about one thousand feet radius, at four miles per hour.
The "Ontario" was again attached to the same train of 100 cars at Oakley's, and drew the train at the rate of six miles an hour, under circumstances similar to the "Wyalusing," grade and curves continuing the same.
At New Milford, another 100 cars of coal were added, making a train of 200 cars, 2,652 feet long,. or over half a mile. The total weight of the train, including the engine, was 1,653 tons. Then the "Ontario" started the whole train on a level, out of a switch, both ends of the train being on a curve at the same time. The trip was made from New Milford to Great Bend, a distance of six miles, in 30 minutes, being at the rate of 12 miles an hour, overcoming in the distance a grade of 15 feet to the mile, for about three quarters of a mile.
However, no further analysis appears to have been made of this event. It was noted at the time by the American Railroad Journal that the D.L.& W. "seems to challenge the world for its equal in the capacity and draught of locomotive engines."
American Railroad Journal, June 15, 1853, June 23, 1853
Owego Gazette, July 2, 1853