The International Steam Pages

Modern Steam Locomotive Developments

Steam locomotives may be 'dead in the water' as far as virtually every railway administration in the World is concerned, but a few dedicated individuals are still working on developments.  I am no engineer and cannot comment on the technical side of what is being done, but I can highlight areas of progress.

Main links

  • Wardale's classic book 'The Red Devil' has been reprinted, contact publisher Camden Miniature as it is no longer on their website (25th August 2015)
  • Check out Martyn Bane's modern steam gallery - (website dead by 29th October 2017) - more essential viewing (new link 7th August 2011).
  • Check out Martyn Bane's Steam pages - (website dead by 29th October 2017) - more essential reading (amended 23rd December 2004).
  • The 5AT Project, appropriate 21st century steam (added 6th January 2009), but the project has now been suspended owing to lack of finance. ( 7th March 2013)  
  • Check out Hugh Odom's Ultimate Steam pages - essential reading 
  • Phil Girdlestone now has his own web pages - Link broken by May 2023 (added 15th June 2004).

Stories (in chronological order of posting/later update):

I cannot resist including adding this picture of the "Sorcerer and his Apprentice" taken by Shaun McMahon during Ecovapor in Cuba in July 1999.

David Wardale and LD Porta

Advanced Steam Locomotive Development (Porta)

This book arose from correspondence with Dante Porta after Camden Miniature Services had published the English edition of André Chapelon’s La Locomotive a Vapeur, and the idea of bringing some of Porta’s papers to a much wider audience was irresistible. Porta has always been described as Chapelon’s ‘disciple’, which is certainly true, but was very definitely his own man, with his own ideas. He also worked in a more technologically advanced age, and whilst this inevitably regarded steam as out-moded, it did give Porta access to materials unknown to Chapelon, and different (computer) design techniques, all of which he used to maximum effect. In my opinion, the fact that Porta never worked within the traditional railway company set-up, being an academic by training, gave him much more freedom to adopt a different approach. And finally, of course, Porta taught and encouraged those brave few who continue to work on the concept of advanced steam power.
Contained within this book are three of Porta’s papers, one public and two previously circulated privately. Porta himself wished us to publish his paper Fundamentals of the Porta Compound System for Steam Locomotives, and this is the core of the book. However, to give an introduction to much of Porta’s work, and his overall philosophy, we have also included the paper he presented to the Manchester Centre of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers in March 1969 entitled Steam Locomotive Development in Argentina - its contribution to the future of railway technology in the under-developed countries. The third paper is, again, a private one, and deals with the subject of steam leakage. 

Published (mid-November 2006) available from Camden Miniature Services - see  

Price GBP (£) 9.85 plus postage. 

What could you do with £1.7 Million? This was a question posed by editor Paul Catchpole in Locomotives International #54. Now David Wardale has answered the question in #55. He proposes a 2 500 drawbar H.P. 4-6-0 and included is a preliminary sketch and some basic design principles. Pie in the sky or a technically realistic proposal, this locomotive would have the potential to be 'universal', incorporating many of the improvements which have become accepted practice in the last 20 years. Anyone interested in steam locomotive development should have a copy of this article. This painting of the proposed locomotive by Robin Barnes adorns the cover of #56. A summary of the features of the locomotive has been placed on the Locomotives International Web Site (added 9th February 2001). The project now has its own website- Despite what has appeared in print elsewhere, a sponsor has been found to cover the cost of design calculations and not to produce a full set of construction drawings - this project is going to take years to complete ...... (added 24th August 2002)

A 21st Centrury Locomotive

John Hobbs tells me (26th January 2001) "A few of us on the East Lancashire Railway in the UK are putting our heads together to see if we can create a viable project for a future build of Locomotives suitable for use on Preserved railways or other applications.

If you are interested in using steam commercially as a prime mover then, Harry Valentine suggests visiting the following sites:

A working Tesla Turbine: (link is dead)

Dr.William Hallett has research interests in solid fuel combustion and steam power: (link is dead)

Railpower Group have proposed a gas turbine locomotive:

A German company working on modern steam development: (link broken July 2020)

The Red Devil is back in action in South Africa (May 13th 1999) - the South Africa Page ( link dead by 25th October 2016) has the details.

Shaun McMahon's original letter is below. He sent (25th May 1999) a report of recent locomotive developments in Ushuaia for the "Train at the End of the World". I have now added an illustrated update on this (10th July 1999) with further updates 14th February 2000, 8th March 2000, 20th April 2000, 24th September 2001,   23rd November 2001 and 5th March 2003.  Latest update is 17th October 2003.

Click here for general information on the railway and recent pictures of the railway at work including the two rebuilt locomotives (latest pictures 8th February 2002).

I have now heard from Shaun McMahon (9th May 1999) who is working with the legendary LD Porta in Argentina. You can contact him on Email (Note Email address amended 20th March 2000). Let him take up the story:

"Dear Rob,

Many thanks for your e.mail. Firstly let me answer your queries and then I will go into more detail about my work with Tranex Turismo and in other places. Firstly, as yet I am not connected to the internet hence I have not read your web pages. This was done by my Buenos Aires assistant, Ruben Diaz and it was him that forwarded to me your information. As I get more organised I will get connected but for the time being he will scan the pages for me as I get on with the work down here in Ushuaia. For any special item that will be of interest to me he can be contacted at  I am always glad to answer people's questions regarding steam loco development work. Also if they wish to contact Porta this is a quick way of doing so as we work together here in Argentina, Porta still being based in BA with me down here on site. I am touch with him every day so any message is easy to pass on. My friend and colleague Phil Girdlestone's e.mail is (Note Email address amended 20th March 2000), as maybe some people would like to speak to him about his own particular work over the years, which is very interesting.

The story of how I became involved with matters is long and complex and I will save all the details for my own book in future years, but briefly I became involved with steam locos at the Festiniog Railway in North Wales in the seventies when I was still at school in the area after my family had moved from Manchester in order to get away from the city and live the life in the country!!

I began as a loco cleaner, as I was far too young to be allowed onto the footplate in those days, at Boston Lodge but with a bit of persuasion and the fact that they were short of firemen one summer I began as a fireman when I was 14!! I carried on as a fireman and joined the permanent staff as an engineering apprentice, subsequently passing out as a driver also. In 1989 I left the FR full time (returning to drive occasionally) and went to the newly privatised Vale of Rheidol Railway in Aberystwyth, where I was loco foreman for five years. My first taste of modern steam was in the mid 80s when, under the direction of Phil Girdlestone, 2-6-2 ALCO, Mountaineer was rebuilt and modified, and a few years later 2-4-0 ST was heavily modified with the GPCS and Lempor exhaust system. At the time I was still a fireman at the FR and could see first hand the results of such work, I also took a deep interest in Dave Wardale's work in SA and course that of Porta in Argentina.Linda continued to be a success in traffic and was converted back to burn oil in 1986 due to the fall in oil prices and also the fact that the GPCS is very sensitive to coal quality. With further application outside Argentina this was found to be the case and not similar to the Rio Turbio locos! This is why it is also important for engineers to carry on the R and D work in other places around the world where conditions are different to the country of origin. Phil Girdlestone left the FR and went to work for Hugh Philips and carried out very good development work to the Sudan Class 310 oil burning locos. Does anyone know what is the current state of these locos? If so please contact Phil or myself direct, thanks!

It was whilst at the V of R that I had the chance to do my own research and design work and this involved working in association with Porta in Argentina and Phil Girdlestone who was by now the CME at Alfred County Railway in South Africa. I continued with a systematic programme of work which covered exhaust systems, combustion systems, refined mechanical design, advanced water treatment etc. in 1991 I met up with Nigel Day who was (and still is) working for the Snowdon Mountain Railway. At the time he was designing a new oil firing system for the SMR locos and had already extensively modified his regular loco No. 7. Indeed he was obtaining some very good efficiency figures with this loco and subsequently went on to modify SMR No. 4 in the same way. We decided that to work in isolation in order to achieve the same aims was not a good thing and it was better to team up and form a development company that could better achieve the same aims, this was done and we called ourselves Day and McMahon Steam Technical Services - or DMSTS for short, during that time we went on to apply a modern water treatment regime to a number of railway administrations and modify a number of steam locos to the principles of Porta, Wardale and Girdlestone - the most notable at that time being the combustion and exhaust system redesign of Welshpool and Llanfair loco No. 85 (fleet No. 14) which led to the rest of the fleet being converted on a similar basis. For details of this work see Railway World December 1994 edition. During 1993 I had made plans to go and live and work for the Alfred County Railway in South Africa as Assistant Mechanical Engineer, based in the Port Shepstone workshops, and in August 1994 (after completing a desired number of outstanding projects concerned with UK railway administrations) I flew to South Africa. Obviously it is very difficult to be involved with a development company on the other side of the world therefore I handed over the reigns of DMSTS to Nigel Day in its entirety and the company was renamed Days Modern Steam Technical Services. During my time in SA, apart from dealing with many of the day to day engineering matters, I involved myself heavily in continued R and D work and of course having two modified Garratts in the fleet was a huge practical help and a good opportunity to analyse work already done in this field and monitor its behaviour in rigorous freight and passenger traffic. It was nearly the case that Red Devil, 3450 came to Port Shepstone for remodification to original 26 class form during 1997, however due to politics within the railways this never happened and a golden opportunity was lost that would have seen us putting the locomotive back to its correct modified condition. And, if you think that Dave Wardale is going over the top in his description in his book of the difficulties experienced within the rilway hierarchy of the SAR think again as this is exactly the case to this day - I have first hand experience of it!! During 1998 I was contacted by Tranex Turismo and Dante Porta with respect to the little train at the end of the world. They were in need of a CME that had experience of modern steam and other aspects of railway engineering and operation. Porta had made plans for me to go and work with him on No. 1816 in early 1995 as his assistant but as I had only been in SA for 5 months and had a huge comitment to ACR I decided against this particular move. I decided to take the position and hence at present I am resident in Ushuaia (the most southerly city in the world!!) as Technical Manager/Assistant General Manager of Ferrocaril Austral Fueguino.

The FCAF was opened to passenger carrying traffic in 1994 and took over from Porta's old railway at Rio Turbio as the most southerly railway in the world. During its years of operation the line has seen a dramatic increase in passengers carried and this is on the up and up. in order to cope with the extra traffic it is necessary to apply modern day steam technology to the existing fleet of locomotives so that they can haul heavier trains in a more demanding service whilst burning less fuel and consuming less water. A tall order you might think but it is possible. The lines second Garratt locomotive will be finally constructed, this was a kit of parts housed in a container at the station at Usfuaia for 4 years, though the finished item will be very different from the existing FCAF Garratt, Nora. The new loco will incorporate all advanced steam R and D work carried out in recent years so for steam development enthusiasts this is one place to keep an eye on. Porta and myself have recently completed a design for a totally new steam locomotive of an 0-6-0 T configuration, 2 cylinder compound. The final design details should be complete within the next 6 months and then manufacture can go ahead. It is possible that this design can be used to the advantage of other railway administrations worldwide. As a slight sidetrack readers may be interested to know that at FCAF we expect our first new loco to be delivered in July, though this will be a diesel manufactured by Girdlestone Rail of Port Shepstone, Natal, South Africa.

At the time of writing this modification work of 2-6-2 loco Camila has begun here at FCAF workshops. The work will include a new oil firing system, allied Lempor exhaust, mechanical refinements in order to cut out repetitive failures in traffic, improved ergonomics for one man operation and improved steam circuit. unfortunately we are very limited for time this year as it is desirable to carry out other limited modification work to Garratt locomotive Nora (of a similar fashion) therefore it is my intention to upgrade both existing locomotives to second generation standards in a two part plan. FCAF has recently had the go ahead for the extension of the line into the city of Ushuaia, which will give us an extra 9 km of railway to build and subsequently maintain, mostly in sub zero conditions! The Tranex company is heavily involved in the development of other railway schemes in Argentina and at present these cover a luxury steam hauled service between Buenos Aires and the coastal resort of Mar del Plata. In this case we have identified possible locomotive for use on this line and we are working on modification plans that will equal (and out perform) existing diesel locomotives on this section of line, the route is 400 km and these trains will have to do the journey in five hours or less, it is not intended to further upgrade the line for steam loco facilities!

Hopefully this brings readers slightly more up to date with events as they are happening at the moment."

Shaun McMahon
Tranex Turismo

SLM Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works celebrated the roll-out of its modernised big steam locomotive 52 NT 8055 on Saturday November 21st at the SLM factory at Zürichstrasse 41 in Winterthur. The 52 NT 8055 is a modernised 52 series German Kriegslokomotive and will be the most advanced big steam locomotive in the world. : Livio Dante Porta himself designed and did the calculations for the exhaust system of the locomotive.

Andreas Schwander (Email: reports (29th November 1998): "Next week trials will start outside the Winterthur factory and in 10 days they will be en route with two electrical locomotives for braking. Exept that more time and money was spent, the engine seems to do fine. SLM has got another order for a study of a smooth modernisation (coal fired) of a 141 R." He has also sent me a picture of the Class 52.locomotive (notice the fuel tank for light oil on the tender) stating that it will begin main line trials in mid-December 1998:


The web links I had here were both 'dead' by November 2001.

Here are some pictures of the loco being tested early in 1999: Scheduled services will probably start with the Orient express in March 1999.

with a SLM made electric Mainline loco "Lok 2000"

the trials with a freight train in January near Frauenfeld in Switzerland

If you are interested in the technical background then you ought to have a copy of David Wardale's autobiography - The Red Devil. LD Porta was his mentor and Roger Waller, today's SLM chief designer of steam locomotives was an assistant to David Wardale during the final stage of the Red Devil project.

In Cuba, LD Porta has rebuilt locomotive 1816 and it is now undergoing testing.   It was  reported on a test run at Santa Clara in October 1998 and was active occasionally during the 1999 Zafra.  For another picture of the locomotive check out my Cuba 1998 report.   Latest news will appear from time to time under Cuba on these pages. The locomotive was booked to run a special train during Ecovapor 1999 in Cuba in July 1999. 

Hans-Peter Gladtfeld has sent me this (May 14th 1999) - too bad if you don't speak German but the meaning should be clear. Basically Austrian Railways have had problems with their new rack locos, built by SLM. They found severe cracks in the area of the foundation rings and suffered from longitudinal vibrations. A dispute resulted in the locos being repaired at SLM at their own expense. Some time later (6th March 2000) Andreas Schwander adds as a finale "SLM has solved the problems with the cracks and has repaired all 8 locomotives for free (which is unusual in the industry after 7 years of service) and there was not a single operation day lost on any of the railways. The Austrian railway on Schneeberg, which finally decided against SLM steam and bought diesel equipment from Hunslet, had severe problems and lost about a whole season because of inoperational diesel railcars.So far about dispatch reliability..."

This article was wriiten by Georg Klee in "Eisenbahn Osterreich" 5/1999:

"Neubaudampflokomotiven am Schafberg schadhaft

Offensichtlich keine gluckliche Hand hatte die auf den Bau von "modernen" Dampflokomotiven spezialisierte SLM mit den neuen Zahnrad-Dampflokomotiven fur die Schafbergbahn.

Schon mit der Prototyplokomotive 999.201 gab es bei den Probefahrten auf der Schneebergbahn Probleme. Unbeschadet dessen wurden noch drei weitere
derartige Lokomotven nachbestellt und die als 999.201 - 204 bezeichneten Maschinen sodann auf der Schafbergbahn eingesetzt.

Am 29. Janner 1999 erfolgte die fur Dampflokomotiven gesetzlich vorgeschriebene jahrliche Kesselinspektion durch den TUV. Dabei stellte der Prufer schwere Mangel an den Bodenringen (Risse) fest und verweigerte daraufhin fur einen Teil der drei bis sieben Jahre alten Lokomotiven die Betriebsgenehmigung. Als Ursache fur die Schaden werden Konstruktionsmangel und die starken Langsschwingungen der Lokomotiven vermutet, die schon im Vorjahr zu arbeitsmedizinischen Uberprufungen durch das Arbeitsinspektorat  Anlass gegeben hatte.

Die Reparaturkosten werden auf etwa 4,5 Millionen Schilling geschatzt, uber deren Ubernahme sich zunachst ein Rechtsstreit zwischen den OBB und der Herstellerfirma die in schroffem Ton alle diesbezuglichen Ansinnen der OBB abwies - anbahnte. Schliesslich einigte man sich. Die 999.201 und die 999.204 werden zur Zeit wie die Schwesterlokomotiven der Rochersde-Naye-Bahn und der Brienz - RothornBahn in Winterthur aus Kulanz repariert. Nach deren Ruckkehr werden die 999.202 und die 999.203 die Reise nach Winterthur antreten."

Ian Thomson reports (1st June 2000)

Last week, Mr. Manuel Alepuz passed through Santiago. He is an old friend and the Director of the Cuban Transport Research Institute, which is promoting the project to have built a series of 0-6-2Ts, designed by Livio Dante Porta. The design will incorporate the usual Porta developed technical advances (Lempor exhaust, GPCS, etc.). It is for a 360 lb/sq. inch pressured 3-cylindered compound, with a thermomechanic efficiency of 15%. Ease of maintenance and operation are equally important goals, along with high efficiency. It will be able to burn just about anything, from biomass to coal. It would look, from the outside, pretty much the same as a 0-6-2T built a hundred years ago, apart from details such as piston valves.

Currently, two of the Institute’s engineers are working with Porta, in Buenos Aires, on preparing plans for each component part, via Transcad. Two railway companies in Cuba have ordered two or three locomotives each, and this week Alepuz is in Spain, trying to negotiate new contracts. It seems that there is interest in Spain in using the locomotives for powering works trains for the new high speed line.

The project has been determined viable in Cuban conditions, due to the high premium placed upon foreign exchange and the low wages paid, even to highly qualified engineering staff.

I have offered to buy Alepuz a crate of any brand of beer he may prefer, as long as at least a prototype gets built.

Sulzer Winpro sells Steam Business to Hug Engineering

Sulzer Winpro (former SLM) in Winterthur has sold its steam business for an undisclosed sum to Hug Engineering, a company making ceramic catalysers for diesel engines. Hug also owns a machine building company which works partly for its catalyser business, but also as a supplier for the rolling stock industry.

The steam business will form a new company called Dampflokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik AG DLM (Steam Locomotive and Machine Works Ltd..) DLM will be headed by Roger Waller and its aim is to develop and to market modern steam locomotives and steam engines for naval purposes. Sulzer Winpro will act as a supplier to DLM and DLM will support Winpro in the finalizing of the modernized steam locomotive 52 NG 8055 as well as with possible future orders from the Lake Geneva shipping company for additional steam engines for its steam boats, which are covered by an existing contract. More information on

DLM already has secured its first order, the modernization of the rack steam locomotive "Breithorn", owned by Brig-Visp-Zermatt-Bahn (BVZ), which operates a highly profitable line to the mountain resort Zermatt with its famous mountain "Matterhorn", of which a little copy can be found in Disneyland in California. DLM also further wants to market its rack steam technology and will develop a new narrow gauge adhesion steam locomotive. It also intends to take part in tenders for other new steam locomotives, especially for Nilgiri Mountain Railways in India.

DLMs engineering department will be for the time being located at Hug Engineering in Weisslingen near Winterthur and the overhaul of the "Breithorn" engines will be performed at Hugs H&S company in Elgg. Nevertheless CEO Hans Thomas Hug looks forward to relocate all his businesses into a new location in Winterthur.

Click here to return to the modern steam locomotive developments page.

Rob Dickinson