In August 1914 the hapless Nicholas Romanov blundered into the trap the banksters in London, Paris, etc. had set in Sarajevo, and committed the Russian military to the for profit meat grinder that would come to be known as World War 1. The ink on the declaration of war was barely dry before the officials in the Ministry of Railways made a horrific discovery. Russia’s railways and rolling stock were hopelessly inadequate to transport the necessary men and material required by mobilization. What was worse was that Russia’s locomotive manufacturing capacity would never be able to meet the need for more engines. These same officials also determined that even with more engines, the only way to meet the military requirements would be to increase the speed of the trains.
In 1914 the standard for freight service in Russia was the 0-8-0 cross compound design but railroad officials quickly discovered that a new design with a larger ( and heavier ) boiler would be necessary. After due study and deliberation they settled on the 2-10-0 “decapod” style engine as the best candidate to meet their unique needs. This engine would have a boiler with 2600 square foot heating surface, a 700 sq. ft. superheater surface and a huge grate surface of 64 square feet. The engine would be single expansion with two cylinders 25 inches by 28 inches,bore / stroke.
Orders were placed with The American Locomotive Co. in New York, Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pa. and The Canadian Locomotive Co. in Ontario in June of 1915 for a total of 400 engines. The basic requirements, dimensions and specifications were sent from Petrograd by cable. The American builders filled in the details according to their usual practices. The first of these engines were ready to ship within two months followed by 350 more within four months. These early engines conformed to American design practice and basically looked like American locomotives that these firm routinely built. After this early lot arrived in Russia the railway ministry placed orders for more that would bring the total to over a thousand engines.
It seems that the Russian ministers were not entirely satisfied with the Americanized version so they dispatched the chief of the locomotive division, A.I. Lipetz, to the United States to modify the design and oversee production. The Russian decapods were designed to haul 1300 metric tons on grades of 0.8% at 8 to 10 mph, which was considered optimum for European railroads. Intended to burn soft coal they had a wide firebox with a deep throat that sat over the rear drivers. This firebox placement raised the centerline of the boiler to ten feet above the rails and gave these engines the profile that distinguishes them from the earlier american decapods. Out of the total of 1,081 locomotives ordered 681 were of the Russian design after the initial 400 had been shipped. The modified locomotives met with approval of the railroad officials and production proceeded, full steam ahead but events in Russia would preclude completing the contract. A total of 881 were eventually shipped but the last 200 built would remain in the United States.
“A lie told often enough, becomes the truth.” V.I. Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was sitting poolside at a fashionable spa in Zurich Switzerland, sipping one of those deliciously bourgeois drinks that come with the little pink umbrella on top when the telegram from Mr. Big arrived from London. He groaned as he put his drink down on the table because he knew what it said before he opened the envelope. He always took great pride in being a “Professional” revolutionary. It was good work if you could get it, but it had its drawbacks. Now it was time to earn his paycheck. He opened the envelope. There was a private railroad car waiting for him at the station that would carry him and his crew across Germany and eventually on to Petrograd. His partner in crime, Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was in New York City being feted by a gaggle of the kind of parlour pinks that city is famous for, when he received a similar message. The Czar had abdicated after war weary troops revolted in February 1917. The Mensheviks under Kerensky had completed the most important assignment which was to transfer the gold of the Imperial Government and the personal wealth of the Romanovs to banks in London and Switzerland under the pretext of repaying debt obligations ( at a six figure APR.). Now it was time to send in the Bolsheviks to loot and rape the rest of the country.
Word of the atrocities being committed in Russia spread quickly and soon Lenin’s regime became an international pariah. Since the Bolsheviks had no legitimate claim to the remaining engines, they were never shipped. The engine that would become Seaboard Air Line # 544 was built in 1918 and conscripted by the wartime United States Railroad Administration that had assumed control of the nations railroad system. It was converted from the 5 foot gauge standard used in Russia to the 4 ft. 8 ½” gauge used in the USA and assigned to branch line service in the Hamlet / Raleigh, NC area. It served this region into the 1950s when it was transferred to the Gainesville - Midland in Georgia. In 1965 it was placed on display in Atlanta, Ga. In 1980 it was sold to the North Carolina Railroad Company who in turn donated it to the State of North Carolina. In 1996 it was cosmetically restored and placed on display in the Robert Julian Roundhouse in Spencer, NC.
The Railway Engineer Vol. 43 Jan. 1922, Russian decapod locomotives by A. Lipetz. Available at https://books.google.com
The Russian Decapods by William D. Edson at www.jstor.org .
Exhibits information at www.nctrans.org .
Vladimir Lenin at https://enwikipedia.org
The Fall of the Dynasties by Edmond Taylor Skyhorse Publishing, NY, NY.
The Lost Fortune of the Tsars by William Clarke