Trains, Boats & Planes | 18 March 2016Streamliners: Frederick Upham Adams Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Streamliners were a major technological advancement. The concept for streamliners was based on reduced air resistance. Though streamlining vehicles weren’t manufactured until the 1920s, the first exploration of wind resistance occurred nearly a hundred years prior. Brian Solomon‘s book Streamliners: Locomotives and Trains in the Age of Speed and Style takes a look at the strides made by engineer Frederick Upham Adams. Frederick U. Adams’ patent predated construction of his experimental train by seven years. Notice the similarities between Adams’ train and that suggested by Calthrop decades earlier. United States Patent, 189,911, Jan. 17, 1893 Streamlining was a long time coming: Adams’ patent from 1893 included flush doors and elaborate diaphragms between cars, ideas that were implemented forty years later on streamlined lightweight trains in the 1930s. United States Patent, 189,911, Jan. 17, 1893 Three decades after Calthrop, Chicago-based inventor Frederick Upham Adams pursued a remarkably similar air-resistant train design, although he professed to be ignorant of previous efforts at wind-resistant designs. Adams took a more aggressive approach in promoting his concept when he applied for a patent in 1891 (issued in 1893) and wrote a book with the weighty title Atmospheric Resistance: Its Relation to the Speed of Railroad Trains, with an Improved System of Heating and Ventilating Cars. Like Calthrop, Adams was a visionary who based his aerodynamic designs on marine prototypes. There were many similarities between the two designs. The New York Times, writing about Adams’ train on January 23, 1893, stated that “the engine . . . would be pointed like the bows of ship so as to split the atmosphere,’’ while the tender would be tapered to meet the train and “vestibuled by hoods completely encircling the space between the tender and the cars. Each car of a train would thus be ‘vestibuled’. A false bottom would extend beneath the cars, dropping within three inches of the track.” Adams’ patent explained that his ultimate objective was to allow for trains to travel at higher speed without increased motive power, and he compared his design to “the lateral and bottom surfaces of vessels.” Adams’ design approach offered much of the same wisdom of Cayley and Calthrop, as well as future practitioners of aerodynamic designs, yet in his early promotional efforts Adams’ understanding of railroad dynamics appears flawed. On January 23, 1893, the New York Times wrote: “The present limit of express trains, Mr. Adams says, is about forty miles an hour, and those scheduled at this rate, he declares, are seldom on time.” As quoted, Adams’ facts were questionable. Even at that time, many trains routinely operated faster than 40 miles per hour. But more to the point, the 40-miles per-hour operation had little to do with wind resistance, nor could reducing wind resistance have any effect on time keeping. Adams continued to pursue his idea. In 1900, he worked with Baltimore & Ohio to build and test a prototype train. Under Adams’ supervision, B&O’s shops retrofitted some older passenger cars with wooden fluting, and in accordance with his earlier drawings equipped them with skirts and diaphragms between cars to reduce wind drag. The resulting train appeared remarkably similar to streamliners built thirty-five years later,except that it was hauled by an unadorned (and fairly ancient looking) 4-4-0 steam locomotive. For reasons not explained, Adams’ plans for shrouding the locomotive were not embraced as part of the experiment. On May 12, 1900, Railway World reported that Adams “air splitting train” was given a preliminary trial between Jersey City and Washington, DC, (using Central Railroad of New Jersey, Philadelphia & Reading, and B&O lines). Tests continued into June, but it appears that little came of the experiment, and after a while the aerodynamic fluting was removed from the cars. Adams unique train was remarkable for its early application of wind-resistant shrouds and attracted considerable attention, not just from the railroad trade press, but in the public media as well. Buy from an Online Retailer In North America: In The UK: See the streamlined trains of the 1930s in all of their sleek glory. In the 1930s, streamlined styling was applied to everything from kitchen appliances to farm tractors as it captured the American imagination. Keen to regain passenger traffic lost to automobiles and expanding roadways, railroads hired industrial-design giants like Raymond Loewy, Otto Kuhler, Henry Dreyfuss, and Brooks Stevens to produce sleek, futuristic shrouds for locomotives. These streamlined locomotives and trains became the most iconic in American history. Even today, classic designs like stainless-steel Zephyrs, shrouded Hudsons, and EMD E-units remain the popular conception of what a locomotive “looks like.” Streamliners : Locomotives and Trains in the Age of Speed and Style explores the historical and scientific context for the development of streamlined locomotives and trains, the designs that became standard-bearers of North American speed and luxury, and the contemporary popularity of the streamlined look in popular culture. Illustrated with rare historical photographs in both black and white and color, as well as period advertising, route maps, and patent design drawings, Streamliners elucidates the story of this fascinating design trend by following the various technologies and styling trends and how they changed the look of American railroading. Profiles of prominent designers and preserved streamliners in use today round out and complete this picture every railfan will want. Streamlining was the product of the last great era of American passenger trains, when elegantly styled, named trains connected cities across the continent on fast schedules.Streamliners thoroughly explores the connections between style, speed, and the rails. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.