9/3/10

THE BIG ENGINE, PRR S1 at the 1939 WORLD'S FAIR


For me this is a pretty special photo and I didn't even realize it when I bought it.

I wanted to share something special this Labor Day weekend, and I post this in honor of my maternal grandfather who was a railroader on the Pennyslvania Railroad his entire working life, finally ending as an engineer on the Broadway Limited.

It was purchased at an estate sale. I could see it was a train, but other than that nothing much was clear. I blame it on my glasses. I just had my eyes checked and ordered new glasses so I'm hoping at future estate sales I'll be better able to see what I'm buying and not have such great surprises once home.



This engine, the PRR S1, was a one of a kind steam locomotive on display at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. I think it's stunning, but then I love steam engines. It looks like it's moving even when standing still.

I'll let Wikipedia tell you about it, including the sad pathetic demise of such a stunning visual piece of machinery.
The PRR S1 class steam locomotive (nicknamed "The Big Engine") was an experimental locomotive that was the largest rigid frame passenger locomotive ever built. The streamlined Art Deco styled shell of the locomotive was designed by Raymond Loewy.

The S1 was the only locomotive ever built to use a 6-4-4-6 wheel arrangement. Also, the S1 class was a duplex locomotive, meaning that it had two pairs of cylinders, each driving two pairs of driving wheels. Unlike similar-looking articulated locomotive designs, the driven wheelbase of the S1 was rigid. The S1 was completed January 31, 1939 and was assigned locomotive number 6100.

The S1s extreme length, (140 feet 2½ inches/42.74 metres), made it incapable of negotiating curves on most of the PRR track system. This problem, combined with a wheel slippage problem limited the S1s usefulness. No further S1 models were built as focus was shifted to the T1 class. The last run for the S1 was in December 1945 and the engine was scrapped in 1949.

Construction History
In 1937, Pennsylvania Railroad officials decided to build a new passenger locomotive to replace its aging K4s locomotive. The PRR officials also hoped that the new S1 steam locomotive would have performance equal to their GG1 electric locomotive.

In a collaborative effort, the Pennsylvania Railroad, Baldwin Locomotive Works, the Lima Locomotive Works and the American Locomotive Company contributed to the experimental S1 design.

The S1 was the largest express passenger locomotive ever constructed, with an overall length was 140 feet 2½ inches (42.74 m). At 77 feet (23 m) long and a weight of 97,600 pounds (44.3 t), the cast steel locomotive bed plate made by General Steel Castings was the largest single-piece casting ever made for a locomotive application.

The boiler unit for the S1 was the largest built by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The six-wheel leading and trailing trucks were added, as the locomotive's design became too heavy for four-wheel units. However, the locomotive was still overweight by a significant margin. The streamlined Art Deco styled shell of the locomotive was designed by Raymond Loewy,for which he received U.S. Patent No. 2,128,490 The final construction cost for the S1 was $669,780.00.

World's Fair Display
The S1 was displayed at the New York World's Fair of 1939 with the lettering "American Railroads" rather than "Pennsylvania Railroad", as 27 eastern railroads had one combined 17-acre (6.9 ha) exhibit, which also included the Baltimore & Ohio's duplex locomotive. To reach the New York World's Fair, the S1 took a circuitous route over the Long Island Rail Road. Many obstacles had to be temporarily removed and other obstacles were passed at a slow crawl to reach the fairgrounds. At the World's Fair the S1 was a dynamic display; the drive wheels operated under the locomotive's own steam power.This was done by placing the S1 on a platform that had rollers under the drive wheels. By using this type of display, visitors could see the duplex drive in use. After the World's Fair, the S1 was relettered and numbered for use in the Pennsylvania Railroad fleet. The S1 was used by the PRR for publicity purposes as well and its image was featured in calendars and brochures

Service History
The S1 class locomotive was so large that it could not negotiate the track clearances on most of the lines of the PRR system. In its brief service life it was restricted to the main line between Chicago, Illinois and Crestline, Ohio. It was assigned to the Fort Wayne Division and based at the Crestline enginehouse. The S1 hauled passenger trains such as The General and The Trailblazer on this route. Crews liked the S1, partly because of its very smooth ride. The great mass and inertia of the locomotive soaked up the bumps and the surging often experienced with duplex locomotives. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
The engine was designed by Raymond Loewy, known as the Father of Industrial Design. Never heard of him? That's okay. He's affected your life in ways you didn't know.
Raymond Fernand Loewy (5 November 1893 – 14 July 1986) was one of the best known industrial designers of the 20th century. Born in France, he spent most of his professional career in the United States where he influenced countless aspects of North American culture. Among his many iconic contributions to modern life were the Shell and former BP logos, the Greyhound bus, the Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 and S-1 locomotives, the Lucky Strike package, Coldspot refrigerators, the Studebaker Avanti and Champion, and the Air Force One livery. His career spanned seven decades.
Lowey standing on his creation, the PRR S1 locomotive.
(Source: Library of Congress)
Loewy was born in Paris in 1893, the son of Maximilian Loewy, a Viennese journalist, and Marie Labalme. An early accomplishment was the design of a successful model aircraft which then won the James Gordon Bennett Cup in 1908. By the following year he was selling the plane, named the Ayrel. He served in the French Army during World War I, attaining the rank of captain. Loewy was wounded in combat and received the Croix de Guerre. He boarded a ship to America in 1919, with only his French officer's uniform and fifty dollars in his pocket.

Early work
In Loewy's early years in the U.S., he lived in New York and found work as a window designer for department stores, including Macy's, Wanamaker's and Saks in addition to working as a fashion illustrator for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. In 1929 he received his first industrial design commission to modernize the appearance of a duplicating machine by Gestetner. Further commissions followed, including work for Westinghouse, the Hupp Motor Company (the Hupmobile styling), and styling the Coldspot refrigerator for Sears-Roebuck. It was this product that established his reputation as an industrial designer. His design firm opened a London office in the mid 1930s. It still operates.

Pennsylvania Railroad
In 1937 Loewy established a relationship with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and his most notable designs for the firm were their passenger locomotives. He designed a streamlined shroud for K4s Pacific #3768 to haul the newly redesigned 1938 Broadway Limited (also by Loewy). He followed by styling the experimental S1 locomotive, as well as the T1 class. Later, at the PRR's request, he restyled Baldwin's diesels with a distinctive "sharknose" reminiscent of the T1. While he did not design the famous GG1 electric locomotives, he improved its appearance by recommending welded construction, rather than riveted, and a pinstriped paint scheme to highlight its smooth contours.

In addition to locomotive design, Loewy's studios performed many kinds of design work for the Pennsylvania Railroad including stations, passenger car interiors and advertising materials. By 1949, Loewy employed 143 designers, architects and draftsmen. His business partners were A. Baker Barnhart, William Snaith and John Breen.

Studebaker
Loewy had a long and fruitful relationship with the American car maker Studebaker. Studebaker first retained Loewy and Associates and Helen Dryden as design consultants in 1936 and in 1939 Loewy began work with the principal designer Virgil M Exner. Their designs first began appearing on late-1930s Studebakers. Loewy also designed a new logo which replaced the "turning wheel" which had been the trademark since 1912.

During World War II, American government restrictions on in-house design departments at Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler prevented official work on civilian automobiles. Because Loewy's firm was independent of the fourth-largest automobile producer in America, no such restrictions applied. This permitted Studebaker to launch the first all-new postwar automobile in 1947, two years ahead of the "Big Three". His team developed an advanced design featuring flush front fenders and clean rearward lines. They also created the Starlight body which featured a rear window system wrapping 180 degrees around the rear seat.

1953 Studebaker Commander Starlight Coupe
In addition to the iconic bullet-nosed Studebakers of 1950 and 1951, the team created the 1953 Studebaker line, highlighted by the Starliner and Starlight coupes (publicly credited to Loewy, they were actually the work Virgil Exner. The Starlight has consistently ranked as one of the best-designed cars of the 1950s in lists compiled since by Collectible Automobile, Car and Driver, and Motor Trend. At the time, however, the Starlight was ridiculed as bizarre (very similar from front or back). The '53 Starliner, recognized today as "one of the most beautiful cars ever made", was radical in appearance, as radical in its way as the 1934 Airflow. However, it was beset by production problems. The 1953 Studebakers were actually designed by Robert Bourke, member of the Loewy's studio but working permanently for Studebaker.

To brand the new line, Loewy also modernized Studebaker's logo again by applying the "Lazy S" element. His final commission of the 1950s for Studebaker was the transformation of the Starlight and Starliner coupes into the Hawk series for the 1956 model year.

Death and Legacy
Raymond Loewy became a U.S. citizen in 1938. Loewy retired in 1980 and returned to his native France. Loewy died in his Monte Carlo residence in 1986 at the age of 93. He was survived by his second wife Viola and their daughter Laurence. In 1992 Viola Loewy and British American Tobacco established the Raymond Loewy Foundation in Hamburg, Germany. The foundation was established to promote the discipline of industrial design internationally and preserve the memory of Raymond Loewy. An annual award of 50,000 Euros is granted to outstanding designers in recognition of their lifetime achievements. Recent grantees include Phillippe Starck and Dieter Rams. In 1998 Laurence Loewy established Loewy Design in Atlanta, Georgia to manage her father's continued interests in the United States. Laurence died on October 15, 2008 and is survived by her husband David Hagerman and their son Jacque Loewy. David Hagerman continues to manage Loewy Design and the Loewy Estate, which includes Laurence Loewy's vision for the establishment of a Raymond Loewy Museum of Industrial Design.
And if you've been following my Tattered and Lost Ephemera site this week you'd know that I've been featuring vintage Coca-Cola ads from the 1940s and '50s. Well, Loewy was involved with Coca-Cola too.
Coca-Cola Redesign of the original contour bottle, eliminating Coca-Cola embossing & adding vivid white Coke & Coca-Cola lettering, designed & introduced first king-size or slenderized bottles, that is, 10, 12, 16 and 26 oz. (1955) Later, in 1960, he designed the first Coke steel can with diamond design.
Click here to go to the official Loewy site to see a lengthy list of companies for which he did design work, including the good old Greyhound bus.

Sooner or later a piece of ephemera seems to bring you back in a circle. You just never know where it will lead.
_______

This post is dedicated to my maternal grandfather John Swab, Labor Day, and Sepia Saturday.

18 comments:

  1. Now that's some steam engine! And I love the picture of the elegant Mr. L standing on it! He had quite a career and his influence is, indeed, widespread.

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  2. What a wonderful amount of information here, an interesting read.

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  3. What an amazing train. We certainly never had trains like that in NZ. Still don't!

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  4. What an engine. It fully deserves the write-up you give it (and such a wonderfully informative post deserves such a star as the engine)

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  5. I have always been fascinated by trains too. Used to play at the train depot every day as a child. Walking the tracks and running through the yards. This was a very interesting post. Great job.
    QMM

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  6. Beautiful. . . but if too long to navigate curves, a bit of an albatross.

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  7. Sadly, form before function. Still, it would have been nice if it would have been saved. It would be quite a draw today to just go and look at its beautiful lines.

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  8. Your comment about the engine looking like it's in motion even when still is accurate -- I can definitely see it. Incredible lines ... a truly beautiful piece of work. It's a shame it had such a short life.

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  9. Oh to have seen that coming down a straight stretch, flat out, whistle blowing...heart be still. The headlight cutting through the night, passenger car windows lit. Romantic and mysterious. All aboard!

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  10. It's a magnificent locomotive. Oh, to have been able to ride it! It's too bad it had such a short life-span. Great post!

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  11. What a design! What a train!

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  12. It was interesting to read about Raymond Loewy. He was a great designer. I almost moved to Paris in the '70s and went to apply for a job at the Loewy office there as a graphic designer. I was supposed to go back for a second interview, which was very encouraging. My fiance, who worked in Paris for Xerox, was transferred back to the U.S. so I didn't get to go back for the interview.
    Sepia Saturday always seems to bring back memories.

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  13. What a beautiful train! It is a shame it did not have a long life. Love the picture.

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  14. Working in Paris in the '70s for Loewy sounds interesting. That would have been a really important event.

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  15. The photograph is a rare find. The PRR S1 is a lovely, sleek sculpture, a work of art. I didn't know about the Studebaker connection.

    I think of the SR71 Blackbird and the Lockheed Constellation as a works of art too..

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  16. That is a wonderful train. You really do have a very special photo here. One of a kind.

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  17. Thanks guys. I do think it's a pretty special photo. I'm sure there are a lot of old photos out there showing it at the World's Fair, but so far I haven't found any. So hopefully train lovers will find this photo when they research the PRR S1.

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  18. I have a 5yr old grandson who lives and breathes trains. We will read every word of your tribute to him. I know he will treasure those photos. My grandfather was a railroad man as well. He died uncoupling a train.

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