Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I finished reading the book on Streamlined Trains by Brian Solomon the other day. Really good book if you're interested in trains but I didn't realize that the interplay between the automotive, aircraft and railroad designers and manufacturers went as deep as it did. In addition, I had never heard of boxpok wheels before or shot welding, I'm ashamed to say.

Photo From Here
The boxpok wheel was easier to balance on high speed locomotives than were the regular spoked driving wheels. Shot welding is a type of spot welding developed by Earl Ragdale of the Budd Company used to join stainless steel sheets that didn't leave the indentation of the weld nugget and didn't affect the metallurgical properties of the steel like normal spot welding does. 

Photo From Here
The Burlington Zephyr shot welded together by the Budd Company. America's first high speed diesel streamliner.

In addition to Edward Budd and Earl Ragdale, Albert Dean also figured prominently in the development of the Zephyr. Dean was a Mit grad who did post graduate work in metallurgy and aerodynamics. Sounds like just the kind of guy you'd want working for you if you were working on a groundbreaking design for a streamliner made from stainless steel. 

William Stout was an automotive designer who worked briefly for the Pullman Company and was responsible for some of the other well known streamliners, such as the UP M10000 and the Railplane.


In addition to his railroad work, Stout also designed the Stout Scarab automobile and the Ford Tri-Motor airplane was a refinement of his design. I'd have to say this guy was a design genius. 

I was lucky enough to go for a ride in the Ford Tri-Motor a few years back - had no idea it was designed by Stout. He wrote an autobiography called So Away I Went published in 1951. I'm going to have to put in an inter-library loan request for that one.

The book also featured a few of the steam streamliners, including what I think is the greatest of them all, The 20th Century Limited designed by Henry Dreyfuss.

Photo From Here

Not only a great looking locomotive but a great looking photograph. Dreyfuss was another guy who designed all types of products. From John Deere tractors to Honeywell thermostats to Polaroid SX-70 cameras.

Whenever I come across this kind of fascinating stuff, I wonder why schools never teach any of it. I'm sure if you took a design course at the college level, you would know the names Henry Dreyfuss and Raymond Loewy but when I get to be king some of this is going to be required at the high school level. I'll bet every kid who ever took a shop class is interested in planes, trains and cars. They should know about some of the designers who made them possible. I taught an Intro to Tech class for a few years and I covered a little bit of design that went along with a couple of the projects they built but nothing too in depth. For me, I'll keep reading.

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