Why were steam locomotives still used during WW2?

There were diesel-electric locomotives around, especially for passenger trains? Were steam engines better for freight trains?

9 Answers

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  • DON W
    Lv 7
    1 month ago
    Best Answer

    The overwhelming majority of engines, particularly for freight service, were steam.  It was a matter of most countries using what they had, rather than gearing up to build additional diesel-electric.  Where there were diesel-electrics (or in some places, such as the New York-Washington corridor, straight electrics), that's what was used.

    While I know that Germany had some diesel-electrics, they were few in number, and mostly used for the passenger trains used for the Nazi elite.  Freight, including military goods, were exclusively pulled by steam.

    If World War II had started say 10 years later, there would have been many more diesels in use.

    • Anon1 month agoReport

      Santa Fe RR was first in US to completely convert. Because it eliminated watering stops in the deserts. REF: Friend who is retired SFRR engineer.

  • F
    Lv 6
    3 weeks ago

    Both Britain and Germany had good coal reserves but oil was all imported. (North Sea oil hadn't been found yet).

    Steam trains had hardly been replaced by diesel at all in the 30s and 40s (British Rail had steam trains until 1965), so it made sense to keep oil for air and road transport. ( The steam engined Spitfire was not very successful).

    Road transport had by this time, switched almost entirely to petrol /diesel.

  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    Because a lot still out there. Just because the Diesel-Electric invented in 1935 didn't mean they were were all replaced in 6 years. Steamers were still in very common use until about 1955. Santa Fe was first to completely convert to Diesels because it eliminated watering stops in the desert.

    Source(s): A brother in my church is retired engineer. My father who took troop trains in WWII and Korea.
  • Mike
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    Very few diesels had been built by then, and most of them could not match the steam engines in power.

    • Anon1 month agoReport

      No. Many, many Diesels. many far more powerful. its just steamers took about 30 years to be completely eliminated.

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  • 1 month ago

    In USA, the sheer number of shipments of items for the war effort outnumbered the diesel engines by a large amount. Any engine that could do the hauling was employed to move steel, iron ore, coal, sand, lots of finished goods like tanks, trucks, food, ammunition, building supplies.

    Source(s): In WW2 my grandpa was a traffic foreman who shipped hundreds of airplane engines from southern Illinois to the airplane factories. My dad helped run a company that made shipping boxes for food and ammunition.
  • In
    Lv 6
    1 month ago

    Oil (diesel) was scarce and steam engines could burn just about any fuel. If we are talking about Germany, they had nearly no oil but plenty of coal, and were experimenting with coal gasification and synthetic oil products.

    • Anon1 month agoReport

      NO. Oil/gas rationing was to save Tires. Natural rubber came from Philippines, Japan was attacking them., Trains don't use rubber tires.

  • 1 month ago

    .......and for another thing, petroleum based fuels were in short supply - even strictly rationed, while we had (and have) abundant coal supplies with a mature distribution system in place to supply steam locomotives.

    BUT: diesel electric locomotives were used in big stations/depots and urban areas for a number of years - while the coal-burners were still belching black smoke in suburban/rural areas - guess they thought the country air would offset the pollutants.

    • Anon1 month agoReport

      No, fuel wasn't strictly rationed. It was tires. Cars with a "C ' sticker could only buy so much per month. This saved tires, rubber was imported from the Philippines which were often attacked by Japanese.

  • There were very few engines that weren't steam powered during WWII

    • Anon1 month agoReport

      No. Many. Its just it took 20 years or so to completely eliminate steamers. Trains are a huge investment, it took a while to amortize the old steamers, they Still worked, and it took a while to completely retool for diesels.

  • 1 month ago

    No. They just hadn't been replaced. Governments like collecting old stuff.

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