The Decapod


Daniel Franchetti, 8th Grade Contributor

GER (Great Eastern Railway) Class A55, or Decapod (above), was an experimental engine that, as the name suggests, had ten large driving wheels making it a 0-10-0 in Whyte Notation. The first number represents the number of leading wheels at the very front of the locomotive, the second number represents the number of driving wheels attached to the piston rod, and the third represents the number of trailing wheels behind the driving wheels. It was designed by Fred Russell in 1902 to a test how a steam locomotive compared to electric trams. It was the first, and only, locomotive of the GER to have ten driving wheels.

It was built solely to demonstrate the power of steam locomotives in 1902 against electric trams over short distances. In the end, the engine was able to outperform the traction/acceleration of electric trams with an acceleration of 1.4 feet a second, carrying 335 tons of rolling stock behind it. In 1906 the train was redesigned into a 0-8-0 with a tender (below). The tender was used for storing more coal and water for long distance trains. It was used in goods trains but did not meet expectations. In 1913 it was scraped. Although it lived a short life, it proved the power of steam locomotives.

The locomotive did not do anything ground breaking except its one performance. It had a traction effort of 172.54 kN which is greater than most locomotives while still having a decent max speed for a locomotive. What really inspired this to be the first locomotive in this series is because its design. For its traction, it is small. However, while still small it still has massive wheels and a huge fire box to attain the steam required to drive all ten of the nearly four-foot driving wheels. The way the thick steam pipe that leads into the piston shows that it is a capable locomotive. It proved one thing, steam was all that inferior to diesel locomotives. In fact, I know many more famous steam locomotives than diesel or electric locomotives. Not because they have no records, but because steam locomotives have more moving parts and more recognizable features. You can see a steam locomotive’s driving wheels, you can see the steam and the piston rods. They have more substance and character than locomotives of other energy sources making them more memorable. That is why steam engines will be given more attention than electrics because they are so diverse in design and function.