Dynamometer Car 29

Dynamometer Car 29 was the brainchild of Charles T. Ripley and T. E. Layden. Both men supervised the design and construction of the car, which was created to measure and record the full spectrum of locomotive performance while the locomotive was being used in actual test under real-time load conditions. It was a true mobile laboratory and was used to evaluate all Santa Fe motive power between 1911 and 1963 when it was retired.

Charles T. Ripley, Assistant Engineer of Tests, and T. E. Layden, Mechanical Engineer, needed to prove their worth to Charles’ uncle, Edward P. Ripley, Santa Fe President. Edward P. Ripley didn’t much care for “college men” and believed that the best way to become a true railroad man was to work your way up through the ranks. (Indeed, coming up through the ranks had its merits as proven by John Purcell who hired on the Santa Fe at age 14. He would work his way to top mechanical department head and retire at age 71 in 1941 as Mechanical Assistant to Operating Vice President.)

Test equipment inside the car, also built by Charles T. Ripley and T. E. Layden, was used to record drawbar pull, speed, rate of firing, rate of water supplied to the boiler, air-brake operations, and the time of passing stations. All this information and more was recorded in six-second and one-minute intervals by electric and mechanically operated pens over a continuous moving chart at the rate of 6.6 inches per mile of travel. This remarkable testing equipment was designed and built before electronic miniaturization and vacuum tubes were even thought of.

When diesel locomotives took over, Dynamometer Car 29 was used to record fuel consumption, dynamic braking, drawbar pull, drawbar horsepower, and other data pertinent to the diesel locomotive.

Dynamometer Car 29 set up with PA locomotive #51. Railroad and Heritage Museum, Temple, Texas.
Brass model of Dynamometer Car 29. The model was produced by Hallmark Models in the 1960’s. Sam D. Teague photo.


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