A Dive in the Archive: Dayton
by Paul Grether

The locomotive “Dayton” was built by the Lima Locomotive works in 1913. The events leading up to its creation are unique, and justify its preservation.

The Lima engine was one of a series of three identical locomotives built on custom order for the National Cash Register Plant in Dayton, Ohio. The owner and founder of NCR, an American industrialist by the name of John Patterson had seen fireless steam engines on his travels through Europe. These steam locomotives had no firebox, they operated off of a steam charge from a stationary boiler.

Harry Noble, “Glimpses of Passing Trains”

Mr. Patterson decided that the engines that he saw were exactly what he needed for his plant in Ohio. John Patterson was one of the first industrialists to be concerned with the “factory environment”, and sooty black smoke from switch engines isn’t what he wanted. If a worker could rest his eyes during work by looking out of a window and see clean buildings and suburban gardens with geraniums, he would be a happy, more productive worker, Patterson believed. This differed greatly from most factories of the era, which were huge, grimy, cluttered places. The steam-storage locomotive was a key element in maintaining the healthy, clean environment that John Patterson envisioned for the NCR factory.

In 1909 the Rubicon (above) became the first steam-storage engine in the United States, followed by sister engines South Park in 1910 and Dayton in 1913. They were little more than a 7-by-16 foot thermos-like steam tank, equipped with cylinders, wheels and driving cab. The tank was filled two- thirds with water and then charged with steam at 150 pound pressure from the NCR boiler. Some of the water would slowly turn into steam, adding some running time. Some Facts on the engines (including the Dayton):

Specs for Dayton:
Steam Temp: 370 degrees Fahrenheit
Cylinder Pressure: 60 pounds psi
Wheel arrangement: 0-4-0
Drivers: 36 inches
Tractive effort: 9,720 pounds
Length: 22 feet 6.5 inches

Three or four times a day the crew would make a run to the roundhouse at NCR and exchange an engine for a freshly charged one. The large pistons enabled the engines to run on just a small charge, so stalling away from the “lifeline” was rare. In addition to charging the steam, the locomotives would have their air tanks (for the bell and sanders) recharged at the roundhouse, as well as the battery for the headlights.

The locomotives were very safe, boiler explosions were impossible. Baffles inside the boiler kept the water from sloshing around during movement. However, cab visibility was poor, and the only brake on board was mechanical, so the locomotives took a long time to stop a loaded train of coal hoppers. This, coupled with an increase in maintenance costs, caused all three engines to be retired in 1964 and they were replaced by a GE 50-tonner with side-rods.

In September 1965 the locomotive was donated to the Atlanta Chapter NRHS after a lengthy selection process in which the Chapter competed with over thirty groups for the locomotive. Southern RR prepared flatcar #117092 for the transport and it was moved by The Pennsylvania RR, the B&O and the Southern. It arrived Jan. 31st, 1967. New Orleans Streetcar #924, which was on the same flatcar, was transferred to N&W gon #99984. In 1994 the locomotive was finally placed on panel track at the museum for proper display and removed from the flatcar that was its home for almost 30 years.


  1. The “Hot Box” as edited by George Weber, Sept. 1965
  2. “Train Sheet”; newsletter of the Railroadians of America, Spring 1984
  3. Library File – “Locomotive Dayton” created by Librarian Jamie Reid
  4. “Glimpses of Passing Trains”; Harry Noble (self-published), 2002