I had no doubt that the Whitcombs were more useful. First, for the logistical reasons that I outlined, and second because as you noted diesel engines (even from manufacturers with a reputation for poor reliability like Whitcomb) are less maintenance-intensive than steam engines. The Reichsbahn always had between 20 and 30% of its locomotive park unavailable for maintenance or repairs.Jon G. wrote:In the final analysis there can be little doubt that the Whitcombs beat the Staniers by a handsome margin for operations on the desert railroad. After all, power output is just one parameter for measuring a locomotive's usefulness for the task at hand. Logistic requirements - in casu the voracious water needs of the Stanier - reliability and also availability are just as important factors.Bronsky wrote:(snip) from my point of view it's not clear that the steam locomotives were more "powerful" (per the definition above) than the diesel ones...
What I wonder is how much - if any - cost in terms of average train load the switch to diesel engines entailed. Again, I have no doubt that the cost was more than offset by gains in other respects, but I still wonder about it.
I don't know about that. What I've read, both from the page that you referred to and from the US history of lend-lease through Persia, doesn't provide sufficient details in support of the choice between steam and diesel engines.Jon G. wrote:The Allied-operated Persian railroad which I linked to earlier may be a useful comparison.
An important factor militating for steam engines was their availability. With the bulk of the train park worldwide being steam locomotives, as well as (at least so it seems to me) the bulk of US production, the general idea would be to provide steam locomotives as the standard item. Diesel locomotives would be useful in theaters where logistics were a bottleneck i.e. the Western Desert and Europe.
Another thing that the more widespread use of steam engines provided was that local manpower was familiar with them and could be expected to run/repair them with minimal additional training. That was clearly a factor in the case of the Soviets, although I think that they also received diesel locomotives from lend-lease (but I'm not typing this on the right computer to check).