The link shows different types of Whitcomb 65 DE locomotives. I assume that they must be fairly similar, but don't know the difference between the types. They do all look alike. On another link about the 65 DE 19, the locomotives are described as sometimes having reliability problems, the piston heads being a specific problem. On the other hand, they were good pullers and they could run for a very long time. Also, the type was specifically designed so that the locomotives would be modular i.e. that 2 or more could be coupled for more traction if necessary.Jon G. wrote:I think the picture leaves little doubt that the Whitcombs on the desert railroad were of the same type as the types described in the link.
Finally, top speed of the 65 DE 19 is given at 45mph, fast for a military locomotive of the time. Assuming that this is the same type that the French received as Marshall aid, then the French number of 65 km/h (~41mph) being lower isn't really surprising for a second-hand machine.
I don't know much about engineering, but I know a fair bit more about that kind of tradeoff and suspect that the main benefit is not to save time on overall construction. The idea is that as long as you don't care about comforts too much, then the two-step approach gives you an at least partially operational rail line more quickly. The overall process takes longer, obviously, but if you need supplies to the front NOW then you will pick having a not quite up to speed rail line today and a fully-equipped one the day after tomorrow, rather than having the fully-equipped line tomorrow. Compare it to credit purchasing, if you wish: it's more expensive in the long run, but you don't have to wait for the goods.Jon G. wrote:It may simply have been faster to use the two-step method you outline by first laying a long line of semi-interimistic track and then following up with the ballast (transported by train, I presume?), rather than have the rail builders wait for the ballast guys.