Large Scale Central

Sutro Pneumo Loco

I’m probably gonna regret that title…

I’m working on another research / modeling project, this time in F scale. But… 22" gauge. It’s a very early compressed-air locomotive that was built in England, and bought by the Sutro Tunnel Company to haul rock out of their (eventually) 9-mile tunnel system.

Sutro bought four of these in 1879, and received them in early 1880. And though they seemed to work out in trials, the budget for laying the needed recharge pipes never materialized.

But, they were hauled on CP and V&T cars for their delivery to Dayton, NV; and most likely on their way out, when sold off, on those railroads and also the C&C. So I’ll probably mount two of them on a flat car, and call it a day. No motor or controls, or 22" track in F scale, just a weird load.

I’m maybe half way through the model; many details & refinements to add.

These locos were generally called “air motors.” They were 5’ tall and 10’-6" long.

I’m getting my geometry from a 3-view drawing, which was handed out in a lecture in 1881 to the Cleveland (UK) Institute of Engineering. That organization still very much exists, and they very kindly sent me a scan of that original transcript and drawing.



Let’s start regretting now. That’s just karma (or is it Kama) posting about a crazy sultry engine that takes your breath away?

How about Kama Sutro Pneumo Loco?

Very cool project! I’ve always been fascinated by air locos.

Great choice for your collection Cliff. What was the mileage on a tank of hot air? and was it uphill into the mine and downhill on the way out?

Thanks Dave.

The tunnel was slightly downhill on the way out, which would have helped get the rock out. The tank was filled at roughly the mid-way point (traveling both ways) in the 4-mile long main tunnel. The builder claimed the loco could run 500 yards on level track, hauling 30 tons gross weight, on one charge.

It looks the plan was to haul a string of empties uphill for 2 miles, then bring loaded cars downhill back to the charge point. The four locos originally came with a tender tank car, which should have helped.

But something didn’t go as planned, and I’ll guess that it had to do with the weight of the empties and tender going uphill all that distance. They probably wanted the engine to go into the north and south branches at the end of the main tunnel, but its air charge may have been completely depleted for any of that.

Well it appears that testing began on February 29th 1880 (leap year) !

Then in May it was working a train out of shaft #2

Not sure if it’s the same builder or not but is gives some more specifics of a compressed air loco in England down on the bottom right.

Had to throw this one in for Eric as it seems they were looking into one for the cane fields.

OK…wasted enough time and I have something to do today not research…Maybe some more this evening or tomorrow, perhaps you can give me a little more info to work with Cliff.

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That was my thinking Cliff uphill with minimum load, downhill with maxload so if they ran out of air the weight and gravity may help them finish the run.

Nice nooks and crannies Rooster. A good bit of info to be found

Rooster, I appreciate your interest.

Except for the HI clipping, I’ve located the others (or their sources) over the past month. I’ll send you my (in-progress) report, which shows the main clippings and other relevant docs I’ve found so far.

An important doc I haven’t been able to find yet is the British patent by Lishman & Young, granted sometime in 1876-1879.

Thanks much,

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Are you sure there was a patent granted to Lishman & Young or was it granted to Grange Iron Company ?

“Lishman & Young compressed air locomotive built by the Grange Iron Company in Durham, c1880 and used in Lambton D Pit until at least 1887. They were photographed in 1890/91, apparently dismantled in the Lambton Engine Works.”

Back when I was a kid, Edaville RR had a bunch of locomotives you could climb around on, including a fireless one. They were fascinating because they looked so different, yet the same.

Note to self…" Driving to Maryland AGAIN to kick Cliffs ass Hollywood wanna ride along" ?


Bill’s dead man # 427 and that’s a hell of a link if you don’t have it and wanna search it.

Nice list, thanks Rooster!

I thought you had messaged me this, so in case anyone else is interested, I’ll paste my message-response here:

The Grange ads keep mentioning the “Lishman & Young Patented Air Locomotive,” because L&Y hired or licensed Grange Iron to build them.

So I’m fairly sure it would have been L&Y’s patent. But I have no idea what year they pulled the patent except that it was prior to an 1880 GIC ad saying they had. BTW Grange consistently said they were the sole licensee or whatever to make the L&Y locos.

Good luck and thanks in advance for coming up with anything I’ve missed!!

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Bob, to your point, here’s the contraption that let the air into the cylinders’ valve boxes.

I’ll guess the lever-handle turned 180 degrees or less, cuz it would tangle with the driver’s legs if it went 360. Just a guess though.

He had a lantern in the cab though, and a rudimentary headlight over the fill valve.

OMGram here we go again!

I finished the 3d model today, and am having a go on an initial print. 8 hours to go… Trying not to be jealous of Bob’s new fast printer!

In the mean time, here it is in a rough model of the Sutro Tunnel.

Story Time: Around 1976, Mack Trucks was bringing out a new off-highway truck model called the Mack Pack. the engine assembly was not ready in time for the annual sales meeting, so the vehicle was placed on display minus an engine. This was a rear-engine vehicle with an exposed engine compartment.

A group of service engineers were looking down from our fourth floor window to the display area. One of those guys said, " That off-highway model doesn’t seem to be finished. It has no engine." A supervisor who was standing nearby said, “Oh no, that’s the new ecology model. It runs on hot air from Washington!”

Ducking and weaving, David Meashey

Happy New Year folks!

Here’s a rendering or two…

Tunnel, with ghost added for scale…

And a couple of fresh prints. I should have thickened up that roof, I’m surprised it printed at all!



Those compressed air locomotives are so cool, but I don’t envy you having to clean away all those sprues!

Best, David Meashey