During most of the decade of the 1940s the future of railroad motive power was uncertain. While dieselization was rapidly progressing on most North American railroads, new steam locomotives of the standard reciprocating type were still being designed and delivered. Electric locomotives occupied a secure, if relatively small, niche in the railroad world, while the new gas turbine-electric locomotive was under development. Besides reciprocating steam, the direct drive steam turbine and the steam turbine-electric had appeared. How the future would unfold was still a matter of uncertainty.

In this fluid situation the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, long a supplier of components for all types of motive power, desired to position itself as a continuing force to be reckoned with. In 1948 the company produced a 42-page booklet entitled Modern Developments in Railroad Motive Power, heralding its interest and expertise in all of the types listed above. The booklet included color illustrations of each type, in most cases somewhat futuristic in concept. Also included were comparative projected performance charts for the various types. But the audience for such a publication was apparently the general public, more so than technical experts or railroad motive power officials.

How my father, Dr. R. D. Leonard, acquired this booklet is unknown, but the 1948 date suggests he may have picked it up at the 1949 Chicago Railroad Fair, which I attended with him as a boy of ten. As late as that year new steam locomotives were still being delivered to American railroads — the last of the Louisville & Nashville and Nickel Plate Berkshires from Lima, and some 2-6-6-2 Mallet compounds for the Chesapeake & Ohio from Baldwin. We saw the C&O's immense coal-fired steam turbine at the Railroad Fair. The Norfolk & Western had yet to build its last three streamlined 4-8-4s of 1950, some 0-8-0 switchers as late as 1953 and its Jawn Henry steam turbine electric. There would be further developments of the gas turbine electric for the Union Pacific, and of new electric power for the New Haven and the Pennsylvania. But despite the bright prospect for all types of power in the Westinghouse booklet, the future in North America belonged almost exclusively to the diesel electric.

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Dr. Richard Leonard