What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

The Ten Greatest “Power” Running Backs and Their Locomotive Equivalent

Football fans love a big, bruising runner; as a football fan, I’m no different. But I’m also a train geek, and I couldn’t help but notice that people love to use train-related terms when referring to the big bruisers. So, in my twisted mind, it makes perfect sense to compare the great big bruisers to the great locomotives. The beauty is since this is such a pure premise, I really don’t need to waste time writing a big, fluffy, largely bullshit introduction. Having said that…

10) Jim Taylor:  Mikado “2-8-2”

If the Mikado 2-8-2 had been a computer, it would have been an IBM clone. If it had been a car, it would have been a VW Beetle; the original, not those bullshit “MacPherson strut, curved windshield” post-1974 “Super Beetles” or those catalytic-converter equipped chick-mobiles we see now.  The bottom line is that for the longest time, this locomotive was the primary freight mover in North America; a total of 9,500 having been built for service in the United States, plus 97 that served on the Canadian National and another 253 that bore Canadian Pacific service markings. Even Nacionales de Mexico purchased many 2-8-2s; they had 40 models with the 57-inch driver wheels  locomotives in 1921.

Regardless of the ancestry, the 2-8-2 became the principal freight locomotive in North America; much like the buzz-cut offensive “hand-grenade” became the trend in the NFL. Sure, the Packers had Jim Taylor, but in short order every team in the league featured guys like Bill “Boom Boom” Brown or Hugh McIlhenny. Hell, they weren’t even limited to offense, as there were plenty of bristle-headed psychopaths like Dick Butkus who completely fit the model. If it weren’t for the horrors of male pattern baldness, Green Bay’s own Ray Nitschke would be on this list.

9) Christian Okoye: Union Pacific “Big Boy 4-8-8-4”

The “Big Boys” were the only locomotives to have the 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, combining two sets of eight driving wheels with both a four-wheel leading truck for stability entering curves and a four-wheel trailing truck to support the large firebox. This also explains Okoye’s configuration; while humans are limited to two “driving wheels,” Okoye rolled like he had multiple sets.  The “Big Boys” were specifically designed to pull a 3,600 ton freight train over the long 1.14% grade of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. Christian Okoye was drafted to plow through the defenses of the AFC West.

Before the arrival of the “Big Boy,” Union Pacific freighters needed helpers to cross this mountain range. Before the arrival of “The Nigerian Nightmare,” the Chiefs needed help just getting first downs.  For such a plodding power unit to be worthwhile, it had to be faster and more powerful than the lugs that preceded them. Both Okoye and the “Big Boy” were built with a heavy margin of reliability and safety in mind;  they both normally operated well below their optimal speed, rather they operated for optimal optimal tractive effort, which occured at about 10 mph. Despite the lack of speed, they both generated unstoppable momentum.

8 ) Bronko Nagurski: Electro-Motive Division “DDA40-X”

The EMD DDA40-X was a 6,600 horsepower behemoth which still remains as the longest single-unit diesel locomotive ever built.  It also remains the most powerful single-unit diesel locomotive ever built. Engineers actually feared operating this unit, much like defenses feared the legendary strength of Nagurski. Tales of yore of his super-human strength say that Michigan was a contiguous state until Nagurski ripped it in half; that he once used nothing more than his jaw to halve a sapling tree, and that he once watched two Julia Roberts movies back-to-back without killing himself.

7) Larry Csonka: Pennsylvania Railroad “GG-1”

At least Marion Motley made it honest; he wore an offensive lineman’s number. Larry Csonka was a line-smashing fullback who was bigger than many of the lineman in front of him.  Csonka was like a dynamo driving the Miami Dolphins’ dominating ball-control offense, much like the 770,000-pound GG-1 dominated passenger routes on the Northeast Corridor.

6) Jerome Bettis: Electro-Motive Division ” F7-A”

The classic look of a F7-A cab gave it the appearance of having a smile. Jerome Bettis almost always had a smile on his face, unless he was getting ready to run over you. Bettis enjoyed a long career, largely by being low-maintenance and economical fo output. These are two key reasons why the F7-A can be considered the zenith of the “cab unit” freight diesel, as it was commonplace on North American railroads (a total of 2,366 were built) for close to 40 years.

5) John Riggins: Electro-Motive Division “SD40-2”

How fitting is it that a guy nicknamed “The Diesel” is represented by a locomotive that was the workhorse for almost every mainline railroad for decades. Riggins wasn’t the fastest, nor was he the most powerful. He was just consistently the best for a long time, which is also the perfect description of the SD40-2. Riggins played 175 games in 14 seasons(which is forever for a running back), amassed 13,442 total yards and became only the second player at the time to rush for over 100 touchdowns. He had five 1,000-yard seasons and 35 100-yard games.

The SD40-2 was first introduced in 1972 and was a technological improvement over any model before it. Although it was not a high-horsepower locomotive, its 3,000-horsepower 16-645-E3 engine made it very reliable and economical, plus it featured an easily exchangeable, modular electronic control system similar to those of the experimental DDA40X, which made for a control cabinet that improved availability, efficiency, and ease of maintenance. Within a decade, the SD4-2 could be found everywhere in North America, as well as Brazil, Guinea, Yugoslavia, Korea, Iran, Morocco, Peru, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe. You can still see SD40-2s today on Class I railroads, although they are becoming a rare sight in mainline service. These venerable units now mostly see road or yard switcher duty, or have been sold to regional “short-line” railroads.

4) Mike Alstott: Great Northern Railway “S-Class 4-8-4 Northern”

Alstott was one of those rare combinations of speed and brute force; he could run over you then run away from your help. The “Northerns” aristocratic look with its power and speed made it the perfect fit for the Great Northern Railway’s top-shelf passenger trains like the “Empire Builder” and “Oriental Limited.” In later life they powered GN fast freights on eastern districts, and were roller bearing-equipped in 1945. In a similar show of versatility, Alstott was also a devastating blocker and later in his career became an effective pass-catcher as well.

3) Marion Motley: Electro-Motive Division “SD90MAC-H”

In terms of generating horsepower, the SD90MAC-H  are today’s most powerful diesel locomotives; they are rated at 6,000 HP). In terms of tractive effort, the SD90MAC-H is most powerful (200,000 pounds starting, 170,000 pounds continuous). In terms of running backs, Motley was a similarly imposing figure. Being more the size of a lineman meant the constant threat of him hurtling up the middle kept the defenses honest. Marion was the All-American Football Conference’s all-time rushing leader, and after the AAFC merged with the NFL, Motley led his new league in rushing his first NFL season in 1950.  In a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers that year, the powerful Motley rushed for 188 yards on just 11 carries for a 17.1 yards-per-carry average.

2) Earl Campbell – Electro-Motive Division “E8-A”

The E8-A and Earl Campbell were both the perfect combination of power and speed. Campbell really was just a flesh-and-bone locomotive; he ran like hidden somewhere in his massive thighs the actually was an E8-A with its 2,250-horsepower engine geared for running at 117 miles per hour.

1) Jim Brown:  Electro-Motive Division “FT”

Jim Brown broke the mold. Brown was the first of the big, powerful, athletic running backs that have become the norm in the NFL. When Brown hit the league in the 1950’s, he spelled the end of the days of three-back sets and the death of the ham-footed fullback.

The FT also broke the mold. When the FT hit the rails in 1939, its The FT’s flexibility, modularity and ease of maintenance spelled the end of the steam era. Many rail historians consider the FT one of the most important locomotive models of all time. They were generally marketed as semi-permanently coupled A-B sets (a lead unit and a cabless booster connected by a solid drawbar) making a single locomotive capable of producing 2,700 horsepower. Many railroads used pairs of these sets back to back to make up a four-unit A-B-B-A locomotive rated at 5,400 HP, while others purchased semi-permanently coupled A-B-A three-unit sets of 4,050 HP.

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions


This entry was posted on September 12, 2010 by in NFL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

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