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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Announces Final Rule on Steam Locomotives

Document Series
Press Releases
Press Release Number
Contact Name
Warren Flatau
Contact Phone Number
Amtrak, City of New Orleans

Tuesday, November 16, 1999 (Washington, DC)

In a continuing effort to improve safety even as railroad operations expand, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced a final rule revising inspection and maintenance standards for steam locomotives.

"As the economy expands and the nation enjoys a brisk tourist trade, the re-creation of events from our transportation history place new demands on equipment involved," Secretary Slater said. "This rule will help ensure the safety of steam locomotives in use throughout the country, whether they are moving people or freight – safety is President Clinton’s highest transportation priority."

The past few years have seen a resurgence in steam locomotive operations, primarily in the areas of tourist and historic railroads. In order to maintain the industry’s exemplary safety record while allowing it the needed flexibility to continue to operate efficiently, the final rule makes a number of significant changes in the areas of inspections, record- keeping, maintenance requirements and schedules, and responsibility for ensuring continuing compliance with applicable rules and regulations.

"These new standards will help ensure that the steam railroad industry maintains its near spotless safety record while continuing to bring these living monuments of American railroading to the many thousands of railroad enthusiasts who come to see them every year," said Federal Railroad Administrator Jolene M. Molitoris.

This Federal Railroad Administration rule was developed in consultation with the Steam Standards Task Force of the Tourist and Historic Railroads Working Group, which is an arm of the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee. This working group included representatives from the Association of Railway Museums, the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Tourist Railway Association Inc., the Smithsonian Institution, the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors, and a number of steam railroads and industry associations. The revised standard updates regulations last published in 1978.

The final rule is in today’s Federal Register. Its effective date is Jan. 18, 2000.


Steam Locomotive Inspection and Maintenance Standards

Revises the language in the section on responsibility for compliance to take into account the fact that today very few "railroads" own and/or operate steam locomotives on their systems. The majority of steam locomotives today are owned and/or operated by independent entities ranging from wealthy hobbyists to state-chartered historical societies. This rule now places the primary responsibility for compliance with the regulations on the parties who own and operate the steam locomotives, while continuing to hold railroads responsible for the safe operation of steam locomotives running on their tracks.

Creates a more realistic inspection scheme that is based on the number of actual days a steam locomotive is in service during a given period. This change was made based on the fact that most steam locomotives operate on a very limited basis, with some operating only on a handful of occasions during the calendar year.

Eliminates all waivers except those to be granted under the centralized waiver process set forth in 49 C.F.R. Part 211.

Revises existing and establishes some new standards for making repairs to steam locomotives. Mandates that repairs to steam locomotives must be made in accordance with "accepted industry standards."

Addresses the issue of new and developing technologies that affect steam locomotive inspection and maintenance procedures by recognizing and encouraging the use of newer, safer, and more efficient means of testing, inspecting, and repairing steam locomotives.

Imposes a requirement that all persons making repairs on steam locomotives be competent to perform those repairs.

Brings certain mechanical and procedural requirements (e.g., the need for accurately functioning speed recorders) in line with other federal railroad standards.


Last updated: Tuesday, November 16, 1999
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