Feb 24, 2018
RAY: This was submitted by Tim Sullivan. And I don't know if the facts are correct, but the flavor of it is so good that it makes no difference if the particulars are right.
He writes, "Years ago, when railroads used steam locomotives, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had a busy freight line running south from Rochester, New York.
"A single locomotive of the 2-8-2 type had two wheels in the front, which didn't do much of anything, eight wheels behind those, which were the drivers, four on each side, and two wheels in the back, which supported the weight. This 2-8-2 locomotive could handle a train of 80 cars.
"But on this particular run south from Rochester, it HAD to have these 80 cars. It couldn't make it with say, 60."
The question is, why did it need the 80 cars?
And the hint is that there's something unusual about the run between Rochester and wherever it was going.
RAY: Here's the answer. The hint I gave was that there was something unusual between Rochester and wherever the train is headed. And what's unusual is this route consists of a bunch of hills that are pretty closely spaced. Imagine the following scenario.
The train with 60 cars is trying to climb one of these hills. As it nears the top, it is pulling all 60 cars up the hill. And, the engineer says, the drivers are beginning to slip. I ain't gonna make it. If only I had some help!
And the help would come from an additional 20 cars attached to the back of the train still on the down slope of the previous hill. The force of gravity is going to push the train up over the next hill!