Christopher Zahrt, by Steve Butler
The David P. Morgan Article Award for 2014 goes to Christopher Zahrt for “The Amazing Loco Valve Pilot” that appeared in Classic Trains’ special publication, Steam Glory 3 (2013, pp. 46-59).
Zahrt, a Finance Intern at CSX Transportation, is working toward a Master of Business Administration degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He expects to receive his MBA from Georgia Tech in 2015. Zahrt began his career in railroading by volunteering at Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 2001. In 2004, he became a machinist for the Ohio Central Railroad. He then served as a machinist on the Grand Canyon Railway, a Steam Locomotive Specialist with Steam Operations Corporation in Birmingham, Alabama, Steam Shop Foreman for the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad in Alamosa, Colorado, Project Coordinator for the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah, and Project Manager on the Strasburg Rail Road. His interests include volunteering, Harley Davidson motorcycles, and classical music.
Zahrt explained how and why the loco valve pilot was developed, and how a device created 80 years ago boosted power output, reduced track maintenance problems, and acted as an early event recorder. Some of us on the Awards Committee are not technologically inclined, but we were impressed by the author’s knack for explaining in understandable fashion several technical terms relating to the operation of steam locomotives.
Seventeen railroads installed loco valve pilots on some of their steam locomotives, and the article also explains why the device was not useful on every class of locomotive and on every railroad. As the author explains, the loco valve pilot essentially was an early computer, and it was developed in answer to the railroads’ quest for more scientific operation of their steam locomotives. Zahrt has done a marvelous job of describing the development of the loco valve pilot, the numerous benefits it produced, and its various applications, and our committee is pleased to present him with the David P. Morgan Article Award for his story about “The Amazing Loco Valve Pilot.” Lyle Key, Nashville, Tennessee
The citation appeared in Railroad History 211, Fall-Winter 2014.