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Locomotive Testing Plant (West Lafayette, Ind.)



  • Existence: 1895 - 1968

Historical Information

The Locomotive Testing Plant was built in 1895 and was the second testing plan for locomotives. The original locomotive testing plant was located in Heavilon Hall which burned down just a few days after it's dedication. The new plant contained equipment to house large locomotives and study their performance. The performance could be tested while the engine was running at any desired speed and under any load. This testing plant contained 36 steam cylinders, six friction brakes, and six surface condensers. At the time the original building was built in 1891, there were no tracks that lead into campus. Because of this, Schenectady No. 1 was lifted off of the tracks and placed on skids to be dragged about a mile and a half across country. A school holiday was declared so every able-bodied student could assist in the transfer. During World War II, highly secret research on the atomic bomb occurred in the testing plant that was referred to as "The Castle." The roof of this building had removable sections to allow for locomotives to be brought in. A window in one of the doors allowed the fireman clear view of the top of the locomotive stack from his place in the cab which allowed for firing. Above the stack is a pipe to convey the smoke clear of the building which can be moved to any part of the removable roof.


Locomotive Testing Plant. Purdue Campus Facilities and Buildings Historic Database. Access September 13, 2019.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

William Chester Halstead photographs

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSA 262
Scope and Contents The William Chester Halstead photographs document Purdue University, students, faculty, and staff during the 1890s, featuring buildings, student groups, such as the cyclists, drum corps, and artillery. Photographs of note include the burned-out structure of Heavilon Hall and President Smart in his office. The collection also documents the Lafayette area.
Dates: circa 1890s

Locomotive Testing Plant records

 Collection — Box: Communal Collections 60, Placement: 16
Identifier: UA 128
Scope and Contents The Locomotive Testing Plant records contain an information booklet providing details about the facility and floorplans of the plant as well as technical drawings of locomotives.
Dates: 1895