In railroad terminology, a steeplecab is a style or design of electric locomotive; the term is rarely if ever used for other forms of power. The name originated in North America and was also used in Britain. A steeplecab design has a central or nearly central driving cab area which may include a full-height area in between for electrical equipment; when overhead lines are used for power transmission, the cab roof supports the equipment to collect that power (pantograph(s) bow collector(s) or trolley pole(s)). On both ends, connected to the full-height cab areas, lower (often sloping) "noses" or hoods contain other equipment, especially noisy equipment such as air compressors not desired within the cab area.
The steeplecab style was developed in America, and in 1900 Thomson-Houston and General Electric designed and built a 650v DC 3rd rail locomotive of this type for use between Milan and Varese in Italy, becoming FS420.001 (in 1937 this engine was sold to the Cumana railway, Naples). In 1902, the British North Eastern Railway placed an order for two steeplecab locomotives of virtually identical design, the ES1 (although they had a dual collection system, using both 3rd rail and pantograph) . These were for the Tyneside Electrics system in North East England, where their job was to haul very heavy mineral trains relatively short distances but over a route that included gradients as steep as 1 in 27. These locomotives started work in 1905 and were only retired in 1964.
It offers a large degree of crash protection for the crew combined with good visibility. Disadvantages include reduced room for bulky electrical equipment compared to other designs. The overall design pattern of a central crew area with lower and/or narrower equipment hoods on each end has been repeated many times, although the lack of equipment space has meant it has largely died out in recent years.
The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway also built at least two steeplecab locomotives. One was a straight electric which could pick up current from third rail or overhead wire. The other was battery powered. See external links for photos.