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Deciphering what's doing these days
B...DL-721...GP30... KM 400
DAVID P. MORGAN
THESE are lean days for the locomotive vendors. Their domestic customers, long since dieselized, are mostly broke; and overseas competition may be gauged by the fact that the last annual of the trade press Railway Gazette carried advertising by no fewer than 42 builders. The strain of adjusting from the feast of the early 1950's to today's famine is painfully apparent. Baldwin is out of the business and Fairbanks-Morse has had but one buyer (Mexico's Chihuahua-Pacific) in the last few years. Alco recently felt obliged to reassure stockholders and the press that it is still in the game, and General Motors has begun building buses at its London (Ont.) plant in addition to moving Detroit Diesel under the roof of ElectroMotive at La Grange, Ill. Long gone are the glory years of steam replacement when builder catalogs spanned the work of railroading with a half dozen or more basic units ranging from yard engines to 2000 h.p. passenger cabs. Today push-button humps have consigned many a shifter to storage and passenger units are as available and unwanted as the Pullmans they used to pull.
The market of the moment has virtually telescoped into a single model. Caught between the schedules of piggyback and the economies of long trains, the carriers are moving 150car freights at 60 per- and paying the price of six-unit locomotives to do so. Consequently, the demand today is for a high-horsepower four-motor hood unit, preferably available on a trade-in basis. Such locomotives hold the promise of keeping the shipper happy, reducing the number of units necessary to keep big tonnage trains going like sixty, and obviating major overhauls on million-miler 1500 h.p. units.
These "second generation" units (i.e., those diesels which can economically supplant the diesels which replaced steam) mirror their heritage
or lack of it. Designwise, General
Now, the U25B is General Electric's quite original effort to combine capacity with simplicity. Engine, generator, and traction motors are all conservatively rated; a brand-new filtration system assures an abundant supply of clean, dry air for cooling and combustion because of a self-cleaning primary filter; and there are only four electric rotating machines above the floor (vs. up to 15 on older diesels). GE must face sales resistance on three counts, though. U. S. roads have had no experience with the U25B's engine; adding a different make of unit to any roster necessarily complicates
maintenance procedures and increases parts inventory; and you can't trade in an old GE unit because there aren't any. Still, the builder is absolutely convinced that the U25B's merits more than offset these handicaps, and after a slow sales start, Erie Works now has orders for 20 units (four for UP and eight each for Frisco and Santa Fe) to partially prove the point. Also of interest: GE thinks that "advancing technology may some day produce diesel-electrics of 4000 or even 5000 h.p. per four-axle unit," which means that the U25B-now the most powerful domestic dieselmay turn out to be the baby of the line.
1500 h.p. in its 12-cylinder version, and was later souped up to 1600 h.p. The subsequent 251-series revise boosted that to 1800 h.p. and now, as mounted aboard the DL-721, the latest 251-C V-12 produces 2000 h.p. - or 166.6 h.p. per cylinder. Assuming maintenance and fuel consumption are equal, it figures that any road would prefer to do the job with fewer cylinders. Moreover, Alco has in effect a replacement (or "reprofiting") plan whereby older units of its manufacture may be turned in as credit on new DL-721's. And if Alco sees fit to boost the rating of its V-16 by the same percentage, Schenectady could bring out a 2750 h.p. unit - assuming it can obtain from GE a generator capable of taking that much input.
The target both GE and Alco are aiming at, of course, is ElectroMotive. Parent General Motors now
has more than 24,000 diesels at work on 163 U. S. and Canadian roads as well as in 33 other countries, and it was not to be expected that the home plant in La Grange would ignore the challenges to its authority represented by the U25B and DL-721. EMD's answer (introduced, incidentally, when the GP20 demonstrator team was still abroad in the land) is the GP30, a 2250 h.p. four-motor low-nose hood. As compared with its competition, what the newcomer does is to (1) raise horsepower above the rating of Alco's DL-721 and (2) introduce essentially the same air filtration and pressurized interior system as the U25B's. Further, the GP30 now replaces the GP20 as the cornerstone of EMD's locomotive replacement program (it costs $54,600 less than list price if the customer trades in a 12-to-16-year-old 1500 h.p. EMD unit). Larger-capacity D57 traction motors, "sealed" high-voltage cabinets (i.e., requiring maintenance every five years only), new electrical controls, and a unitized brakes-andthrottle stand in the cab are other features of the unit which EMD claims boosts the economy of its replacement plan by 20 per cent over that of the GP20, which itself was ushered in as recently as May 1959.
ALL of which confronts the industry with any number of locomotive replacement questions: What is the ideal unit horsepower 2000 or 2250 or 2500? Is it time, as the builders' current advertising would seem to imply, to write off the six-motor unit on grounds that its extra powered axles are useful only in now undesirable drag service and a retarding influence when speeds reach above 30 mph? Which makes more sense - pulling 2000 h.p. out of 12 cylinders or 2250 to 2500 h.p. out of 16? Should a road return due-for-retirement diesels to their manufacturer for replacement, or should it scrap 'em and strike out in a fresh direction? Perhaps the only detail of today's domestic diesel manufacture upon which everyone can agree is that all units should possess low noses; the DL-721 and GP30 were born with snub snouts, and effective with the Santa Fe order, the U25B will appear with the modification.
An outside influence of undetermined value was brought to bear upon Alco, EMD, and GE in late October when the steamship Christen Smith tied up in Houston, Tex., with six 4000 h.p. C-C cab units in her hold. The locomotives, to be divided equally between Rio Grande and Southern Pacific, are the product of KraussMaffei of Munich, Germany, and are the first imports to be placed inside U. S. roundhouses in well over a cen
only to face
IN WRITING the following account of my brief experience as a locomotive fireman, I feel apologetic toward the thousands of men who knew much more about railroads, had many times the experience, and moved mountains of coal with the expectation of eventually being set up to the right-hand side the depression when few railroadmen were employed. I can only say that my experience was in the period when the largest locomotives were hand-fired (many of them were later to be equipped with mechanical stokers), and that this is a record of a way of life which no longer exists except in the memories of a dwindling number of men.
F. L. JAQUES artwork/THE AUTHOR
WHILE toddling from a west window to an east window, intent on seeing a passing train, I tripped over a door jamb and, since I had two teeth, one upper, one lower, bit a hole in my tongue. I have been watching trains for some 70 years since then. By watching carefully, one can see a lot of trains in 70 years.
The Rock Island double track ran at the foot of our lot through a small town in western Illinois. A slight sag nearby often caused the trains to stall. They backed up, tried again, doubled the hill, or not infrequently, broke in two. Broken links were in evidence about the yards not far away.