Diesel Practices and Preferences                                TT00013

01/03/03 21:53            David N. Hepper  I too have wondered why NP chose not to sample more  of the new GE and EMD locomotives of the 60s, and instead  purchased greater quantities of fewer models. Here is my  conjecture:    Steam lasted until late 50s on NP, being finally replaced by large  purchases of GP-9s and F-9s. The '-9s' extended the first  generation diesel horizon for NP a few years beyond that of  other similar railroads. The 1800 HP GP-18s were derated to  1750 HP, perhaps causing NP's mechanical dept. to be skeptical  of higher HP locos. I also believe there was an economic  slow-down in the early 60s (someone help me on this?) that   relieved need to purchase additional locomotives. By 1964, fleet age  and economic revival required new locos, and NP took a bold  move by purchasing the U25C, and was evidently impressed by  the tractive effort and performance of 6-axle locos over the  many steep grades that all subsequent purchases were for high-hp  6 axle. I think NP wisely, or luckily, made the U25C gamble  and just got hooked on the future of high HP 6-axle several years  before most other roads. Other roads not heavily investing in  U25C had little alternative than get strung along with the short  interval of years between GP-20, GP-30, GP-35, U-25B, U28B,  U30B, etc. as their 1st generation locos aged and good trade-ins  were offered by GE and EMD. Some roads, GN for example, wound  up with a real dog's dinner of locomotives, with some of almost  every model offered, and some specialty locos, (SDPs, F-45s).     By time time NP invested in F-3s for passenger trains, the E-unit  had proven inadequate on heavy grades (GN and SP) so there wasn't  any point in looking further at 6-axle(A-1-A) passenger diesels.     GN buying F-45s - that decision must have been an image  decision. The SD45 was already on the road, and with the  walkway and side doors, maintenance and accessibility was  easier than having to work inside the carbody of the F-45.  I would bet the Mechanical Dept. was out-voted by Marketing  on the decision to buy F-45s instead of more SD45s. I think GN  was more image conscious than NP, and needed something jazzy  to show off Big Sky BLue, as well as pull expedited freight.  What better than an F-45?    It would seem that NP got the performance and economics  correct early on - 6-axle power prevails in mountainous terrain  to this day, and really, on most road freight everywhere. Also,  NP was probably influenced by growing coal traffic in the late  60s, and wisely continued purchasing 6-axle power.     I will guess NP saw the added costs of carrying diverse inventories  of parts for a widely diversified locomotive fleet, and instead   chose to economize with fewer models. Also, shop maintenance forces  were better able to work most efficiently with fewer models to   deal with. THe inventory and shop force issues appear to have  been well managed on NP so far as the locomotive fleet was concerned.  It was also easier for NP to keep consistent locomotive consists running,  that had very predictable performance, as opposed to widely varying  consists of 2nd gen units.     Why NPs FTs lasted as long as they did - I don't know. I've heard  praise for the quality of NP's mechanical forces in maintaining the  fleet, but I don't have any facts to support that. Except for external  appliances, I don't think the NP FTs were in any significant way  upgraded or rebuilt to extend life.     NP's fleet of newer F-9s kept the passenger locomotive pool "young"  relative to other roads, and thus NP wasn't forced to look to the  SDP models as did GN.     CB&Q - that was a road that was in the thick of passenger travel in  many high-density, high-visibility markets. And operating out of  Chicago, CBQ of necessity "on stage" for the world to see. CBQ had  so many passenger trains serving so many markets: Denver, Twin Cities,  Kansas City, St.Louis, California - all big highly visible routes.   Add-in all the commuter traffic, and I think CBQ just had an advanced  mentality about passengers and felt the importance of setting the style  for the future. Of course, EMD at La Grange, IL - CBQs back yard -   probably helped as well.       I hope someone more expert than I can continue / refute / confirm these  ideas. No question - NP followed it's own plan, by calculation or   other fortune - and it seemed a success in Epilogue.  GE, Alco, EMD, second generation, 2nd, BN, merger, Hoquiam, RS-11, RS-3, six-axle, four-axle Compiler  C Frissell


01/04/03 6:47      Blair Kooistra      A look at the train order operator OS sheets from Toppenish, Washington for selected months in 1968 and early 1970 show that, at least on the long-distance freights (600 series), the second-generation power was firmly in command. In fact, in a two-month period I looked at, only one of the 600-series trains was led by an F-unit or a Geep, leading me to believe that at least on the long-haul freight, NP had enough high-horsepower C-C power to keep its schedules.  I don't think NP was THAT hesitant in buying new high-horsepower locomotives. It took a bold leap with the U25C and followed that up with an order for U28C's; it went to EMD three times for batches of SD45s (the third one delivered after the merger), and back one last time before the merger to GE for U33C's. Apparently, based on the size of the orders, NP didn't wish to take on the additional burden of paying for all these new units when it still had a good servicable fleet of B-B EMDs and Alcos.  My gut feeling is that at least into the early 1960s, NP embraced the "building block" concept of motive power, believing that consists for any freight train need could be assembled from their fleet of lower-horsepower B-B locomotives. Of course, it wasn't until 1958 that the first of the EMD turbosupercharged 567 locomotives hit the road in the form of the SD24, and two years later, the GP20. NP could well have ordered GP20s, but instead went for the 10 GP18s.  Why didn't NP go for the SD35? No need to, as long as the U25/28C's were performing well and traffic demands were being met. Why no turbocharged B-B power like GP20s, GP30s and GP35's? Apparently management felt the additional costs for new "secondary power" (NP having bought into the C-C high-horsepower concept) were money squandered, especially since the Geeps and Fs weren't yet fully depreciated.  GE Alco EMD second generation 2nd motive power 600 freights geep  U-Boat SD45 F-unit Compiler  C Frissell


01/04/03 16:35    Gary Tarbox         Bill Shannon, Chief Mechanical Officer in the later years of  the NP, said that the NP purchased the GE's in part as an attempt to  encourage a strong second source of locomotives. The NP gave up on  Alco after the RS-11s in 1960 and was very happy when GE started  their own development program  GE Alco EMD second generation 2nd  Compiler  C Frissell


01/05/03 14:03    D. T. Sprau           I would weigh in, in favor of the contemporary NP practicing the laudable art of not fixing things that aren't broken and not scrapping diesel locomotives until they had been fully amortized.   I also believe that when they had servicing facilities at South Tacoma, Auburn, Parkwater, Livingston, etc, they took pretty good care of things and did not just run the equipment into the ground.   The NP also had a very competent mechanical department, filled with what today would be considered geeks, (using this term in a complimentary context) who took their work and research and conclusions very seriously. I remember when we got the U25's their tonnage rating on Stampede 2.2 grade was such that the GE people insisted that three of them could take 4250 tons unassisted. The engineers who worked on the hill disagreed and said the units would slip badly when negotiating the Borup loop. NP spent a lot of time rigging a U 25 with water hoses that would spray the rail with a water/oil mix to simulate rainy weather, then took the dynamometer car and a bunch of officials along and made exhaustive tests. Their conclusion was that the locomotive engineers were correct, not the GE designers, and thereafter a geep or f-unit was assigned to three GEs as a "kicker" for tonnage trains over the Cascade mountains. When we got the SD-45s. they had a little better traction and just as much tonnage rating as the GEs, but we continued using the kickers anytime a GE was even part of the consist.   I suppose this kicker unit probably often went thru to Spokane or even farther. Cutting off units and adding them at intermediate locations just was not done in those days. I remember that in about 1968, all of a sudden what I considered the ridiculous, inefficient practice of routinely cutting off power off one train and adding it to others at some intermediate station in the dark of night became prevalent almost overnight. What a pain in the butt. Sometimes a train would cut and add power in three or four places over a single division.   When the GEs and SD's became available the F7s and 9's were relegated to jobs like Seattle Portland and Auburn-Sumas where we sometimes would use five of them in multiple. They had been so well cared for that even in the late sixties and early seventies after the merger, to have one of them fail was rather unusual. However it was not too long after 1970 that they were run like most people run a Honda car today - just fill it with gas and top off the oil and run it till it falls apart.   Even the old FT's lasted until the end. Yeah, I know a few of them had conked out, and some had been sold, or wrecked, but on M day in 1970 there still were a handful of them stored serviceable. It turned out they were not needed and were disposed of shortly afterward.   Use of FTs on trains 600 and 601 was banned in about 1965. Prior to that time we had multiplied them with other F units on those trains. They had a speed limit of 55 but I often was aboard them at 60-62 MPH and they ran just fine.  GE Alco EMD second generation 2nd kicker SD45 FT U-25C F-units mechanical department Compiler  C Frissell          


01/05/03 19:31    John Moore          In some thoughts on NP's diesel acquisitions vs GN I offer the following   reflections:    NP could very well have done a N&W when it came to steam running them much   longer than they did, probably up into the late 1960s. Unlike GN, much of   whose power was rebuilds, and wearing out fast due to WW2 traffic demands, NP   had a wealth of fairly modern steam power in the A-3s thru A-5s and in the   Z-6s thru the Z-8s. Most of this big power was delivered new starting in   1934-35 for the A-2s, and the Z-8s marking the last new steam in 1943-44. In   1958 a lot of miles remained in these units. With the ready source of cheap   online coal both in the middle of the system and at the western end the   economics kept the steamers running longer and the pressure off the need to   replace them ASAP. Thus they could afford to set back and make their   replacement purchases slowly and wisely after seeing the results on other   roads.    The oldest power on NP was in their Mikes, Parries, and Pacifics, along with   the Z-3 thru Z-4 class articulateds. And it is here that NP started replacing   units with diesels, like the Alco RS-1 thru RS-3s and the GP-7s and of course   the FTs in road service.    A comment on the Z-5 Yellowstone. Although able to pull the drawbars off of   about anything they could not move tonnage at speed, even when modernized   with roller bearings. And NP started to find a need to move that tonnage at   speed which the Z-6 thru Z-8s could do. As soon as the first Challengers   arrived the Yellowstones got pushed west into helper service where that slow   speed and brute power got put to use replacing the older articulateds.     When the FTs first came on board they saw primarily helper service, and as   more were delivered they bumped the articulateds off the helper service role   and road engine role on the heavy grades of the system, particularly the   western end.    Another thing that influenced some of the diesel purchases was the need for   light weight on the rails and maximum tractive effort particularly on a   number of the branch lines. Back in my days in the 50s branch line traffic   was seasonably heavier than today. Heck today a lot of those branch lines   don't exist anymore. Today the trend is for big regionalized grain elevators   with delivery by truck then bulk delivery to markets by rail. In the 50s   grain elevators dotted the landscape at every little town with a lot of 40   and 50 ft boxes being loaded and shipped, making some fairly big and heavy   consists coming off of a number of branches. Add to that the beet harvest,   and potatoes, following on the heels of the grain and you have a lot of   branch line traffic needing power that's light on the rails to traverse the   number of wooden bridges and light rail on those branches. Thus the Geeps   replacing the Mikes and Prarries in that service.    One of the indications of the shape that NP was in power wise after WW2 was   indicated by the comments about handed down power from the GN and NP to the   SP&S. SP&S crews rated the NP power as overall better steamers than the GN   power and usually preferred them to the former GN units.    In conclusion by the mid 1950s the increase in car size and weight became to   much for the Challengers and later Northerns to roll off the tonnage at the   speed needed to compete, and resulted in the diesels taking over. By that   time double headed Challengers were being utilized for tonnage increasing   costs. The FTs, and later F-3s and F-7s, could be multiplied to handle the   tonnage, with one head end crew, and far fewer stops.    It is interesting to note though that after the NCL became dieselized and the   first light weight cars in the Pine Tree scheme are in the consist that a   portion of the NCL still got the roofs dusted with steam smoke. This was the   Portland section behind the SP&S 700 Northerns for a short while.  GE, Alco, EMD, motive power, p, F-unit Steam, Yellowstones, Z-5, Z-6, Z-8, 1950s, SP&S, SPS, Transition Compiler  C Frissell


01/06/03 16:42    John Moore          Later Alco products had some annoying to downright serious engine problems   and the RS-11 was one of them. The 251-B series engine in the RS-11 was one   of those.  The 12 cylinder 244 series engine in the FA-1s and FA-2s was a far more   reliable engine after some initial teething problems along with the 539T in   the RS-1 and 244s in the RS-2s and 3s.    An awful lot of later Alco series were re-engined at some point by EMD and   Alco itself went out of business in 68. The SP&S was the logical point for   Alco equipment after the big merger day since it had been a predominately   Alco road and it's shops and personel could handle them. A lot of the older   1000, 1500, and 1600 HP products soldiered on for some time in BN service   with a number of NP Alcos now running on former SP&S trackage.  Alco RS11, RS3, FA Compiler  C Frissell


01/06/03 21:07    Jim Fredrickson Same thing happened with SD-45's which EMD assured could handle 4250 tons. When they slipped down EMD flew a plane load of experts out to assess what was wrong. They did the water squirting on the rail bit and finally gave up. Only explanation I heard from all this was a theory that it was sap from the trees dripping on the rail that caused the problem.  At the time it seemed logical to us at Tacoma Union Station. We parked our cars under trees when coming to work and the windshields were always spattered with tree juices at the end of our shift.  GE Alco EMD second generation 2nd motive power 600 freights geep  U-Boat SD45 F-unit  Compiler  C Frissell


01/07/03 1:47      Jim Fredrickson A little clarification. The first NP road diesels were the FT's received in 1944. Incidentally, in the early days diesels were not thought of as individual units but as a consist as a whole. So the first order was regarded as 11 FT engines rather that 44 units. It remained this way until a dispute with the Brotherhoods was resolved. Engineers were claiming pay for running four engines while the company said it was one.   The FT's solved a longtime problem for NP which was the Stampede Tunnel and the Z-3 engines which were the biggest that could be operated through it NP was 90 miles longer from the Coast to Spokane and this together with the Z-3's top speed of 35 MPH gave the GN and Milwaukee a big advantage in running time across the state. Extensive electrification studies were made and in 1939 Z-6 5117 was tested for 3 months Yakima to Auburn. The temperature in the cab reached 130 degrees and there was the concern that the engine crew could not get out if there was and emergency in the tunnel. This led to preliminary designs for a cab forward articulated similar to Southern Pacific but before this plan could be implemented the FTs showed up and solved the problem. Two were assigned to the Yellowstone Division and the remaining nine to the Tacoma Division. They were immediately put in road service from Auburn to Easton or Yakima or Pasco depending on circumstances. They also took over helper service over the Cascade Mountain, first one set and for a while as many as three sets. After the war was over one set sufficed in helper service backed up by a W-3 for passenger trains.  EMD, FT, F-units, helpers, tunnel, Cascades, Stampede. Steam, Transition, Yellowstone, Tacoma Compiler  C Frissell


01/07/03 9:39      Steve (Cruiser95fm)           Right after the merger in 1970, we seen the Alcos in Hoquiam. They   became a regular fixture when BN switched our locomotive assignment   territory from the Auburn to the Vancouver shops. The RS-11s didn't   get many complaints from the engineers, and didn't seem to slobber   as much lube oil out the stack as the RS-3s we had. The engineers   on the regular trains #399 and #182, liked them because they could   pull good. To the Roundhouse guys they were ok, except when we had   to change a brake shoe.. They were a different size (longer) than   the standard cast iron shoe, and heavy. No fun in out-lying points   that did not have a pit, or 2 guys on duty. About the only other   thing I remember happening was having to change a broken bell cord   on one. Yes, at that time most of the ex-NP Alcos had the steam   engine swinging piston driven bells. It was a trick getting the   cord thru the copper tube into the cab until the roundhouse foreman   produced a wire coat hanger to thread it with.   That same foreman told be they welded the drawbars together on the   early diesel sets so the engineers couldn't claim pay as seperate   units. Since the word "drawbar" is used loosly, he didn't say if   they welded the pins on the solid drawbars, or if they welded the   knuckle pins and took out the cut levers. Just that they had to go   to the shop to be seperated.  GE, Alco, EMD, second generation, 2nd, BN, merger, Hoquiam, RS-11, RS-3 Compiler  C Frissell


01/09/03 15:16    John Moore          That's funny, I've always read the exact opposite of that- the 244   > was junk and marred the reputation of the PA and other locomotives   > built with it, but that the 251 solved the problems.  > I'd be interested where you got that?  > I figured the SP&S was the main reason the Alcos lasted as long as   > they did.   >     SP&S's first Alcos (FAs and RS2s and 3s) with 244s arrived in 48 and other   than some basic teething problems continued in service sucessfully until the   arrival of the C-424s and 425s in 64 thru 68 when a number were traded in on   the new units. There were a number of variants of both the 244 and 251   engines produced by Alco and yes there were problems with the 244s in the   PAs. Part may have been the version of the 244 which was 1000HP and the unit   mounted two engines to the one of the FA producing 1500 HP.    The later C-424s and 5s had the 251 2400 HP, and 2500 HP, along with the   later C-636 which had the 251 at 3600 HP. Other than some electrical problems   with the C-636 all ran reliably during thier service lives.    SP&S had been an early user of Alco locos before delivery of the RS2s, 3s,   and FA so it may explain their relative success in running them and servicing   them. On the other hand I've never heard much in the way of negative things   about the RS 3s or earlier units that NP rostered that were 244 equipped.   However I have heard that NP was not very happy with their RS-11s and they   were the only other venture by NP into Alco diesels other than the RS-3s and   the smaller Alco switchers.    I'm curious about the track record of the Baldwin VO-1000s on NP. The five   owned by the SP&S were found to be mechanically unreliable, and were labeled   as Shop Queens. Through out thier lives on SP&S they never were assigned any   distance away from the shops. What was NPs luck with them?  Alco, RS11, RS3, FA, PA, Baldwin VO-1000 Compiler  C Frissell


01/09/03 20:22    Terry (tmlafrance)              I talked with Jim Boyd last night (author of the PA book frome 4 Ways   West) and I confirmed my assessment.  The 244 was the bad engine, the 251 was the good one.  The 244 was rushed into production and is the reason the   RS3s "slobber".  They have problems with the seals and get water in the oil.  Alco, RS11, RS3, FA, PA, Baldwin VO-1000 Compiler  C Frissell


01/11/03 19:50    Allen Rueter        Terry, Once ALCO finished beta testing the 244 on it's customers, and pissing most of them off, the 244 became tolerable. If I remember right, the big three problems were the Turbo (air cooled was replaced by water), manifold cracks (exhaust I believe), Bearings.  For more discussion see <http://www.railroad.net/forums/messages.asp? Alco, ALCO Compiler  C Frissell