Newbuild ALCOs

Discussion of products from the American Locomotive Company. A web site with current Alco 251 information can be found here: Fairbanks-Morse/Alco 251.

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Newbuild ALCOs

Postby AMTK822401 » Mon Mar 23, 2015 12:29 am

Hello all,

I usually don't lurk on this part of the forum, but I have an admittedly crazy idea that may be relevant to those who like ALCO engines. Some of you may be familiar with the PRR T1 Trust, who is attempting to build a PRR Duplex steam locomotive because none of the original class was preserved. Since ALCO is long gone, I wonder what the feasibility of doing something like this for ALCO engines (mostly referring to diesels, but steam works too)...... I have seen on the forum the number of ALCOs in service are dwindling, perhaps a project like this could keep the brand alive? The designs and such could still exist. I have had the privilege of working around some ALCO diesels in tourist service, they are certainly their own breed but they are dedicated haulers. I don't expect this idea to be received well but just thought I would mention it.

-AMTK822401
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby tgibson » Mon Mar 23, 2015 10:25 am

Since if you check the Scrapped thread here you will find that we cannot be induced to save the *existing* diesels, I find it highly unlikely that these same people will be willing to spend much more money and effort to build them new again. Anyway, the vast majority of US Alco diesel types have been preserved, somewhere in the world. Yes, there are a few models like DL109's that weren't saved, but only a few roads owned them.

A listing of Alcos in museums (not updated recently):

http://www.calclassic.com/alco/museums.htm
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Cal Classic Alco Page: http://www.calclassic.com/alco/
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby AMTK822401 » Mon Mar 23, 2015 7:18 pm

tgibson wrote:Since if you check the Scrapped thread here you will find that we cannot be induced to save the *existing* diesels, I find it highly unlikely that these same people will be willing to spend much more money and effort to build them new again. Anyway, the vast majority of US Alco diesel types have been preserved, somewhere in the world. Yes, there are a few models like DL109's that weren't saved, but only a few roads owned them.

A listing of Alcos in museums (not updated recently):

http://www.calclassic.com/alco/museums.htm


Funny enough, the DL109 was precisely the model that I thought would be perfect for something like this. There are plenty of engines with 539ts still running. (I work on one of them) I do realize that it would be hugely challenging but once again I point to the T1 trust. They are building a one off model that they felt wasn't preserved. Something like the DL109 I would posit is a much simpler machine than something like an ES44 or a P42. The expertise needed surely could be found somewhere. Once again, anything is hypothetical and I would get it if the idea was considered crazy.
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby Allen Hazen » Tue Mar 24, 2015 1:20 am

I'm not convinced the T-1 trust will accomplish their goal, but the principle is possible: British rail enthusiasts, after all, have succeeded in building a new example of an "extinct" class of mainline steam locomotive.
In principle, you'd think something similar could be done for "extinct" diesels, but my guess is that it would be harder to drum up the necessary support: steam locomotives are more charismatic than diesels!

Still…
Large castings are a problem. Doyle McCormick (sp?) had to use not-quite-right truck frames in rebuilding a PA, since the originals weren't available, and getting a new casting to the old design was, it seems, not economically feasible. (British steam locomotives had built up, plate, frames. My guess is that the cast locomotive beds of modern U.S. steam might be the hardest part of a project like the T-1 trust's.) So…

With respect to the Dl-109 (I've thought about this one too!)… Power plant, generators, control electronics shouldn't be too hard to get if you are willing to sacrifice a couple of S2/S4 switchers. The carbody ought to be doable with modern industrial plant and skill-sets, though you might have to fudge on the material for the side sheeting. (If I remember rightly, the original used a metal-sheathed plywood that might be harder to come by now.) Traction motor authenticity might be difficult: GE 730 and 726 motors are thin on the ground! But the GE 752 motor is similar enough to the 726 that it could probably be substituted. … But you are going to need deep pockets if you want anything like the trucks used on the original Dl-109.

Still, it's an intriguing thought.
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby MEC407 » Tue Mar 24, 2015 9:42 am

Very intriguing indeed.

Nevertheless, I hate to rain on AMTK822401's parade, but it would be extremely challenging to fund such a project unless you know of someone with deep pockets who is willing to make a huge donation. There are so many other restoration projects all over North America that are struggling to find donations for legitimate historic locomotives and rolling stock. Part of the reason why many of these locomotives have become extinct in the first place is because it wasn't possible to raise enough money to save them. If a group can't raise, for example, $100,000 to save a particular locomotive, how are they going to raise $500,000 to $1,000,000 to build a new copy?

I've had some experience trying to save a locomotive, and it is VERY difficult. You either need a locomotive that has extremely broad appeal, or you need to know someone (or be someone) who is willing to put a lot of their own money into the project. It's not uncommon for these projects to go awry, with donations being used improperly, and this makes potential donors much more hesitant to donate to another project. (see for example the Flying Yankee restoration project)
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby AMTK822401 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 1:38 am

Call me naive, but crowdfunding?
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby MEC407 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:00 am

If you can launch a Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign that raises a million dollars to build a new Alco diesel — and you can rally the staff and resources capable of transforming that money into a locomotive — I will eat my words AND make a donation. Consider it a challenge. :wink: Again, not trying to be harsh, but many groups are currently using crowdfunding to try to save or rebuild locomotives and it's extremely difficult because there are so many different projects all competing with each other.
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Mar 30, 2015 2:38 pm

MEC407 wrote:If you can launch a Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign that raises a million dollars to build a new Alco diesel — and you can rally the staff and resources capable of transforming that money into a locomotive — I will eat my words AND make a donation. Consider it a challenge. :wink: Again, not trying to be harsh, but many groups are currently using crowdfunding to try to save or rebuild locomotives and it's extremely difficult because there are so many different projects all competing with each other.

Not to mention a - no offense intended - little-known and relatively homely locomotive. If you're interested in transforming money into an ALCO, AMTK822401, I'd suggest contacting the Museum of the American Railroad and offering help with their PA-1. Trust me, they could use it.
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby AMTK822401 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:45 pm

I'm just trying to stir the pot guys. I personally can't do such a project at the current moment. I just know that ALCO products have a loyal following and I thought to put the idea out there.
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby alconut » Sat May 07, 2016 9:38 pm

Honestly I think if you really wanted to go the newbuild route the best way would be to basically try to see if you could build for production (not saying it's not a long shot but might be slightly easier to find investors if the return on investment wasn't just in nostalgia).

Because the 251 prime mover is still built I've actually thought an interesting business plan would be to build a updated Century with a 251, which would be optimized for the branchline/shortline market.

There would I'm sure be demand for something brutally simple, relatively efficient and proven, however whether anyone could afford it would be the question (and a big one at that.)

Does anyone know if the 251 meets current EPA regulations for rail or has a kit to make it such that it does? Just curious for my own mad idea purposes lol
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby MEC407 » Sun May 08, 2016 11:48 am

I haven't heard anything about it meeting Tier 2, much less Tier 4. It probably *could* meet Tier 2 in theory (if it doesn't already), but then again the GE FDL could also theoretically meet Tier 2 but GE felt the added technology/equipment would've been cost prohibitive, hence they switched to the GEVO. The GEVO, likewise, needed a lot of additional technology and equipment to meet Tier 4, and EMD wasn't able to pull it off with the 710. Both of these are much newer designs than the 251 and have had a lot more R&D money poured into them. Getting a 251 to meet Tier 4 strikes me as an extremely complex, challenging, and expensive undertaking. Even if you could somehow do it, the 251's simplicity and/or fuel economy would likely take a huge hit because of all the stuff you'd have to add on.
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby mtuandrew » Sun May 08, 2016 2:06 pm

251 PLUS program is supposed to deliver Tier 2 emissions for nitrogen oxides, total hydrocarbons, particulates and carbon monoxide for offshore engines. https://www.fairbanksmorse.com/bin/152.pdf (first paragraph)

A Tier 0+ locomotive engine needs to meet these standards: 0.20 grams/brake hp-hr of particulate matter (PM), 0.30 g/bhp-hr of hydrocarbons (HC), 7.20 g/bhp-hr of NOx, and 1.28 g/bhp-hr of CO.

A Tier 2 marine engine, category C2, between 5 and 15 liters/cylinder displacement (the 251 is 10.1L/cyl) needs to meet: 0.36 g/hp-hr (0.27 g/kWh) of PM, combined 10.5 g/hp-hr (7.8 g/kWh) of PM+NOx, and 6.7g/hp-hr (5.0 g/kWh) of CO. It wouldn't be enough for Tier 0+ locomotive remans.
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby alconut » Sun May 08, 2016 7:38 pm

Thanks for all the information! Makes sense as if it met any of the regulations they'd probably try to sell a few here and there.

Also explains why NREC on their new locomotives they are building are doing it with multiple tier 4 gen sets effectively from Cummins. The expense of getting an engine approved for whatever tier is necessary really makes it hard to develop anything new, and makes it much more cost effective to adapt already existing powerplants, even if that includes using multiple :P

Do you know if NREC still owns the rights to producing the Alco locos that they bought from Fairbanks Morse, at least I read it somewhere that they owned them.
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby Allen Hazen » Sun May 08, 2016 9:03 pm

The last time I posted to this string, I thought the issue of castings -- in particular, truck frame castings, for which Doyle McCormick has had to sacrifice authenticity on his PA -- would be a particularly difficult stumbling block to overcome. Since then, the T-1 people have announced progress: apparently it IS possible to get Boxpok driving wheel centres cast. So, though I have no idea how much it would cost, you probably COULD get authentically Alco-ish truck castings for a Dl-109. (The trucks on the Dl-109 were SLIGHTLY different from those on a PA: two inches shorter wheelbase, I think. Pity, because if you were going to the trouble of reproducing a a Dl-109, it would be great if you could amortize the investment by getting some extra truck castings that could be used to improve the restored PA!)
---
On the issue of getting engines that meet modern air pollution requirements… How authentic do you want to be? As a hypothetical, suppose someone offered to built a VERY authentic Dl-109 carbody, so in its external appearance the new locomotive would be a dead ringer for a New Haven 0700, but put modern electronics and a pair of gensets with, say, Cummins or MTU diesels in it so it could be used on excursion trains that meet the strictest modern environmental regulations. It wouldn't SOUND quite right, but it would be a usable locomotive. Would this be of any interest, or would the departure from Alco-authenticity be totally unacceptable?
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Re: Newbuild ALCOs

Postby mtuandrew » Mon May 09, 2016 4:19 pm

Re: castings, I'd be more interested in welding up a truck frame that looked like a casting. It'd be a matter of ordering the right bar stock (looks like 2" x 8" or 2" x 10" at maximum depth?), sub-arc welding it into a rough approximation of the DL-109's equalizer bar shapes, water-jet-cutting it to the exact shape via CNC, and finishing it with a good heat treatment. You may have to destructively test one truck to prove that all the weldments are good and the frames will support the right weight, but after that it's a relatively simple matter of plugging in GE axles, motors, and components until you have a complete truck.

As for the engine, you could always find a couple of old 539s and run them off natural gas, I suppose. Just remember to hook up those smoke generators for when they're under load :wink:
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