Norfolk Southern's switch from the C40-9 to the C40-9W

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Norfolk Southern's switch from the C40-9 to the C40-9W

Postby Leo_Ames » Tue Nov 03, 2015 9:50 pm

Hoping to learn more about why exactly this change occurred. Specifically, since I'm aware of the benefits to the modern widecab, I'm looking for information on a statement that this site makes for why exactly NS changed course when it did.

"Eventually the company was required by the FRA to purchase the wide cab design and was only able to roster about 125 units with the common standard cab."

http://www.american-rails.com/ge-c40-9.html

Thanks
Last edited by Leo_Ames on Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Norfolk Southern's switch from the C40-9 to the C40-9W

Postby NorthWest » Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:39 pm

I don't know for certain, but I suspect that the FRA stepped in and required the wide cab for collision safety reasons.

It is also rumored that the standard cab cost NS extra because GE had standardized on the wide cab, which also may have influenced the decision.
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Re: Norfolk Southern's switch from the C40-9 to the C40-9W

Postby MEC407 » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:42 am

It is certainly possible to make a standard cab that meets current U.S. collision safety standards — EMD and all of the genset builders have done so — but perhaps GE didn't want to invest the money in designing such a thing, since NS was the only customer who would've wanted it. Or, as NorthWest alluded to, perhaps an updated standard cab that met current standards simply would've cost much more than NS was willing to pay at the time.

Another thought: NS' power philosophy was in the early stages of evolving at that point. They were transitioning away from their longstanding tradition of bare-bones locomotives with zero crew amenities, and moving toward locomotives that offered more crew comfort and safety. Perhaps it was something that the unions had a say in.
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Re: Norfolk Southern's switch from the C40-9 to the C40-9W

Postby trainiac » Thu Feb 25, 2016 1:11 pm

It would seem that an FRA ruling obligating the wide-nosed cab would be the simplest explanation for the switch.

But even had that not happened, would the standard cab even have made sense after that point? It seems to me that if the "standard" Dash-9 model ordered by all other railroads had the wide-nosed cab, any insistence by NS for the standard cab would have been more about obstinence than about actually keeping the model simple. The "bare-bones" philosophy doesn't work when the model being ordered is a one-road exception compared to what everyone else is buying, and my understanding is that this was reflected by GE making the price the same for both.
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Re: Norfolk Southern's switch from the C40-9 to the C40-9W

Postby Allen Hazen » Thu Feb 25, 2016 10:51 pm

An FRA edict is a POSSIBLE explanation, but I don't recall any mention of it at the time: I'd want documentation before being confident that that was the motivation for NS's final adoption of the "North American" cab. The website Leo links to (initial post of this string) does not seem to me to be very scholarly. A later paragraph suggests that the C40-9 and C40-9W had GEB13 traction motors (this is the AC motor used on the AC44) rather than the earlier 752, which is wrong: the C40-9/C40-9W were DC-motored units with 752 motors (752AH, I think). This does not inspire confidence.
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I have old copies of some railroad magazines from the time of the first C40-9W: I will try to see if there was any published comment about the motivation when NS got its first wide-nose units.
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Re: Norfolk Southern's switch from the C40-9 to the C40-9W

Postby Allen Hazen » Fri Feb 26, 2016 12:28 am

I found the issues of "Railfan and Railroad" (May 1996) and "Extra 2200 South" (issue #111) which reported the deliveries of the first C40-9W to Norfolk Southern: neither says anything about the reasons for the change to wide-nose. ("E22S" notes that -- because of NS's need for units that could be used for switching moves n mine runs -- the C40-9W had a conventional control stand rather than the desk-style control station of most contemporary wide-nose units. So GE ***did*** do a bit of special engineering on these units: they aren't completely standard off-the-rack C44-9W with provision for engine derating.)
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Re: Norfolk Southern's switch from the C40-9 to the C40-9W

Postby Allen Hazen » Fri Feb 26, 2016 1:01 am

The FRA has an on-line library of the rules it has issued… which doesn't go back quite far enough to include a possible rule about locomotive cabs between the times of NS's C40-9 (deliveries starting January 1995) and C40-9W (deliveries starting January 1996) orders.
BUT…
in 1995 the FRA issued, not a RULE, but a technical report on improving locomotive cab safety ("crashworthiness"). It suggested that there might be considerable benefit (at acceptable cost) to strengthening collision posts beyond what was required by the rules then in force, with an illustration showing the location of collision posts in a wide nose. (The wording of the report just talks about "short hood": evidently they considered the wide "nose" to be a … wide short hood.) The report also showed concern about how you might prevent "flammable liquids" from entering a cab in a collision, and I suspect this is easier to do with a wide nose than with a narrow short hood leading back to the front wall (and fireman's side door) of the crew compartment on a conventional cab.

So… It seems to me plausible that Norfolk Southern's management, even if the FRA wasn't twisting their arm with an actual RULE, decided that FRA's thinking on locomotive cab safety was pointing in the direction of wide noses for the future.

(Still, no "smoking gun" on the reason for the change in policy: but then, I don't expect transcripts of board meetings to show up in the public domain!)
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