Origins of the GE FDL engine

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Origins of the GE FDL engine

Postby MEC407 » Tue Aug 14, 2007 7:18 pm

Thanks to the help of Mr. Steve Palmano, I am pleased to post this voluminous discussion about the history of the GE FDL engine. This discussion took place on the "old" site. Unfortunately, many excellent discussions on that site were lost when the "new" site was launched. Mr. Palmano had the foresight to keep an archival copy of the FDL discussion, which I will post here for all to read and enjoy. And, of course, if you have any information to add, please feel free.

I have left the original discussion 99.9% intact, except for removing users’ e-mail addresses, and inserting line breaks for easier reading.
Last edited by MEC407 on Wed Aug 15, 2007 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby MEC407 » Tue Aug 14, 2007 7:19 pm

FDL Origins
Posted by Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Thu, Sep 7, 00 at

I have been curious about the origins of the FDL engine. Here is a precis of
what I know so far. I post it for the benefit of the curious... and in hopes
of stimulating the knowledgeable into telling me more!

(i) The engine used, starting in the mid 1940s, on the GE 70-tonner (and on
some similarly sized locomotives built by other builders) was an ancestor, the
Cooper-Bessemer "FWL" (or "FWL-T"). Same cylinder dimensions, and I don't know
how much further resemblance (power assembly construction?). Six cylinder,
in-line, lower per-cylinder power rating than the contemporary Alco 244 engine
used on contemporary full-size Alco-GE diesel locomotives.

(ii) A V-configuration version was developed NO LATER THAN 1952: a 12-cylinder
version was used in the locomotives GE built for Queensland (Australia)
Railways in 1952. This was called the "FVL," but had the low output/cylinder
of the first 70-tonners.

(iii) An uprated version-- equal in power/cylinder to the mid-1950s version of
the Alco 244-- existed by 1954, when it was used in the four-unit "Rolling
Laboratory," the GE test locomotive (#750) operated mainly on the Erie
Railroad. GE, which eventually (WHEN?) bought the design and manufactured the
engine themselves, calls this the "FDL".

(iv) I asked on a Naval History web discussion board to see if this had been
used by the U.S. Navy. It was. A class of mid-1950s landing ships ("LST", but
about twice the size of a WW II LST) was powered by six 2400 hp
Cooper-Bessemer "FVAM" engines per ship. (The person who mentioned them called
them the "Suffolk County" class, but Suffolk County was not the first in the
series-- there were about ten ships in the class, so something like 60
sixteen-cylinder C-B engines closely related to the FDL were in U.S. Navy
service before the first FDL-16 was installed in the U25B prototype.)

(v) Is there a system to the model designations? At a guess, "F" is the basic
design, "V" is probably for V-configuration, and-- in Cooper-Bessemer usage--
the final "M" or "L" denotes versions for Marine or Locomotive application.
I'm betting that the "A" in FVAM was for the increased power rating, and that
the engines installed in GE 750 would have been called "FVAL" by C-B at the
time. Was "FDL" ("DL" for Diesel Locomotive) a GE designation, introduced
after they bought the design and applied retroactively to the FVAL engines
used in early U-series locomotives?

(vi) And, as if we needed more evidence that railroad duty is harder on diesel
engines than marine-- note that the U.S. Navy's experience with the FVAM-16
wasn't enough to give the U25B a fully debugged and trouble-free engine.
(I'm afraid I haven't said much here that isn't common knowledge. Sorry.)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Michael Schaefer (mbschaefer@-) on Fri, Sep 15, 00 at 4:08
The main reason that marine duty is not as harsh is that the load dosent vary
nearly as much on ships as locomotives. locomotives go from idle to high load
and back every few seconds when switching and they take the shock of the train
slack as well, just try kick switching with out bracing your self in the seat,
and then realize that the loco has to do that all its life.

I will testify that locomotives are the toughest machines on the planet.

But then again Im not sharing any new info in this post.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Sat, Sep 16, 00
at 2:01
Thanks, Mike. It occurs to me that my naval history reading gave an example. A
book (forgotten the author but could find it if anyone wants) called "The
Arnheiter Affair," about the removal of a Lt. Commander Arnheiter from command
of a destroyer escort during the Viet Nam War. The ship was a WW II era ship
with Fairbanks Morse engines very similar to those used in FM locomotives
postwar. One episode reported was about the engineering officer's attempt to
explain to Arnheiter the restrictions on frequency of power change, etc, that
were necesseary to prolong the life of the diesel engines: the Navy can
tolerate operating restrictions that would leave a locomotive totally useless!

In addition, the engine-room of a ship may be a much cleaner and less
vibration-heavy environment than the hood of a locomotive.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Michael Schaefer (mbschaefer@-) on Sat, Sep 16, 00 at 5:08
Absolutly true, even in rough seas a water vessel doesnt even suffer half the
abuse of a locomotive, the cleanliness comes from the fact that there is no
dirt out at sea, even the air is clean once your away from port.
On a locomotive you have nothing more than sheet metal with seams and vents
all over it, with ALCo and GE haveing pressureized car bodies(ALCo 1st), the
dirt still gets in and stays in unless the owner has realy good maintenance.
But its the constant speed and load changes, and the vibration/harmonic/stress
diferantals that cause the most problems in designing loco prime movers. The
severe shocks encountered in service dont help much, getting knocked out of
the seat once and a while makes me wonder how they handle it at all.


RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Sat, Sep 16, 00
at 22:41
Thanks again. I knew that both the duty cycle and the dirty shaky environment
were hard on railroad diesels, but as a non-engineer and amateur, had no idea
which was more serious.

What, by the way, are you referring to in saying that Alco was first with
pressurized carbodies? I thought this was a feature of the U25B that Alco
didn't catch up to until the Century series introduced 3 years or so later.
Have I missed something?

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: JR (jradtke@-) on Sun, Sep 17, 00 at 9:49
Actually Baldwin was the first builder to offer pressurized bodies. Roto-Clone
air filters were installed on a 15 unit order for the French North Africa RR
in the late forties - early fifties.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Sun, Sep 17, 00
at 21:50
Thank you, JR. Apparently EMD's E-8 and E-9 also had pressurized engine rooms.

Apparently GE (quite correctly) never claimed that the U25B was the FIRST
locomotive with a pressurized carbody, but they did emphasize the centralized
air system as a major innovation, and I thought the U25B was the first modern
hood unit to be pressurized, with EMD and Alco catching up with the GP30 and
the Century line.

Re: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve Palmano (stevepalmano@-) on Wed, Sep 20, 00 at 18:31
Allen, here is some data obtained from various sources, with interpolations
and extrapolations, that might add a few more pieces to the FDL puzzle.

CB had established a relationship with GE in the 1930s, and when the FW series
engine was introduced circa 1945, GE locomotive applications were probably
envisaged as a big part of its potential market.

The 'F' in the designation seems to relate to cylinder size (i.e. E was
smaller, G was bigger) but I don't know the significance of the W. Neither do
I know what cylinder configurations the FW was originally available in.

As is well-known, GE first used the 6 cylinder model (FWL-6T) in both the
'domestic' (B-B) and 'export' (C+C) 70 tonner models. As far as I've been able
to trace, its first use of the 12 cylinder model (FVL-12T) was in the 75 tonne
(metric ton) meter gauge A1A-A1A shovel-nose units that went to General
Belgrano in Brazil circa 1949-50. Very similar 77 tonne units went to Chile
shortly afterwards, so the 1952 Queensland road switchers appear to be third
application for this engine.

Some time in the mid-1950s GE asked CB for more powerful engines, particularly
8 and 12 cylinder models, required for its new export model range. It seems
that CB was still GE's preferred supplier, but it may have been reluctant to
spend the development money without certainty of return. So there was a new
agreement, under which GE got its engines on a cost-plus basis, with the right
to undertake manufacture at some time in the future. Under this provision, GE
started assembling 16 cylinder engines circa 1962, using CB-supplied
components, although for a while longer (I don't know how much longer) CB
continued to supply completed 8 and 12 cylinder engines. I haven't been able
to determine when CB completely disengaged itself, and GE assumed total
responsibility for design, development and manufacture.

If one looks at the ratings, the FWL-6T as used in the 70 tonner was 660/600
hp, but as used in the export U9B/C of 1956/57 it was 990/900 hp, or 165/160
hp per cylinder. The same per cylinder ratings applied to the FVL-8T (8
cylinder) used in the export U12B/C(1320/1200 hp) and the FVL-12T (12
cylinder) export U18C (1980/1800 hp). The inference is that CB did whatever
re-engineering was required for the 50% increase in per-cylinder output.
Early FVL-12T applications were at strangely low per cylinder ratings. Local
ambient conditions, or rather derating for these might have explained this in
part, but maybe the early vee variants were not so robust? Perhaps that
unusual articulated rod design was a factor? As long as GE had easy access to
the Alco 12-244 for its more powerful export models, maybe it was prepared to
leave the FVL-12T as it was, or at least leave it to CB's discretion as to
what development work should have been undertaken. But its divorce from Alco
would have changed all of that.

The 8 cylinder export model was modestly uprated to 1420/1300 hp (as the
U13B/C) around 1961, still I believe with what was referred to as a CB engine.
However, the same increment was not applied to the 12 cylinder export model
(as the 2150/2000 hp U20C, with long chopped nose) until 1964, by which time
the engine was described as a GE 7FDL-12.

The next power output increments amongst the export models show up in the U15C
of around 1968 (FDL-8 at 1650/1500 hp) and then the U26C of 1971 (FDL-12 at
2750/2600 hp, alternator, short nose, and high-adhesion trucks).

From this I'd infer that the early GE-built FDLs were not a lot different to
the late CB FWL/FVL models, but that from the mid-1960s, GE was doing a lot of
re-engineering work to increase the specific output of the FDL, and making the
engine "its own".

Many years back I read a GE document that explained the significance of the
various elements of its 7FDL designation and how it fitted in with its general
component designation system, but I never thought to keep a copy. All I recall
now is that the 'L' did indicate locomotive, as one might expect.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Wed, Sep 20, 00
at 22:20
Steve Palmano--
THANK YOU!!!! VERY infomative! (The power ratings got discussed in the 244 and
241 engine strings on the Alco forum a few weeks ago. The C-B "E" engine you
refer to was on the low powered Monongahela Connecting centercab that was

Perhaps you know the answers to the questions I asked in the "Factory
Questions" string on this forum: in particular, is the Grove City plant where
GE Transportation Systems makes its diesel engines the old C-B plant?

Re: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve Palmano (stevepalmano@-) on Thu, Sep 21, 00 at 16:17
Allen, I can't really help you with your factory question. Perhaps like you,
I'm very much an 'outside observer' trying to make sense of information
fragments. Grove City was the original home of the 'Bessemer' part of
Cooper-Bessemer, whereas Cooper came from Mt. Vernon, Ohio. And I think that
for quite a while, Grove City was the main manufacturing point for
Cooper-Bessemer/Cooper Industries reciprocating engines and compressors. So
maybe a part of the plant was sold to GE. And the idea that GE manufactured
7FDL engines at Erie may have arisen during the period when it was assembling
the 16 cylinder models from CB-supplied components.

Here's something additional on the CB engine designations that I should have
looked at again and included in my previous post. (More haste, less speed!)
Evidently the uprated, i.e. 165/150 hp/cylinder, version of the CB FWL/FVL
engine was known as the 'B' series.

Some old South African Railways roster diagrams that I have show its 1958 U12B
fleet (31 class) to have CB FVBL-8 engines (at 1320/1200 hp) and its 1959
U18C1 fleet (32-000 class) to have CB FVBL-12 engines (at 1980/1800 hp).
(SAR's next GEs were its 33-000 class in 1965, low-nose U20C models with GE
7FDL-12 engines at 2150/2000 hp).

By way of a cross-check, Janes 1981-82 has some useful information on the
RFFSA Brazil diesel fleet. The 1958-59 GE U12Bs and U12Cs are shown as having
CB FVBL-8T engines at 1320 hp (gross), and the 1957 GE U9Bs as having CB FWB-6
engines at 990 hp (gross). The C+C 70 tonners (1947-56) are shown as having CB
FWL-6T engines at 660 hp (gross).

There are some differences here, in that the trailing'T' seems to be optional
- maybe it was dropped as being superfluous, as all of the 'B' engines were
turbocharged. And I wonder if the 'FWB-6' should not have been 'FWBL-6'?.

So, the apparent sequence is:

The 'original' versions of the CB 9x10.5 engine as used by GE were the FWL-6T,
at up to 660/600 hp, and the FVL-12T, at up to 1100 hp (net).

The uprated, or 'B' series CB engines, as used by GE in its export U-series
from late 1956, were the FWB(L)-6, FVBL-8, and FVBL-12, all at 165/150 hp per
cylinder. Of course, the 8 and 12 cylinder engines at this rating were
apparently first used in prototype #750. I can't trace any previous use of the
8 cylinder engine by GE, but it may have been used in two pre-U-series models
supplied to Manila Railways in the Philippines in 1956. (Both were Cape gauge
C-C models rated at 1200 hp (net), one being a cab unit (miniature of the
#750/NSW Class 43 concept) and the other combining a shovel-nose front-end
with a road-switcher long-hood body. So far I haven't been able to confirm the
engine type fitted to each.)

GE discontinued the 6 cylinder models around 1958-59 after selling only a
handful of U9B/Cs, so from its perspective at least, the 'V' and 'W'
characters were no longer needed - all engines were vee-form. Into the realm
of speculation, did the FVBL-8 and FVBL-12 metamorphose into the FDL-8 and
FDL-12, the 'V' being dropped and the 'D' representing another engineering
iteration - although then there's a missing 'C' iteration?

The RFFSA list in Janes 1981-82 also shows the 1963 U-13B fleet as having GE
7FDL-8 engines at 1420 hp (gross). However, according to Phil Wormald's GE
export site, 1420 hp U13C s were supplied to Gabon as early as 1960.
Ostensibly, this was when CB was still supplying the 8 cylinder engines, but I
haven't been able to track down the CB engine designation used for this

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Thu, Sep 21, 00
at 23:49
Thanks again, Steve!

According to Silverstone, "U.S. Warships since 1945" (names, dates, and
minimal stats), LST 1173, the Suffolk County, was launched in 1956. This was
the first (by launching date, not hull number) of the ships my naval history
internet person said were equipped with 2400 hp "FVAM-16" engines. LSTs don't
take as long to build as, say, battleships, so I think it's safe to say the
design was finalized in 1954 or even 1955: thus the ship is a contemporary of
or later than GE test locomotive 750. Marine diesels, I think, are rated on a
different basis from locomotives: the rated horsepower of a marine diesel is
more nearly comparable to the higher of the two figures ("gross") you quote.
[This higher figure, or something like it, is typically quoted for diesel
locomotives outside North America: evidently in a deliberate effort to confuse
novice railroad historians ;-) ] So the 2400 hp rating of the FVAM would
correspond to something like 2180 under the rating convention for North
American locomotives.

Suggesting that 750 was very early for the FVB's 150/165 hp/cyl rating: when
they decided to use the C-B engine as their primary locomotive diesel, GE
evidently asked C-B to "push the envelope" (and the extended testing of 750
was doubtless well worth while).

Do you know the model designation of the engines used in 750 and the UD18B
demos? Were they all equipped with FVBL?


PS: I hadn't realized until recently that there were ANY U9B built with C-B
engines: my impression is that GE export loomotives of this size have usually,
since the end of 70-tonner production, had Caterpillar engines. The New
Zealand Railway DH class of 1978 had "CAT D398" engines-- this is a 54
(metric?) ton endcab rated, according to Railmac Publications "NZR
Locomotives", at 630 kw. (Since the same book gives a 1230 kw rating for a
1979 EMD with a 12-645, I'd guess the DH is a "U8" of about 770 hp in North
American rating.) And the GE entry in the 1986-1987 edition of "Jane's World
Railways" lists U10B (1050 gross hp/950 for traction) and a U11B (1100
gross/1000 for traction) with Caterpillar D 379 and D 398 engines,
respectively-- only the larger export models (U15C, U18C,U22C,U26C,U30C) are
shown as having FDL engines (8 cyl for the first two, 12 for the rest).

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Michael Schaefer (mbschaefer@-) on Fri, Sep 22, 00 at 2:47
This is probably the most interesting string yet, keep it up. Do you know how
long the 750 tested? And how long on the road, and witch roads?


Re: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve Palmano (stevepalmano@-) on Fri, Sep 22, 00 at 13:18
Allen, to deal with your PS first, as best I can figure out the original GE
export U-series line, as released late in 1956, included permutations and
combinations on 3 basic frame sizes.

The "big" model was a road switcher that mounted the CB FVBL-12 engine at
1980/1800 hp, and was available in C-C and -1-C-C-1 forms as the U18C and
U18C1 respectively. Only South Africa bought the U18C1 - it needed light axle
loadings (about 23 000 lb) for its South West Africa (now Namibia) lines. Base
weight of the U18C was around 200 000 lb, although standard gauge variants
were usually heavier (ballasted or heavier section frame members, perhaps?)
The "intermediate" model was a slightly shorter road switcher that basically
had the CB FVBL-8 engine at 1320/1200 hp, and was available in B-B (U12B) and
C-C (U12C) variants. Base weight for the U12C was around 180 000 lb.
The same model was also available with the 6 cylinder CB engine at 990/900 hp,
as the U9B and U9C. A handful of U9Bs were sold to Brazil, and a handful of
U9Cs to Chile, but it appears to be been discontinued in 1958 or 1959, i.e.
about the same time that the 70 tonner was discontinued. The only datapoint of
have on weight is for the Red Norte (Chile) U9Cs, which were 78 tonnes, say
roundly 172 000 lb.

The "small" model was a short end-cab utility B-B design with either the Cat
D379 (8 cylinder) or Cat D398 (12 cylinder) engines, model designations
U5B/U6B and U8B respectively. It seems that the D379 version was available at
two power output levels.

Some things I don't know - whether or not the U18 was offered in B-B form
(perhaps for standard/broad gauges only?) or A1A-A1A form; whether or not the
U12/U9 was offered in A1A-A1A or 1-C-C-1 form; whether or not the U6/U8 was
offered in A1A-A1A or C-C form (it would have been a push unless a longer
frame was used, or articulated trucks were fitted, a la export 70 tonner.)

All of the models were progressively increased in power output, sometimes with
different outputs offered concurrently. So the 12 cylinder U18C became the
U20C, then the U22C. The 8 cylinder U12C became the U13C, U15C, U18C then
U20C. The Cat-engined models also underwent changes, although here I'm not
sure of the exact sequence except that the U10B was an early uprating of the

The U26C was a later (1971) addition to the range with a longer frame than the
U18C/U20C and with the uprated 12 cylinder engine at 2750/2600 hp. Base weight
was around 215 000 lb, although the first customer, South African Railways,
opted for a heavy frame version.

GE recycles its model numbers, so that for example a late U18C (8 cylinder) is
quite a bit different to an early U18C (12 cylinder). To add to the confusion,
there are modified variants, like UM10B, where the 'M' is generic. I.e. a
UM10B can be either a road switcher variant of the U10B, with a tall short
hood on an apparently lengthened frame, as used in Greece and Spain, or what
appears to be a standard U10B frame with a miniature, low short hood, as used
by some South African industrial operators.

Why GE dropped the U9B/C, and the 6 cylinder engine I don't know. Perhaps it
saw the Cat D398 as better suited to the majority market requirements for
locomotives in this power class, although the sales of the Alco 6 cylinder
models for the next decade or so suggest that there was a substantial niche
for a road locomotive of around 1000 hp or so with a robust medium-speed
engine. The U9B/C was certainly at a disadvantage, weight-wise versus the Alco
DL-532/DL-531; I think the DL-531 could come in a bit below 160 000 lb, which
provided more than enough adhesion for the available power. Who knows, perhaps
GE saw that it couldn’t match Alco in this niche, but didn't consider it
worthwhile spending time and money on a new frame and the including the 6
cylinder engine in its build program. Or, the costs of so doing were estimated
to be more than what it was going to make on the electrical equipment in those
Alcos anyway!

In dropping the 6 cylinder engine it also let go of the C+C export 70 tonner,
which had a very light axle loading of around 23 500 lb, and might have still
found a niche in the 1960s. In a way, Clyde-GM's Australian GL8C and GL18C
models are a latter-day incarnation of the same concept.

Since the GE vs. Alco issue has arisen elsewhere in this forum, it's
worthwhile noting that the 6 cylinder C-C road switcher appeared to be Alco's
only entrant in the market for locomotives suitable for narrow gauge roads
that also had severe axle loading and loading gauge restrictions. All of GE's
U-series models were built to a 12'0" x 9'0" envelope, and to fairly low base
weights. In contrast Alco's 12 cylinder export models, like the DL541,
although of similar power to the U18C, were heavier, taller and wider; they
seemed to have been designed more for roads that were, in a proximate sense,
of UIC dimensions. And in the late 1950s through the late 1960s, Alco didn't
have an 8 cylinder model to put up against the GE U12B/C, either. MLW
rectified the situation with the MX620 and MX615 models circa 1970, and picked
up some useful Cape/meter gauge business in Africa by so doing, but meanwhile
GE's 8 and 12 cylinder models had established and consolidated a significant
sales lead.

One can find antecedents to the initial export U-series models in GE's
early/mid-1950s production, but as this post is already a bit long I'll leave
those comments until a later post.

On GE #750, none of my references mention a model number for its engines;
usually they are described as 'CB 9 x 10.5' , 1200 hp for the 8 cylinder and
1800 hp for the 12 cylinder. Perhaps CB held back from giving them a
production designation until they were fully tested? The UD18 is sometimes
described as having an FDL12 engine, but I wonder if this is not informal
retroactive application of the later designation, in the same way that
U-series labels are sometimes applied to pre-U-series models, e.g. 'U6C' to
the C+C export 70 tonner. Of course, GE's redesignation of #750 as a UM20
after its re-engineing left the door wide open for this practice.

Re: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve Palmano (stevepalmano@-) on Fri, Sep 22, 00 at 14:26
Correction: axle loading for the South African U18C1 was about 28 000 lb (12.7
tonnes), not 23 000 lb.

Addition: The New Zealand Dh class were actually U10B models, although
apparently set at 672/615 kW (900/825 hp). Maybe NZR's unhappy earlier
experience with Cat D398 engines in its Mitsubishi-built Dj class had
something to do with this derating.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Michael Schaefer (mbschaefer@-) on Sat, Sep 23, 00 at 3:36
GE dropping the 6cyl engine may have had somthing to do with HP per design
situation. From the stand point of a 9"x10" cylinder bore in a six just to get
900hp, it only makes sense to go with a good smaller higher speed unit that is
more compact and light to do the job, and GE no doubt had the ability to
produce the acompanying gen for the application. The CAT setup probably
allowed more carbody-weight possibilities than the CB design and Im sure that
the low speed of the CB engine made for somewhat less than perfect gen

Take a look at modern CAT powered locos, they have smaller higher speed
engines(3500 series) and smaller alternators, but the design allows for them
not to need transition pannels like a typical loco, the fact that they can
spin over 1800 rpm(2400???) when the norm is 900 to 1100, they produce a
powerband that goes farther without shunting fields to draw more from the
motors, and this had to be the case with the early GEs. I do not know for sure
but it only makes sense to me based from my experience, I wonder what the
specs and weights were on the early CB-CAT engine/gen units.

Re: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve Palmano (stevepalmano@-) on Sun, Sep 24, 00 at 11:16
Mike, I think that you've probably hit the nail right on the head about the
use of the Cat high-speed engines. I remember reading somewhere - can't trace
it now - that in switching service particularly, the low inertia high speed
engine responds much more quickly to throttle changes, and with less harm to

The Cat 6.25 x 8 engines (D379 & D398) ran at 1300 rev/min; as you say, the
later 3500 series (170 x 190 mm) can run a lot faster. I think that Cat quotes
an operating range of 600 - 1800 rev/min for locomotive applications; I
vaguely recall seeing 2100 rev/min maximum for mine haul truck applications.
The Cat-engined locomotives were certainly noticeably lighter than their CB 6
cylinder counterparts. Base weight for the U8B/U10B/U11B (D398 V12 engine) was
around 110 000 lb, compared with 140 000 lb for the 70 tonner. In fact the
direct antecedents of the Cat-engined U-models seem to be the various end cab,
50 ton B-B models supplied by GE in the early 1950s. I don't know what engines
were used in all of these, but amongst the best known are the US Gypsum pair
described in RF&RR, July 1991. These are described as being a custom design,
similar to the later U4, and having 390 hp Cat D397 engines.

Custom design is I think, stretching it a bit, but understandable as the 50
ton model was probably rare in the US. I don't think that there was ever a U4;
this is more like freestyle retroactive use of the U-series designation
system. Cat D397 is curious; I wonder if it is a misprint for D379. But these
Cat numbers don't follow an obvious sequence, as the 8 cylinder 6.25 x 8
engine is D379, whereas the 12 and 16 cylinder versions are D398 and D399

By way of another weight comparison, apparently there were some late (1956)
meter gauge C+C 70 tonners that went to Brazil that were fitted with Cat D398
engines set at 660 hp (gross). These are quoted at 60 tonnes (roundly 132 000
lb) as compared with 64 tonnes (141 000 lb) for their CB-engined counterparts.
If the Cat-engined locos did have essentially identical frames, etc.,
something I've assumed but haven't yet been able to confirm, then the weight
difference is indicative of the advantage accruing to the Cat engine/generator

As best I can trace, these Brazilian locos were a very early GE application of
the Cat 12 cylinder engine, and seem to be a pointer to GE's ultimate
intentions, although CB-engined C+C 70 tonners were supplied to Chile as late
as 1957, in fact more-or-less concurrently with the U9Cs.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Mon, Sep 25, 00
at 1:19
I can think of at least two other users of small GE endcabs ("U4" style) in
the United States: Southern Pacific used one such unit on their narrow gauge
line before abandonment (their unit was subsequently, I think, sold to some
line in Mexico), and the New York Subway system has a sizeable fleet used on
work trains. Pictures (though not, alas, technical details) on the New York
units should be accessible in two or three link-clicks from the link below.

(Oh. By the way. What were the model numbers and cylinder dimensions of the
eight cylinder (most) and six cylinder (a few late) Caterpillar engines used
on GE 44-tonners?)

Here is a link that might be useful: Rails and Transit

Re: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve Palmano (stevepalmano@-) on Tue, Sep 26, 00 at 10:49
As far as I know, the 8 cylinder Cats in the 44 tonners were the D17000 model,
5.75 x 8 inches, naturally aspirated, 190/175 hp at 1000 rev/min, operating
range 350 -1000 rev/min.

I don't know about the 6 cylinder Cats. Maybe D342 models, which were also
5.75 x 8 inches, or D353, 6.25 x 8 inches?

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Tue, Sep 26, 00
at 23:43
Steve-- Thanks for answering my question about 44-tonners. I remember (now
that you've said it) D-17000 (it's in references I left in another country),
and I recall that the six-cylinder engine used in some of the last 44-tonners
had the same cylinder dimensions, so it would have been the D-342.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Michael Schaefer (mbschaefer@-) on Sat, Sep 30, 00 at 4:27
I hear the CAT engines in the 25-44-45tonners wasent that good.
The Cummins engines were far better liked. I used to work with a 45 tonner
built in the 50's and it never failed once, the only trouble I remember is the
no2 Cummins engine would have trouble starting on cold days when there was
less than half a tank of fuel.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Sun, Oct 1, 00
at 5:26
Maybe-- sheer speculation-- this is why GE pretty much standardized on Cummins
engines for its industrial switchers in the 1950s and later? (Though I seem to
recall, from a "Trains" magazine annual motive power review article some time
in the 1970s that an industrial customer in Peoria got GE to build a switcher
with Caterpillar engines-- maybe in Peoria they lynch Cummins-users? (grin))
45-tonners (one traction moter per truck) had significantly lower hp than the
(four motor) 44-tonner. Perhaps Cummins didn't have an engine of the
appropriate size available when GE designed the 44-tonner? As I recall, the
same Caterpillar engine was used on 44-ton centercabs from at least one other
builder as well.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Michael Schaefer (mbschaefer@-) on Sun, Oct 1, 00 at 18:25
Good points Allen, and that 45 tonner was a weak puller, but it ran and ran.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Nick Lawford (nick@-) on Thu, Oct 5, 00 at 14:02
Digressing - or not - and having already discussed this at length with Steve
Palamo - can anyone offer any new ideas as to why the FDL power unit (or CB
before it) never established itself in Europe . There is just ONE such machine
- the recent ADtranz 'blue tiger'.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve Palmano (steve719@-) on Mon, Oct 16, 00 at 14:34
Allen, here's another information increment in the C-B engine history.
I've come across an article in the November, 1956 edition of the magazine
'Diesel Railway Traction' (DRT). (This was a British trade publication that
covered the international diesel scene.)

The subject article, which appears to have been written mostly by C-B, is
essentially a description of the 'new' C-B engine range, consisting of four
models, namely FWB-6-LT, FVBL-8-T, FVBL-12-T, and FVBL-16T, made at the Mount
Vernon works, Ohio. (Note that the designation formats differ between the
in-line and the vee engines.)

Very little is said about how the these engines differ from their
predecessors, except that '...some appreciable improvements have been made,
though a number of old constructional features are retained, and the engine is
now a highly rated one.'

Early in the article it is noted that 'Brake mean effective pressure at top
output thus is the equal of the new Alco model 251 engine, both being in
advance of any other railway oil engine at the moment.'

Top output for the range is stated to be 165 hp (gross) at 1000 rev/min,
equating to a bmep of 196 lbf/in² and a piston speed of 1750 ft/min.
Other salient quotations from the article are:

'Up to the moment, we believe that the 16-cylinder engine, with a top output
of 2640 hp, is not yet running in a locomotive, but the 8-cylinder and
12-cylinder models of 1320 and 1980 hp (or 1200 and 1750/1800 hp traction
input) are operating in line-service locomotives, and the 900 hp (900 hp
traction) is used in shunters and road-switchers.'


'..the make [C-B] has not become widely known in world railway markets, mainly
because the great majority of the installations have been in one make of
locomotive, though there is no reason why the type should not be applied by
other locomotive manufacturers than General Electric.'

Reading between the lines, the 'B' version was in fact a major rework of the
C-B 'F' engine. I get the impression that GE did not want to have an engine
that, on paper, at least, was anything less than the Alco 251.

Also, it seems that, despite its ties to GE, C-B was at least hopeful of
selling its 'new' engine to other locomotive builders. I'm not aware that it
ever did achieve this, but I know that British builder NBL (North British
Locomotive) offered an FVBL12-T powered diesel-hydraulic with 5 axles (C-B
wheel arrangement!) and Voith transmission to New South Wales Government
Railways in Australia.

On designations, it's interesting to note that a GE-origin diagram of the
(export) U18C model in the same DRT issue shows the engine to be a C-B
FVBL-12. Evidently GE must have seen the trailing 'T' as being superfluous.
It’s worthwhile quoting an earlier 1956 DRT mention of the C-B engine, thus:

'This is a favorite engine for General Electric diesel locomotives of the
intermediate size, i.e. between the shunters with caterpillar or Cummins
engines and the big main-liners with Alco diesels. The usual type is the FV
range with 9-in by 10½-in cylinders, and the FV-12 with a top output of over
1300 hp has been much used. The straight six FWL of 660/600 hp is another
locomotive type, running at the same speed of 1000 rev/min as the FV engine.'

And a little later:
'The FV and FWL ranges include six- and eight-cylinder vertical engines and
12- and 16-cylinder V models, and with a top output of 100 hp per cylinder.'
Well, I don’t think that the FV-12 was all that much used - I'm aware of only
three GE pre-U-series installations.

To digress a bit from the FVBL-to-FDL story, but still pertinent in view of
the Alco and GE discussions that have taken place elsewhere in this forum, the
editorial in the November, 1956 DRT is really quite prescient. It's easier,
albeit longer, to quote rather than precis the pertinent paragraphs:

' The disappearance of Baldwin from the normal diesel field narrows down still
further the competition in the U.S. industry, now being devoted more and more
to export markets,….General Motors maintains its position. Alco and General
Electric have for long been closely associated in the main-line diesel
locomotive business abroad; but whilst these joint-equipment productions
formed Alco's whole export line, General Electric has had a valuable business
with its own shunters up to 90 tons weight, in which Alco engines have not
been installed.

' Alco, now Alco Products Inc., continues to expand in quite other fields, and
its locomotive business, despite shipments of the successful 'world' standard
locomotives to foreign countries, now forms no more than 20 to 25 percent of
its total operations. General Electric, on the other hand, tends to increase
its efforts in the home industrial and in all foreign applications, and has
recently introduced a new standard range of bogie locomotives, made up of nine
basic models extending from 400 to 2000 hp, and suited to a variety of gauges
and loading gauges, in which non-Alco engines are used. The true competitive
struggle on the widest basis now seems to be between General Motors and
General Electric, with Fairbanks Morse going along in a quite way in the
U.S.A. and Canada.'

I wonder whether that editorial was based upon simple outside observation from
across the pond, or some kind of inside knowledge of GE's intentions.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Mon, Oct 16, 00
at 21:53
It will take time to digest that (and the companion post on the UD-18 string),
so for now, just

Oh. quick comments.

(i) Mt. Vernon Works!!!! C-B corporate headquarters, I think, were in Grove
City, and all (mostly railfan) literature I've seen gives Grove City as the
palce of manufacture.

(ii) Do you suppose the FVBL-16 had even been built at the time? othe sources
suggest that the 16 cylinder variant was first built fairly late in the run-up
to the U25B.

(iii) 2640 for the 16 cylinder engine is equivalent to 2400 hp by the
conventions for North American locomotives. It's a small, but still
noticeable, jump from the 2400 on the Suffolk County LSTs: the difference
between a FVAM and a FVBL.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve Palmano (stevepalmano@-) on Thu, Oct 19, 00 at 13:13
Allen, re your numbered items:

(i) Yes - I suspect that it is an error in the DRT article, whose "core"
appears to have been written by C-B, and then edited, maybe with the addition
of the introductory paragraphs, by DRT's editorial staff.

(ii) No - there may have been a test model or two built, but production
probably didn't start until required for the U25B. The DRT article includes
photographs of the 8 and 12 cylinder engines, but not of the 16 cylinder
version. Putting all of this together points to the FVBL-16 being a "paper"
engine in 1956.

(iii) A logical inference. Note, though, that the "basic" 6 cylinder C-B
engine had been uprated somewhat by then. Among 1956 GE trade advertisements
is one covering the 31 locomotive order for Chilean State Railroad, consisting
of 5 of 1600 hp (additional broad gauge shovel-noses), 11 of 900 hp (new
Universal U9C models) , and 15 of 720 hp (unspecified).

As best I can determine, the 15 720 hp locomotives were the final tranche of
meter gauge C+C 70 tonners that went to Chile (and maybe the last produced of
this design.) Nowhere have I found a reference to the exact engine designation
used in this group of locos. However, about the same time, GE supplied 45 B-B
"70 tonners" (30 were about 90 tons, 15 were about 70 tons) to Santos Jundiai
in Brazil. Curiously, GE advertising for these doesn't mention their power
output, but Janes 1981-82 shows 720 hp and FWL-6T engines.

Likely the modest move from 600 to 720 hp was the outcome of experience and
detail changes, short of whatever changes were made for the apparent marine
"A" version - I wonder if it is aftercooled? (Probably one could find the
information on the C-B marine variants by tracing through back issues of
magazines like "The Motor Ship", which for many years has covered diesel
engine development on a global basis.)

I also need to update and correct some of my earlier comments in respect of
the GE Universal model series. In particular, and contrary to what I said
above, there was, on paper, at least, a U4B. The original GE U-series range,
as advertised from about April, 1956, comprised the following models:

U4B & U6B
U9B & U12B
U9C & U12C

The U4B through U18C were essentially narrow gauge models that could also be
built for standard and broad gauges.

The U18B was essentially the U18C riding on "domestic" B-type standard gauge
trucks with standard gauge motors, but retaining the compact profile of the
U18C. I don't think that any were actually built, and of course the
designation was recycled for a later domestic model.

The well-known UD18B was of course the stepping stone to the U25B and all that

The U4B and U6B had respectively Caterpillar V8 and V12 engines, but
unfortunately I don't have specific model numbers. They were derivatives of
the preceding 50/52 ton end-cab designs, and the Manila Railroad's 52 tonners
have been described (erroneously, I think) as the first produced of the
U4B/U6B models.

Anyway, the MRR 52 tonners had the Cat D.397 (5.75 x 8) V12 engine, and I
think that this is what would have been specified for the U6B in 1956. Then,
the U4B would have had the corresponding 5.75 x 8 Cat V8 engine, which I think
was the D.375.

Judging by Phil Wormald's GE Export list, no U4B's were actually built. It
seems that the U4B was superseded by the U5B, with Cat D.379 V8 engine (6.25 x
8) before production began. And the U5B was followed by the U6B with an
uprated D.379 engine; according to Kerr, this was a "new" model in 1959.
I don't know if any 12 cylinder "original" U6B's were built, but if so, its
production life must have been very short for GE to recycle the model number
by 1959. Anyway, the U8B with Cat D.398 V12 (6.25 x 8) was an early addition,
soon followed by the uprated U10B.

And those "confusing" Cat engine designations appear to be as follows:
D.375 V8 5.75 x 8
D.379 V8 6.25 x 8
D.397 V12 5.75 x 8
D.398 V12 6.25 x 8
D.399 V16 6.25 x 8

I'm sure that there's some arcane logic to this. But it’s not surprising that
it's sometimes assumed that the D.397 designation would logically apply to the
6.25 x 8 V8!

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Julia (privateme1304@-) on Tue, Jan 23, 01 at 5:08
According to Cooper-Bessemer Bulletin No. FV-63, the FV engines came in
6-8-12- & 16 cylinders in both turbo and non turboed varieties. Also the FW 6
& 8 cyl in-line engines. They called them "Atmospheric" and "Supercharged". I
think that "Atmospheric" is the meaning of the "A" mentioned by Steve above,
rather than "aftercooled". Not 100% on that one though.

This publication from ca. 1952 shows a pic of a 16 cyl block for stationary
use. Blurb states that the FV was designed for locomotive use.

Have three publications to give away on a first come first serve basis:
Cooper-Bessemer Bulletin No. FV-63 (Type FV Diesel Engines). CB Type FW Loco
Diesel Engine (Brochure).
GE Publication GEA-6009 (World Users of GE Diesel-Electric Industrial
Locomotives. As said----All from early 1950's.

Will need snail address.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Jim Rhoads (jrhoads@-) on Mon, Feb 19, 01 at 19:29
My father, James C. Rhoads, was in charge of GE's modification and uprating
program on the CB engines for their use in domestic road use from 1951 until
his death in September, 1960, the month and year of the commercial debut of
the U25B. I have a some of his intracompany correspondence, and other GE
publications dated from 1948, which deal with the origins of the GE's
disengagement from Alco, and the development of the V-16 FDL engine. According
to the correspondence, that engine, in a 2400 hp 4 motor configuration, was
put on test on the Erie RR in November, 1958. It was not until the following
year that GE gave the official ok to break into the domestic main line road
locomotive business. Unfortunately, dad never saw his career dream (competing
with GM head to head in the main line road diesel locomotive business)come
true. I would like to share some of the information I have with anyone who is
interested, and maybe learn more about the post-1960 history of the GE engine
in the process.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Jim Rhoads (jrhoads@-) on Mon, Feb 26, 01 at 15:18
As a follow-up to my message of last Monday, what follows is the result of my
research and review of my dad's correspondence file:

Background: In 1948, GE was not even in the domestic main line diesel
locomotive business, but was considered as merely a supplier in the post World
War II efforts to convert the railroad industry's locomotives from steam power
to diesel power. As a supplier, GE manufactured generators, traction motors,
controls and other electrical components for units powered and built by
others. In addition, for the first eight years after the war, GE supplied the
electric traction motors and controls to the diesel electric locomotives built
and sold in partnership with the American Locomotive Company, formerly a
builder of steam locomotives then building diesel engines. GE also built
smaller switch engines for export to South American countries which it sold
through its subsidiary, International General Electric. GE's switchers, both
domestic and export, were powered with engines from several diesel engine
manufacturers, including Caterpillar, Alco and Cooper Bessemer.

In 1948, General Motors EMD had over 80 percent of the North American diesel
locomotive business. GM's 2 cycle engine design had been in operation since
the late 30's, and was primarily responsible for the conversion from steam to
diesel which began in earnest immediately after World War II. GM accomplished
this feat with engines rated less than 1800 maximum horsepower. Fairbanks
Morse and Baldwin also manufactured and sold diesel electric locomotives, and
were trying mightily to gain market share on GM EMD. Their efforts were even
less successful than Alco/GE's, and GM EMD controlled the U.S. market by a
wide margin. With this background behind us, the story begins.

In 1948, within the company, my father, James C. Rhoads, began advocating GE's
entry into the diesel end of the locomotive business because, he believed, GE
could come up with a more efficient, more reliable and higher powered diesel
engine design than the designs of the General Motors and Alco. At about the
same time, according to several letters in his personal office correspondence,
Rhoads had identified a Cooper Bessemer diesel engine (the "FWL" 6 cylinder in
line engine)as one having potential for much higher and more reliable
performance, and thus worthy of GE's consideration for future development of
its locomotive business. This was in spite of what he termed "nuisance items"
at that time that needed to be cleared up. Rhoads's ideas were reinforced by a
1948 trip to Brazil where he evaluated the performance of a variety of diesel
locomotives used by the Brazilian railroads, including 50 powered by Cooper
Bessemer diesel engines, which IGE had recently sold. In Brazil, Rhoads met
and exchanged information with some of the senior executives of Cooper
Bessemer and IGE, and continued to see potential in the Cooper Bessemer
engines. Rhoads's advocacy paid off, because, in 1951, he was tapped to head
up a team to select, design and develop a diesel engine which could be the
foundation of GE's entry into the domestic main line road diesel locomotive

1951 - 1953 - GE Evaluates Engines The first task Rhoads undertook in his new
position was an extensive investigation of diesel locomotive engine design
efforts around the world, and their suitability for use in road locomotive
service in North America. The investigation concentrated particularly on
horsepower increase trends over time for both 2 and 4 cycle engines, so that
the team could project GE's engine horsepower needs into the future in the
event it were to offer a complete line of locomotives for domestic or foreign
sale. In 1952 and 1953, as part of his investigation, Rhoads spent seven weeks
surveying 15 engines then in use or under development for Europe's railroads,
looking at all possible engines that might be suitable for locomotive use.
Eventually, the investigation considered over 45 diesel locomotive engines. As
a result, in 1953, Rhoads and his team concluded that the Cooper Bessemer 4
cycle engine design was the one most suitable for GE's entry into the
locomotive business.

1953-1956 - GE Improves Cooper Bessemer Designs At about the same time, GE's
partnership with Alco was dissolved. GE then acquired from Cooper Bessemer the
development rights of larger versions of the CB FWL engines for use in the
development of GE's domestic road locomotive product. At this point, the goal
of Rhoads's group at GE had become consistent with his dream: design and build
an engine for use in GE's independent production of a diesel road locomotive
to compete with GM in the domestic market. But this development was kept under
wraps so as not to alert the competition.

1953-1958 - GE Adopts The GE FDL Engine Line For Export In 1953, the GE FDL
team, independently of Cooper Bessemer, began to modify Cooper Bessemer V-8
and V-12 engine designs to achieve significantly higher horsepower per
cylinder than the competition. Road testing of the improved designs began in
September, 1954, with a four unit rolling test lab owned by GE and operated in
revenue service on the Erie Railroad. Then, in a far off corner of GE's Erie
works, a state of the art engine test laboratory was built, opening in 1955.
There, all of the GE's FDL engine designs were refined and uprated to 165 hp
per cylinder. Tests of these upgraded V-8 and V-12 engines continued on the
Erie Railroad rolling test lab. In 1956, as a result of the Erie tests, GE
introduced its "Universal" series as a line of export locomotives, with two
UD18, 1800 horsepower demonstrators, each powered by GE-modified V-12 CB
engine. Immediately after their introduction, these demonstrators performed
road tests on the Erie Railroad in mixed-builder locomotive groupings. They
acquitted themselves so well that they soon departed for Mexico on a
demonstration tour with the Mexican railroad NdeM. In 1957, the first
Universal exports were delivered to railroads in Costa Rica, Argentina, and
Brazil. In 1958, 45 UD12's with 1200 horsepower FDL V-8 engines were delivered
to South African Railways, where they exhibited superior performance in heavy
duty freight service, and in high speed passenger service.

1954-1958 - GE Creates a V-16 FDL Engine Meanwhile, in 1954, work on a V-16
version of the FDL engine, a multiple of the upgraded V-8, was quietly begun
for use in a proposed high horsepower domestic road locomotive. Parallel with
the successes in the export business, work continued on the FDL V-16 engine in
GE's Erie test lab, until, in the summer of, 1958, a 2400 horsepower V16 four
axle prototype locomotive unit was road tested successfully on the test track,
and, in December of that year, on the Erie Railroad. This completed the range
of initial GE FDL engine development. But the United States railroad market
was changing, and more work had to be done within GE to persuade the company
to enter the domestic locomotive business against GM EMD.

1958-1959 - Overcoming The Obstacles There was a slump in the domestic
railroad industry in 1958. Fairbanks Morse and Baldwin had abandoned the
locomotive business, leaving the field to GM EMD and Alco. Some of the higher
GE management was reluctant to commit resources to what they perceived as a
dying industry. In December, 1958, Rhoads wrote a letter in response to a
progress inquiry from a retired senior GE executive who had been in favor of
GE's entry into the domestic main line road locomotive business. The retiree
asked Rhoads what his current philosophy of the locomotive business was.
Rhoads responded:

"[W]ith our 2400 hp four axle unit of vastly improved design, from the
standpoint of simplicity and low maintenance features, we can tap the domestic
market and start a new trend of diesel locomotive replacement rather than
upgrading or rebuilding to only 1750 hp as EMD are promoting. We see many
places all over the country where speeding up of freight movements is becoming
essential and we think we have a very good story in replacing five uprated
units with four of ours, or four uprated units with three of ours".
The retiree also asked who the "higher ups" were that did not share this
philosophy, and what they thought. Again, Rhoads responded:
"Who are they? I can't specifically name them, but I suspect they are in the
highest places and the feeling I have is that they are mortally afraid of
General Motors. On the other hand, just recently, General Motors are really
promoting their semi-portable diesel power plant to take care of peak loads
temporarily until the average load builds up great enough to warrant
additional steam installations. This is really causing great concern in these
same high places and may greatly accelerate our entering the diesel engine
business and the domestic locomotive business."

One of Rhoads's final observations proved prescient:
"We have been working on improving the Cooper-Bessemer engine and are running
in the laboratory equivalent to 3400 hp on a 16 cylinder engine, and we don't
see that this is necessarily the end."

But convincing the "higher-ups" was nearly one year away.

1959-1960 - Getting Final Approval By the beginning of 1959, GE was developing
a very good reputation in its export business with the FDL engine, and had
just received a $30 million order for 115 U18C1 locomotives from the South
African Railways. This order was based on the excellent performance of the 45
locomotives with FDL engines which had been in operation in South Africa since
1957. GE knew South African Railways to be very demanding and critical, and
was pleased that they had this confidence in them. By June, 1959, 300
Universal export locomotives had gone into service (not including the 115
slated for South Africa) since their introduction in 1956. All had uprated FDL
engines which had been engineered by the GE FDL team. GE was controlling and
completely specifying FDL engine requirements, and essentially all of its
design details. GE told its customers that the FDL engine should be considered
a General Electric engine, as GE was fully responsible for it. Then, from May,
1959 through April, 1960, two prototype V-16 FDL 2500 hp units successfully
completed over 100,000 miles of road tests on the Erie Railroad. These
achievements convinced GE's "higher ups" to approve a 1960 launch of a
domestic main line diesel electric road locomotive, the U25B.

In an April 30, 1960 letter, Robert Paxton, GE's President, wrote to the
United States railroad industry, introducing the U25B:

"In the interests of making a more substantial product contribution, we have
been carrying on for the past ten years an exhaustive development program,
aimed at producing a significantly better road locomotive for the American
railroads. The results of this program now make it possible to introduce a
completely new locomotive. This locomotive is a 2500-hp four-axle unit,
designated as GE Model 25B."

"Every phase of this new locomotive design – diesel engine,
electric-transmission system, cab structure and running gear – represents the
most comprehensive testing and refining program we have ever undertaken in
this field. We believe the result is a motive power unit offering the
railroads unique advantages in reliability and low operating costs"

The GE "higher ups" were, at last, clearly on board, and committed. As part of
its launch, from April until August, 1960, GE sent a tandem of U25B's on a
61,000 14 railroad demonstration tour. By August, 1960, the trade press had
begun writing articles on the locomotive billed in GE's brochures as "new from
the rails up". In its September, 1960 issue, Trains magazine features in its
centerfold a three color four page advertisement headlined, "New Mainline
Motive Power from General Electric". It was an exciting time, indeed. But, as
I indicated earlier in the article, it was too late for Rhoads to bask in this
success. He died of his only heart attack on September 30, 1960, the first
night of a boat trip to Brazil with my mother. He was on his way to present a
paper on "application and design considerations" for locomotive diesel engines
to the tenth Pan American Railway Congress in Sao Paulo.

GE's path to overtaking General Motors in the diesel locomotive business is
much too long to recount here. Greg McDonnell's cover series, The Diesel That
Did It For GE, in the August and September, 1982 issues of Trains Magazine,
exhaustively traces the history of the U25B through the date of the series. In
1994, McDonnell went on to write a magnificently illustrated coffee-table
book, U-Boats, tracing the U25 and its U-labeled successors, some 3600
locomotives. As Rhoads had predicted in 1958, some of the U-Boat's V-16 FDL
engines ultimately exceeded 3500 hp. Beginning in 1976, the U-Boats were
succeeded by GE's DASH 7, 8 and 9 models and today's AC4400, over 5,000
locomotives. In these locomotives, the V-16 FDL engines have reached over 4000
hp, again, as Rhoads had predicted.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Wed, Feb 28, 01
at 23:37
Jim Rhoads--

Thank you for your fascinating posts!

One thing that stuck out was your reference to tests-- at the GE plant in the
summer of 1958 and in December of that year on the Erie-- of a 2400 hp
prototype. From published sources (including McDonnell's article and book that
you mention), I had the impression that the first locomotive application of
the uprated 16 cylinder engine was one of the U25B prototypes (initially
called XP24) built in 1959. Do you have any more information about the 1958

Again, Thanks!

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Jim Rhoads (jrhoads@-) on Thu, Mar 1, 01 at 10:53

As you might imagine, I was delighted to see your topic on the GE Forum.
The sources for my dating of the testing of the prototype are twofold:

1. A letter from dad to HA Davis (apparently a retired colleague)dated
November 13, 1958, stating that the 2400hp 4-axle locomotive prototype unit
was "in test", and would be in Erie until early in December after which it
would go "down on the Erie Railroad for road testing". In the letter dad
invited Davis to Erie to see the prototype.

2. My recollection (admittedly hazy) that I saw the prototype in 1958 when I
was home on summer break from college.

The actual date of the "on-track" test may have been later than summer of
1958, but, if not, was certainly in the fall of that year.
GE's actual work on the V-16 engine had begun by September, 1954, according to
his letter to W.B. Swan (a longtime GE colleague in LA), of September 16, in
which, he relates, "We are working on the layout stages of a 2400 horsepower
for traction 4 -axle unit in which we hope to combine the good features of the
road switcher and of the box cab in that there will be reasonable visibility
to the rear for switching purposes and even for operating in that direction,
but we will have all the advangages of lightweight construction which we have
been able to work out for export locomotives of the box cab type....The engine
looks well in the wood since it will be a multiple of the V-8 which is
performing so well....

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve P (steve719@-) on Mon, Apr 2, 01 at 15:43
Here's another little piece to add to this saga.

At the following web address:

is repoduced a cross-sectional diagram of the GE FDL-16 engine, evidently from
some GE promotional literature of the 1960s.

The caption to the diagram is:

"The modern design of the General Electric FDL-16 diesel engine is illustrated
in this cross-section view. The new FDL-16 four-cycle diesel engine draws upon
almost 20 years of General Electric locomotive engine experience. FDL engines
have been in railway service since 1946, and have been operating at
substantially their present rating since 1954."

The inference is that GE saw the FDL simply as an evolutionary development, a
continuation of the CB FV, and not as a step change.

I wonder whether the references to 1946 and 1954 were intended in part to
suggest that GE's engine was a more mature design than the competing Alco 251,
which had virtually the same per cylinder power rating and bmep?

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Tue, Apr 3, 01
at 21:05
Steve P-- What IS clear is that GE saw worries about the "new" and "untested"
engine as a major source of scepticism and sales resistance. Anything they
could do to overcome this.... Thus the advertisement emphasizing that 5,000
FDL power assemblies (=cylinders) were in railroad service world-wide. And the
subsequent history shows that this was the right thing to worry about: there
was nothing wrong with the GE electric transmission and control system, and
the central air filtration system was imitated by the competition (GP-30 and
Century series), but the FDL engine in early U-boats didn't have a good
reputation. I have read somewhere (but don't remember my source) that one
Southern Pacific motive power official actually recommended re-engining their
U25B fleet!

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Postby MEC407 » Tue Aug 14, 2007 7:26 pm


RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Jim Rhoads (jrhoads@-) on Wed, Apr 4, 01 at 19:40
GETS's marketing approach regarding the FDL engine apparently has not changed
much. It still pitches the evolutionary nature of the engine, starting with
the U25, and acknowledges its CB origins. Here is the latest off the GETS

"The 7FDL™ Engine

The heart of the GE Transportation Systems (GETS) locomotive is the GE 7FDL
prime mover. This efficient four-stroke diesel engine has performed for many
years in various cylinder and horsepower configurations.

The GETS engine has a long history of industry-leading efficiency and
reliability that stems from a robust Cooper Bessemer-based design. Beginning
with the U25 locomotive and carrying through to the DASH 7, DASH 8, DASH 9 and
AC4400 locomotives, the 7FDL engine has proven that it is the industry's
four-stroke workhorse. Today's engine is available with split cooling,
electronic fuel injection and various turbochargers."

Note that the cutaway is also displayed there as it was in the 60's
literature. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

What were the major problems with the U25 FDL's? Or are they too numerous to
mention? Where could I find out more on this subject?

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Martin Niklas (Martin-Niklas@-) on Sat, Apr 14, 01 at

>I have read somewhere(but don't remember my source)that one Southern Pacific
motive power official actually recommended re-engining their U25B fleet!
Four units of SP's U25B locomotive fleet have been repowered with Sulzer
engines by Morrison Knudsen in 1978 to my knowledge.
Was SP's dissatisfaction with GE engines the major reason for this project?

I've been told that SP retired its six-axled U-boats quite early,too.
Thank you.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Michael Schaefer (mbschaefer2@-) on Mon, Apr 16, 01 at 4:01
Great postings gentlemen, I have not looked at this thread for a while and it
is good to hear from Mr Rhoads.

I have commented many times on the philosophy of shop attitude having a great
deal with how well a locomotive performed, and I will say that SP had problems
with any thing not EMD when it came to performance, and of the many shops I
have been in I have not been to Pine Bluff ARK and it aparently was one of
SP's GE shops and from what Ive seen they have trouble with GE's as all the
locos I have seen that came from there were rough. one thing I have thought
about is that SP ran in the hottest parts of the US and that the engine
components on GEs are more heavy than EMDs and that workers may have struggled
with this in the heat, who knows. I can say that I have been to many roads
that did very well with GE, and I have been to many that wouldnt say anything
good about them even though they never owned them, go figure, but I have
definatly noticed that attitude had a hell of a lot to do with it. If the road
had EMD way before GE they had trouble addjusting to a new philosophy of
design unless they were open minded or up to the task of figuring out the best
way to run them.

I'm a GE liker and I find it amazing how hard it can be to get people to take
a look at them as a potential choice for use on their railroad, the lack of
parts support and expencive tools scares most of the people that would try
them so a lot of companies in my shoes are stuck with a lot of good locos
right now that wont sell, and roads are spending three times the price for an
EMD so I hope GE gets in the game of working with smaller out fits, there is
worth while markets to explore(Omnitrax is replacing all the units in there
bigger Canadian operations).

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: CS Mann (nn_mann@-) on Sat, May 5, 01 at 7:03
Has anyone heard of a recent use of a 7FDL-8? It seems it was quite a few
years ago that they last used this diesel. Has it ever been used on a
micro-processor loco?

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Evan James (BCE@-) on Sat, May 5, 01 at 9:17
Some time ago Nick Lawford asked why the FDL power unit did not establish
itself in Europe. The reason was simple - European intransegence - quite
simply they believed that only they could design anything, even if it meant
having to reinvent the wheel and they weren't interested in anything that same
from North America. It was only recently that some EMDs started to trickle
into the United Kingdom when EMD developed a model specifically for the
companies, which carted stones used in road construction. This turned into a
flood when Wisconsin Central took a sizeable stake in the rail freight hauling
business in the UK and starting importing EMDs in a big way. Other Europeans
then saw that US locos weren't clunkers after all and followed the trend
towards EMD, even for repowering existing units. But for some unknown reason
the Europeans have never taken to the GE engines, probably because they were
too similar to their own designs from Sulzer, English Electric - later Ruston
and now MAN - etc. European roads seemed to show no interest in the Bue Tiger
at all, and even the initial demonstration unit remained unsold, although I
last heard it was under lease to a port company in Germany. The use of EMD
products in the UK more or less coincided with the widespread use of Cummins
(and some Detroit) truck motors in the UK.

The original export U20 series, such as the U26C used in New Zealand is still
in the GE catalogue, only it's now called the Dash 7 series, and it still
looks the same as it did when it first came out in the 1960s.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve P (steve719@-) on Sat, May 5, 01 at 14:03
I wonder if the attribution of the absence of the GE 7FDL engine in Europe to
"European Intransigence" is fully consistent with some of the observations one
can make about the dieselization of European railway systems?

No doubt there were the usual quotas of chauvinism and what today would be
called the "NIH syndrome" in the decision making processes, but I doubt, on
average, significantly more than existed elsewhere in the world during the
1950s and 1960s. And in those days, the world trade environment was a lot
different to what it is today - self-sufficiency in major industrial products
was a primary goal of many countries. The fact that for many, particularly the
UK, dollars were in extremely short supply also dictated the development of
local solutions. In the immediate post-WWII era, several European countries
had well-established and successful diesel engine building industries, and in
the climate of the times, it wasn't unreasonable that the scope of these would
be expanded to include locomotive engines. Around 1950, the real magnitude of
the locomotive engine development task may not have been fully appreciated by
anyone other than GM.

Even so, the American diesel locomotive builders were in fact very successful
in the European market in the 1950s and 1960s. GM models were significant, and
in some cases dominated the initial diesel fleets in Belgium, Denmark, Eire,
Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden, and were also found in Spain and Yugoslavia. In
most cases, these GM locomotives were license-builds tailored to specific
local requirements, and with high local content, including much of the
electrical equipment. By such means the dollar value of the locomotives was
minimized. The UK is absent from this list - mid-1950s plans for a GM fleet on
BR were stymied due to lack of dollars. Even had GM gained entry then, I
suspect that self-interested lobbying by local industry (hardly unique to the
UK) may have severely limited its penetration for a few years at least.

Alco sold a lot of diesel locomotives in Greece, Spain and Portugal, both
US-built and license-built.

Baldwin established a license-building program in Belgium - including the
diesel engines - and by this route, was a major contributor to the Belgian
fleet. France also received US-built Baldwins in the late 1940s, but these may
be seen as part of the immediate post-WWII reconstruction effort (along with
the well-known big fleet of 141R steam locos).

The foregoing doesn't quite seem consistent with a systematic, pan-European
anti-American bias.

Further evidence that 1950s Europe embraced American technology when
appropriate is shown by the quite widespread, although not universal, use of
the PCC streetcar; it was license-built and further developed in Belgium long
after production ceased in the USA. Admittedly, Germany and Switzerland
developed their own "equivalents" to the PCC car, perhaps partly out of
chauvinism, but partly to address somewhat different requirements, including
the need for more economical, but lower performance series-parallel control

Less obviously, and perhaps a little surprisingly, in France the SNCF drew
quite heavily on American (as well as Swiss and German) technology in its
early work on 25 kV 50 Hz AC electrification, in which it tried various forms
of locomotive configuration, including ignitron rectifiers and motor-generator
converters, both of which SNCF engineers had seen in the USA, and subsequently
asked local industry to undertake the technology transfer.

The automotive diesel engine analogy may not be so robust under close
examination. The Europeans had an established and experienced industry in this
field, and so, unlike the locomotive case, there was no compelling need to
look elsewhere. (As an indication, bear in mind too, that in the late 1940s
Mack obtained its diesel engine technology from Scania in Sweden - in exchange
for rear-engined citybus technology.) In the UK in the 1950s, the extreme
dollar shortage would have precluded the use of imported American engines.
Note, however, that Cummins set up a factory in Scotland in 1957, and so
started to build a UK market share quite early on. In a two-page advertisement
in the January, 1957 issue of Diesel Railway Traction, it said, "Early in 1957
the first Cummins diesel engines of 150-335 h.p. will be available for
sterling." Cummins' progress in the UK wasn't helped by the patchy reputation
of some of its vee-models of the 1960s, but its major breakthrough came with
the introduction of the L10 in the 1980s, which by design matched the very low
specific fuel consumption of the British Gardner engine, hitherto dominant in
the bus market and the industry reference in respect of fuel consumption. This
was at a time when Gardner had failed to undertake the development work
necessary to secure its future. For many UK operators, fuel economy was the
overarching, maybe the only parameter in engine selection. That also explains
the UK disdain for the Detroit two-cycle engine, which was reckoned to be
about 15% worse on sfc than the Gardner. (Two UK builders, Foden and Commer,
designed and developed two-cycle truck engines in the 1940s/50s, but very few
were sold in the domestic market, again mostly because of fuel consumption
concerns. Rather, they went to export markets where less weighting was applied
to the fuel consumption parameter in engine selection - most ended up in Enzed
and Oz, I think.)

Anyway, I think that leaves us without a confirmed reason for the relative
absence of the GE 7FDL engine in Europe. "European Intransigence" may have
played a part, but it doesn't seem to have been central.

Alco, Baldwin and GM, by one means or another, got a reasonable piece of the
European initial dieselization market, and GM has sustained and expanded its
position. Why, then, is GE, and particularly its 7FDL engine,

I honestly don't know, but here are some issues that may have had a bearing:
GE was later into the market with an integrated (read own engine) product than
Alco, Baldwin or GM. Its export U-series wasn't released until 1956, by which
time the other three had quite a few locos in service across Europe. GE may
have realized that its opportunities in Europe were limited, which is perhaps
why the export U-series was heavily oriented towards Cape and metre gauge
applications with light axle loadings and restricted loading gauges. On the
other hand, quite a few Alco export models of the 1950s, including the DL500,
were designed to the Berne loading gauge. The European market may simply have
been low priority for GE.

Nevertheless, GE had previously established Beaume et Marpent in Belgium as a
license builder, with SEM as electrical equipment supplier. B&M did build a
handful of Alco 244-engined shovel-noses for the Congo in 1954, but I suspect
that once the Alco engine and Belgian content are allowed for, there wasn't
much in it for GE; perhaps not enough to for it to be really aggressive in
pursuing sales.

GE also had long-standing "associations" (the exact nature of which I don't
know) with Alsthom in France and AEI/BTH/MV in the UK. Both were big players
in the electric traction field, both had aspirations in the diesel field as
well, and both used some GE-origin technology. (E.g., most London subway stock
built from the late 1930s to the early 1980s had BTH (GE) PCM camshaft control
equipment - no aversion to American ideas there.) Perhaps GE chose not to
compete directly with either Alsthom or AEI in their respective domestic
markets? (As an aside, it's curious that in the 1960s, AEI/MV built GE-style
electrical equipment for many Australian Goodwin-Alco locomotives, but I don't
think that Goninans-GE itself offered this option on its (unsuccessful) bids
for Australian business in the same period, which could have put it at a
disadvantage in respect of dollar content.)

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Nick Lawford (nick@-) on Tue, Jul 31, 01 at 20:46
Sorry not been watching this thread : didnt realise there had been more

European intransigence is NOT the reason. Very definitely not.

Steve has pretty well demonstrated this is not the case.

No, I am still convinced there was a deliberate staying out of this market by
GE even though its early export U range of the mid 1950s on could have been
adapted in the same way that GM did with their G models.

But here we are in 2001 and despite all the recent re groupings and mergers
and so on across the locomotive industry world wide, there remains just one
FDL powered machine in western Europe (the Blue Tiger), and none in eastern
Europe except one Baltic states order despite the potential repowering market
that GM and Caterpillar have siezed on.

The GM two stroke engines - including the 710 - are less fuel efficient than
any four stroke if you compare a like by like engine on similar ratings of
similar age. (Certain publicity is mis leading as it compares latest
technology of one generic type with an older model of the other generic
type.). All European systems are faced with rising oil prices especially some
of the former eastern bloc lands which have no oil of their own. But where
American power is used, its always the less fuel efficient GM.

The reverse question was also asked in parallel (in another forum) : why no EE
diesel engines in North America. I think it was established from that forum
this was down to technical reasons with crankcase construction of the older EE
K and SV models not meeting FRR (is that what you call it ?) specs.

But the current RK215 and RK270 models (now owned by MAN) would be suitable
yet we do not even see a prototype demonstrator. Why not ?

But then again, the US market is notoriously difficult to penetrate and when
anybody does e.g. Airbus the local concerns e.g. Boeing go running off
whinging to the US government demanding trade barriers when faced with a
better rival product.

No one in the UK did this when EWS a.k.a. Winsconsin Central ordered 250 GMs
right off the drawing board without so much as an invitation to tender to
anyone else.

Within the EU, all public utilities (OK this does not include private railways
like EWS is) are required to publish tenders i.e. for locomotives. GE is quite
capable of obtaining such tender requests as even I can get them !! Yet we
still do not hear of GE doing anything of the sort in Europe, nor anyone
offering the FDL, etc.

A couple of comments on Nick's post
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Wed, Aug 1, 01
at 7:19
(1) The regulatory agency you have in mind may be the FRA (Federal Railroad
Administration), which does set technical (particularly safety related)

(2) The openness of European railway markets, evidenced by the EWS order for
GM locomotives, is very recent. When British Rail was beginning to dieselize
in the 1950s, many of its technical people would have liked to buy from
American builders, and (I think) proposals were received from GM, GE and Alco.
The decision to go with British designs was almost certainly a political one.
(Though the brief account that O.S. Nock gives on pp. 8-9 of vol. III of his
"British Locomotives of the 20th Century" puts a good face on it.)

(3) American railroads seem to be happy buying (mainline) locomotives from the
two current locomotive builders. The failure of such would-be entrants to the
business and Morrison-Knudsen probably discourages people like MAN from even

(PS: Thanks for your post! As the originator of the string, I'm rather pleased
with how interesting the discussion has become!)

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Nick Lawford (nick@-) on Wed, Aug 1, 01 at 12:55
FRA : yes thats the one.

While it may be true the technical people could have lived with GM, the
operational people would not. What GM proposed was effectively a
one-design-will-do-all medium sized machine and their idea was if you want
more power, then lash them up. AFAIK not even any outline plans of what GM
were proposing ever appeared in the public domain but one could speculate from
a date of around 1954/1955 it was a 16-567 powered CoCo (or maybe A1AA1A) of
c.1500 hp possibly similar to the Nohab production but it is known electrics
would have been by Crompton Parkinson and the plant would have been near
Southampton. The 1950s operators, rather than the engineers, were rather set
in their ways in that they had defined various 'types' orginally three [A B C]
revised to four [1 2 3 4] more or less based on steam traction equivalents.
Apparently GM was not willing to proliferate models and only interested in
bulk builds.

Anyway, thats digression away from GE. AFAIK GE itself did not offer anything,
being content to let its UK associate companies British Thomson Houston and
Metropolitan Vickers prepare their own designs. Speculation on my part but the
likeness in some ways of the BTH Type 1 D8200 series BoBo to the GE U6B and
other early U export models, and the oddball M-V Type 2 D5700 CoBo to the
curious GE shovelnose devices supplied to Latin America and elsewhere is
uncanny. Almost as if the UK design offices were copied the parent US designs
for anglicisation and fitting with UK power units. The history of BTH and M-V
is inexorably linked with GE of the US (long before GEC of the UK took them
over after a series of mergers) but it is known that both were licensees of a
number of GE items. BTH already worked with Paxman but the M-V using the
Crossley engine with 20/20 hindsight seems lunacy. Perhaps (again speculation)
they had planned to fit a C-B engine but it just was not developed enough.
I agree the GM order from EWS was due to the more open market - the point I
was making was that the open market was not taken up. There was no tender
process : no other maker was in with a chance. With 250 locos in that order
alone and the model ordered now in smaller batches by other operators in the
UK (up to a possible total of 67) and Europe (14 definite, 42 possible), I
can't believe GE could not be interested in some 300-400 machines especially
as it is involved with the FDL powered 'Blue Tiger' concept inconjunction with
what was then ADtranz.

OK having now wandered away from the thread origin of FDL history I'll stop
throwing in digressions.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: ge13031 (lamontdc@-) on Thu, Aug 2, 01 at 7:55
This has certainly turned into quite a history lesson. I have driven by the
building in Mount Vernon, OH with the big COOPER on the side and wondered if
it had anything to do with "CB", now I know! Maybe you have read some posts in
other places mentioning GE13031 & GE13032. Built 9/41 they were 100 ton
centercabs built for Monongehela Connecting RR as 800hp locomotives. Each was
powered by two CB ENL-6 engines and featured GE's leaky, slantsided high
visibility cabs. In 1957, 13031 was transferred to the Cuyahoga Valley Ry in
Cleveland who had it factory rebuilt at Erie. At this rebuilding, the CB's
were replaced with Cummins VT1710's and the motors and generators upgraded to
940hp. At the completion of the rebuild, 13031 was given the same motors and
gearing as an Alco S1/RS1, complete with motor blowers and transition. Despite
the fact that the gearing was set for 60mph, GE put a top speed of 40mph on
the locomotive in the instruction book (standard for GE industrial switchers).
With transition working the locomotive would tend to get away from the unwary
engineer the end result of which was that the sidings in a steel plant became
100ft too short for a safe stop. The higher horsepower, despite the addition
of an extra 10 tons of added weight, made for a slippery start even with the
"soft start" relays. In 1969, 13031, was purchased by USS Lorain Works and
rewired to become their first remote controlled locomotive and served as the
Bar Mills charging locomotive. In 1991, 13031 was sold to myself and
transferred to the L&WV in Wellington, OH where it is undergoing an upgrade
for FRA compliance. I have often wondered if 13031 & 13032 were some of GE's
first attempt at building road switchers as they were really much more than a
steel plant needed for a switcher.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve P (steve719@-) on Thu, Aug 2, 01 at 16:36
Lots of sub-topics in this thread!

I think by now that we have collectively at least elicited the basics of the
GE 7FDL/CB FVL engine history, although some gaps of detail remain to be
filled. One item mentioned early on is that this engine shares its bore and
stroke, 9 x 10½ inches, with the Alco 244 and 251. However, in most other
respects, I believe that the GE/CB and Alco engines are quite different in
construction. It could be that both Alco and CB came to the same conclusion as
to the optimum size of cylinder to facilitate handling of components
on-and-off the engine with the engine still in-frame. Or that CB, which seems
to have started work on the FVL a bit later than Alco did on the 244, may have
looked at Alco's numbers and said 'that looks right, let's not re-invent the
wheel'. Bear in mind that the later FVBL edition appears to have been pitched
to equal the Alco 251 in mep. EMD had earlier selected the 8½ x 10 inch
cylinder as the largest that could reasonably be handled without special
lifting gear, but some expansion was unavoidable for the four-cycle case if
impossible (with the technology of the day) meps were to be avoided. With
hindsight, one might say that Alco was a tad too ambitious with the initial
specific output of the 244. Interestingly, in the UK, English Electric had
decided in the early 1930s that a 10 x 12 inch cylinder was the optimum
trade-off point for a four-cycle railroad engine, so opinions did differ.

The absence of the GE 7FDL in Europe remains without a satisfactory answer,
though; perhaps one day one might emerge from the corridors of GE. I doubt
that GE stood much chance at all with EWS, whose WC parentage surely
guaranteed that GM had the inside track. Then the EWS buy had a cascade effect
with smaller operators choosing to buy the same loco. I'm not sure how GE
might address this other than by adopting a 'loss-leader' approach with one or
other of the operators, paying for all of the type approval work and
guaranteeing 'better-than'GM' performance. In that it could involve a delayed
return, it might not fit GE's current business style. I think it was said
earlier in this thread that GEs often have a hard time in maintenance shops
that have been weaned on GMs, so there's that aspect to be addressed as well.

I've recently read that in Australia, the Queensland Railways (minority) GEs
get short shrift in the shops as compared with the (majority) GMs. However, it
can go the other way. I've heard it said, although I've never been able to
verify it, that in South Africa, the Spoornet people prefer the GEs over the
GMs. And in Australia again, in the Tasrail fleet, historically EE, the recent
GM incursions, the result of WC influence, are not much liked, either in the
shops or on the roads. So, go figure!

Re the initial British Rail diesel fleet, assigning the choice of local
builders over say GM, etc., as a political one that was technically perverse
may be painting with too broad a brush. Political, yes, but really a weighed
political decision that reflects politics as the 'art of the possible'. At the
time, mid-1950s, and as I think I mentioned earlier in this thread, there was
a severe dollar shortage in the UK - in fact in the whole sterling area - that
limited imports from the USA to justified special needs. Also, the post-WWII
export drive was still very much alive, part of the effort, I think, to retire
the UK's rather large war debt. The local industry argued that it had both the
engine-building and locomotive-building capacity to easily meet BR's needs,
and that it needed the 'shop window' of the domestic market to further its
export sales. Neither BR nor the British industry excluded the possibility of
licensing foreign designs of engines and/or locomotives, and in fact the
engine builders Sulzer, MAN and Maybach all gained business by this route.
Thus it would have been very hard to create a case for the allocation of
scarce dollars for the acquisition of the diesel locomotives, or even diesel
engines. [Anyway, BOAC had used up all of the available dollars in buying
Constellations, Stratocruisers, DC-7Cs and Boeing 707-436s - all technically
justifiable, though. :)) ] BR also had shop capacity that could be assigned to
building diesel locos, and that it chose to do so might be attributed to
employment politics.

Although GM was prepared to allow licence-building of its locos in the UK,
with Crompton Parkinson electrical equipment, it insisted that the diesel
engines themselves be built in the USA, and naturally, paid for in dollars.
Maybe this was prudent given the vagaries of license-building, but it was
another obstacle to its entry to the UK market at that time, along with the
operational objections to its medium-power MU proposal. Today, this may seem
like a contrived objection, but in respect of passenger operations, it wasn't
at the time. Terminal platform length was often restricted, and a double
locomotive consist, necessarily going in 'head-first' at journey's end, could
mean one less revenue-generating passenger car. (With very high platforms and
often a complex and busy 'throat' just beyond them, the possibility of
passengers embarking/disembarking beyond the platform itself was a
non-starter.) Also, in a land where fuel economy was and is important, the
incremental cost of hauling around the extra weight of two locomotives was
looked upon with disfavor. And adhesion weight wasn't an issue, as any
locomotive of sufficient power would likely be heavier than the value
considered necessary for the heaviest and fastest passenger consists - about
80 long tons I think.

Actually, BR misjudged (on the low side) the power output required for its
fast passenger services, and by about 1960 was looking for a single-engined
unit of about 2600 hp (tractive) within a total weight of 114 long tons. The
ubiquitous/notorious class 47 emerged as the result (although the EE and BRCW
offerings were probably technically better), and there are probably more
irrational politics associated with this decision than with BR's original
decision to buy locally. Still, it’s interesting to speculate as to what the
American builders might have offered against this specification if invited to
do so. It does not escape notice that Alco, with its 16-251, and GE with its
7FDL-16, could have about met the power specification, which brings us back to
the 7FDL. I don't know whether the door was at all open to American builders
in this case - probably not - but for fun, visualize a longish GE double-ended
shovel-nose (a bit like the Indonesian models, but C-C not C-2-C) built to the
tight BR loading gauge (doable, because some of the Cape/metre gauge models
would have fitted), and housing a 7FDL-16 (assumed doable, because the Alco
12-244 and CB FVL-12 both fitted.)

With hindsight, one can say that BR made an error in not buying a modest fleet
(say 100) of fairly standard American locos to serve as a two-way performance
benchmark. By two-way I mean both as a target for the local builders, and as a
measure of its workshop practices, in that with a known and international
loco, it could make direct comparisons with other railways.

More generally, and simply as an observational rather than a judgmental
comment, when one looks at the 1950s/1960s/1970s dieselization on a worldwide
basis, it doesn't seem that technical and even operational considerations were
generally paramount. Rather, look for factors such as Export-Import bank
financing favoring Alco/GE/GM, Commonwealth Preference favoring British
builders, tied foreign aid favoring donor country builders and so on. Too, the
World Bank had its list of preferred suppliers. I think that GM was on it, but
I'm not sure about GE. Some Japanese builders, like Mitsubishi were there, but
to the best of my knowledge, none from the UK. Again, go figure!

At any time, I suspect that the US domestic diesel locomotive market would
have been difficult for foreign builders to enter and stay in. The aviation
parallel has already been mentioned - European builders had but sporadic and
usually non-repeating success until Airbus sold the A300B to Eastern Airlines
- and look at the hoops it had to go through to do that (again an
observational, not a judgmental comment). EAL wasn't taking any chances,
basically a rational business position whatever other motives might be
imputed. Of course, Airbus' initiative paid off, and by now, it may consider
that it has gotten a good - if late - return on its initial investment in the
US market. But today's business conditions - the constraints of the public
capital market or whatever - make it less likely that a European builder of
expensive transportation hardware would take on such a long term and
potentially risky project, given that it would have to compete head-on with
two large and established local builders. (More specialized areas, like
transit equipment and electric traction may be different, though.) And as said
earlier, GE might now feel the same way about an entry into the European loco

Back in the 1950s/60s, when the British and European diesel loco industries
were getting moving, the longer term view may have been feasible, but there
was then overcapacity in the US, with the smaller builders exiting the market.
What chance then for a 'foreigner' like English Electric when Baldwin, then
F-M, then Alco successively left the business. GE, a huge domestic company,
had a difficult enough road to hoe to get a decent market share. It had to do
the 'final' development of the 7FDL 'on the fly' at a time when this modus
operandi was less appreciated by operators than in the early 567 era. Anyway,
that neatly brings us right back to the 7FDL, ending my digression (my defence
is that I didn't start it) and where I'll stop.
Have fun!

RE:The last three posts
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Sat, Aug 4, 01
at 2:47
GE 13031: Thanks for the history. I've always liked the looks of the big
MonCon centercabs: they are "styling prototypes" for a lot of GE industrials
up into the 1950s, and for the 44 tonner.

Steve P: Thanks for a typically informative (and judicious) post! I have
nothing to add.

Nick Lawford: You obviously know more about the aborted "E.M.D.ization" of
B.R. in the 1950s-- the very short section of the Nock book I mentioned is
about all I know.

I'd argue that -- politics and dollar reserves aside -- dieselizing with
American locomotives (or at least American engines) would have been CLEARLY a
better way for B.R. to go than the "Buy British" dieselization policy they
actually followed. I don't think this string on this forum is the right place
to discuss it though. To start the debate I have made a first posting
(describing the possible E.M.D.s for B.R. and comparing them to B.R. "first
generation" diesel classes) to a new string, "An EMD BR (Alternative
History)," on the E.M.D. forum: may I invite you to join me
there? I'm sure I will learn a lot if you do!

(PS: Risking rudeness to stimulate discussion, i have called the British heavy
engineering industry "incompetent." I'm not a general Anglophobe, and I hope
no one is offended. (And I suspect that WC's engineering people said a lot
worst when, having established EW&S, they found out just what an elderly Class
47 was like! (grin))

Here is a link that might be useful: E.M.D. Forum

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Jon (jons@-) on Wed, Aug 8, 01 at 10:48
One thing that has been touched on but not really considered in these
discussions is that during the 50's and 60's and even today GE has had
partnerships with various companies in Europe and the UK. Usually these
partnerships are written with a no compete clause. So GE could not legally
compete in Europe or the UK and its partners likewise could not compete in
North America. The partnership agreement with ALCO is why GE had to first
break its partnership with ALCO, and then wait a period of time specified in
the original agreement. Only after both of those legal requirements were
satisfied could GE pursue the US business.

GE's use of the ALCO engines in its largest export locomotives in the 40's and
50's might have been part of the partnership agreement with ALCO. This could
have been ALCO's way of discouraging GE from developing a competing diesel
engine. Of course this is speculation by me. I have not seen the agreement
between GE and ALCO. And since the partnership was dissolved nearly 50 years
ago I doubt that any of the documentation has survived.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve P (steve719@-) on Wed, Aug 8, 01 at 14:48
That's a good point Jon, and as you say, it may be hard to verify today.
Funnily enough, even though he is writing from a business perspective,
Churella makes no mention of GE's having to wait out a no-compete period in
his current (September 2001) Trains magazine article. Maybe that's because the
information really is lost.

Anyway, we can but speculate that no-compete agreements with AEI (MV and BTH)
in the UK, Alsthom in France, and Italian GE in Italy for example precluded
GE's direct entry to those markets. Quite frequently in those days (1950s), a
no-compete agreement executed in the UK would also be valid for the British
Commonwealth countries, but evidently not in this case, as GE did offer its
own-design locos to railways in Australia and New Zealand, and actually sold
some in Australia.

It could be too that although those European GE associates had much access to
GE technologies and designs, they were in no way obligated to follow GE's
precepts. Thus, a look at say 1950s BTH and Alsthom diesel locomotives does
reveal the 'hand of GE' in some of the electrical aspects, but hardly at all
in a general sense.

Perhaps the relationships formed a complex web. For example, in October, 1955,
GE sold its controlling interest in Australian General Electric (AGE) to
Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) in the UK, who the renamed it as
Australian Electrical Industries (also AEI, let's call it AEI-Oz for clarity).
AGE had built locally, and AEI-Oz continued to build locally, GE-design
traction motors for Australian applications, both GE and Alco.

Then in November, 1959, Alco and AEI (UK) came to an agreement that,
theoretically at least, allowed AEI to collaborate with it (Alco) in the
design, manufacture and sale of diesel-electric locomotives of 900 hp and
above, for world markets. In practice, this meant that AEI built and supplied
GE-style electrical equipment for fitment to Alco locomotives, and as far as I
know only some of the Australian-built Goodwin-Alcos were so-fitted, with
AEI-Oz naturally participating.

Whether GE was involved in developing the Alco-AEI agreement I don't know;
it's conceivable that AEI's activities in this regard were already covered by
its existing agreement/arrangement with GE. How closely AEI followed GE
electrical equipment designs is not readily apparent, but it does seem that
the AEI 253 traction motor didn't have a close GE counterpart. Nevertheless,
AEI-Oz continued to supply GE model traction motors alongside the
Alco-approved AEI models.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Nick Lawford (nick@-) on Fri, Aug 10, 01 at 15:49
Good point. Must admit to not thinking about a specific "no competition"
clause. This kind of clause these days tends to rattle the cages of EU
commissioners in Brussels where European competetion is concerned but such
things didnt exist in 1950s and 1960s. But "no competition" between GE and EE
although wholly independant may explain a lot! Ohh to look at board room
minutes. Although the drawing office may be more interesting.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Tom Gerbracht (trg6000@-) on Wed, Sep 5, 01 at 10:02
I just found this forum...usually post on the New York Central forum.

I just retired from GE after 36 years.

The FDL stands for "Fuel Diesel Locomotive" use. (We also have FDM's, which
are marine applications, and FDS's, for ship board use.)

My original job was a statistician in the GE Erie "Diesel Engine Project". My
boss was Don Wonderly. I remember the name Jim Rhoads but do not remember
meeting him.

Early U boats had a lot of problems, mostly engine. The electricals and the
locomotive mechanicals were better than the competition's, which was EMD. I do
recall that we had no permanent tooling for a lot of the carbody and there
were leaks around the doors, etc.

The GE FDL is not similar in any way to any Alco...there are basic differences
in the cylinder/piston/rod. The blocks are (were) both cast but of course are
also completely different.

My understanding is that the selection of the CB as the basis for the GE (and
it was a GE) design was the large main bearing area provided by the
articulated rod arrangement, giving this particular design the longest
potential life span as uprating in HP was required.

This assumption has been proven to be correct.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Allen Hazen (a.hazen@-) on Thu, Sep 6, 01
at 1:58
Tome Gerbracht--

Welcome to the GE forum! If you have anything from your years at GE tht you
want to tell us, I can name at least ONE person who will be fascinated!

As for the meaning of FDL... The ancestral C-B design (as used, for example,
on the GE 70-tonner) was the FWL, and I'd always assumed that "F" was
C-B-speak for the cylinder dimensions, given the designations of other C-B
engines used in pre-war GE switchers. But that was just my guess.

Do you have a ballpark figure for what proportion of GE's production of FD_
diesel engines go for locomotive, marine, and stationary applications? Some
time back someone, in some string on this forum, gave some figures which I
took to indicate that something like 20% of the 752 electric motors produced
over the years have been for non-locomotive applications.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: ge13031 (lamontdc@-) on Thu, Sep 6, 01 at 7:24
Welcome Tom; I agree with Allen, it will be most interesting to get some
"inside" info From GE. My signature is the serial number of my GE locomotive.
As I am in the process of upgrading the beast for FRA compliance, I
alternately bless and curse GE as I crawl around inside the thing trying to
figure why they did what they did.

RE: FDL Origins
Posted by: Steve P (steve719@-) on Tue, Dec 18, 01 at 15:03
I've recently come across a letter from GE to the Editor of 'Diesel Railway
Traction' magazine, and published in its October, 1962 issue.

The GE letter was from a Mr. R.A. Williamson, Manager Export Locomotive Sales,
and was dated August 20, 1962. It was in response to an article on
'Cooper-Bessemer Engines' in the May, 1962 issue of DRT.

It's worth quoting the key parts of that letter, as it seems to provide a
brief overview of the FDL history, looking back from 1962.

Firstly, the background to the CB-to-GE transition:

"General Electric and the Cooper-Bessemer Corporation have been cooperating
for more than 20 years to furnish constantly improved diesel engines for
railway locomotive service. As the result of technical agreements, General
Electric began intensive engine development work about ten years ago and in
1954-55 installed a diesel engine laboratory at General Electric's Erie plant.
In 1958, General Electric assumed design responsibility for the FDL locomotive
diesel engines of 9 in. by 10½ in. bore and stroke, which as you know are
produced in the V configurations of 8, 12 and 16 cylinders, and these engines
now carry a General Electric nameplate and warranty. Furthermore, erection and
test of engines will shortly be undertaken in the General Electric Erie

Secondly, a comment upon power settings:

"Since the start of our programme in 1954, these engines (now totalling well
over one million h.p. and known as GE type FDL) have been operating on
railways around the world at the same maximum engine speed and, except for
some very minor variations, the same fuel rack settings as used today. General
Electric initially offered the engine ratings up to 5,000 ft. altitude at 113
deg. F. ambient temperature. The GE FDL-8 and FDL-12 engines on this basis
were rated 1,320 and 1,980 gross horsepower respectively. At UIC conditions
(i.e. 29 in. Hg atmospheric pressure and 68 deg. F. or 20 deg. C. ambient
temperature) the same diesels develop without fuel rack and maximum r.p.m.
increases, 1,420 and 2,150 gross horsepower respectively. The 16-cylinder
engine likewise rates 2,750 gross horsepower under UIC conditions. GE has not
increased FDL diesel engine ratings, but rather restated the former standard
ratings to conform to the UIC conditions now more universally accepted. We
think it of some importance that GE type FDL engines have more than six years
operating experience in main-line railway service at the same power ratings."

Thirdly, a comment upon engine changes since 1954:

"Although major changes in the engine have not been necessary over the past
eight years, naturally improvements in design and metallurgy have been made,
increasing product reliability as well as improving accessibility and ease of

Mr. Williamson then enumerates some of the changes as "..(a) main and big-end
bearings are tri-metal (copper-lead, tin overlay, steel-backed) instead of
whitemetal; (b) pistons are of Meehanite (ductile alloy cast iron) rather than
malleable iron; and (c) crankpins are sold, not hollow-bored."

Basis the content of Mr. Williamson's letter, and to address Allen Hazen's
original question, one might say that the origins of the GE FDL, in a
narrowish sense, are found in GE's project, started circa 1952, to develop and
upgrade the CB F-size engine, and that the resultant engine first saw the
light of day in 1954, albeit wearing a Cooper-Bessemer FVBL nameplate. The GE
FDL nameplate came later, maybe coinciding with some progressive changes, but
not with any "step" change. I.e., you could say that the FVBL and the initial
FDL were one and the same engine. The 16-cylinder model seems to have carried
a GE nameplate from the start.

In a broader sense, GE seems to have been involved at some level with the CB
F-engine right from its inception. As has been noted earlier in this thread,
GE had installed both the FW6L and FVL12 variants in its locomotives since the
late 1940s.

The in-line six was included in the upgrading program, and as the CB FWB6L, it
was installed in GE's U9B and U9C export models, at 990/900 hp (1075 hp UIC, I
guess.) But it appears that it never became part of the GE FDL series.

There's an interesting sidebar question here - were the late 70-tonners (and
derivatives) fitted with the FW6L engine more-or-less in its original form, or
did they have a derated FWB6L?

--- End of original discussion ---
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re: Grove City

Postby alasgw » Tue Aug 14, 2007 11:52 pm

GE's Grove City plant opened in 1971 with approximately 110,000 square feet. From 1971 to 1983 it did not manufacture engines -- it was an engine rebuild shop and manufactured components for GE engines.

Three things lead me to believe that the GE location in Grove City is different from the Cooper-Bessemer location:
1) based on the time line of the earlier discussions it seems that the transfer of production to GE took place much earlier than 1971
2) production of the FDL took place at Erie until 1983 when production was transferred to Grove City
3) if it was the original C-B plant that means that GE transferred many of the production lines to Erie (only to transfer them back years later)

Also note that I've been to the plant twice and it looks to be of late '60s/early '70s architecture.
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Postby Allen Hazen » Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:15 am

Thank you (and Steve Palmano) for retrieving this string! I did a lot of posting to it, but re-reading it now it is clear that my main contribution was to stimulate people who knew more than I did to tell me about it.
(And thanks also for posting the link to the video of the two U18B's in operation! Good-looking locomotives.)

As I recall, I posted a few questionsd about the Grove City plant on the "old" GE forum. I can't remember the details, but I think various things a number of people said in reply convinced me that the current GE Grove City plant was NOT the old C-B plant. ... Your remark about the architectural style means we now have physical evidence to confirm that (grin!).
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GE Diessel Engine

Postby Lee Johnson » Tue Aug 21, 2007 11:37 pm

The GE diesel engine facility in Grove City, PA is not the old C-B plant. See the following message I posted to the GE Locomotives Yahoo list in 12/04:

I do not have dates at my finger tips, but I can give the sequence of events, and answer most of the questions.

With the beginning of U25B production, Cooper-Bessemer was building new production diesel engines for GE-Erie with all assembly and production testing done at the C-B Grove City plant, and then trucking the engines to Erie. At this time, the serial number plate on the engine said " Built for General Electric by Cooper-Bessemer." When engine failures made it necessary for GE to rebuild the engine under warranty, C-B also performed this work in the same area as the new engines were being built. About 1963/1964 time frame, GE moved new production engine assembly to Erie. C-B was still producing their parts for GE, and items that C-B purchased were then purchased directly by GE. The engine rebuilds were still done by C-B in Grove City.

Little by little, GE started doing machining on items in Erie, while C-B was now supplying castings to GE. Eventually all new production engines were built (not just assembled) in Erie. In the meantime, the engine rebuilding was also moved to Erie leaving C-B to just provide raw castings of the engine main frame, cylinder jacket, and a few other minor pieces.

Now fast forward a number of years (the number I cannot remember) when locomotive sales and production increased. To gain production capacity in the diesel engine line, GE looked around for a place to move the engine rebuild line. They settled on Grove City as it was on the B&LE for rail movement; GC was basically at the crossroads of two Interstate routes for truck shipments; it was only about an hour drive from Erie; and there was already an experienced labor force to pick from since there were some laid off C-B people in the area. GE found an existing building that fit their needs on the other end of town from the C-B plant. Since Grove City is not very large, it was probably about a 5 minute drive between the two facilities.

Now if we fast forward again to the mid to late 1970s, GE was planning a major expansion of locomotive production capacity. One of the ways to gain capacity at Erie, was to now move the new diesel engine production out of Eire to the GE engine facility in Grove City--not the C-B facility. To do this, GE had to increase the size of the engine facility in Grove City by 3 times. When this was accomplished, the only diesel engine facility left in Erie was the testing facility for engineering testing. The engineering diesel engine test facility was always in Erie, but had been in two different locations within the Erie plant.

Hope this answers most of the questions. If I ever find time to dig out the information, I will try to put time lines on the above.

Lee Johnson
Walnut Creek, CA
Lee Johnson

Postby Allen Hazen » Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:54 am

Lee Johnson---
Thanks for reposting your message about the history of Grove City. I'm sure I read it at "GElocos" when you posted it initially (was it in fact a reply to a question I had posted there?) but obviously I hadn't remembered the details! ... You mention castings, saying that C-B continued to supply castings to GE after GE had taken over most of the other work involved in engine construction. Does GE now do its own foundry work? Does it still buy any engine components from C-B? Or are engine castings (the main frame being the main one!) now outsourced to another subcontractor?

(Now you know the punishment for giving good answers-- you get asked more questions!)
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Postby Lee Johnson » Thu Aug 23, 2007 1:21 am

Allen Hazen,

GE has been purchasing engine castings (main frame, front end cover, and cylinders) from outside sources other than C-B since sometime in the 1970s. GE does not do any diesel engine casting at the Erie facility. Although there was a foundry at Erie at one time, they produced castings for the Motor & Generator Dept.

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson

Re: Origins of the GE FDL engine

Postby Leo_Ames » Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:33 am

Reading this over, there's some inaccuracies mentioned. The USS Suffolk County (One of 10 DeSoto County LST's) used 6 Fairbanks-Morse OP diesel engines powering two shafts. Six FM's geared to a single or dual shafts was a a engine arrangement that was quite popular in merchant and Naval vessels of the 1950s through early 1970s where speed wasn't a necessity, before the fuel crisis ended its popularity.

There was never a LST with a GE diesel for main propulsion (Though GE's saw some use for bow thrusters). All US built LST's either used reciprocating steam engines, geared steam turbines, General Motors 16-278A or 567 engines, or Alco 251's (In the case of the final class of LST built in the 60s). So you can wipe that from the development history of what became the FDL.
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Re: Origins of the GE FDL engine

Postby tomjohn » Mon Jun 29, 2009 10:17 am

I often wondered about this topic , now I know thank you.

Re: Origins of the GE FDL engine

Postby Allen Hazen » Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:49 am

Leo Ames--
Interesting. I will try to check the library to see if I can find a source for my belief that the Suffolk County had C-B (not, at that stage of the design's history, GE) engines. Is your statement that it had F-M engines based on a published source or first-hand observation? (Lots of reference books-- even good ones-- have errors, and I might have hit one!)
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Re: Origins of the GE FDL engine

Postby Allen Hazen » Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:44 am

Leo Ames--
Having made rude remarks about the unreliability of reference books, I suppose I shouldn't be citing "Wikipedia," but...
All seven DeSoto County class LST (1171 and 1173-1178: 1172 was canceled before construction) have individual "Wikipedia" articles (find one: there is a link to a "Wikipedia" list of LST from which you can get the others). The engine specifications are, maybe, revealing. All are specified as having six diesel engines on two shafts with adjustable blades, but the make of engines differs. 1171 is listed as having Fairbanks-Morse wngines, 1173-1176 as having Nordburg engines (I've never hear of that make, but then therre are lots of things I've never heard of), 1177 as having Cooper-Bessemer engines, and (what just may be the key to the puzzle!) LST 1178, the U.S.S. Wood County, as having Cooper-Bessemer engines replaced in 1969 with Fairbanks-Morse.

So: ***SPECULATION*** with no supporting evidence: the class was built with a pre-FDL 16-cylinder engine, but the U.S. Navy (either because the engine had problems or just because it was a minority make-- I have no knowledge of this engine model being used on any other U.S. Navy ships-- and so a maintenance/spares nuisance) re-engined most of them. Is this a possibility given what you know?
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Re: Origins of the GE FDL engine

Postby MEC407 » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:59 am

Here is a page on the USS Wood County (LST 1778), from an official US Navy web site:

Relevant sections:

During this reserve period, Wood County operated in a restricted operating status and with a reduced manning level, due to the problems asesociated with the ship's main propulsion system—the six Cooper-Bessemer diesel engines. ...

On 2 September 1969, Wood County proceeded to the Home Brothers Shipyard, Newport News, Va., to have the six Cooper-Bessemer engines replaced by a like number of Fairbanks-Morse diesels. ...
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Re: Origins of the GE FDL engine

Postby Leo_Ames » Tue Jun 30, 2009 2:12 pm

Interesting, I guess I wasn't as familiar with the class as I thought I was. I'm guessing because I knew 1 member of the class used 6 FM's, that I incorrectly thought the entire class did, which I shouldn't of done. Next time I'll do some research rather than go off memories so I don't incorrectly try to correct a statement.

Sounds like the Navy tried a variety of engines out to see which they preferred, and decided to stick with Fairbanks Morse.

Are you sure the make wasn't Nordberg? The Nordberg Manufacturing Co's engines were popular in marine applications several decades ago. A lot of vessels in Great Lakes service recieved Nordberg's back in the 1960s. Were those listed as recieving these engines reengined with FM's as well?

Your theory sounds logical. The logistics of maintaining a spare parts inventory for a minority make engine that apparantly didn't suit the Navy's needs well enough to see further use in later vessels sounds like good reasoning. Easier to replace it than to train sailers to maintain a engine that only exist in a handful of vessels or stock parts at overseas bases, underway replinishment vessels, tenders, etc., to support them.

Edit - Didn't see the above post, sounds like it was replaced due to operating issues. Wouldn't surprise me also if simplying logistics to support the class in service played a role in making the reengining decision more viable.
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Re: Origins of the GE FDL engine

Postby Allen Hazen » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:48 pm

Leo Ames--
The "W" articles on DeSoto County class LST's all spell it "Nordburg," but I suspect you are right that it is Nordberg. (And that all the "W" articles were done by one enthusiastic editor who misremembered the spelling!) ... Googling to see who the engine manufacturer might have been, I found a site (affiliated with an organisation with "Old Engines" in its title) that showed scans of some Nordberg brochures: one was for their "Series 13" engine: roughly in the size range of a Baldwin locomotive engine (13.5" by 16.5" cylinders), available in 6 and 8 cylinder in-line configurations at a range of power ratings that include what we want, definitely used in at least some marine applications. ... I don't KNOW of any rail applications of Nordberg engines, but....!
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