• General Electric "doodlebugs"

  • Discussion about RDC's, "doodlebugs," gas-electrics, etc.
Discussion about RDC's, "doodlebugs," gas-electrics, etc.
  by ErieAtlantic7597
I don't know if this is common knowledge or not, but here goes. The very same company that made themselves famous by manufactureing washers, refrigerators, and light bulbs, was one of the very first of the pioneers in the internal combustion rail car movement. In 1905.
Even when I was an employee of General Electric back in the sixtys and early seventy in New Jersey, I was not aware of this particular history of the company.
GE acquired a bagage car, a Woolsey automobile engine from England,
tied one their own generators to the engine and powered one truck. That was the beginning of a flood that ultimately covered over the steam locomotive.
I believe these were seventy foot cars, which could carry passengers and bagage. Like doodlebugs of other builders of the time, these cars served mostly in branch line service. General Electric stayed in the gas electric business until around 1918.
There was produced a number of double gas engined locomotives also.
GE continued to build industrial diesels for many years. However, they never got back in the "doodlebug" business.

Take care,


  by kinlock
In 1904, the General Electric Company's Railway Engineering Department recognized the potential of the gas-electric car.

The best engine for their specifications was built by Wolseley of Great Britain. The Delaware & Hudson lent GE a Barney & Smith combine for experimenting. An ALCO motor truck was added on the front. Two 75 h.p. traction motors and a 600-volt generator were added. Once the huge engine was added, the baggage compartment was filled and the car weighed 68 tons. A trial run from Schenectady to Saratoga showed D&H 1000 (sometimes referred to as GE No. 1) could go 40 mph.

The designers decided their next car needed: light weight, greater power,
single end control, and a more dependable engine. The engine was the most difficult to accomplish. In 1906, a Gas Engine Department was formed. A new V8 was developed that required an explosive charge to start. It weighed 3,900 pounds as opposed to the 7-ton Wolseley. GE No. 2 was an all-steel from Wason Mfg. Co. of Springfield, MA. The final weight was less than half that of car no. 1. This car trialed on the Lehigh Valley; Chicago Great Western; Dan Patch Lines; and the D&H. It was extensively damaged by hitting a locomotive on the Rapid City, Black Hills & Western. Car 2 was later sold to the Dan Patch Lines where it was destroyed in a 1914 fire.

A third GE demonstrator was built which incorporated even more improvements such as a 125 h.p. engine with compressed air starter. Car 3 eventually traveled 50,000 miles in demonstration service.

An attempt was made in 1909 to break into the street railway business. New York's Third Avenue Railway Company had several "horse-powered" lines. Not wanting the expense of electrification, they had a "bake off" between the GE car and a battery powered one. The battery won.

By 1909, orders were coming in. Southern; Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh; Frisco; and Dan Patch Lines. Many improvements were made by Hermann Lemp. In 1910-11, the Gas Engine Department moved to a new plant in Erie, PA.

Before production ceased in 1917, almost 100 motorcars were built. Several were oddballs. One for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie was only 42 feet long (as opposed to 70-foot normal). It was designed to pull a trailer. One was built as a line car for the New York, Westchester & Boston. It was the only GE (except no. 1) without a Wason body. Some cars built for southern railroads had two doors - to comply with "Jim Crow" laws.

Operating costs ranged from 12 to 17 cents/mile. Cost of the cars was between $20,000 and $30,000. They usually ran with a crew of two (not withstanding labor agreements requiring more). Don't forget though gasoline only cost 7 cents/gallon.

My source: Motor Cars to Diesels (mostly General Electric)
http://www.lakemirabel.com/Railroad/Tro ... #MotorCars

  by CarterB
  by ErieAtlantic7597

Thanks for the enlightenment on the subject of the General Electric
"doodlebugs". You seem to have done some study on the subject. I, on the other hand only had my memory to go by. Back in the early seventy, Trains mag did a very complete four month running, story about the demise of the steam locomotive. And, if my memory serves me right, they started out with the GEs.
Thanks again for the very interesting information. If I live long enough, I would love to build one of these cars in 1 1/2 ich scale. One of the seventy foot versions.

Take care,

Bruce (ErieAtlantic7597)