• How hard would it be to build a locomotive?

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

Moderator: Alcoman

  by wess
I was wanting to know how hard it would be to build a locomotive with an ALCO prime mover. Before someone starts slamming about money and all that, then take it from the start. needs, Licenseing and all that. All negatives aside. Just tell it plain and simple.

  by 498
If the engine will not meet the upcoming emissions requirements, it will be very difficult to build the locomotive.

  by alcodude
Last edited by alcodude on Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by MEC407
alcodude wrote:If it isn't equipped with either a 567, a 645 or a 710 prime mover, it isn't a real locomotive!
That's rather funny, coming from someone whose alias is "alcodude"!

  by Ol' Loco Guy
You buffs are a laugh a minute. Do you know that GE spent about 300 million bucks to bring the Evolution line to market ?

How naive you sound when you discount the issue of funding !!!! What banker in his right mind would loan any outfit money toward such a speculative proposition ? What CEO would risk his a_s to do such a thing !

Where would this venture get the personnel to staff such a venture ? They would have to raid GE, EMD and perhaps a few other firms to get the staff.
And who would give up a career with a market leader to work for such a speculative venture ?

Assuming you could staff a design dept, the next step would be creating a design-from scratch !!! None of Alcos' designs from the past would pass muster-based upon everything from current regulatory requirements to current operational, maintenance and economic criteria.

Do you think that FM is going to design a Tier II 251 on spec. NO !!! You are going to have a sign a contract with them for a certain number of engines. BTW, new 16-251's price out at about $750 K apiece !!!

Where are you going to source the electric transmission, truck frames, controls and all the other equipment ? Who are the suppliers ? What kind of minimums are they going to require ?

Now to the shop floor-if you have a shop. Do you know that the steel required per unit for say, a ten unit order is going to be a lot less expensive than purchasing steel for just one unit ?

Now, the unit is built and you send it out to demonstrate based upon the plan developed by your newly created marketing dept. Your newly created field service dept. has to shadow the unit out on the road.


  by Ol' Loco Guy
As for NREC, the Alco locomotive is a niche business. Like GE (the market leader), there is more money to be made on parts and services than on the complete locomotive itself.

  by Alcoman
For starters, I would get "the Donald" , Ross Perot, George Bush, Alan Greenspan, and Saddam Hussain to finance the venture.
And for good measure, the Saudia "Prince".

  by alcodude
Last edited by alcodude on Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.

  by krobar
I've never been involved with any locomotive builder, but I have been involved in manufacturing for many years. There some very valid questions raised in this forum thread. When it was announced a couple of years ago in Railfan & Railroad that there was a new Alco business coming together it mentioned 3 companies. NRE, FM, and Globe Turbo. This means that this is a joint effort. NRE won't be the only one involved, FM will be quite involved in this effort, since it's their prime movers being used. If you read the article NRE will be the primary contractor for constuction of the locos. FM will bring the prime mover and any auxilaries that they use. Globe is supposed to supply the turbo. I don't know if this is happening as no further word has been heard on this. As far as electicals, still no supplier has been chosen, probably won't be GE. Yes it will be more expensive to build a 2 unit demonstator than a larger order. That's called economy of scale. I'm sure the powers that be at NRE know what they're doing. If I was in charge of this project I would take the C420 platform and update it to current standards. There is nothing wrong with this design, the fact that 30-40 of these locos are still in service is a testimony to a good well designed loco. What it would need is FRA glass, new safety hardwear (updated handrails, ditch lights), redesigned pilot steps, chem toilet, and a fuel tank that has a holding sump for waste oil. I would also place the dynamic brake above the generator/alternator space, just like EMD, GE, and MLW did with their newer designs. When it comes to warranty problems all involved will (should) handle any issues that come along. NRE for the loco stucture, FM with the 251, Globe with the turbo, and whoever for the electricals. If they work well together there shouldn't be any issues if a problem comes along. I'll post further notes in the near future. :wink:

  by wess
So the next biggest need would be electricals, trucks, and getting the whole construction tier-3(?) compliant. This thread is definitely showing some results.............I,d been thinking of making a drawing of what one of these beasts might look like. But one of the problems is. I myself am not that familiar with locomotives either and am a lousy artist, even with paintshop. This would be fun to try. And using the C-420 as a starting point would be good, but if the railroads are gravitating toward a six axle standard it should be easy to adapt this. Dontyou think?

  by 498
I doubt that anyone could afford to make a major investment to produce a new 2000 horsepower four-axle locomotive. There isn't much demand for this rating at present, as evidenced by the difficulty Boise and EMD have had finding buyers for their 2000 horsepower offering, which uses a much less expensive Cat 3516 engine package. There are still lots and lots of GP38s and GP38-2s out there, which are still quite viable units, and often are available and relatively inexpensive. Since many smaller roads are exempt from the emissions steps due to having less than the threshold number of employees, they can operate this older power for many years to come.
  by Allen Hazen
True that demand for 4-axle power, and for low-horsepower (swithcing/local work power) units has been weak.* I suspect it will pick up a bit.
(i) The big railroads AREN'T exempt from Tier-II, and their existing fleet of switchers/roadswitchers won't last forever. Norfolk Southern is busy rebuilding "GP38-3" units: I think this is an effort to get a full fleet of old-technology 2000 hp units before the new rules go into effect. (I've seen something about old EMD models, but can't remember details: is the non-turbocharged 645 engine capable of meeting the new pollution limits?) Sooner or later....
(ii) Maybe sooner. A number of big railroads-- I remember at least UP, CP-- have been buying or leasing small numbers of Boise Caterpillar-engined units, and/or hosting demonstrations for the "Green Goat" diesel/battery switcher. I suspect they are testing the waters because they know they will eventually have to make the plunge....
(iii) But if ***I*** were investing **my** -- oh, I guess since GE claimed that developing the GEVO engine cost them $200 million I'd need at least that much R&D on top of factory equipment to become a serious player in the locomotive market -- hard-earned quarter-billion to go into the locomotive business, I'd want to offer a full range, including 5000 hp (competition is at 4300-4400, but that's likely to increase over time, so you'd do well to aim higher) top-of-the-line freighters. Railroad managers are a cautious lot, and don't like having lots of non-standard equipment around that will drive up their spare parts inventories and force their shop labor to read new manuals. So I suspect a switcher/roadswitcher will do better if it has a lot in common with a mainline unit.**
*As a GE fan, I can't help thinking that the B23-7SS updated rebuild of the U23B was the best proposal for this part of the market in the last decade and a half... And even it, with the backing of the biggest builder in the business, didn't sell!
** I have this recurring fantasy about a 2000 hp unit with a (conservatively rated) straight-6 version of the GEVO engine. Then again, Alco fans ought to be able to relate to a switcher with a conservatively rated straight-6!
  by wess
Anyone else want to throw into this thread before it dies a slow death? Understandably, yes there isnt a new market, but would it be reasonable to assume someone is thinking along these lines about what would be needed and all? I,d think someone would at least fired up a CAD program and had some fun drawing out some ideas. Thats what the intent of this thread was. Along with giving at least this railbuff an idea of what is needed.
GE electricals are definitley out. Someone want to add to the shopping list?

  by Justin B
There are several companies available to build the prime movers (GE, EMD, CAT, FM), but if you are talking about electrical equipment, the only choices are GE and EMD. Are there any other companies out there that can possibly build the electrical equipment? If a third locomotive company were to be in any way viable (overlooking the obvious major obstacles that have been discussed ad nauseam), parts can not be purchased from either GE or EMD. They would surely mark up the prices enough to destroy whatever slim profits this new company would be making. After all, the last thing they want is more competition. Look what happened to Alco.

  by Alcoman
Hitachi would be the only other choice. Bombardier was undertaking a partnership with this company just before it shut down.

Of course if it was possible, one should design the electrical system to be compatable to GE gear so that parts were not a problem and therefor the railroad could use either as replacement parts.