• Redux: How 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 Allen Hazen
Curiosity question, inspired by the reference to "752 clone" traction motors. (THAT idea isn't unprecedented-- wasn't there a locomotive-building subsidiary of one of the big auto companies that basically copied the contemporary GE traction motor design* for its own production back in the 1930s? (Grin!))
When MK made its abortive bid to enter the market for heavy road locomotives with the CAT 3612 powered "MK5000," they got their traction motors from a company (which I think they bought whole!) called "Motor Coils". Were these motors close to the design used by one of the big U.S. locomotive builders? If so, were they 752 clones or D-87 clones?
* ????GE 716???? At least that's what was used in their GE-assembled 1800 hp boxcab prototypes.
(((PS: Old Loco Guy -- I reread your initial post: you said "EMD style" frames. Thinking you meant trade-in frames from scrapped geeps was my misinterpretation. Sorry.)))

  by Ol' Loco Guy
I believe Motor Coils use GE cores-though I will have to cede the final word on that point to mxdata.

I don't understand why anyone would care what the proposed locomotive would like. This argument sounds just like the guys who criticized the H-D
V-Rod (motorcycle) because it it 'didn't look like a Harley' and was water-cooled and...so on. Time moves on and the breed always evolves.

As for the BCR RS-18 conversions, the answer seems to be pretty simple: they were purpose-built to the suits needs as defined by BCR management.
When the ownership (and management) of BCR changed, they were seen as not worth the bother.

mxdata: I think that your choices are all sound-for who am I to argue. Seems to me that we are moving in a certain direction-which is this:

why not skip the entire exercise and just start with an EMD GP locomotive
core and remanufacture to suit to current conditions, thus retaining much of the original manufacturing equity. The 750 K that a factory-remanufactured 12-251C will cost (assuming it can be made Tier II compliant) will go along way towards updating the GP.

whadaya think ?

  by mxdata
Sorry to trample the hopes of all the ALCO fans (myself among them) but I think you are exactly right on that one OLG.

Besides, if we are going to build a new ALCO based locomotive, I would really like to see it incorporate the PA/FA headlight trim, and I haven't found a good way to work that into a roadswitcher design.

And yes, the MK5000C demonstrators used GE 752 based traction motors supplied by Motor Coils. Curiously, GE ended up buying Motor Coils (but not Boise Locomotive) along with several other divisions of the former Motivepower from Wabtec, effectively eliminating that source of competition.

  by Ol' Loco Guy

Your comments inspire a good point-one can be a 'fan' of something like an Alco locomotive but at the same time, not want to depend on the thing to...
make a living.

I doubt there is a railroader on earth who ever got fired based upon a decision to specify,purchase or operate EMD products. Agreed ?

  by EDM5970
Lots of interesting ideas have been presented here over the last few days. I just mentally summed up some of them, and have my own list.

Start wih an Alco 12-251C and a GE 581 or the small GE alternator (or GE clone). The three auxs that can go on the main gen/alternator should be the aux gen, an exciter/alternator and an alternator that duplicates the output of the EMD D-14. The alternator can drive cooling fans and TM blowers (both EMD clones). If sized a bit larger, it may be able to run the compressor and possibly a central air system, ala Century and U-boat.

(Come to think of it, the aux gen can also be an alternator, but that would lead to engine cranking issues. Maybe the 581 as a "starter"/generator, is the best idea, it would keep things simple.)

Copy the EMD GP-9 frame, cab and hood, down to the point where EMD doors, windows, hardware, etc. can be used as either new or replacement parts. EMD style radiators, of course, several aftermarket replacements are available.

The Blomberg truck is said to better riding than the Alco/GE truck; fit it up with 752s (or clones) and use it; they are still being built.

Excitation, wheel slip and engine control can be done with some of the newer electronics and industrial computers. Switchgear can be off-the- shelf industrial equipment.

To keep costs down, and operating and maintenence crews happy, 26L air (26-FNL?) and a conventional AAR control stand should be used

OK, so I've stuffed an RS-11 or C-420 into a GP-9 (or clone) carcass, right? But then the question of the headlight trim comes up. Modify the ends of the GP hood and hose to have a larger flat spot, or to be rounded off, and you'll have room for the PA/FA headlight trim.

BTW, I just received (Friday) Chris MacDermot's "The Service Engineer", which is an excellent compilation of tips on keeping Alcos alive and running well. The very first section deals with MU compatability, and basically tells how to make Alcos and early(?) GEs fully compatable with EMDs, at least as far as MU goes. That alone was worth the price of the book, as it impacts on an Alco project that I am slowly working on.

The truth is, as far as shortlnes go, (and this is what this thread was originally addressed to, remember?) it's an EMD world out there. Sad but true-

  by mxdata
Yes OLG (replying to your preceeding post), if there is somebody out there who got fired for specifying EMD products, I have not met that person in the last 35 years.

The need to design and produce a competitive product to assist in your future employment security does indeed sometimes take a divergent path from the things you might like to see happen in the industry. Most of us who design and built these machines have had to make some compromises along the way on some of the issues involved in their planning and construction.

If the product is attractively styled and packaged, that is nice, but the primary objective is to get from point "A" to point "B" with your train reliably and economically, and arrive there with all units servicable so they can turn around and make another trip.

Keep in mind there are a lot of folks in the locomotive building industry whose perspective is exactly that was expressed to me by a former boss, who said: "I don't understand what interests you railfans in these machines, they are just an economic tool, nothing more and nothing less". (WRW, circa 1974).

  by pugsley720
Let me start my reply to this fascinating post by saying that I was employed by Motor Coils Mfg. for 21 years in the coil shop in Northcentral PA prior to returning to college and moving on to a new career. Mxdata and Allen are correct, the traction motors used on the MK5000C were GE clones, 752AG clones, MCM model MK1000 to be exact. While similar to the 752AG, the MK1000 had a number of internal changes to "improve" the design and to no doubt ease any chance of legal issues with GETS. These were absolutely miserable pieces of equipment to manufacture. They had a pretty high failure rate in the shop and in service, which caused me a few headaches as I was in the quality department for most of my career with MCM. If anyone wants more info on this part of the thread, PM or email me and I will try to answer what I can.

I will agree with the statement made earlier in the thread about the durability of the GE insulation system. MCM, along with a number of the other larger rebuilders such as Swiger Coil Systems and National Electric Coil have made a similar insulation systems for years. These basically involved various forms of mica/fiberglass laminate and polyimide tapes, with a fiberglass binder overlay for the groundwall insulation. These were bound/sealed by VPI with either epoxy or polyester resin. EMD OEM field coils use a silicon rubber impregnated fiberglass laminate insulation. The class one railroads, who were the primary customers for traction motor components as opposed to completed motors were very insistent on OEM style insulation for thier field coils, so during the early 1980's MCM gradually got away from using the epoxy-mica insulation on EMD compatible products except on special order. The EMD system was much less expensive to build and subsequently cost the customer less up front, but from my experience it has a significantly shorter operating life. MCM built epoxy-mica EMD compatible coils for many years prior to the change over to rubber. As our serial numbers contained a date code which one could easily decipher, it was not unusual to find epoxy-mica insulated coils coming back for rewind that were five or more years old on average, many were 10 or more years in service. A rubber insulated coil rarely seemed to last much past three years. Yes, coils did get cycled through the shop pretty regularly, traction motors truly are a high maintenance item for railroads.

This brings me to my input far as the transmission for this "new' locomotive, why not stick with EMD clones? There are far more sources for rebuilt, remanunfuactured, repaired, or even new EMD style motors as opposed to GE types. There is a techincal difference within the trade when refering to rebuilt and remanufactured, relates mostly to the amount of new components used. GE motors are far more difficult to rebuild than EMD motors, therfore GE clones will carry a cost premium. It would be easy to specify a mica/polyimide resin bound insulation system if you wished to gain the increase in useful life from the field coils. Remember though, this insualtion system also carries a pretty significant premium in cost, and most companies today, including railroads of all sizes, are concerned with the bottom line. Same applies to alternators or generators if you wish to use a straight DC design. The electrical distribution and control system components can be obtained from many sources. Hey, if you want GE content, why not get EMD compatible motors from GETS-MCM?

  by byte
Here's a thought to throw out: Rather than using a 251 in this hypothetical new locomotive, how about finishing buying the plans and rights to produce, along with finishing the R&D of the Bombardier B2400 prime mover? I know, I know, it sort of defeats the purpose of building a "new" Alco engine (since that engine wasn't developed by Alco, but a sucessor of theirs), but if that project had never been suspended, and Alco-derived engines were still being produced (probably by Bombardier), more than likely those would be under the long hoods. Bombardier knew in the mid-80s that if they were going to continue building locomotives, the 251 just wasn't going to cut it anymore and a new powerplant would be needed. That was around 20 years ago, and if the 251 was a fading contender for locomotive prime movers then, then it's definitely not a real possibility now. Although I guess it's kind of nice to see a lot of people wanting to see 251s in modern engines, if it ever actually entered production, the B2400 could have given the FDL and 710 a serious run for their money, plus it would have a higher chance of being tier-II compliant (with some modifications, of course), something that I don't think anyone's even attempted to do with the 251.
  by Allen Hazen
This has been a fascinating thread, and the last thing i want is for it to degenerate! So: Byte, please don't take this as an attack! You raise the question of why our hypothetical new entry in the locomotive business doesn't buy the rights to the post-Alco MLW-Bombardier B2400 engine, and use it? My sense is that there is one minor practical problem and one major and theoretically interesting one. If I'm wrong, there are people here who can set me right! So let me stick my neck out.
Practical issue: the people who now own the B2400 may not want to sell it to a potential competitor. (Didn't GE buy the rights to the B2400 design? And I doubt anyone has wanted it badly enough to make them an offer that would interest them, so the drawings are probably in a locked drawer in a basement in Erie.)
More interesting problem: basic design of a diesel engine isn't that hard at this stage in history: the problem is refining the design, testing it, debugging, refining again, testing again, refining... GE said they had spent $200 MILLION on the GEVO engine project. (They were boasting, so the exact number probably isn't very meaningful. But the idea that a new locomotive diesel engine design will cost at least many tens of millions of dollars before getting to pre-production status is.) How far into this test/debug/refine process did the B2400 get? How much of the process would still have to be gone through? GE, ***AFTER*** boasting of having spent $200,000,000, still wanted to run up 50 locomotive years testing preproduction GEVO units before putting it into regular production. And that's not something our hypothetical startup locomotive company could do.
O.K., that's my initial educated layman's thought about Byte's question. Pros?

  by railroadcarmover
"My preference would be to not use single core radiators, use sectional mechanically bonded radiators. They are easier to install and replace, less expensive to repair. I prefer not to have to keep a large spare with an enormous price tag hanging around the storehouse."

I own a H12 44 locomotive that uses sectional radiator cores. It works so much better and is easier to repair then having to pull out the entire side bank.


  by mxdata
Some of the older EMD housed generating units used large core soldered radiators, and with the price tag for a replacement now in excess of $50K a core (not including labor to change it), the owners are trying desperately to find ways to replace them with less expensive sectional mechanically bonded units. The need to do this is considered so urgent that some of them have replaced them with radiator units mounted on stands, to put next to the housed unit, bypassing the old cooling system entirely.

Going to Allen's question, I haven't seen an estimate of the total price tag for emissions qualification of a new engine design but I can tell you that the cost of qualifying retrofit kits is quite substantial, which is one reason there will not be nearly as many aftermarket vendors for engine parts in the future. The minute you have to employ any of the independent testing and research labs to help you, the money flows like water out of a fire hose.

The cost of simply duplicating parts for an outdated diesel engine to use in a restoration can be quite impressive too, as demonstrated by the unsuccessful effort to get the 201A engine in the FLYING YANKEE back into operation. The folks doing the restoration of the Cleveland Diesels on the USS SLATER in Albany NY have faced similar obstacles, but fortunately those engines were built in sufficient numbers originally that there are still a few around to salvage parts from, and some of the gaskets and service parts are still available from Hatch & Kirk. They are acutely aware that with the engines now sixty years old, and the number of remaining engines in service getting very small, the time for getting all the parts they need for the restoration is rapidly running out.

OLG thanks for an interesting discussion string to provide some renewed activity in this forum.
  by Ol' Loco Guy
The B2400 dates from the mid-1980's. Bombardier built a brand new R&D lab at Lachine, PQ (now ESDC) to develop the engine. The R&D firm that worked with CAT on the 3600, AVL LIST of Austria, was said to have had a hand in development. Some day, I'll dig through my junk and find the copy of the technical society paper that describes the engine in detail.

The engine was said to rated at an excess of 300 hp/cylinder with approx. 11"bore by 11" stroke-single turbo. There were (2) 12 cylinder prototypes built, neither of which ever went into a locomotive. Note that the 2400 predates both the EMD H engine and the GE/Deutz HDL by many years.

The plans for the engine were sketchy-but a good educated guess is that BBD planned to offer a straight AC, 4000 hp locomotive in partnership with Brown Boveri-well before production EMD and GE AC locomotive models ever hit the road.

The only remaining manifestation of this program is the CP 4744, the only MLW M-640 ever built-the 18 cylinder job. I believe this locomotive received a brand new engine when it was converted to AC traction. I may also have a paper or two that documents this locomotive in my files. There were some hints as to what might have come.

At the time BBD sold the MLW business to GE (effectively removing a competitor from the market), the B2400 was part of the package. This happened in 1989 ? In 1991, GE began the program that resulted in the GE
HDL/Deutz 632. So, it is an open question if GE ever seriously considered the B2400 for that program.

The irony is, as a cast frame engine, the B2400 would have fit in well with existing manufacturing processes at Grove City. The design had more in common with the cast frame EMD H engine and GE FDL, HDL and GEVO engines than with the fabricated frame Alco 251.

The other irony is BBD ultimately purchased ADTRANZ, which counted Brown Boveri as a predecessor company. This was after BBD had disposed of MLW.

At least one of the B2400s made it to the Learning Center at Erie-based upon eyewitness testimony of a shortline railroad employee who had gone there fro training on the 251. A later report indicated that the B2400 was scrapped there.

  by MEC407
Is it possible that some of the R&D that went into the B2400 was used for the HDL and/or GEVO?

  by wess
I would not be the least bit surprised. Most innovators "borrow" their ideas from competitors and see what they can use it for. It would have been foolish to buy it or grab it, then stow it away to gather dust. You would play and tinker with it before deciding what to do. So that might be a round a bout reason GE's are referred to as toasters. All that Alco technology is fightin its new role :-D

---take the best, discard the rest---