Congratulations to the earlier postings, with another thanks to our good friend, John Kirkland. For the historians among us I again recommend "The Baldwin Locomotive Works" by John K. Brown. It is a lively tail, written in a much different vein than Kirkland's. and lavishly illustrated. Available in paperback. Now then, bear with me while I do some detailed analysis of Baldwin's diesel shortcomings.
SEVEN DEADLY SINS:
1. A-Frame (cylinder block): The designers of the welded A-Frame, transitioning from a cast block made a number of grievous errors. The first designs specified 1/4" mild steel. The twisting and turnings were dangerous. Upping the thickness to 3/8" helped a little, but the "final" solution was 3/8" high-strength steel. Even that was not a cure-all.
2. The welded design eliminated the rounded corners that were present in the cast design so that cracks often appeared, especially near the camshaft retainer on the side. These cracks resulted in leaks, both oil and water so that the engine compartment of a locomotive was often a gooey mess. The electro-mechanical contacts threw off sparks and that sometimes caused fires = another serious problem.
3. Cylinder Heads: This was a very difficult casting with all the various passages. The Baldwin Foundry had about a 50% rejection rate. After the Baldwin Foundry was closed they found an excellent shop, The Hamilton Foundry and Machine Shop, in Hamilton, Ohio. The speciality foundry consistently achieved 100% acceptance of the castings, but at a price. Another item that increased the cost of a Baldwin loco.
4. Cylinder Liners: The liners were victims of erosion, due to the water flow. The "cure" was to rotate the liner so that erosion would not be in just one area. However that meant that the cylinder head had to be removed, piston dropped and liner rotated. Not many crews resorted to this complicated and expensive "cure"
5. Pistons: The early aluminum pistons, in the 600-series engines were subject to blow-by, causing more oil leaks and reduced efficiency. It wasn't until 1960 (five years after BLH ceased loco production) that a new design piston, with cast iron top ring groove and a heavy-duty top piston ring performed beautifully. If this change had not happened when it did, the Baldwin fleet would have disappeared!
6. Bed Plate: A different set of engineers must have designed the bed plate since it was strong, rigid, and an excellent base for the engine and all the many moving parts above. The problem was that the bearing surfaces had to be scraped in by hand, taking eight to sixteen hours. The finished results were a beautiful fit and finish but still another cost item.
7. And now for COSTS: These numbers cannot be verified and are only approximate, but they will illustrate a point:
In the '50's a 1000 HP switcher sold for about $100,000. The EMD loco, mass-produced, cost about $95,000 so they were making about $5000 on every locomotive, whereas the Baldwin switcher cost about $105,000. You do the math: less money to spend on improvements.
In conclusion, Baldwin NEVER did shake the steam mentality; It was always lurking around the corner. Witness the crude and expensive attempts to build giant, coal-fired misfits of steam power almost until the end. This again distracted from serious efforts to improve the diesel. Sad to see such a powerful, and innovative Corporation fail, and ultimately disappear. That is an oft-told tail in American industry.
Henry A. Rentschler