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FM opposed piston

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FM opposed piston
Posted by Soo Line fan on Monday, February 25, 2013 1:06 PM

I was watching the old Trains magazine video. The host mentioned that FM engines are widely sought after for marine and stationary applications.

My questions is, if the FM OP motor was so good, why did FM fail in the locomotive field?

What issues did the RRs have with this design?

Jim

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Posted by 7j43k on Monday, February 25, 2013 3:29 PM

Here's a neat cutaway of the F-M engine:

A problem I can see is that you can't get to the "top end" without disassembling the engine.  No ring changes, no piston changes, no wrist pin changes.

Another problem is sort of self-fulfilling:  If you have orphan engines, there's fewer people who know how to take care of them.  It's a tough fight for the new guy to get market share; and, at first, they have to do the old Avis trick of "trying harder".  A lot.  Keep in mind that EMC, when they were first sending out their newfangled diesel locomotives, placed an employee on every freight locomotive to ensure an absolute minimum of angst for the purchaser.  Or so I recall hearing.  This cost them big bucks.  Perhaps F-M didn't supply adequate support for its product.  I am uninformed on that matter.  But I have read that SP&S dropped Baldwin when Baldwin didn't get them replacement parts in a timely manner.  And Baldwin is long, long gone from locomotive production.

Ed

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Posted by charlie9 on Monday, February 25, 2013 4:06 PM

i think it had a lot to do with the environment and operating conditions.   if you think about it, marine and stationary applications have pretty much constant temperature and other conditions.   also, the engine runs at a fairly constant speed, usually where it is happiest and most efficient.

the railroad world is somewhat more harsh and the power output needs are constantly changing.  guess fm's just didn't do so well under those conditions.   the emd engines might not have fared so well in the applications that suited the fm's but that is a guess.

Charlie

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Posted by charlie9 on Monday, February 25, 2013 4:14 PM

me again,  the new kid on the block thing and being the oddball in the game no doubt played a big part in fm 's lack of success.  as the other post before mine stated, these are big factors in success of a machine.  it wasn't just problems with the prime mover if that is what my previous post implied.  if engine failure was the death knell of a locomotive, the alco would have been gone long before it was.  their early 244 was a piece of junk according to what i have read.  as a matter of fact, the NYC put up a "firewall" and tried to keep them all east of buffalo.  there was a reason why roads like the IC stayed all EMD for so long if they had no need to dieselize as quickly as a some of the  rolling junk yards.

Charlie

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Posted by jrbernier on Monday, February 25, 2013 4:31 PM

  The F-M 'OP' power plant is a very successful design, just not for railroads.  It has been used in marine applications for years, and old FM switchers were sought after in the 70's & 80's just to get the 'OP' power plant out of them.  A lot of tow boats are 'OP' powered.

  The problems are two fold:

Serviceability - Getting at the lower end for service meant pulling the entire power plant out of the locomotive.  An EMD could have a power assembly pulled with the block still bolted down.

Application - The 'OP' power plant excels at constant speed operation.  Marine and stationary power plant applications are an example.  Up/down throttle changes lead to piston scuffing and lubrication failures.  After becoming leaky, the engine can start to 'eat' it's own lube oil and sometimes cannot be shut down until it runs out of lube oil and the bearing seize up.  An old ex-PPR Road Foreman of Engines told be about  a FM helper dropping down grade and the crew could not shut it down..

  FM still sells parts/service for the 'OP' and also for the ex-Alco 251 series engines.  BTW, the power plants in the NASA  launch 'crawlers' are V12 '251' series diesels.

Jim

Modeling BNSF  and Milwaukee Road in SW Wisconsin

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Posted by dehusman on Monday, February 25, 2013 4:39 PM

The engines had issues with overheating and didn't care for the shocks a rail application recieves.  I remember reading several years back that the upper crankshaft tended to fail because the cooling systems couldn't keep up with the load.  A ship has a million gallons of 40- 60 degree water to use as a heat sink.  Not so much a locomotive.

I'm sure having twice the moving parts as a conventional engine probably didn't endear it to master mechanics

I saw FM engines being shipped for marine applications well into the 1980's

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, February 25, 2013 5:14 PM

Dave,You are correct..Crankshaft failures doomed the FMs..Even PRR kept those engines near a shop.

Larry

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Posted by wp8thsub on Monday, February 25, 2013 10:25 PM

The book "Union Pacific Salt Lake Route" has some information on why UP's Erie Builts and H20-44s earned such poor reputations.  Several reasons are cited, including:

  • OP engines in marine applications can utilize dense, humid intake air, and there is an unlimited supply of sea water for cooling.  In the Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Cajon Pass, only hotter, drier, and thinner (due to elevation) intake air was available.
  • FM locomotives relied on air cooling instead of water.
  • The cooling system was not efficient enough to cope with the demands of the engine, especially the piston crowns, in the conditions of UP's South Central district. 
  • Various mechanical failures, including crankcase explosions, become common.

Rob Spangler

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Posted by Soo Line fan on Monday, February 25, 2013 10:30 PM

I would think lube oil getting past the top piston rings would be a problem.

Very interesting comments.

Jim

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Posted by DS4-4-1000 on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:44 AM

Many of the FM locomotives suffered from being the oddball in a sea of EMDs.  GM by far had the best training for the maintenance people so on the roads that had many EMDs everything was maintained using the EMD procedures.  Of course maintining a machine using the wrong methods will result in less than optimal operation.

Where the FM locomotives were in the majority, like on the Virginian, or the P&WV or a large minority like on the Milwaukee, they worked well.  Also when railroads concentrated the FMs, like SP in the San Francisco area and PRR/PC in Chicago, the maintenance people became familiar with the OPs and they became good locomitives.  In fact, when SP replaced the Trainmasters with SDP45s and GP40Ps the mainenance crews treated them like FMs and the EMDs suffered many breakdowns.  Retraining the crews to maintain the EMDs eliminated that problem.

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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 2:45 PM

wp8thsub

  • OP engines in marine applications can utilize dense, humid intake air, and there is an unlimited supply of sea water for cooling.  In the Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Cajon Pass, only hotter, drier, and thinner (due to elevation) intake air was available.

There's also an unlimited supply of air for cooling.  You just have to have a proper radiator system to use it.  Actually, the F-M's in marine service have "radiators" also--they're called heat exchangers.  They just dump the heat from the engine coolant into the seawater, the same as a radiator does to air.
As far as air density goes, they had a supercharger.  It's main job is compressing the intake air.  And, with proper design, it'll compress it as much as is needed.  As for humidity, I think that's more of a cooling/radiator issue rather than an intake issue.
  • FM locomotives relied on air cooling instead of water.
I seriously doubt that.  For air cooling, the engine would be covered with fins and there'd be a big old fan blower to move air across it.
  • The cooling system was not efficient enough to cope with the demands of the engine, especially the piston crowns, in the conditions of UP's South Central district. 
I agree--see my earlier comment about having a proper radiator system.  I'll note that the piston crowns are not cooled by the cooling system directly.  They are kept "cool" by being inside an engine running at the design temperature.
  • Various mechanical failures, including crankcase explosions, become common.
Such things are frequently the result of overheating engines, although there's certainly other explanations. 
It's looking like F-M didn't put an adequate cooling system in.  Perhaps among other design failures.   But I think their biggest failure was a lack of a near instantaneous correction of all customer problems.  See Baldwin, mentioned earlier.
Ed
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Posted by richg1998 on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 3:01 PM

Many US Navy ships had this type engine. In 1962 I was on, a WWII built Destroyer Escort that had a pair of these, each on its own screw. No reverse, the engine was easily stopped and reversed. Air starter. Direct drive. Easily started. Minimum speed, about six knots on one screw. I saw the crew change a cylinder a few times while at sea. Top or bottom. Smelly exhaust as I recall. Ran until 1975.

Rich

If you ever fall over in public, pick yourself up and say “sorry it’s been a while since I inhabited a body.” And just walk away.

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Posted by wp8thsub on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 3:43 PM

7j43k
FM locomotives relied on air cooling instead of water.

I seriously doubt that.  For air cooling, the engine would be covered with fins and there'd be a big old fan blower to move air across it.

That left me confused in the text of the book I was quoting too.  I thought it sounded odd.

Rob Spangler

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:22 PM

Soo Line fan

I was watching the old Trains magazine video. The host mentioned that FM engines are widely sought after for marine and stationary applications.

My questions is, if the FM OP motor was so good, why did FM fail in the locomotive field?

What issues did the RRs have with this design?

Ask and ye shall receive.  In a word, higher maintenence costs were the issue.

From Joseph Strapac in Rio Grande Diesels, Volume 1 page 33:

"The prime mover, however, was a Fairbanks Morse exclusive.  Designed before World War II as a submarine power plant, it was adapted to railroad service in inline six, eight, ten and twelve cylinder versions - but with two crank shafts, one at th etop and one in the "normal" position.  The pistons thus occupied each cylinder, compressing the intake charge betwen them.  This design resulted in an unusually compact engine, which took up little floor space within the locomotive hood, but which required some unique maintence prodedures.  The EMD diesel is designed so that an entire cylinder liner, head and all, can be removed in an hour or two without disturbing the rest of the engine.  F-M's engine, however, had everything locked up between the upper and lower crankshaft - requiring a heavy overhead derrick to remove th eupper crankshaft before cylinder liners could be removed.  As a result, railraods which owned F-M's invariabley concentrated them at a few mentenence oints with specialized tools.  Of course, the "mechanic's flat rate" for repairs on an F-M engine was ginificantly hgher than on an EMD."

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by g&gfan on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:11 PM

wp8thsub

7j43k
FM locomotives relied on air cooling instead of water.

I seriously doubt that.  For air cooling, the engine would be covered with fins and there'd be a big old fan blower to move air across it.

That left me confused in the text of the book I was quoting too.  I thought it sounded odd.

.I believe the "air cooling" they are referring to is the incoming charge air from the scavenging air blower. The incoming air cooled the upper piston quite well, but the lower piston suffered from overheating,according to some accounts. From the cut-away, there is very, very little area devoted to water jackets around the cylinders. It seems there is more around the exhaust manifolds.

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Posted by Soo Line fan on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:25 PM

I have a copy of a service manual. Here are some graphics.

In chassis lower piston removal / installation. Rod / piston assembly comes out the side. Note cable lifting tools attached to outside of block.

In chassis upper piston removal. Rod comes out the top, piston goes down and out of the side after lower has been removed. Note rope attached to eye bolt to raise / lower piston.

Speaking of flat rate, the manual recommends if over half the upper pistons need removal, the upper crank should be pulled.

Jim

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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:53 PM

g&gfan

.I believe the "air cooling" they are referring to is the incoming charge air from the scavenging air blower. The incoming air cooled the upper piston quite well, but the lower piston suffered from overheating,according to some accounts. From the cut-away, there is very, very little area devoted to water jackets around the cylinders. It seems there is more around the exhaust manifolds.

I don't see the point of transferring heat from the cylinders into the incoming charge.  That's only putting it back where it came from.  Heat needs to be removed from the engine.  It would make sense, I think, to do this if the engine were cold, but once it's warmed up, it looks like a bad idea.

I did some more internet exploration on F-M.  I really do believe that their biggest problem was management.  I find it interesting that EMD, the youngest of the mid-century locomotive producers, was also the survivor.  I attribute this most of all to failures in management in the old-line companies.

Ed

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Posted by 7j43k on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:57 PM

Jim,

Wow.  Great drawings.  So, it appears one could do top end work on the F-M engines without pulling the crankshafts.  I did not know that.

Ed

PS:  "top end work" means work on the pistons, piston rings, cylinder head (none on the F-M) valves (none of them, either)--the top "half" of the engine.  In the case of the F-M, it would actually be the middle.

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Posted by Soo Line fan on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 8:15 PM

Rings, rods and pistons can be serviced without the cranks pulled. Like riogrande said in his post, the liners required complete upper crank removal.

Maybe another factor is the work environment itself. Marine and stationary typically have their mechanic nearby. They can monitor the engine and tuck it in at night. Not so for rail roads with a whole fleet to deal with.

Jim

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Posted by Soo Line fan on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:23 PM

Thanks for all the interesting comments and information. I learned a lot.

Jim

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Posted by BerkshireSteam on Thursday, February 28, 2013 2:17 AM

ALL 28 Gato class (fleet sub) submarines built in Manitowoc for WWII used F-M engines, the 9 cylinder model not the 10 cylinder. I have always heard the opposite of what is the general consensus being said here, in that the F-M opposed piston engines were good prime movers.

Last I heard Fairbanks-Morse was still in business (don't know if recession changed this) and HQ is still located in Milwaukee.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, February 28, 2013 9:13 AM

BerkshireSteam

ALL 28 Gato class (fleet sub) submarines built in Manitowoc for WWII used F-M engines, the 9 cylinder model not the 10 cylinder. I have always heard the opposite of what is the general consensus being said here, in that the F-M opposed piston engines were good prime movers.

Good prime movers maybe, but what made them less desirable to some railroads may have been factors unrelated to submarine condition reliability.  As my quote from Joseph Strapacs book indicated, the facilities to do mantenence and the mechanics flat rate vs other make of diesel engines is why D&RGW rid themselves of the F-M.  Also a standardized parts pool was another reason D&RGW got rid of all non-EMD diesels.  By the late 1960's, D&RGW was basically all EMD.

It might be for submarines, their differing operating conditions vs railroads, and their shop/maintenence facilites caues the opposed cylinder diesel engines to be considered reliable and desirable.  These factors must have made a major difference to the preception.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by tomikawaTT on Thursday, February 28, 2013 1:05 PM

Just a few minor differences between locomotive and submarine operating conditions:

  1. Cooling:  Ambient air (can be 110+ locally) through a radiator versus seawater through a heat exchanger.
  2. Bumps and thumps:  The operating prime mover in a locomotive carbody routinely contends with forces that a submarine will only encounter in a near-fatal depth charge attack - when the diesels will be shut down and the boat will be on battery propulsion.
  3. Repair personnel availability: the railroad has to take their locomotive to a shop.  Aboard a sub the Machinist's Mates are at most a bulkhead away.
  4. Redundancy:  F-M Locomotives had ONE prime mover.  Gato class subs had four - plus an auxiliary power engine
 
In spite of the seeming advantages, some subs did experience diesel problems.  One of the engine packages, pushed by some congressmembers, was referred to by submarine officers as the House of Representatives engine - It was actually the Hooven-Owens-Rentschler engine, abbreviated HOR and pronounced as a word...
 
Somewhat off-topic - I wonder how the British Rail folks coped with the Napier 'Deltic' engine - triangular OP design, three crankshafts, two sloped cylinders and one horizontal in each bank.  Allegedly, BR thought highly of them.
 
Chuck (Modeling Central Japan in September, 1964)
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Posted by 7j43k on Thursday, February 28, 2013 3:02 PM

A quote about the Deltic engine:

"it was a highly-strung unit, requiring careful maintenance"

from this interesting article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napier_Deltic

The animation is especially neat.

Ed

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Posted by garya on Friday, March 8, 2013 10:18 PM

My father, a former US Navy Machinist's Mate, was astonished when I told him that FMs were not highly regarded by railroads.  According to him, GMs were "leaky hunks of junk."  He couldn't understand why railroads couldn't find former Navy Machinist's Mates after the war to keep the OPs purring.

Gary

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Posted by tk48 on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 3:02 PM

The SP had FM’s in use in the Bay Area for many years and kept the OP engines operable. One reason was many ex navy techs were hired after WW II and they were familiar with the engine from submarine use.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 3:29 PM

charlie9

me again,  the new kid on the block thing and being the oddball in the game no doubt played a big part in fm 's lack of success.  as the other post before mine stated, these are big factors in success of a machine.  it wasn't just problems with the prime mover if that is what my previous post implied.  if engine failure was the death knell of a locomotive, the alco would have been gone long before it was.  their early 244 was a piece of junk according to what i have read.  as a matter of fact, the NYC put up a "firewall" and tried to keep them all east of buffalo.  there was a reason why roads like the IC stayed all EMD for so long if they had no need to dieselize as quickly as a some of the  rolling junk yards.

Charlie

 
Well...Alco outlived FM and Baldwin, and Montreal Locomotive Works kept building ALCO based engines until the 1980's as I recall, so they couldn't have been all that bad. The early motors in the '40's had issues, but a lot of early diesels had issues.
 
NYC didn't "firewall" anything. Many railroads found it more efficient to keep engines of a similar maker in the same region, so they could have a central store of parts and workers experienced in working on the engines. Since Alco was in New York state, it would make sense for NYC to assign most of it's Alco engines to the same area. Great Northern assigned many of it's Alcos the the west coast, and C&NW assigned Alcos to their southern MN to South Dakota "Alco Line" in the '70's, and to their Upper Michigan iron ore lines in the 1980's.
 
I'm sure EMD's factory being in Illinois also helped Illinois Central decide to buy EMD products, and FM being in Wisconsin might account for the number of FMs bought by the Milwaukee Road.
 
BTW when running right, those FM engines could pull quite a load. I grew up with a railroad line across the street from me, I often saw an H-10-44 or H-12-44 rolling by with a train. When the railroad switched to EMD switchers (SW-1200 and SW-1500s) they had to use two to pull the same train as one FM did.
Stix
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Posted by oldline1 on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 10:40 PM

Chuck,

When I was in the Navy I lived off base and I had a neighbor who was a PT boat skipper. I went to Little Creek a couple times with him to see his boat. It was supposedly th last wooden boat on the East Coast at the time and it had Napier Deltic engines installed. He fired them up once and they were pretty smooth and quiet compared to the normal Packards I had heard. Unfortunately I never had a chance to go for a ride and hear them really working. Quite unusual engines. 

I returned the favor by taking him to the NAS and giving him a ride in my C-1a COD. Round motors! Radial aircraft motors are still my favorite sounding engines besides the Virginian Train-Masters I remember as a kid.

oldline1

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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, June 21, 2018 3:14 PM

 I live not too far from the local airport which also houses an air museum and hosts an annual WWII Weekend over D-Day weekend every year, and they bring in plenty of vintage planes. They typically fly right over my house -there is nothing that sounds like a radial aircraft engine. It's easy to tell the difference especially as they are fairly low when fling over. A Merlin-equipped Mustang sounds great, but when the B-17 or the museum's B-25 Mitchell goes over - whoa!

Alco had a lot of teething problems with their diesels, but did work the bugs out - the late model 244's weren;t bad, but by the time the 251, which was quite good, appeared ont he market, it was too late to really savel Alco, the reputation for poor prime movers carried over even though the 251 had none of the 244's issue.

                                    --Randy

 

 


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Posted by dknelson on Thursday, June 21, 2018 6:37 PM

The Wisconsin division of the Chicago & North Western Historical Society toured the Fairbanks Morse plant in Beloit WI just a few years ago.  They are well aware of their railroad heritage and have many photos and displays about it in their factory (together with full size F-M engines on display with key parts cut away to you can grasp the opposed piston concept.  Very neat.)  

If any of you have ever railfanned Rochelle's railroad park, the building to the east is a peak load power plant -- in times of need they can fire up large engines and generate electricity.  At least one of the engines they have on the floor is an FM taken from a de commissioned submarine.  They also have Nordberg and Cummins engines.  The Chicago & North Western Historical Society toured the peak load power plant when it had its annual meet in Rochelle some years ago (the plant was at one time rail served, probably coal for heat or power or both, and was a municipal water works plant).

Dave Nelson

PS - amended posting -- I had always understood that a likely reason the FM oposed piston did not work in railroad service yet served so well in maritime service was the amount of dirt in and around a motor in locomotives versus the oily but otherwise clean conditions on board ship/sub.  Certainly submarines engine compartments would be as warm if not warmer.  I imagine the stop and start nature of railroading might also have taken a greater toll on the engines that maritime service rarely imposed, except perhaps for tugboats.

The reference to the WWII Gato class of submarines built in Manitowoc Wisconsin in another posting (a fact which surprises many) reminds me that the maritime museum in Manitiwoc not only has much of rail interest in its holdings, but a Gato class submarine that you can tour (built in Connecticut however but the same class): the Cobia.  Warning: if you take the excellent tour of the Cobia you'd better be in fairly agile condition.  I am 6'8" and it took several minutes to get through each hatch.  I always admired men in submarine service but never more so than after seeing where they worked, ate, slept, and used "the facility."  If you tour the Cobia be sure to ask to see the shell damage wounds its deck suffered in battle.  

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