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Single F units in operation

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Single F units in operation
Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 8:12 PM

Did railroads in the 1950's ever run commonly run short freight trains with a single F unit on the point?

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I have found lots of pictures of trains pulled by a single GP-7 or RS-3, but very few with a single F unit. F units always seem to be in groups in photographs from 1954.

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-Kevin

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Posted by jrbernier on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 8:33 PM

  The Soo Line used single F units on branch lines up through the 80's!

Jim

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Posted by NHTX on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 8:52 PM

     The deciding factor would be turning facilities at the end of the run.  Most employee timetables from the 1950-1970 period when F units were plentiful greatly restrict the speed of these units when operating in reverse.  Also, if you really want to upset your operating crew, give them a cab unit to perform switching with.  That was one of the driving factors in the introduction of the road switcher.  Of course there is always the odd exception like everything else in railroading.  One railroad that regularly ran trains with single F units was the Wellsville, Addison and Galeton but, one could almost be certain the engine could be turned at each end of the run.

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Posted by 7j43k on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 11:40 PM

NHTX

Also, if you really want to upset your operating crew, give them a cab unit to perform switching with.  That was one of the driving factors in the introduction of the road switcher. 

 

I would love to hear about how the purchasing decisions for motive power were driven by the opinions of the operating crew.

I confess that I did not know that the input of the crews had such strength.  I am curious about how this worked.

 

 

 

Ed

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Posted by ATSFGuy on Thursday, July 27, 2017 1:51 AM

With no rear footboards or rearward visibility, F-units were not well liked by crews on local runs because there was a lot of switching and reverse running. In the mid 50's with the introduction of GP7/9 switchers, F-units were used in through trains or unit service where there was very little or no switching to be done on line of road.

Keep in mind these locomotives were bought before two way radio systems became common so this was a major point of contention.

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, July 27, 2017 12:59 PM

Short freight trains generally were local way freights, picking up and dropping off cars. Technically, you could do that with a single F-unit, but due to the lack of rear vision for the crew, it was harder than with a road switcher. Plus, many such trains would be on branch lines. Railroads bought GP-7s and RS-1s in some cases specifically to replace steam on branch lines, so that they could eliminate having a turntable at the end.(Yes I know the Ipswich and Dippsidoodle Railroad or whoever operated branches with steam running backwards on part of the trip, but railroads generally tried to avoid running steam backwards pulling trains when possible.)

Not sure when, but seems to me at some point a regulation was put in to not allow F-units or similar engines (Alco FAs) to be used in any type of switching service??

Stix
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Posted by dti406 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 1:14 PM

ATSFGuy

With no rear footboards or rearward visability, F-units were not well liked by crews on local  runs because there was a lot of switching and reverse running. In the mid 50's with the introduction of GP7/9 switchers, F-units were used in through trains or unit service where there was very little or no switching to be done on line of road.

Keep in mind these locomotives were bought before two way radio systems became common so this was a major point of contention.

The Nickle Plate road tested the F7's against their Berkshires and ordered more Berkshire's instead. The major complaint was the F7's could not be easily used in the many switching moves that were required on the railroad.  The NKP never had any Freight covered wagons and dieselized finally with GP7's and their successors.

By the way the Berks' had radios installed for communications, which is why they had three generators on their boilers.

Rick Jesionowski

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 6:31 PM

Thanks for the replies everybody.

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If I uderstand all this correctly... F units were rarely used individually because most short freight trains that would require only one diesel locmotives would need to do switching while on the road, and this was difficult with an F unit. Instead, F units tended to be used on longer through run trains where multiple units were needed and they would be arranged with a cab unit on both ends so they would not need to be turned at the terminus.

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Does this sound correct/plausible?

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Thanks!

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-Kevin

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Posted by ACY Tom on Thursday, July 27, 2017 9:53 PM

SeeYou190

Thanks for the replies everybody.

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If I uderstand all this correctly... F units were rarely used individually because most short freight trains that would require only one diesel locmotives would need to do switching while on the road, and this was difficult with an F unit. Instead, F units tended to be used on longer through run trains where multiple units were needed and they would be arranged with a cab unit on both ends so they would not need to be turned at the terminus.

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Does this sound correct/plausible?

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Thanks!

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-Kevin

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That's a pretty good general rule. There were exceptions, but most major mainline roads considered cab units to be road engines, usually in multiples; and road switchers were usually thought of as general purpose utility engines. As such, road switchers could be used in yards, on locals, work trains, passenger trains, or as helpers or mainline power in multiple. Nevertheless, I have seen single F units at the head of through freights on major mainlines at times of motive power shortages, and I know of situations where cab units were used on local freights. Poor visibility made this highly undesirable, and even dangerous. I also remember seeing a single Baldwin Shark A unit hauling a high-wide load westbound on the PRR mainline through Orrville, Ohio in the early 1960's. The train consisted of the Shark, a flatcar with the oversized load, and a PRR cabin car. . 

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Posted by Bayfield Transfer Railway on Friday, July 28, 2017 1:36 AM

As with most things, "it depends".

The Escanaba and Lake Superior used its one running Baldwin Sharknose singly on way freights while it still was able to run, and they didn't have turning facilities in many places.  So it was done.

Of course, when you're a northwoods shortline with a ton of 10 mph trackage it's less of a strain.

Disclaimer:  This post may contain humor, sarcasm, and/or flatulence.

Michael Mornard

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, July 28, 2017 7:57 AM

It may be helpful to understand how railroads diesels in the 1st generation era. Railroads were used to buying specific steam engines tailor made to their specs for the freight or passenger trains they wanted it to pull. When they started buying diesels, it was the same thing. Four unit sets of F-units (usually two drawbar connected A-B sets running back to back) would be bought to replace freight engines like Mallets or 2-8-4 / 2-10-4 types, with all four units considered one 'engine' and often having the same number, like 800A / 800B / 800C / 800D. (Partly, this was because work rules at the time required each 'locomotive' to have an engineer and fireman, so they didn't want to have to have a full crew on each engine in a four-unit lash-up.) PA or E-units would be bought in sets for the top passenger trains, with GP-7s or RS-1s for local wayfreights, and end-cab switchers for yard work.

By the time railroads started to understand the 'building block' idea - buy a lot of interchangeable 1500 HP diesels and use 1, 2, 3 or more together as needed - they also were realizing that F-units weren't that great on things like wayfreights. That's also part of the reason that railroads that dieselized late, like the Missabe Road for example, never bought F-units in the first place. By the 1960's, many of those early F-units were being traded in on new GP or SD or other road-switchers.

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Posted by dknelson on Friday, July 28, 2017 11:25 AM

I have seen photos of an Aberdeen & Rockfish F unit used "solo" to haul a freight train.  I also think I have seen a similar photo of a Santa Fe F unit on a branch line freight, similar to what the Soo Line did as per Jim's posting, above.

Somewhere on these Forums, on a thread long ago and far away, someone posted a wonderful photo of an F unit equipped with footboards on the front to facilitate local switching (presumably there were no footboards on the rear of the unit just the front).  I have some recollection that it was NYO&W.

Maybe railroads and the manufacturers did not feel forced to make design changes due to crew complaints and comments about locomotive design inadequacies, but the railroads surely noticed the dollar impact when work started taking longer or caused more injuries.  EMD created the BL2 to address the sightline issues caused by F units even as the obvious and eventual "road switcher" solution of side walkways was staring them (and Alco) in the face. 

Dave Nelson

 

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Posted by BRAKIE on Friday, July 28, 2017 12:14 PM

dknelson
EMD created the BL2 to address the sightline issues caused by F units even as the obvious and eventual "road switcher" solution of side walkways was staring them (and Alco) in the face.

Oddly it was Alco that had the first true road switcher the RS-1 in 1941..EMD would stumble and fall with the BL-1(one unit) and the BL-2(57) until 1949 when EMD released the GP7.Alco released the RS-2 to compete against EMD's GP7 in '49.

The BL-2 suffered a lot..The EMD designers did not like it,the sales department did not like it and above all the Railroads did not like it.

Larry

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Friday, July 28, 2017 5:03 PM

I believe the STRATTON & GILLETTE dieselized early. My roster consists of eight F units arranged as follows:

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F7 ABA set for express freight train.

F7 AB set for express passenger train.

F3 AB set for manifest freight train.

F3 A unit for short freight train.

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I guess I will add another F3 A unit to that last one and have another set that will not need to be turned. That sounds more plausible than what is current.

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I also have 2 GP-9, 1 SD-7 , 1 Trainmaster, and 1 RS-1. Road switchers are not as prominent on the SGRR.

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I think I will add a BL-2 to replace the single F unit on that planned train. Proto-2000 BL-2s are not too hard to find.

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What do you think?

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-Kevin

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Posted by 7j43k on Saturday, July 29, 2017 11:09 AM

Doing roadswitching with a single F unit "backwards" seems curiously similar to doing the same thing with steam road power.  Except, of course, there's footboards on the back of a tender.

Now, if you're switching with a four unit F set, the nose of the other F will have those teeny little steps, for your safety and convenience.  A person could wonder if the engineer walked back to the other cab to do the reverse operation.

 

Ed

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Posted by BRAKIE on Saturday, July 29, 2017 1:24 PM

7j43k
Doing roadswitching with a single F unit "backwards" seems curiously similar to doing the same thing with steam road power. Except, of course, there's footboards on the back of a tender.

Ed,The engineer would simply turn the seat sideways and lean out the window like he did on a steam engine or the head brakeman would relay the signal to the engineer.

Larry

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Posted by ACY Tom on Monday, July 31, 2017 3:21 PM

Your plan sounds reasonable. You have focused on EMD power, with one small Alco and one large F-M unit. You might consider other options instead of the BL2, such as a Fairbanks Morse H15-44 or H16-44 (Atlas) or an Alco RS2 or RS3 (several sources). And of course, Baldwin was a player (Bowser). 

You could also operate your single F3 back-to-back with one of your GP9's. That would give you a road set that doesn't need to be turned. However, this was rarely done in your 1954 time period, except in emergencies. It became a much more common practice in later years. 

Tom

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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, July 31, 2017 3:46 PM

ACY Tom
However, this was rarely done in your 1954 time period, except in emergencies. It became a much more common practice in later years.

Unless you're the NYC..They seem to like odd locomotive consist even in the 50s.

Larry

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Posted by LensCapOn on Wednesday, August 02, 2017 1:11 PM

Don't know how often it happened, but it happened.

 

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Posted by DSchmitt on Wednesday, August 02, 2017 1:23 PM

Found this on earlier threas - no othe info Picture link broken and website gone:

F-unit road switching
Posted by Lyon_Wonder on Sunday, August 03, 2008 3:42 PM

20 or so years before starting their CF-7 rebuild program, ATSF tried to use a handful of F-units as road switchers by adding footboards at each end.  Even with the footboards, I doubt the conversion was very useful since the cab still had poor visibility.  This is similar to EMD's briefly-marketed BL-2.   This was the first time I’ve heard of this being done to an F-unit.  In recent years, some former Amtrak F40s had footboards added to the front and rear too, and they are probably about as useful as F-units in yard switching too:).  The pic shows a “cat whisker” FT in this configuration, which means the conversion was done sometime around 1950.  

 

From the website: “FTA 405 (ex-143C) was one of a number of single unit FT road-switcher conversions with footboards front and rear and a steam locomotive type headlight at the rear on the roof. She carried full blue and yellow markings with the red stripe deleted completely but still with the "catwhisker" nose emblem at Bakersfield in May 1951. -Stan Kisler”

 -------- 

Picture here - Dark but can see it has footboards. 

http://old.atsfrr.org/resources/funits/ftp6.htm

 

 

 

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Posted by gdelmoro on Wednesday, August 02, 2017 2:53 PM

Here's a couple

Not sure 6307 is an F

Gary

NDG
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Posted by NDG on Saturday, August 12, 2017 4:19 PM
A Unit Alone.
 
Altho' not an ' F ', here is a CPR FA1 running alone on a freight just west of Montreal in June 1959 at the end of the herald tank car era. Steam would be gone in a year, streetcars in August.
 
 

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Posted by Lone Wolf and Santa Fe on Saturday, August 12, 2017 5:07 PM

I saw in a video where an old guy said that they didn’t run early diesel locomotives alone because they broke down too much. Instead they had to run them in groups so when one unit broke down the other units could keep the train moving and not tie up the line. I guess they weren't as dependable as steam engines back then.

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Posted by mobilman44 on Saturday, August 12, 2017 5:07 PM

Hi,

Just a couple of additional comments......

- To me, a single F unit in front of a freight just looks wrong.  An AA or the addition of B unit(s) looks so much more appropriate - meaning better looking.

- By the time the '60s came along, the older F and FT units were often troublesome and their reliability wasn't great.  So a second loco would be attached (if available of course) for added security. 

 

ENJOY  !

 

Mobilman44

 

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Posted by dehusman on Saturday, August 12, 2017 9:21 PM

NHTX
The deciding factor would be turning facilities at the end of the run.  Most employee timetables from the 1950-1970 period when F units were plentiful greatly restrict the speed of these units when operating in reverse.

Which railroads?  I've seen lots of restrictions on steam engines but have never seen a speed restriction on a diesel when running in reverse (there may be restriction on an set of power when the engineer is controlling the move from the engine that is not the leading unit in the consist, but that's not the same as running in reverse.)

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

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Posted by NDG on Thursday, October 19, 2017 9:34 PM

 

A very nice view of a 244 Cab alone. St Luc Yard, Montreal.
 
 
Thank You.
 
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, October 19, 2017 10:35 PM

NDG
Another nice view of a 244 Cab alone.

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Great Black & White photograph.

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Does anyone know what that load is on the flat cat immediately behind the locomotive?

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-Kevin

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, October 20, 2017 6:23 AM

 Looks like what they called a "dish end" on the Reading, the end cap for a cylindrical tank of some sort. On the Reading these were usually shipped in gons fitted with special holding fixtures, but it could be that one is too tall for that and needed to be on a flat car to lower overall height.

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Posted by dehusman on Friday, October 20, 2017 9:19 AM

dehusman
Which railroads? I've seen lots of restrictions on steam engines but have never seen a speed restriction on a diesel when running in reverse (there may be restriction on an set of power when the engineer is controlling the move from the engine that is not the leading unit in the consist, but that's not the same as running in reverse.)

I'm going to revise my comments.  There were restrictions on locomotives without a pilot or pilot sheet on the rear running in reverse.  The pilot sheet is there to deflect debris and obstructions off the track and not having a pilot or pilot sheet would be a safety and derailment risk.  Therefore running an F unit backwards on a straight away move might be speed restricted.  Switching with an F unit would be no worse for an engineer, from a visibility standpoint, than switching with a steam engine.  The reall problem was that it was very inconvenient  for the groundmen to ride the engine or to work with the F unit.

Railroads do take the opinions of the crews into consideration, however opinions can vary.  The traditional orientation for a brake stand/control stand in a locomotive is to the left side of the engineer, mounted at a shallow angle.  The railroads recieved complaints that that was not ergonomically a good position, so they, in conjunction with the manufacturers, developed the console cab layout with all the controls infront of the engineer (a lot of the design based on European cab design).   However that was a horrible arrangement for switching or operating in reverse.  European railroads do way less switching than N American railroads.  So several roads are going back to a more traditional cab control arrangement.

There are conflicts.  It was proposed that the bottom step of the locomotive steps be lowered to make it easier to get on and off, the problem is that that would change the shape of the locomotive clearance plate and the steps would foul the vast majority of the passenger platforms in the NE part of the US, plus could interfere with rotary dumpers and knee braces on bridges.  That change wasn't adopted.

Dave H. Painted side goes up.

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Posted by caldreamer on Friday, October 20, 2017 10:52 AM

How did the engineer of an F unit see when doing reverse moves?  Did he hang out the window since there were no rear winodws to see backwards as on a GP7 etc.?

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