locomotive numbers

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locomotive numbers
Posted by WhiteLeather on Friday, August 11, 2017 11:53 PM

Have there ever been 5 digit locomotive numbers in the US?  Or longer?

RME
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Posted by RME on Saturday, August 12, 2017 2:15 AM

At times, the PRR used five-digit numbers to indicate power that was 'about to be retired' (by prepending a "1" to the existing road number).  This freed up the four-digit number for re-use in a new series.  (UP did a similar thing in renumbering locomotive 844, temporarily as it turned out, to 8444 to allow an unbroken series of diesels).  Some of this might have been a "USRA thing" as there is at least one instance of its being used in 1919 to renumber a locomotive (an old locomotive rebuilt to a small shop switcher) which wasn't scrapped until 1925).

I have seen reference to industrial units numbered as high as 6 digits.  Can't give you any direct examples, but one of the organized groups like LocoNotes would probably know.

To my knowledge there has never been a railroad in the United States that used the European system of a class number followed by delimiter and then road number.  That would easily produce 'six digits' but I think it would be extremely unlikely that we would ever standardize on one class enough to have more than 10,000 examples.  Some railroads that indicated class by road number (ATSF being a 'poster child' example) might easily have run out of sequential numbers in four-digit classes; B&O started to run into this problem during dieselization and bulk-renumbered the steam power to new (three-digit) ranges rather than appending digits.  PRR 'solved' this problem at various times by assigning blocks of new power to ranges of temporarily vacant numbers, sometimes apparently at random, resulting in no guarantee that particular ranges of numbers precisely corresponded with classes or even locomotive wheel arrangements.

As I understand it, many railroads opt to keep locomotive numbers 4 digits or less to avoid confusing locomotive numbers with other types of equipment.  I don't have an SSO for UMLER, but I note that the example in the UMLER user's manual showing a field for Equipment ID for Equipment Group LOCO shows ten data positions (e.g. "0000001641" for Norfolk Southern locomotive 1641) so it is highly unlikely that UMLER 'requires' that locomotives in interchange have no more than four-digit road numbers.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, August 12, 2017 7:38 AM

Five-digit numbers for locomotives are quite rare but they aren't unheard of.  PRR used 10000 and 10001 for its first experimental electrics in the 1900's and we're all familiar with UP's early Streamliners in the M-10000 series.

UMLER may not restrict locomotives to four-digit numbers but in-house computer systems might.  UP started using the UPY reporting mark for its switchers and light roadswitchers because its own computer systems limited locomotives to four-digit numbers.

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Posted by caldreamer on Saturday, August 12, 2017 8:15 AM

Locomotive numbers can be up to six numbers.   Here is the requirment from the UMLER files requirements

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, August 12, 2017 10:02 AM

UMLER equipment identification standards allow for upto 4 alphabetic postitions and 6 numeric positions.  A trailing X in the alphabetic indicates a private ownership rail vehicle.  A trailing Z indicates a normal trailer with wheels as used in intermodal, a trailing U indicates a container without wheels also used in intermodal transportation.

At one point in time the New Haven used a preceeding Zero on the numbers of their diesel locomotives.  Their electric and steam locomotives were just the normal 4 digits. 

There is no rule limiting locomotive numbers to 4 digits, it has just been customary.

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Saturday, August 12, 2017 3:37 PM

All of the Milwaukee electric locomotives were originally numbered in the 10,000s.

 

10200 etc...

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Posted by Buslist on Saturday, August 12, 2017 5:59 PM

RME

At times, the PRR used five-digit numbers to indicate power that was 'about to be retired' (by prepending a "1" to the existing road number).  This freed up the four-digit number for re-use in a new series.  (UP did a similar thing in renumbering locomotive 844, temporarily as it turned out, to 8444 to allow an unbroken series of diesels).  Some of this might have been a "USRA thing" as there is at least one instance of its being used in 1919 to renumber a locomotive (an old locomotive rebuilt to a small shop switcher) which wasn't scrapped until 1925).

I have seen reference to industrial units numbered as high as 6 digits.  Can't give you any direct examples, but one of the organized groups like LocoNotes would probably know.

To my knowledge there has never been a railroad in the United States that used the European system of a class number followed by delimiter and then road number.  That would easily produce 'six digits' but I think it would be extremely unlikely that we would ever standardize on one class enough to have more than 10,000 examples.  Some railroads that indicated class by road number (ATSF being a 'poster child' example) might easily have run out of sequential numbers in four-digit classes; B&O started to run into this problem during dieselization and bulk-renumbered the steam power to new (three-digit) ranges rather than appending digits.  PRR 'solved' this problem at various times by assigning blocks of new power to ranges of temporarily vacant numbers, sometimes apparently at random, resulting in no guarantee that particular ranges of numbers precisely corresponded with classes or even locomotive wheel arrangements.

As I understand it, many railroads opt to keep locomotive numbers 4 digits or less to avoid confusing locomotive numbers with other types of equipment.  I don't have an SSO for UMLER, but I note that the example in the UMLER user's manual showing a field for Equipment ID for Equipment Group LOCO shows ten data positions (e.g. "0000001641" for Norfolk Southern locomotive 1641) so it is highly unlikely that UMLER 'requires' that locomotives in interchange have no more than four-digit road numbers.

 

Locomotives were not considered interchange equipment until the mid 90s. Prior to that there would be no requirement to have them in UMLER. Until about a decade ago entries to UMLER were limited to 72 columns. It wasn't until recently that RailInc converted it to a relational database. This was a significant change allowing the industry to track car component performance.

 

RME
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Posted by RME on Saturday, August 12, 2017 9:26 PM

BaltACD
At one point in time the New Haven used a preceding Zero on the numbers of their diesel locomotives. Their electric and steam locomotives were just the normal 4 digits.

The leading-zero convention was initiated on the New Haven with the very first electrics, and prevailed all the way to the time of Dave Klepper's beloved EP-3as.  In fact I think the EP-5 'Jets' in the fifties might have been the first electrics that didn't have the convention (and the ex-Virginian EF-4s only a couple of years later the last).

Interestingly, the New Haven didn't 'pad' the numbers out to four digits; the first was 01, one of the EP-1s was 020, and so on.

The convention was 'recognizeable' enough as applying to electric power that Tom Swift's electric locomotive was the Hercules 0001 (in charming '20s boys-book language, 'three-oughts-one').  Two miles a minute on the rails!

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Posted by Backshop on Saturday, August 12, 2017 9:28 PM

Ford Motor at the Rouge Plant used to have some Alcos and SW1001's numbered in the 10000 series.  I think it was by horsepower as they also had some 6600 Alcos.  I think they may have had some 12000 and 15000 series EMD switchers, but it's been a long time.

RME
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Posted by RME on Saturday, August 12, 2017 9:45 PM

Backshop
Ford Motor at the Rouge Plant used to have some Alcos and SW1001's numbered in the 10000 series.  I think it was by horsepower as they also had some 6600 Alcos.  I think they may have had some 12000 and 15000 series EMD switchers, but it's been a long time

10000s and 12000s for sure.  (I've seen Alcos as high as 6607, and of course the original stylish centercabs that went so famously to the WA&G were 1000 hp numbered in the 1000s...)

There's even a representative model of one:

Note that Ford did something interesting: they kept the 5 digits based on the 'horsepower plus one digit', but as the numbers grew past 10, they shifted back one position to give 10016 as above, 10022, etc. 

Yes, the 12000 series were 1200hp (including at least one SW7).

Rouge Steel (not Ford) had locomotives numbered in the 15xx series, but those numbers only had four digits.

 

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Posted by WhiteLeather on Monday, August 21, 2017 5:18 PM

Thanks, everyone, for the info.  I had forgotten about the 5 digit trains/locos.

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