Were Alco Diesels "Bad" Locomotives

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Posted by Desert Rat on Monday, July 09, 2018 8:31 PM

Another thing I doubt Alco (amd MLW/Bombardier) had access to was GE's full catalog of electrical gear.  That "partnership" of Alco/GE gave Alco (and the others) no incentive to do R&D to the degree that GM and GE did, let alone actual production in-house electrical gear.

As for being "pullers" didn't the Westinghouse gear in BLW and FM locomotives give them the rep for being better than EMD at low-speed/high-tonnage work?  Especially drag and transfer work?   

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Posted by erikem on Monday, July 09, 2018 11:09 PM

Desert Rat

As for being "pullers" didn't the Westinghouse gear in BLW and FM locomotives give them the rep for being better than EMD at low-speed/high-tonnage work?  Especially drag and transfer work?   

Westinghouse traction motors had six poles as opposed to the four poles used on GE and GM motors (with the orignal GM motors being more or less copies of GE motors). For a given frame size, this should allow for a higher flux density on the poles, which would translate into a higher torque for a given armature current.

As far as the R&D disadvantage for Alco, they were the first of the big three to use traction alternators instead of generators.

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Posted by SSW9389 on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 5:01 AM

erikem

 

 - Erik

 

This statement needs some qualification. Alco was the first of the big three to use a traction alternator in a production locomotive: ACL C630 #2011 built in July 1965. That Alco locomotive was built after EMD test locomotives #462 F9Am, 433 GP40X, and 434, 434A-H SD40X, all were equipped with traction alternators.  

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Posted by M636C on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 8:41 AM

Another thing I doubt Alco (amd MLW/Bombardier) had access to was GE's full catalog of electrical gear.

 Alco was the first of the big three to use a traction alternator in a production locomotive: ACL C630 #2011 built in July 1965.

Apart from the obvious conflict of those statements, MLW continued to get support from GE up to the end of their production. In Australia, locally built electrical equipment to designs from AEI iin England was often used in place of GE to the extent that there were equivalent motors and generators, an AEI 165 being equivalent to a GE 752. AEI equipment, and licence built copies were also used by DLW in India rather than GE equipment. Given the extensive and continuing building of Alco designs in India, up to this current year, AEI and its Indian licensee may have supplied more equipment than GE... Towards the end in Australia, MLW design locomotives used Mitsubishi electrical equipment.

Peter

 

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Posted by SSW9389 on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 9:39 AM

ACL #2011 was a guinea pig for GE's traction alternator. The C630 used the GTA-9 alternator. Alco's second and third units with traction alternators were ACL #2012 and 2013 built in December 1965. By that time EMD had built 40 New York Central GP40s, the first SD45 demonstrator and was about to announce the 40 Series. General Electric was working on the even better GTA-11 traction alternator. A drawing of the stub nose U28 was printed in the November 1965 Trains Magazine on page 14. GE's response with traction alternator equipped UBoats started in May 1966 with the four U30B demonstrators. The Pennsylvania Railroad purchased 15 U28Cs with traction alternators in September 1966. Production of GE's U30B and U30C would soon follow. 

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Posted by M636C on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 7:22 PM

SSW9389

ACL #2011 was a guinea pig for GE's traction alternator. The C630 used the GTA-9 alternator. Alco's second and third units with traction alternators were ACL #2012 and 2013 built in December 1965. By that time EMD had built 40 New York Central GP40s, the first SD45 demonstrator and was about to announce the 40 Series. General Electric was working on the even better GTA-11 traction alternator. A drawing of the stub nose U28 was printed in the November 1965 Trains Magazine on page 14. GE's response with traction alternator equipped UBoats started in May 1966 with the four U30B demonstrators. The Pennsylvania Railroad purchased 15 U28Cs with traction alternators in September 1966. Production of GE's U30B and U30C would soon follow. 

 
Quite apart from the relative positions of GE and EMD, there were fundamental differences between the EMD and GE applications of a traction alternator.
 
Not surprisingly, given their background to date, EMD emphasised interchangeability, and the AR-10 could be dropped into place instead of a D-32, since it contained its own rectifiers and provided a DC output just like the D-32 generator. The size was important since EMD engines and generators sat lower in the frame than GE or Alco installations that sat clear of the frame. So the AR-10 had to fit the recess in the frame (which could be made larger at a model change as occurred in 1966, but keeping the size made backfitting on units where the D-32 was a problem, like the GP-35 gave an incentive for interchangeability. BNSF in particular took advantage of this).
 
The GE alternator used external rectifiers, and was a single bearing machine bolted to the engine (251 or FDL). Size was not a consideration.
 
I was assured by the chief mechanic at Mt Newman Mining that the GTA-9 was a heavier unit than the GTA-11 and was more suitable for heavy haul operation than the GTA-11. For some reason. the GTA-9 came with an air starter but the GTA-11 came with an electric starter (GE having motored the generator as a starter prior to the use of alternators). My recollection was that all C-636s came with the GTA-9 and all M-636s came with the GTA-11. I'm not familiar with the alternator fit on earlier AC/DC GE locomotives.
 
Peter
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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 8:58 PM

One thing I have always pondered.  Why are most locomotives only electrically started?

Back in the Gen 1 days when prime movers were rarely shut down outside of shop areas, how they were started was not that big of a deal.

Now we are in the world of fuel conservation.  Prime movers on multiple unit locomotive consists can be shut down a number of times during their trip if the delay at meets is expected to exceed a hour.  Locomotives for locals at oulying locations are shut down as long as the expected low temperature before the next use is no lower than 40 degrees F.  

What are the problems of equipping locomotives with BOTH electrical and AIR starters.  As we all know, from time to time batteries have their own issues and don't give full voltage required to start the engines.  If the batteries are dead, locomotives do not carry jumper cables to permit jumping from a currently running locomotive.  However, operating locomotives always have operating air compressors and air pressure available to be routed to an air starter.

I am certain the bean counters look at having both forms as a waste of money, however as a operating person - a locomotive that can't be started is an even bigger waste of money.

         

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Posted by DAVID GRIMM1 on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 11:22 PM

BaltACD

One thing I have always pondered.  Why are most locomotives only electrically started?

Back in the Gen 1 days when prime movers were rarely shut down outside of shop areas, how they were started was not that big of a deal.

Now we are in the world of fuel conservation.  Prime movers on multiple unit locomotive consists can be shut down a number of times during their trip if the delay at meets is expected to exceed a hour.  Locomotives for locals at oulying locations are shut down as long as the expected low temperature before the next use is no lower than 40 degrees F.  

What are the problems of equipping locomotives with BOTH electrical and AIR starters.  As we all know, from time to time batteries have their own issues and don't give full voltage required to start the engines.  If the batteries are dead, locomotives do not carry jumper cables to permit jumping from a currently running locomotive.  However, operating locomotives always have operating air compressors and air pressure available to be routed to an air starter.

I am certain the bean counters look at having both forms as a waste of money, however as a operating person - a locomotive that can't be started is an even bigger waste of money.

 

Before I retired 5 years ago, the newest EMD's did have air starters. And the start/stop systems on both the EMD's and GE's were programmed to restart the diesel when certain parameters were met, including a decreased air pressure or battery voltage so that the system WOULD be able start the diesel before it couldn't.

So your point is a good one and the designers already thought of it.

 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 6:59 PM

DAVID GRIMM1
So your point is a good one and the designers already thought of it.

Unfortunately my 'point' was brought about by too many outlying local freights whose engines would not start when the crews came on duty, as well as a few road trains that were handling max tonnage for their power that were delayed at a meet and in accordance with instructions in effect they shut down power other than the lead unit for fuel conservation.  When it came time to get the train's moving again the shut down power would not restart and the train was now overloaded for its route.  Plan B!

         

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Posted by M636C on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 7:26 PM

One advantage of an air starter, at least in a workshop environment, is that you are likely to have a supply of sufficiently high pressure air to continue to try to start a reluctant locomotive after emptying its air system. However, the air starter on a C636 was noisy, and everyone in the shop knew what was happening when you had a unit that was hard to get to fire.

Some turboprop airliners used air starters. I remember a Bristol Britannia at Sydney Kingsford Smith airport starting for its flight to London in the late 1950s. In those days there was just a wire fence between farewelling visitors and the aircraft. I think it was the first time we hadn't gone to the docks to see a ship sail for that purpose. I think the air starter on the Bristol Proteus was the noisiest thing I'd ever heard to that time. The designer of the Proteus said "we designed the engine to be the most economical aero engine in the world, regardless of size and weight. I can say that we met the size and weight criterion".

The Allison engines in Lockheed Electras were also started by air. An Electra freighter came to Port Hedland during my time with Mt Newman, with the computer control system for the port conveyer belts (in those days you needed a four engined aircraft to carry a computer). The area was, (and still is) very flat and there was nothing in the five or so miles between my office and the Electra on the hardstand with one engine still running for a couple of hours since there was no air starter north of Perth. Given a choice, I'd have preferred to have the air start system in town.

Now there are probably big ore stockpiles for at least two other mining railways to mute the sound.

Peter

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Wednesday, July 11, 2018 11:01 PM

My hubby's reading this over my shoulder and has a good one on air starters. He was getting a full DOT inspection done at Truckee in 99.  Driver next to him was also. Well came time to restart their engines while the DOT officer was still under the truck to check for oil and coolant leaks.  The driver next to him had an air starter on his truck. He hit his button to fire it up and the DOT officer comes flying out from under the truck cussing like a Chief in the Navy.  The other driver went what's wrong officer forgot I had an air starter on here.  

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, July 12, 2018 1:35 AM

I have heard of incidents which found the weak points in both air and electric locomotive starters. 

Last year a consist was parked while the crew was on mandatory rest.  One locomotive (a newer GE) either had defective batteries or AutoStart went to sleep.  The crew came back on duty and the unit would not start.  So another crew had to be called and a booster cable brought from the next terminal over. 

A couple years earlier a train powered entirely by SD70M-2's was parked to wait for a rested crew.  As per our fuel conservation instructions at the time the incoming crew manually shut down all the locomotives.  This action disabled the AutoStart program.  By the time the new crew came on duty the MR air pressure had leaked off and there was not enough left to start any of the engines.  So they had to wait for the next train to arrive, stop and hook up the MR hose to recharge the dead units, which then started without incident.  After that a notice was put in our operating manual to NEVER manually shut down consists composed entirely of SD70M-2's. 

CN orders units with a battery charging plug located under the frame near the cab, no need for alligator clips.  This plug design has been in use since the early 1900s on passenger equipment and I have yet to see a CN diesel unit without it.  I have never seen a foreign unit with one though. 

Didn't the SD80MAC's come with both air and electric starters?

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Posted by ricktrains4824 on Friday, July 13, 2018 12:18 PM

Getting back to the original topic, it depends on who you ask.

If you ask a line used to EMD or GE power, they will say yes, Alco's are bad.

Ask a line like the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville, or Western New York & Pennsylvania, they will say no, they are great.

According to every crew I've spoken with on the WNYP, the Alco's pull better than GE units, and load better than any EMD they've ever ran. (And one pointed out that Alco's beat both on fuel efficiency too.) 

So, at least according to them, the Alco units they run out perform on almost every level the competition. 

But, they also know how to care for them, while a EMD or GE mechanic probably won't. Therein lies the biggest difference, I think. Most railroads are more used to EMD or GE mechanical work, so they do the same on the Alco, and that just doesn't work.

Kind of like how most of us would be lost trying to work on a Lamborghini. It just isn't going to turn out well.

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Posted by YoHo1975 on Friday, July 13, 2018 1:20 PM
People always say that and I have to wonder what the quirks are that hang people up. I mean, I get it when talking about someone used to an EMD. The differences are significant, but comparing a GE to an Alco, is an FDL really a different beast in some fundamental way to a 244/251? Or is this really more about the electrical gear? An if that's the case, is there significant difference between Universal series and what GE was providing to Alco?
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Posted by NorthWest on Friday, July 13, 2018 2:36 PM

Shops tend to maintain things by word of mouth rather than according to manufacturer instructions or service manuals. If the institutional knowledge is not there when problems come up, then repairs will be ineffective and the units will get bad reputations.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, July 16, 2018 12:36 PM

M636C
Some turboprop airliners used air starters. I remember a Bristol Britannia at Sydney Kingsford Smith airport starting for its flight to London in the late 1950s. In those days there was just a wire fence between farewelling visitors and the aircraft. I think it was the first time we hadn't gone to the docks to see a ship sail for that purpose. I think the air starter on the Bristol Proteus was the noisiest thing I'd ever heard to that time. The designer of the Proteus said "we designed the engine to be the most economical aero engine in the world, regardless of size and weight. I can say that we met the size and weight criterion".

The Proteus was a gas turbine tuboprop engine, also used by the British Electrical board for "Pocket Power staions" in the SW.  Definitely LOUD!

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 8:10 PM

SOU RR had 6 PAs assigned to trains 45 & 46 Tennessean Bristol =  Memphis. #s 6900 - 6905 sub lettered NO&NE.  Only 4 required for operation of train and if one failed could ferry from Chattanooga - ATL for maintenance.  Even so only about 80% of time would 2 PAs make it to Bristol.  Reliability ? ? ?

Was told that often an "F" unit assigned Chattanooga <> Memphis with a PA.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 7:04 AM

While it has been well documented that the 244 engine was not properly developed, I would surmise that the PA's assigned to the "Tennesseean" also suffered from being Alcos on an EMD railroad.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul

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