THE magazine of railroading

SEARCH TRAINSMAG.COM

Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

Road Switcher Evolution?

4627 views
45 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September, 2007
  • 135 posts
Road Switcher Evolution?
Posted by MrLynn on Friday, January 27, 2017 2:34 PM

Howdy-- I'm interested in the curious history of the American freight locomotive, which led to the lowly end-cab diesel yard switcher becoming first a 'road switcher' with two hoods, and ultimately the 'comfort cab' behemoths pulling freight today, but still with front and rear platforms and still called 'road switchers'.  I don't think you'll find the same evolution in Europe or elsewhere.

I'm hoping to find links to books and articles discussing this history and the reasons for it, so if you know of any, I'd appreciate them.

As an aside, I also wonder at the persistence of the Norfolk & Western, and the Southern, at keeping the 'short hoods' of their road switchers high, and running 'long hood forward', into the '70s, I think. Do you know of their reasons for this practice?

/Mr Lynn 

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Denver / La Junta
  • 8,652 posts
Posted by mudchicken on Friday, January 27, 2017 5:28 PM

Start with the Alco RS-1 on the back of a napkin (stretched S-1) and it's cousin the EMD NW-5, find a copy of all of Kalmbach's Diesel Spotters Guides and exhume an article in trains about the pre-WW2 evolution of the RS-1/RSD-1's that went to Iran. (the US Army took the first 13 RS-1s built in 1941 for the Rock Island, Milwaukee Road, New York, Susquehanna & Western, Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay, and the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad.)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 5,767 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Friday, January 27, 2017 5:35 PM

MrLynn

Howdy-- I'm interested in the curious history of the American freight locomotive, which led to the lowly end-cab diesel yard switcher becoming first a 'road switcher' with two hoods, and ultimately the 'comfort cab' behemoths pulling freight today, but still with front and rear platforms and still called 'road switchers'.  I don't think you'll find the same evolution in Europe or elsewhere.

I'm hoping to find links to books and articles discussing this history and the reasons for it, so if you know of any, I'd appreciate them.

As an aside, I also wonder at the persistence of the Norfolk & Western, and the Southern, at keeping the 'short hoods' of their road switchers high, and running 'long hood forward', into the '70s, I think. Do you know of their reasons for this practice?

/Mr Lynn 

 

   OK, Mr. Lynn:[You stated and asked] "...Howdy-- I'm interested in the curious history of the American freight locomotive, which led to the lowly end-cab diesel yard switcher becoming first a 'road switcher' with two hoods..."

  Might as well start with the Buckwalter 'Electrics' They were orginally (1912) built as battery powered electrics and later converted to gasoline power. They were well-used in the big cities of the N.E.  see @ http://prr.railfan.net/photos/StreetTractors/PRR_14380_3-8000_side_EE6573.jpgTHwnthere was the Baldwin Locomotive Co.'s Road (actually called a Transfer- Switcher) (Center Cab) DT6-6-2000 built in the late 1950sinto 60's.  They lasted until scrapped in the 1970s. see @  http://www.railpictures.net/photo/415423/

Baldwin also built 'End-Cab' switchers starting in 1939 with their VO-660(@66hp)

 Most of them lasted until EMD started producing the End-Cab SW900.

See@ http://www.american-rails.com/baldwin-vo660.html

Hopefully, this will get you started.

 

Sam

 

 


 

  • Member since
    May, 2013
  • 2,811 posts
Posted by NorthWest on Saturday, January 28, 2017 10:55 AM

It started out with the Alco RS1, as has been mentioned. Railroads were still in a steam locomotive buying mentality and had been using downgraded locomotives such as 2-8-0s, 4-6-0s, 2-6-0s and the odd 2-6-2 in both yard and local service. There was no diesel equivilent until the railroads asked for the RS1.

Cab units were ordered as sets that railroads expected not to break up, the whole set being considered one locomotive (steam mentality again), with the FTs being drawbar-connected. As they generally lacked footboards (and sight lines for that position) and any sort of rear visibility, they were terrible for doing anything other than leading on the road. Furthermore, the truss-style construction meant that it was very difficult to access the machinery when something went wrong, short of pulling the prime mover out through the roof.

The RS1's sales took off, and others took notice. Alco bumped up the horsepower in the RS2 to make it equivilent to the current road locomotives. EMD tried to counter it with the BL2, which was the worst of both worlds, before finally producing the GP7. This model of course took off as it could be at home anywhere doing anything (if it had a steam generator) and was far easier to maintain.

The next evolution was the short hood, created for visibility. As for why N&W and SOU stuck with the high short hood for so long has been explained in a variety of ways, none of which have been conclusively proven. They include protecting the engine crew, enhancing bidirectional capability as the short hood was in reverse so sight lines were less impacted than when running long hood forward in the traditional setup, and convincing the crew that LHF operation was equivilent to SHF operation. Meanwhile, units got larger, stronger, and more reliable.

The first wide-nose safety cab emerged on CN in 1973, providing more comfortable space with added collision protection, though at a price premium. Other railroads began to pick up the design in the late 1980s, and as safety standards have come to require them they are now standard.

  • Member since
    January, 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 10,147 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Saturday, January 28, 2017 11:08 AM

The wide short hood were developed for a couple reasons.  One was the increased use of cab electronics and the need for some level of climate control. You really don't want to bake or freeze the electronics if you don't have to.

 Also, the need for space to better organize the cab electronics and to create a better toilet compartment played a roll.  The short hood used to house all sorts of stuff, from the toilet to the sand box magnet valves to the cab signal equipment.  It was a mess.  A lousy environment for the equipment and hard space to maintain.  The equipment rack in the new cabs and separate toilet compartment "across the hall" are a big step up for everyone.

On top of that, there was a push to make the cab compartment quieter, better ergonomically and to conform to new collision standards.  The nose door overlaps the nose which makes for much better conditions when colliding with a tank truck, for example.  The nose door plus interior door make for a much quieter environment.  Although the desktop controls were botched, in general, the work position and provision for integrated displays makes for a simpler design and better ergonomics.

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    July, 2001
  • From: Shelbyville, Kentucky
  • 1,712 posts
Posted by SSW9389 on Saturday, January 28, 2017 11:22 AM

The idea of a hood unit on road trucks started before the RS-1. Preston Cook claims that the NW3 first produced by EMC in 1939 was the first road switcher. It didn't have the short hood, but it did come equipped with road trucks and a steam generator.

 

COTTON BELT: Runs like a Blue Streak!
RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 1,743 posts
Posted by RME on Saturday, January 28, 2017 12:16 PM

NorthWest
Cab units were ordered as sets that railroads expected not to break up, the whole set being considered one locomotive (steam mentality again), with the FTs being drawbar-connected.

I think the idea of sets of units as "one articulated locomotive" was more a marketing convention than a steam-oriented operating mentality.  What was far, far more important was the pending litigation by the unions that each MU-capable independent 'unit' in a diesel consist would count as a locomotive for employment purposes -- a situation that if I recall correctly wasn't resolved until the late '40s.  The only 'sure' way to get around this would be to have 'units' either semipermanently coupled together or clearly numbered as parts of a single locomotive.

I think it's no coincidence that as soon as this issue had been worked through, railroads generally got rid of drawbar connections between units or "904-A,B,C,D" style numbering conventions... but not before.

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • 2,987 posts
Posted by M636C on Saturday, January 28, 2017 5:47 PM

RME

 

 
NorthWest
Cab units were ordered as sets that railroads expected not to break up, the whole set being considered one locomotive (steam mentality again), with the FTs being drawbar-connected.

 

I think the idea of sets of units as "one articulated locomotive" was more a marketing convention than a steam-oriented operating mentality.  What was far, far more important was the pending litigation by the unions that each MU-capable independent 'unit' in a diesel consist would count as a locomotive for employment purposes -- a situation that if I recall correctly wasn't resolved until the late '40s.  The only 'sure' way to get around this would be to have 'units' either semipermanently coupled together or clearly numbered as parts of a single locomotive.

I think it's no coincidence that as soon as this issue had been worked through, railroads generally got rid of drawbar connections between units or "904-A,B,C,D" style numbering conventions... but not before.

 
I think the history of the Santa Fe FT units makes the point very clearly.
 
Santa Fe never used drawbars and some references suggest these units were type FS (Fourteen Hundred Horsepower Single Unit, rather than Fourteen Hundred Horsepower Twin Unit). This had an unexpected advantage. Santa Fe unions wanted a crew in every cab. I haven't checked this but I think only sets 100 and 101 were built with two A units initally, and one of these was soon replaced by  a third B unit, so each locomotive had only one cab. I think most of the Santa Fe FTs were built as A-B-B-B, but once the union objections were overcome A units were built to return the sets to A-B-B-A, and the final units were built with two cabs. I think the situation on Sata Fe was resolved during the war, certainly while the FTs weere still in production. Santa Fe started using E1A units as back to back pairs, having previously arranged to have only one cab per unit, even on units 1 and 1A that started out with four cabs.
 
To return to the NW3, EMD built two pairs of TR1 A+B units for Illinois Central, which were basically stretched NW 3 units, complete with provision for the steam generator in the cab unit. While these date from April 1941, they are important as the first road switcher with the power of a main line freight unit (in this case 1350HP). These may have been affected by the War and the associated restrictions, but this type could potentially have resulted in road switchers being built instead of cab units. As it was, the two sets remained as transfer units.
 
Peter
  • Member since
    June, 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 5,767 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Saturday, January 28, 2017 7:33 PM

M636C

 

 
RME

 

 
NorthWest
Cab units were ordered as sets that railroads expected not to break up, the whole set being considered one locomotive (steam mentality again), with the FTs being drawbar-connected.

 

I think the idea of sets of units as "one articulated locomotive" was more a marketing convention than a steam-oriented operating mentality.  What was far, far more important was the pending litigation by the unions that each MU-capable independent 'unit' in a diesel consist would count as a locomotive for employment purposes -- a situation that if I recall correctly wasn't resolved until the late '40s.  The only 'sure' way to get around this would be to have 'units' either semipermanently coupled together or clearly numbered as parts of a single locomotive.

I think it's no coincidence that as soon as this issue had been worked through, railroads generally got rid of drawbar connections between units or "904-A,B,C,D" style numbering conventions... but not before.

 

 

 
I think the history of the Santa Fe FT units makes the point very clearly.
 
Santa Fe never used drawbars and some references suggest these units were type FS (Fourteen Hundred Horsepower Single Unit, rather than Fourteen Hundred Horsepower Twin Unit). This had an unexpected advantage. Santa Fe unions wanted a crew in every cab. I haven't checked this but I think only sets 100 and 101 were built with two A units initally, and one of these was soon replaced by  a third B unit, so each locomotive had only one cab. I think most of the Santa Fe FTs were built as A-B-B-B, but once the union objections were overcome A units were built to return the sets to A-B-B-A, and the final units were built with two cabs. I think the situation on Sata Fe was resolved during the war, certainly while the FTs weere still in production. Santa Fe started using E1A units as back to back pairs, having previously arranged to have only one cab per unit, even on units 1 and 1A that started out with four cabs.
 
To return to the NW3, EMD built two pairs of TR1 A+B units for Illinois Central, which were basically stretched NW 3 units, complete with provision for the steam generator in the cab unit. While these date from April 1941, they are important as the first road switcher with the power of a main line freight unit (in this case 1350HP). These may have been affected by the War and the associated restrictions, but this type could potentially have resulted in road switchers being built instead of cab units. As it was, the two sets remained as transfer units.
 
Peter
 

 

        I think the major point made in this Post by Northwest and M636C is the references to the Unions, and their demands for a 'crew' on each 'engine' {or Locomotive}.  At their introduction at the time of WWII and the start of the diesel era. There was temendous pressure by the Unions to demand the railroads maintain 'The Full Crew' rules, and those rules were codified by many State legislative bodies at that time. 

  The drawbar connection was a recogintion by the Builders that their way to more power was to utilize drawbar connections to gain the power in what was apparently, 'legally' recognized as a 'single locomotive with one cab, and multiple power units".While they kept Unions, and State regulators, at bay.

 Such Engines were not necessarily, a universal fix for every railroad. The " Cow&Calf" units were termed "Transfer" Types, and the ICRR bought them to use in the Chicago area @Markham Yd; moving cars across the City's lines.  They came about with the NW-2's, and lasted with less demand/ success into the heavier SW-8's. The first were powered with non-EMD [Winton] power; later with the 567 engine series for power.The Winton powered units of early production were built with the Winton engine, and carbodies by St.Louis Car Co.

See link @ http://www.american-rails.com/cow-calf.html

 

Sam

 

 


 

  • Member since
    May, 2013
  • 2,811 posts
Posted by NorthWest on Saturday, January 28, 2017 9:23 PM

RME
I think the idea of sets of units as "one articulated locomotive" was more a marketing convention than a steam-oriented operating mentality. What was far, far more important was the pending litigation by the unions that each MU-capable independent 'unit' in a diesel consist would count as a locomotive for employment purposes -- a situation that if I recall correctly wasn't resolved until the late '40s. The only 'sure' way to get around this would be to have 'units' either semipermanently coupled together or clearly numbered as parts of a single locomotive.

I think it's no coincidence that as soon as this issue had been worked through, railroads generally got rid of drawbar connections between units or "904-A,B,C,D" style numbering conventions... but not before.

I think it depends on the road... Some, like the Santa Fe, quickly understood the advantages of diesel flexibility. Others, such as Soo line, continued to purchase locomotives without MU well into the 1950s for specific jobs. One of the interesting things is how long it took for EMD to include nose MU receptacles as an option on F units.

  • Member since
    May, 2013
  • 2,811 posts
Posted by NorthWest on Saturday, January 28, 2017 9:37 PM

SSW9389
The idea of a hood unit on road trucks started before the RS-1. Preston Cook claims that the NW3 first produced by EMC in 1939 was the first road switcher. It didn't have the short hood, but it did come equipped with road trucks and a steam generator.

M636C
To return to the NW3, EMD built two pairs of TR1 A+B units for Illinois Central, which were basically stretched NW 3 units, complete with provision for the steam generator in the cab unit. While these date from April 1941, they are important as the first road switcher with the power of a main line freight unit (in this case 1350HP). These may have been affected by the War and the associated restrictions, but this type could potentially have resulted in road switchers being built instead of cab units. As it was, the two sets remained as transfer units.

I suppose I shouldn't have omitted these as they are steps in the road switcher evolution, however few in quantity. I suppose we could add in the two NW4s which were hood units with road trucks, though recycled rather than for a specific use. I don't think Mopac ever used them in road service. The NW3s did see some branchline service but ended up in yards, interestingly on the Clinchfield in the case of one unit.

The WPB didn't really get going until 1942 so I don't think that the TRs were built the way they were for that reason. I suspect IC wanted something similar to its earlier T, and EMD simply repackaged the FT into the NW3 carbody. IC didn't buy any FTs, interestingly enough.

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • 2,987 posts
Posted by M636C on Sunday, January 29, 2017 5:34 AM

NorthWest

The WPB didn't really get going until 1942 so I don't think that the TRs were built the way they were for that reason. I suspect IC wanted something similar to its earlier T, and EMD simply repackaged the FT into the NW3 carbody. IC didn't buy any FTs, interestingly enough.

 

I didn't mean to imply that the WPB influenced the design of the TR 1, which was clearly pre WWII. However, WPB restrictions in 1942 and later would have prevented EMD from offering these to other customers in competition with the RS 1, for example or as an alternative to the FT.

Peter

  • Member since
    May, 2013
  • 2,811 posts
Posted by NorthWest on Sunday, January 29, 2017 11:27 AM

Ok, understood.

It is interesting that we got the BL2 rather than a modified TR1 after the war.

RME
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • 1,743 posts
Posted by RME on Sunday, January 29, 2017 11:31 AM

I think there are some other aspects of the 'evolution' of modern road units that exceed just the origins of typical road-switcher configuration.

The BL2 considerably postdates most of the locomotives discussed, but lacks many of the 'typical advantages' of the evolved road-switcher configuration, notably access to a platform at the front end or usable walkways from the cab directly to a rear platform.  It's like an ugly F unit with (somewhat) better visibility to the rear and different frame bracing, with style trumping utility.  We all know what came of that, but it might pay to remember what Dilworth said at the time about the Geep development.  And that is the locomotive that essentially defined "normal" road-locomotive configuration right up to the time of the wide-cab revolution we were discussing earlier.

There were other attempts at evolutionary lines.  One was the H20-44, which I'm surprised hasn't been discussed so far in this context.  One of the discussions in Kiefer's 1947 motive-power report is the advantage of 'shorter' locomotives of given DBHP - you can fit more train in a siding, and there's normally less weight and cost.  So it isn't really surprising to see FM make the attempt to sell a road locomotive in an end-cab switcher size.  In an era when long-hood-forward was typical (analogy with steam practice; keeping the mass of the engine and machinery as a 'buffer' against collision; etc.) this was not as unsafe as the sitting-in-a-Boston-rocker-across-grade-crossing terror that an end-cab road locomotive would otherwise present ... and which many cab-car engineers no doubt rue today.  I am tempted, somewhat, to see an extension of this in the late EMD 'switchers' with toilets in the hood waist and Flexicoil road trucks (cf. those on the LIRR)

Someone (Peter Clark, perhaps) can do a better discussion of the excursions into cowl units, and the reasons therefor (especially in Canada where the additional climate protection was more useful).  That brings us to the 'Draper taper' as a useful method of providing rearward visibility in that configuration.

Perhaps someone can go back through earlier posts and compile a reference for the development of the safety versions of the wide cab, and some of the 'alternatives' including the various forays into isolated cabs for less NVH and fatigue while running.  It would appear to me that along with the wide cabs came a general design approach away from the older conception of locomotive cabs -- even those on relatively expensive and high-horsepower units -- as little more than 'drafty outhouses for the Brotherhood peons assigned to pull the levers and so forth to get the trains over the road'.  Be interesting to see what did, and didn't, work to improve the standards of habitability and convenience  in ways that mattered to the men who ran them.

There is a peripheral evolution in motive-power efficiency and in real-world utility, that was not always 'forward progress', and this too needs its evolutionary discussion.  For example, the transition from first- to second-generation power, which involves much more than turbocharging and wheelslip limiting, deserves better coverage, as do the various approaches to modernization (and their relative success or failure) over the years.  One very fruitful area for discussion is truck design, perhaps starting with the early 'zero weight transfer' designs (I still find the Alco Hi-Ad C truck technologically appealing, even if it didn't work properly in its era of track "maintenance") and then extending to various forms of steerable and lower-unsprung-mass designs.  And then the effect of EPA regs and fuel prices on evolving locomotive control, with special attention on what was, and wasn't, expected of road locomotives in terms of fast loading or acceleration.  (GEs in particular suffered from design engineering that produced almost ridiculously slow loading, resulting among other things in different builders' units in a nominally MUed consist 'jostling' each other during acceleration...

 

  • Member since
    September, 2007
  • 135 posts
Posted by MrLynn on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 8:09 PM

Sorry for my slow response. There is a lot to digest in these terrific responses, and a many more factors to consider in the history than I had anticipated.  For instance, I had not really considered the EMD NW3/5 models as precursors to the road switchers, or as (attempted) competition with the RS-1. But now I notice that Louis Marre does say, in his Diesel Locomotives: The first 50 Years, that "The NW3 and NW5 were marketed as passenger terminal switchers, in competition with Alco's boiler-equipped RS-1" (p. 25).

Aside: There is an NW3 on display at one of the stops of The Empire Builder on the Great Northern route--I have a photograph of it.  There were only seven made, all for GN, and only 13 NW5s, the latter after the war; not much competition for the RS-1, which was going great guns by that time.

Then there were the various center-cab terminal units, and GEs center-cab xx-ton switchers (even off-center cabs which look like later road switchers: see Marre, p. 188), which leads one to create diagrams like biological-evolution clades, with offshoots and dead-ends here and there.

Then there are the factors that went into road-worthiness, i.e. road trucks, steam boilers (for passenger operations), union rules, toilets, and railroad demand.  Still, when you think about it, it's interesting that the design of road diesel-electrics initially leapfrogged the road-switcher evolution altogether.  EMD's cab units were, I would venture say, just streamlined (after the art-nouveau fashion of the '30s--viz. the Air-Flow autos from Chrysler) versions of the utilitarian box-cab locomotives, but quickly took over directly from road steam (interrupted by WWII).  As pointed out above, they were really useless for switching and even branch-line service (where switching was required), with B units even more limited.  It looks like it was really the RS-1 that bridged the gap between diesels for yard work and road work.

I'm tempted to wonder whether, if the railroads had stuck to box-cab diesels, with a cab at each end--or for that matter, center-cab units--whether those would have evolved directly into the road-switcher.  But the streamlined diesels were somehow more appealing, especially the sharp-nosed EMD E units, which the advertising people loved.

I want to delve more into reading the history, but I greatly appreciate the discussion so far. I will only note that with the wide cab development that RME discusses, we have come full circle.  Despite their front-and-rear platforms, those behemoths are not really at home in the yards or branch lines, are they?

/Mr Lynn

 

 

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 16,841 posts
Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 9:12 PM

MrLynn
Despite their front-and-rear platforms, those behemoths are not really at home in the yards or branch lines, are they? /Mr Lynn

Much depends on the type of control stand.  I've never run one, but I've read that trying to run long hood forward on a unit with "desktop" controls is a real pain.

At least the long hood is narrow, like all road switchers.  Running long hood forward with a cowl is a problem.  Switching with a cowl with a "Draper taper" would be only slightly less so.

Of course, once you put several units together, backing up is a problem anyhow.  You begin to appreciate what it took to direct a switching movement in the days before radios...

I recall an image in Trains of the Santa Fe doing switching on a local with no fewer than 4 F's, A-B-B-A.

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • 2,987 posts
Posted by M636C on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 10:31 PM

NorthWest

Ok, understood.

It is interesting that we got the BL2 rather than a modified TR1 after the war.

 
We are talking about General Motors here...
 
The BL2 wasn't very good at anything.
It was basically an F unit with some corners cut off for visibility.
Access to the prime mover must have been really terrible.
 
But what had in its favour was that it could be built using most of the standard components that went into an F unit, the electrical cabinet, the radiators and cooling fans, the cab layout would have been much the same with a few more windows.
 
It could be built on an F unit production line.
 
Look at the GP7. It reverted to the radiator layout of the FT, admittedly with AC fans, which were a big help, but two separate radiators fore and aft of the engine. So the cooling system was different from the F unit. The electrical system was quite different, with fewer components to keep the price down so railroads could buy GPs for secondary duties but keep buying F units for the main line. That didn't work...
 
The GP7 and GP 9, and the matching SDs were a success and the F units went away. But as soon as the space was available, the radiators on the SDs moved back behind the engine in a single group, and from the GP30, they were behind the engine on GPs as well.
 
The BL2 was a half hearted attempt by people who wanted to build basically one type of road locomotive, but whose hand was forced by the competition to build a proper road switcher.
 
The wartime restrictions helped EMD's cab units and Alco's road switchers at the expense of each company's other products.
 
The BL2 came from a company that had been building cab units for so long they never thought of putting a V-16 into an NW5, as they had done with the NW3 and the TR 1 in 1941. At least, not until they were forced to...
 
Peter
  • Member since
    September, 2007
  • 135 posts
Posted by MrLynn on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 11:01 PM

tree68

 . . . Of course, once you put several units together, backing up is a problem anyhow.  You begin to appreciate what it took to direct a switching movement in the days before radios...

I recall an image in Trains of the Santa Fe doing switching on a local with no fewer than 4 F's, A-B-B-A.

Come to think of it, I've got a video of a quartet of GP40-2s humping freight cars in a small yard here in Framingham, MA.  Couldn't have been easy to see all the way down that line, but they did have radios.  Here's a still:

/Mr Lynn

  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Denver / La Junta
  • 8,652 posts
Posted by mudchicken on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 11:31 PM

MrLynn

 I will only note that with the wide cab development that RME discusses, we have come full circle.  Despite their front-and-rear platforms, those behemoths are not really at home in the yards or branch lines, are they? 

You don't want those behemoths in your yards, backtracks or branches because they are too heavy, don't turn worth a crap and have limited drawbar/coupler throw (especially the GE's and EMD's aren't that much of an improvement.). The wide cab takes a backseat to those issues.

Yards, backtracks and branches were designed and built in the days of the 40 foot boxcars, no rail anchors, less than 90# rail,  switch engines with no pony trucks or end cab switchers. Present that type of track and design to a railroad for a new industry or yard track, much less branch main track, and you will get laughed out of the room.

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
  • Member since
    October, 2014
  • From: Flint or Grand Rapids, Mi or Elkhart, It Depends on the day
  • 340 posts
Posted by BOB WITHORN on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 7:06 AM
Did the change over to radio communications have an effect on the design? Meaning, did that technology allow some of the design changes we see today.
  • Member since
    December, 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 16,841 posts
Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 7:23 AM

BOB WITHORN
Did the change over to radio communications have an effect on the design? Meaning, did that technology allow some of the design changes we see today.

I would opine not, as far as locomotives are concerned.  The general design of the road switcher was pretty well set before portable radios became commonplace.  

Wide cab and length notwithstanding, there is little difference between a GP7 and an SD70 from that aspect.  

If anything, radios would have been more useful in the days of lower horsepower, where it wasn't uncommon to see five or six locomotives doing what two will do today.  Crews often had to resort to multiple man relays to communicate from the point of action to the locomotive.

Radio has enabled EOTs, and longer trains, as a crew member can now communicate with the locomotive from well over a mile away under most circumstances.

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

  • Member since
    February, 2003
  • From: Guelph, Ontario
  • 3,352 posts
Posted by Ulrich on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 11:43 AM

I believe the very first diesel switcher was CN 7700 "visibility cab" built by Westinghouse in 1929. 

  • Member since
    November, 2003
  • From: Rhode Island
  • 2,282 posts
Posted by carnej1 on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 11:54 AM

[quote user="NorthWest"]

 

The next evolution was the short hood, created for visibility. As for why N&W and SOU stuck with the high short hood for so long has been explained in a variety of ways, none of which have been conclusively proven. They include protecting the engine crew, enhancing bidirectional capability as the short hood was in reverse so sight lines were less impacted than when running long hood forward in the traditional setup, and convincing the crew that LHF operation was equivilent to SHF operation. Meanwhile, units got larger, stronger, and more reliable.

[/quote

In N&W's case didn't they order all new road units (which were exclusively road switchers as far as the railroad's own purchases although they inherited cab units from merger partners) right up until the early 1970's?

 That would seem to support the bi-directional running argument. I've read that they didn't want crews/hostlers to be "prejudiced" as far as cab direction..

 I know that there were low-nosed locomotives set up with dual control stands. Pennsylvania Reading Seashore lines had some GP38Acs so configured and O.C N&W continued specifying that setup even after they stopped ordering high short hood units..

"I Often Dream of Trains"-From the Album of the Same Name by Robyn Hitchcock

  • Member since
    December, 2005
  • 180 posts
Posted by AnthonyV on Wednesday, February 01, 2017 5:26 PM

What a great thread.  Kudos to the OP for initiating it and to fellow forum members who have weighed in.

  • Member since
    September, 2011
  • 3,034 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, February 02, 2017 10:02 PM

Ulrich

I believe the very first diesel switcher was CN 7700 "visibility cab" built by Westinghouse in 1929. 

 

I presume you are talking about single end cab switchers, and not earlier box cabs switchers

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 34 posts
Posted by Blackcloud 5229 on Thursday, February 09, 2017 7:23 AM

mudchicken

Start with the Alco RS-1 on the back of a napkin (stretched S-1) and it's cousin the EMD NW-5, find a copy of all of Kalmbach's Diesel Spotters Guides and exhume an article in trains about the pre-WW2 evolution of the RS-1/RSD-1's that went to Iran. (the US Army took the first 13 RS-1s built in 1941 for the Rock Island, Milwaukee Road, New York, Susquehanna & Western, Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay, and the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad.)

 

all the info you posted on the RS-1/RSD-1 is correct except they essentially stretched the S-2 not the S-1. The S-1 was normally aspirated and rated at 660 horsepower. The S–2 is turbocharged and rated at 1000 horsepower. A number of military RSD-1's were provided to Russia and they liked the locomotive so much they copied it and built it for over 30 years. The Russians even increased the engine from 6 to 8 cylinders inline rated at 1200 horsepower and hundreds are still in service today. The RS-1 RSD-1 is rated at 1000 horsepower. The RSD-1 has a smaller cab due to tighter clearences on European railroads where American locomotive's have better clearencces hence the locomotive's and freight cars are much larger then you usually find in Europe.

 

  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • 34 posts
Posted by Blackcloud 5229 on Thursday, February 09, 2017 8:20 AM

SSW9389

The idea of a hood unit on road trucks started before the RS-1. Preston Cook claims that the NW3 first produced by EMC in 1939 was the first road switcher. It didn't have the short hood, but it did come equipped with road trucks and a steam generator.

 

 

 

while EMC did produce the NW-3 before the RS-1 it was the RS-1 the railroads started to buy in quantity, it was in production for 19 years. The NW-3 and the postwar EMD NW-5 never sold anything like the ALCO RS-1 did. Basically the NW-3 was ahead of its time.

 

 

  • Member since
    September, 2007
  • 135 posts
Posted by MrLynn on Thursday, February 09, 2017 7:20 PM

Ulrich

I believe the very first diesel switcher was CN 7700 "visibility cab" built by Westinghouse in 1929. 

For an end-cab switcher design, that looks right (see Marre p. 410).  Marre also credits Westinghouse with building "the first large road diesel in North America" with CN 9000, a twin-unit boxcab that hauled a passenger train from Montreal to Vancouver.  Westinghouse also developed its 'visibility cab' into a few large, center-cab switchers in the early '30s, including a dual-engine 1,600 HP "massive beast" of which, Marre says, "A case could be made that this locomotive was the first road-switcher" (Northampton and Bath 1601, p. 412).  

There were a bunch of center-cab switcher designs appearing about that time, both for industry and railroads, which, when you think about it, make the most sense for an engine you want to run equally well in both directions.

I wonder why the end-cab switcher predominated in the '40s and '50s, and center-cabs got relegated to 'transfer' duties--maybe because the end-cabs could use a single large engine on a short frame, whereas transfer locomotives could be longer and if necessary house two engines.  But for road use a center-cab loco still makes sense to me.  Look at the electric GG1!

So it wasn't the center-cab that evolved into the road switcher (despite its ubiquity and the Westinghouse "beast"), but an end-cab design with road trucks and a steam boiler (for passenger service), the EMD NW3, which sold only a handful and kept the end cab, and the Alco RS-1, which initially got grabbed by the Army, but successfully introduced the short hood.

Is that a rough approximation of the story?

/Mr Lynn 

 

  • Member since
    January, 2002
  • 2,987 posts
Posted by M636C on Thursday, February 09, 2017 11:52 PM

Blackcloud 5229

 

 
SSW9389

The idea of a hood unit on road trucks started before the RS-1. Preston Cook claims that the NW3 first produced by EMC in 1939 was the first road switcher. It didn't have the short hood, but it did come equipped with road trucks and a steam generator.

 

 

 

 

 

while EMC did produce the NW-3 before the RS-1 it was the RS-1 the railroads started to buy in quantity, it was in production for 19 years. The NW-3 and the postwar EMD NW-5 never sold anything like the ALCO RS-1 did. Basically the NW-3 was ahead of its time.

 

The NW3 was not produced from 1942 to 1945 because the War Production Board had EMD building road units while Alco (and Baldwin) built switchers and road switchers.

So the RS1 had the market to itself, just as the EMD FT did in road units.

You could argue that Alco had an advantage in road switchers as a result of experience with the RS1 and had the 244 engine been more reliable as first built, road switchers might have replaced cab units years earlier.

Peter

 

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 9,920 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, February 10, 2017 6:58 AM

The RS1 had a 539 engine inside it through its entire production life.  Also note that Alco (RS2) and Baldwin (DRS6-4-15) came out with full-size roadswitchers in 1946, three years before the introduction of the GP7.

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

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Trains free email newsletter
NEWS » PHOTOS » VIDEOS » HOT TOPICS & MORE
GET OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Connect with us
ON FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

Search the Community