Trains are growing - just like everything else

1121 views
15 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    March, 2019
  • From: Bethlehem, PA
  • 44 posts
Trains are growing - just like everything else
Posted by HO Hobbyist on Thursday, June 27, 2019 12:46 PM

Hi everyone,

I model the early 1970's, so I've seen photos of Geeps used as mainline runners.

In fact, the Lehigh Valley Railroad only owned one six axle unit at all - the Alco Century C628.

And today, four axle units on Class I freights don't even do switching!

Back in the early days of diesel, six axle units were unheard of for freight. Passenger, yes. Freight, no.

So, what happened? Now, NS uses SD40s for switching, not even as many Geeps.

No one makes any four axle units either. In the days before Conrail, the railroads used SW and NW or Alco switchers, but now its six axle everything.

- HO Hobbyist

Modeler of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in Bethlehem PA, 1971, and model railroad YouTuber. 

http://hohobbyist.weebly.com

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIYnPo26Y8nsXyKhtpvSWwA

http://instagram.com/lvrr_hoscale

http://twitter.com/lvrr_hoscale

"When railroading time comes you can railroad...but not before."

- Robert A. Heinlein

  • Member since
    January, 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 1,869 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, June 27, 2019 1:12 PM

A professional railroader could give you a bit more insight than I can, but the main reason, I think, that you see "six-axle everything" on the Class Ones is logistically it's just easier that way.  If a six-axle does everything you want it to do why bother with anything else?

There's still quite a bit of variety on the small 'roads and regionals.

  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 926 posts
Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Thursday, June 27, 2019 2:22 PM

The cars trains pull are heavier also than they were in the 70's.  Back then a car could have between a 50-100 ton capacity as some of the old 50 ton capacity cars where still being used.  Now everything is 125 tons capacity and 140 tons is their next target.  Also with radial tech in the trucks a 6 axle locomotive can get around the curves that used to require a 4 axle locomotive to get around.  There are still some places that a 4 axle is used and also required but the engines themselves have gotten heavier.  To stay in weight limits they need to be on 6 axles anymore.  The GP60M that the Santa Fe ordered some of the last 4 axle power ever ordered by a Class 1 railroad almost 30 years ago now they could not have the full size 4K gallon fuel tank they had to have a 3200 gallon tank and even then could only be fueled to 2900 gallons to keep the axle weights right.  

  • Member since
    November, 2008
  • 1,372 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Friday, June 28, 2019 3:24 AM

Car weight/size is one thing that helped lead to the almost complete demise of the traditional switcher on Class 1's.

Something like a SW1200 is a very efficient machine at heart. But having to often mu three of them to get the job done in their later years where perhaps a single SD40-2 can do the same work, is anything but efficient utilization of them. 

16 cylinders to maintain versus 36, 6 traction motors versus 12, etc.

  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 11,443 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, June 28, 2019 6:50 AM

I've observed similar changes over the years on BRC at Clearing.  Cow/calf sets used to work pulldown jobs, they were replaced by single GP38-2's and later by GP23ECO's.  A pair of heavily ballasted GP38-2's (490 series) worked as hump pushers, they were replaced by derated (2000 HP) SD40-2/slug sets.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 16,765 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Friday, June 28, 2019 7:57 AM

Back in the day - the days before the creation of Baltimore's Harborplace in the Inner Harbor the B&O provided service to the commercial concerns that occupied the area - newspapers, ship candlers, spice merchants, fresh fruit merchants etc.

One job started at Popelton Street near the B&O Museum and worked its way East on Pratt Street - in the middle of the street with high curvature spurs into the various busineess that were served.  From the starting point of the job to the Inner Harbor was down grade.  A GE 44 ton locomotive was used on the job - the track would not support anything heavier, the curvature into the industries would not permit anything longer.  Maximum car length was 40 footers - longer cars would create a levering derailment.  The 44 tonner could handle a maximum of 8 empty cars up the grade,  if there were more cars they had to 'double the hill'.

Coming out of Locust Point Yard there was a second job that worked it's way down to the Inner Harbor and ultimately a interchange with the PRR at President Street.  The route of this job basically circled the Inner Harbor and as such there was minimal grade along its route.  The curvature of the line was not as severe as experienced on the Pratt Street route and thus this job could handle 50 foot cars and operate with a SW-1 end cab yard engine.

At three or four in the morning it was not unusual to observe two B&O Yard Crews performing their duties, side by side, in the middle of Pratt Street at the present location of the Harborplace pavillions.

  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 926 posts
Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Friday, June 28, 2019 11:21 AM

We have had the same thing happen except with HP in the OTR industry.  Years ago when my FIL was first starting out 350 HP was a big engine.  When my hubby started driving it was 500 HP.  Now you can get over 600 HP in a truck engine for OTR use.  We have had the same thing on trailer lengths also.  We had 36 foot long ones for a while then 40 foot then it was 45 then 48 foot now 53 feet is the standard.  Weight also increased from 60K to 73280 up to 80K now there is a push by the ATA for between 92-97K on 6 axles.  

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 4,869 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, June 28, 2019 2:27 PM

Leo_Ames

Car weight/size is one thing that helped lead to the almost complete demise of the traditional switcher on Class 1's.

Something like a SW1200 is a very efficient machine at heart. But having to often mu three of them to get the job done in their later years where perhaps a single SD40-2 can do the same work, is anything but efficient utilization of them. 

16 cylinders to maintain versus 36, 6 traction motors versus 12, etc.

 

I think what really did in the traditional end cab switchers on class 1 lines is that downgraded 4 axle geeps (and there are a lot of them still in use despite the OP's statement) are more versatile.  They can switch the yard, both classification or industry work, and go on the road in wayfreight/local work.  While some end cab switchers may have been able to go on the road, the ones I've been on seemed a bit more cramped than a geep's cab.  Not as comfortable for road crews, especially if there's a brakeman or trainee(s) assigned to the run.

Jeff     

  • Member since
    November, 2008
  • 1,372 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Friday, June 28, 2019 5:49 PM

That's certainly a major factor, Jeff. 

Once the job of a dedicated switcher ceased to be a full time one in most locations, that power sitting idly by in-between local assignments became an obvious replacement for end cab switchers like SW1500's. 

Expanding on what you said, the same thing is partially contributing to the replacement of 4 axle EMD's on many jobs these days. For instance here along the St. Lawrence Subdivision on CSX, SD40-2's and SD40-3's are far from rare in the power consist of mainline freights despite their glory days on the mainline being years behind them.

Not usually in the lead, but almost always working and contributing to pulling the train alongside far newer C40-8W's, AC4400CW's, and various Evolution series GE's (SD70MAC's are very rare up here). They're still able to blend in with modern EMD and GE power on many mainline assignments when needed.

A GP38-2 on the other hand would be a true rarity on such assignments these days. Chances are if one looked or listened closely if they saw one coupled to ES44AC's and such on a heavy freight train, it's isolated and just along for the ride. They're pretty much dedicated yard and local power these days and lack the SD40-2's versatility in 2019.

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 16,765 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Friday, June 28, 2019 7:41 PM

Leo_Ames
That's certainly a major factor, Jeff. 

Once the job of a dedicated switcher ceased to be a full time one in most locations, that power sitting idly by in-between local assignments became an obvious replacement for end cab switchers like SW1500's. 

Expanding on what you said, the same thing is partially contributing to the replacement of 4 axle EMD's on many jobs these days. For instance here along the St. Lawrence Subdivision on CSX, SD40-2's and SD40-3's are far from rare in the power consist of mainline freights despite their glory days on the mainline being years behind them.

Not usually in the lead, but almost always working and contributing to pulling the train alongside far newer C40-8W's, AC4400CW's, and various Evolution series GE's (SD70MAC's are very rare up here). They're still able to blend in with modern EMD and GE power on many mainline assignments when needed.

A GP38-2 on the other hand would be a true rarity on such assignments these days. Chances are if one looked or listened closely if they saw one coupled to ES44AC's and such on a heavy freight train, it's isolated and just along for the ride. They're pretty much dedicated yard and local power these days.

The plant/customer rationalization programs that the Class 1's undertook with the enactment of Staggers resulted in the elimination of many lightly constructed lines as well as the elimination of many customers that had lightweight track or high curvature tracks in their facility(s).  The line and customers were not the high volume, high profit customers that the carriers wanted to deal with in the post Staggers era.  Not servicing these kinds of lines and facilities eliminated the need for the carriers to have light duty locomotives to perform the necessary service.  Not having a need for light duty locomotives put them on the sale/scrap line.  As the years have progressed customers have had their arms twisted in many cases to upgrade their facilities to permit service with six axle locomotives.

  • Member since
    September, 2017
  • 1,760 posts
Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, June 28, 2019 7:41 PM

Shadow the Cats owner

Weight also increased from 60K to 73280 up to 80K now there is a push by the ATA for between 92-97K on 6 axles.  

 

And folks wonder why roads and bridges crumble so fast. 

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 16,765 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Friday, June 28, 2019 7:52 PM

charlie hebdo
 
Shadow the Cats owner

Weight also increased from 60K to 73280 up to 80K now there is a push by the ATA for between 92-97K on 6 axles.   

And folks wonder why roads and bridges crumble so fast. 

Especially when most of the Interstate System was constructed to the standards that existed in 1956 when the System was authorized.  A standard the sought a 50 year life expectancy - 63 years ago!

  • Member since
    April, 2016
  • 926 posts
Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Friday, June 28, 2019 8:23 PM

Plus when the fuel taxes used to pay for it all have not been increased in almost 30 years.  The cost of asphalt has more than doubled the cost of labor also steel and concrete cost more yet the states get less money due to higher MPG from cars and now OTR trucks are getting back up to our pre EGR MPG's again.  Our newest 2020 models are getting 8.5 MPG hub mileage on a daily basis in our fleet.  So the states are being forced to make due with less to keep the roads repaired.  That's why your seeing the states raise their fuel taxes yet the Federal Government is still refusing to do so.  

  • Member since
    January, 2003
  • From: Kenosha, WI
  • 6,450 posts
Posted by zardoz on Saturday, June 29, 2019 7:56 PM

BaltACD
 
charlie hebdo
 
Shadow the Cats owner

Weight also increased from 60K to 73280 up to 80K now there is a push by the ATA for between 92-97K on 6 axles.   

And folks wonder why roads and bridges crumble so fast. 

 

Especially when most of the Interstate System was constructed to the standards that existed in 1956 when the System was authorized.  A standard the sought a 50 year life expectancy - 63 years ago!

 

YesThumbs Up

   23 17 46 11

  • Member since
    January, 2003
  • From: Kenosha, WI
  • 6,450 posts
Posted by zardoz on Saturday, June 29, 2019 8:09 PM

Leo_Ames
For instance here along the St. Lawrence Subdivision on CSX, SD40-2's and SD40-3's are far from rare in the power consist of mainline freights despite their glory days on the mainline being years behind them. Not usually in the lead, but almost always working and contributing to pulling the train alongside far newer C40-8W's, AC4400CW's, and various Evolution series GE's (SD70MAC's are very rare up here). They're still able to blend in with modern EMD and GE power on many mainline assignments when needed.

Those SD40-2&3 locomotives were the best made in quite a while. 

When I reported for work at the Proviso diesel ramp on my first day, there on the ready track was the very first dash-2 the CNW bought: the 6801 (it still had that "new locomotive" smell); that was in 1973--46 years ago! And they're still going strong; meanwhile, SD60s & 70s are being stored or sold.

The dash-2 line is like classic rock or country music: solid performance and longevity. The new locomotives are like modern music performers, such as...??? Hmmm, can't think of any. And 20 years from now, as the now-new GE's are falling apart and are unwanted, they will be remembered as fondly as today's 'music'.

   23 17 46 11

  • Member since
    January, 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 1,869 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, June 30, 2019 9:25 AM

As a steam freak I'm very reluctant to give diesels credit for anything.  Wink

BUT, in all fairness I have to say the SD40 series is one of the great ones, amazingly long-lived and still doing what they were meant to do, and doing it well.

I remember reading an article in "Trains" about the Wheeling & Lake Erie.  Their motive power people said they'd take all the SD40's they could get.  That tells me something.

Join our Community!

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

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy