return of ''B'" UNITS ?

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, December 22, 2019 3:46 AM

No, as i understood it you opened one of the portholes on the side and leaned out to see.  Not a sliding or hinged window with a sill...

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Posted by MJ4562 on Saturday, February 1, 2020 3:36 PM

Anyone know what the price differential was on B units verses standard units?  Since railroads don't use them anymore it's obvious they found any cost savings to not be worth the loss of flexibility. Based on nothing more than gut instinct of what things cost I would be suprised if eliminating the cab would save more than a few percent of the overall cost of a road unit.

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Sunday, February 2, 2020 5:52 AM

There was of course no set percentage or dollar amount, you'd have to research that for the particular model and era you're interested in.

For instance back around when Santa Fe got their GP60B's, GE quoted a higher price tag for a cabless version of (if my memory is accurate) their B40-8 model. GE essentially priced it to kill it so as to not disrupt their production line by having to build a small order of custom cabless locomotives. 

Prices used to get quoted in Trains, especially back in the 1950's. For instance of a rarer latter day example in the November 1991 issue of Trains of pricing information that's relevant to the question, a savings of $50,000 per unit was quoted for Burlington Northern's B30-7AB's from a decade earlier. 

For a rough idea of what a B30-7A likely were priced at, a quick search of Trains locates a quote from EMD of $719,600 for a GP38-2 from EMD in the November 1982 issue of Trains from that same timeframe. So we're likely looking at a savings of $50,000 for a locomotive priced at roughly $750,000 with a cab.

And the same article provides evidence of another pitfall to anyone wanting to research this topic. The GP38-2's immediate pedecessor, the GP38, was going for $240,690 in 1970 according to the same article and EMD source. Locomotives models can be so long lived that prices can vary dramatically in just a few years thanks to many factors. So one has to find evidence from the same point in time when comparing the starting price of a cab equipped model to a cabless version of the same model. 

And we're of course just talking purchase price as well. Another savings the railroads always would've factored in when estimating what they'd save by buying a cabless locomotive would've been the savings in cab maintenance for the life of the locomotive.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, February 2, 2020 10:37 AM

I suspect the GE price was 'net' of all the complications involved in producing the cabless variant, including changes to equipment and special sheet-metal fabrication, plus the anticipated cost, over the unit's lifetime, of special parts, support, and documentation.  I'm not saying there weren't aspects of the Pentagon B-52 hammer involved, but as I didn't see the RFPs or quotes involved, I can't say there wasn't 'full-production pricing' net of tooling for the special modifications...

Much of the 'cost savings' on the GP60Bs is the absence of provision for 'manual' hostling; all the special valves and electronics for control are in 'appropriate' robot panels, so the savings in glazing, cab panels, etc. do add up to a substantial amount.  I expect many of the control provisions in A units can be 'simplified' as well, particularly if the 27-pin cable 'automatically' selects the direction of travel when the units are connected and FRA requirements for glazing and safety equipment are more easily satisfied.

It bears repeating, perhaps, that the United States went off the gold standard and 'floated' the dollar somewhere between the GP38 and the GP38-2, and the effects of the OPEC oil embargo came not too long later.  Any attempt to 'compare' dollar prices needs to adjust the amounts accordingly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, February 3, 2020 7:21 AM

The abandonment of the gold standard and thus letting the dollar float occured under Nixon,  August 15, 1971.

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Posted by oltmannd on Monday, February 3, 2020 10:10 AM

Once upon a time, I thought perhaps all locomotives should be B units, and the "cab" should be an unpowered "dummy", perhaps double ended.  Might make even more sense these days, with heavy DPU use.

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

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 3:27 AM

charlie hebdo
The abandonment of the gold standard and thus letting the dollar float occured under Nixon,  August 15, 1971.

Look at the technical production dates of the GP38, and then of the GP38-2...

Don: as an amusing aside, at one time I thought 'cabs' sould be provided as the equivalent of high-speed-capable hi-rail vehicles, which could be cut off and run on-road for crew changes, 'running around the train', etc., with the actual locomotives having at most hostling control.  This extended neatly to the promise of autonomous vehicle development and 'remote' operation via a rubber-tire-equipped version of what at the time were robot cars.  

You can see the problems, and with some reflection so did I.  But it's still an interesting idea for a while...

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 3:38 AM

BaltACD
'B' units reduce the utility of the locomotive and transform it into a underperforming asset.  It can't lead. 

It does have to be said that PC did demonstrably operate some consists with a GP9B leading ... terrifying as this may be.  I thought of it as a bit like the mother of all long-hood-forward operation.  And that it could only happen on a railroad like PC toward the end...  

But at least technically, B hoods could 'lead'.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 7:11 AM

Overmod
 
BaltACD
'B' units reduce the utility of the locomotive and transform it into a underperforming asset.  It can't lead.  

It does have to be said that PC did demonstrably operate some consists with a GP9B leading ... terrifying as this may be.  I thought of it as a bit like the mother of all long-hood-forward operation.  And that it could only happen on a railroad like PC toward the end...  

But at least technically, B hoods could 'lead'.

Since PC really lead the railroad world to bankruptcies - PC using B units as leaders is from the same thought processes.  Leading to disaster is not a benefit.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 9:50 AM

GP38 ceased production in Dec.  1971; GP38-2 started production Jan.  1972.

The OPEC embargo was Oct.  1973 to March 1974. Frankly,  I don't see much of a correlation with GP production. 

I think Don's idea was for an unpowered (dummy)  cab unit. 

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 10:01 AM

I don't know if this counts but BRC routinely led trains with B units when their TR sets were used on transfer runs.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by suprememeowmix on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 11:12 AM

I remember hearing that on the Pennsy's schuylkill division, it wasn't exactly uncommon for F7 sets to run B unit first. It's the same divison that had Baldwin RT624s and 44 tonners run together so I wouldn't doubt it for a minute. 

BaltACD

 

 
Overmod
 
BaltACD
'B' units reduce the utility of the locomotive and transform it into a underperforming asset.  It can't lead.  

It does have to be said that PC did demonstrably operate some consists with a GP9B leading ... terrifying as this may be.  I thought of it as a bit like the mother of all long-hood-forward operation.  And that it could only happen on a railroad like PC toward the end...  

But at least technically, B hoods could 'lead'.

 

Since PC really lead the railroad world to bankruptcies - PC using B units as leaders is from the same thought processes.  Leading to disaster is not a benefit.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 12:45 PM

charlie hebdo
The OPEC embargo was Oct.  1973 to March 1974. Frankly,  I don't see much of a correlation with GP production. 

The correlation, as you well know, is with the value of the dollars that comprise the GP price.  The OPEC embargo was one of the factors leading to high inflation in that period.    You may or may not recall that the original issue was the greater nominal price of the dash-2s compared to the original series...

Unpowered lead units didn't really begin with Don Oltmann; look up 'road slugs' to see their benefits (and occasional relative drawbacks).  I'm tempted to ask Don 'didn't Select-A-Power or one of that kind of system allow you to derate the lead prime mover relative to others, or even isolate it or shut it down, just to give more quietness in the cab?' 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 8:23 PM

I do not know what the price of the GP38-2 was in March 1974, after it had been on the market already for two years, but clearly embargo inflation was not a factor in initial orders or those until the embargo. 

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 10:16 PM

I actually think I saw the price from approximately 1974 in an old issue of Trains last night. I'll see if I can track it back down.

Edit: Found it quickly, but it was a bit later than I thought and was from the September 1976 issue. It says that a new GP38-2 "goes for about $330,000".

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Posted by MJ4562 on Saturday, February 8, 2020 4:39 PM

Leo_Ames
There was of course no set percentage or dollar amount, you'd have to research that for the particular model and era you're interested in..... 

For a rough idea of what a B30-7A likely were priced at, a quick search of Trains locates a quote from EMD of $719,600 for a GP38-2 from EMD in the November 1982 issue of Trains from that same timeframe. So we're likely looking at a savings of $50,000 for a locomotive priced at roughly $750,000 with a cab.....

And we're of course just talking purchase price as well. Another savings the railroads always would've factored in when estimating what they'd save by buying a cabless locomotive would've been the savings in cab maintenance for the life of the locomotive.

Quoting the most relevant paragraphs above. $50K on a $750K locomotive is a 6% savings over the fully functional cab unit.  Maintenance is probably a similarly low percentage. The mechanical guts of the unit are what is so expensive and the cab is as spartan as they can get away with. Not significant enough to justify what you give up since mainline power eventually ends up as locals and switchers.  Without a mass market for B units a manufacturer wouldn't see any reason to go out of their way to accomodate  

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Sunday, February 9, 2020 9:43 AM

Class 1's evidently are in full agreement with your opinion on the advantages and disadvantages. :)

The direct savings in purchase price could be even less in that particular Burlington Northern case. Despite what Trains published years ago about $50,000 in savings, I noticed yesterday that the latest issue of Trains by some odd coincidence quotes a savings of only $40,000 per unit.

And of course $750K is just a ballpark figure, with me working under the assumption that a 3,000 hp GE BB is going to cost at least a few thousand more than the price at the same time for the 2,000 hp EMD equivalent. 

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Posted by oltmannd on Sunday, February 9, 2020 5:35 PM

MJ4562
ng the most relevant paragraphs above. $50K on a $750K lo

B30-7s were quite a while ago...

$50k gets you a cab signal box for a locomotive these days.  Toss in the PTC/Leader computer, EOT, voice, cell, satellite and PTC data radios, antenna array,  HVAC system, cab to current crashworthiness standard, and likely some things I've forgotten and it probably comes out to 10-15% of a $2.5M locomotive.

 

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Posted by oltmannd on Sunday, February 9, 2020 5:45 PM

Why doesn't "anybody do it?  A couple reasons.  One is PSR doesn't have enough P in it yet.  RRs that segregate their fleet by equipment - say cab signal, or territory, have lot of trouble keeping the right locomotives in the right place. Saying "All I have is B units here.  You're going to have to plug that hot train.", is not something that's generally good for a career.

Second is the Mechanical Dept generally controls the specs but they don't pay for the power.  They are also the ones that service the power and build consists for trains.  Maximum flexibility is good for their careers.  B units cause them pain for no gain.

Until someone high up the food chain gets the idea that B units can save capital, I won't happen.

 

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Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Sunday, February 9, 2020 6:28 PM

Why were B units even built in the first place?  Was it to avoid placing an engine crew on each unit?

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?
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Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, February 9, 2020 9:17 PM

IIRC, the passenger B units had extra room for steam heating boiler/water.

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, February 9, 2020 10:01 PM

Paul Milenkovic
Why were B units even built in the first place?  Was it to avoid placing an engine crew on each unit?

At the dawn of the diesel age, the companies were afraid that the Brotherhoods would view each unit as a separate locomotive and want a Engine crew to operate each separate locomotive.  The B&O's original EA's came coupled to EB's - B units with only hostler controls so as to blunt the Brotherhoods's arguments.  Additionally they were numbered 51 and 51x etc.   

When the FT's came out on some carriers the A-B-B-A set would be numbered 1 - 1B - 1C - 1D; other carriers used 1 - 1x - 1ax - 1A.  All the numbering schemes were designed to represent the 4 unit locomotive as a single locomotive for crewing purposes.

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Posted by YoHo1975 on Monday, February 10, 2020 12:18 PM
I like the idea of having a cab unit. Thinking of all the time Roseville hostlers spend turning consists, because the Lead unit's Toilet is...problematic. 5 unit consist can sit there...and the control cab can be turned...or, you know, cleaned.
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Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, February 10, 2020 12:29 PM

During the era that most B-units were built, most locomotive toilets were not of the retention type.  The one on our F3A is located at the rear of the engine room, if you look down into it you can see ties and ballast.....

CN tried a new "incin-o-matic" type on their first SD40's.  It didn't take long for crews to be instructed to only use them on trailing units, on account of the 'odours' the things would produce!

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Posted by Danielmlib on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 3:32 AM

With many class 1 railroads using mid train helpers along with end train DPU when there won't be uses for a cab but rudimentary controls for yard uses along with remote control for yard to be moved around the yard.

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Posted by monon99 on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 7:24 AM

While the cost saving would be there, as others have pointed out, the the lack of flexibility becomes a major headache in time. We are currently in a major cost cutting era with psr so it is likely to appeal to some inexperienced manager with 3 months real world experience and once again become an infuriating problem for everyone else until after a decade the message works its way to the top. 

i remember one of many days in Chicago when an IHB crew came in with their train, yarded it, and cut the power off. The yard master sent the back out they they came, but the rear unit was an SD45-2B, so they couldn’t. We all died as it was the only way out. Took next shift to sort it out.

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Posted by DAVID GRIMM1 on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 10:35 AM

Overmod

It does have to be said that PC did demonstrably operate some consists with a GP9B leading ... terrifying as this may be.  I thought of it as a bit like the mother of all long-hood-forward operation.  And that it could only happen on a railroad like PC toward the end...  

But at least technically, B hoods could 'lead'.

 

Depends on your definition of 'technically'. Yes, the 'B' unit may be the first vehicle in the train, but it may not be the controlling unit. Without looking up the measurements, running a cabless GP9 ahead of the short end of any other road-switcher unit didn't put all that much more in front of the engineer than running an E-44 long hood forward.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 11:14 AM

DAVID GRIMM1
Yes, the 'B' unit may be the first vehicle in the train, but it may not be the controlling unit.

Of course it's not the controlling unit ... even for PC in its darkest hour.  

Your point about E44s (or even C636s) is a good one, but what about when the controlling road-switcher is also long-hood-forward (as I believe the one in a picture of the 'operation' was).  That's articulated steam locomotive grade!

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 11:22 AM

Incidentally, or not, the real 'reason' behind the resurgence of B units in the late '80s was the FRA dictum in 1986 requiring full maintenance of anything installed on a locomotive.  This is the same thing that fostered elimination of class lights, plating-over of cabs and windows, the removal of most of those SP strobes and safety lights, etc.

The specific case of the ATSF SD45-2Bs is pretty well documented.  After the first 'cab removal' the subsequent units had their dynamic brake arrangement moved forward, where it wasn't over the prime mover and could run cooler, and this in turn allowed hatches to be put in the hood that allowed the prime mover to be accessed directly via overhead crane without removing hood panels and doors.  All this combined to make a cabless engine practical ... but it did depend for a large part of its 'practicality' in multiple units needing to be combined for road power, in a world in which engine swapping within consists was still relatively uncommon in operation.

As noted earlier, I expect that any future 'cabless' locomotive will depend on practical autonomous systems acceptance ... and that there will be well-established control means for them that are in hi-rail vehicles or RCO equipment, not 'hostling' kludges.

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Posted by Deggesty on Friday, February 21, 2020 11:55 AM

Going back to hostling, I recall seeing in an issue of  Trains many years ago, a picture of a B unit with a porthole in the end wall--so the hostler could see where he was going. 

Johnny

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