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ALCO 244 Prime Mover

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Posted by dknelson on Sunday, March 7, 2021 11:12 AM

When the Chicago & North Western Historical Society toured the Fairbanks Morse factory and headquarters in Beloit WI a few years ago - yes they are still very much in business, just not the railroad business -- I was surprised to see and learn that one of their major product lines is the ALCO 251 diesel engine.  They had some on display with cut-aways showing how they work.  They also had display cut-aways showing how the Fairbanks Morse opposed piston engine works by the way, and an historical section of displays and photos that pays full tribute to their railroad background.  (and their scales which were used by many railroads as well as grain elevators and others).

Interestingly on their website they make this comment about the ALCO 251: "The Fairbanks Morse ALCO 251F engine is renowned worldwide for efficient and reliable power in the most demanding stationary applications."  Emphasis added by me.

Dave Nelson 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 12:37 PM

Why look, there were two water-cooled turbo design families, one from GE and then one from Alco a year later.  Would be interesting for someone who knows to explain detail-design differences.

Alco always used one really big turbo, without pre-spin, and that largely accounts for the smoke...

Perhaps EMD saw less difficulty with their turbo because the overrunning-clutch drive took over on spindown and that may have kept circulation through the critical bearings adequate.  

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Posted by SD70Dude on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 12:27 PM

Here's an old thread with a bit more info:

http://cs.trains.com/trn/f/741/t/153041.aspx

As for EMD, one would think that their experience developing the 567 would have left a lasting impression regarding the importance of cooling internal moving parts,  the addition of a separate piston cooling oil pump did a lot to improve engine reliability over the Winton 201 designs. 

The turbo lube pump is directly wired to the batteries on most if not all EMD locomotives, so it will continue to run for some time even if the engine is shut down and the main battery switch opened. 

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 11:10 AM

Leo_Ames
My impression is that the DL-600 demonstrators of 1954 (i.e., the RSD-7) introduced the new design turbocharger, after the dissolution of the Alco-GE partnership.

The references I remember do indicate the water-cooled turbo was an Alco, not GE, design.

It had literally never occurred to me that the water-cooled turbo had not been put in process long before an introduction on the 244H.  Comes of not reading critically enough, I guess.

My impression of the air-cooled design is somewhat the same as the 38D8⅜ OP in the Erie-builts: furnish it enough cooling at all times, perhaps specifically in the interstate bearing oil, and it would run reasonably well.  UP ran them in an enclosed carbody in seriously hot weather; if they thought about enhanced 'summertime' cooling mods I'd like to know (Cynthia Priest would be a logical source but I haven't found a copy to read yet).

Be interesting to see if and how this experience governed the subsequent EMD turbocharging experiments on UP.

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 10:44 AM

My impression is that the DL-600 demonstrators of 1954 (i.e., the RSD-7) introduced the new design turbocharger, after the dissolution of the Alco-GE partnership.

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Posted by M636C on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 7:03 AM

I presume when you mention FA-2 you're ruling out the early 'teething troubles' with the engines, like the original cast cranks that didn't hold up and that apparently caused damage requiring engine replacement, and the original GE turbos that worked fine at 30,000 feet but not so well in a carbody.  The water-cooled Alco-designed replacement worked somewhat better, but UP said in 1953 they were not ordering new Alco road power because even the revised turbo was causing manifold failures in heavy fast road service in many UP locations in the West.

Union Pacific did not have that mant Alco road locomotives. The big purchase was 88 FA-1 and FB-1 units, with 11 RSC-2 units for branch lines and 5 RS-2s, also used on branch lines. Cynthis Priest in The UP Diesel Volume 1 indicates that UP chose not to replace the air cooled turbochargers in the FA/FB units. She seems to know something about the 244 from her description. there are photos of RSC-2s in the late 1960s showing the distinctive offset stack associated with the air cooled turbocharger and also on one RS-2 in 1959. Other units of both types did show the transverse water cooled turbo stacxk around the same time. So perhapps UP were referring to a modified air-cooled turbocharger.

It is suggested that UP spent some time tuning the 244s to overcome the problems and it is possible that even a 244 with an air cooled turbo could be made to work, at least until the 1960s.

I'm not sure when the water cooled turbo actually became available as a retrofit. The earliest new unit fitted with a  water cooled turbo that I have found is a 1955 SP RSD-5, but the units before that one were purchased in 1953.

To my own experience, during the 1954 Royal Tour of Australia in February and March 1954, the NSW Railways ran two RSC-3s painted Garter Blue on the Royal Train, and photos show that these still had air-cooled turbochargers. I would suggest that if the retrofiit had been available by the end of 1953, those units would have been fitted.

This visit is covered by

The Queen In Australia (1954) | NFSA

The RSC-3s appear (briefly) at 45:54 and the other well known train, that of the VR with the double ended EMD ML-2s gets much better coverage at 49:40.

This is an amazing film. Not only is the view oof the Queen in the Daimler in George Street Sydney exactly the view I recall, from the roof of my father's office building, but the scenes of Canberra where I now live are clearly recognisable although there are large areas of grass where there is now a lake, many buildings and many additional roads. It is hard to believe that things were so different then, even though I was there. Just before the RSC-3s here is a scene with a QANTAS Super Constellation, and there are many other scenes for car and aircraft and ship enthusiasts.

But to get back briefly to the subject, I don't think the water cooled turbo was available as early as 1953.

Peter

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Posted by VGN Jess on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 3:49 AM

Thank you. I didn't know any of this, so you "more" than answered my question. Thanks!!!!

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Monday, February 22, 2021 3:03 AM

One issue that helped drive their lack of support responsiveness (Which helped EMD significantly) where post sale support was concerned, was Alco and GE fighting when their alliance was still active over where the responsibility rested for supporting their customers.

They'd fight with each even over basic things like the division of labor when a customer had difficulties (i.e., should it be a GE employee being paid by GE going out to help resolve difficulties or an Alco employee).

The post sales support was such a problem for many of Alco's customers that it helped EMD coin a new marketing slogan for their sales department, which I believe was "one builder, one responsibility".

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, February 21, 2021 11:09 PM

I presume when you mention FA-2 you're ruling out the early 'teething troubles' with the engines, like the original cast cranks that didn't hold up and that apparently caused damage requiring engine replacement, and the original GE turbos that worked fine at 30,000 feet but not so well in a carbody.  The water-cooled Alco-designed replacement worked somewhat better, but UP said in 1953 they were not ordering new Alco road power because even the revised turbo was causing manifold failures in heavy fast road service in many UP locations in the West.

One issue with the 244 was its mounting setup -- only two mounting 'feet' were on the block, the other two being on a removable part at the generator end.  The 251 made much of feet well placed at the 'nodal points' as a great design improvement...

The 244 had comparatively long injector lines inside the engine head cover, with high peak firing pressure (unlike the EMD unit injector, which developed pressure only within the injector itself).  When, not if, a line leaked the fuel would go invisibly into the sump and dilute the lube oil.  New Haven had to go to checking viscosity every 15 days or so, and that worked, but the 'competition' didn't have that problem.

Apparently the electrics gave trouble over the years, and while Alco did figure out a reasonable rebuild by the late '50s not many really cared enough.

A very real issue was the parts and service arrangement.  EMD had lots of parts ready and a service department that would quickly provide them.  At Alco, apparently, there were problems getting orders placed and then perhaps several weeks' wait for the stuff to get there.

I do not have anything definitive on there being difficulty with the cranks on the 12-244 after the change to forged, but some discussions seem to state there were outside of other problems, including the tongue-and-groove design of main caps and the aforementioned lube issues, that might cause collateral crank damage.  This engine had staggered cylinders, so there were offset forces on the journals.  There was apparently not a torsional-cracking issue on the 12s as there was on some of the 16s.

I am sure there are people here with firsthand knowledge of the 244's strengths and foibles, and will cover them better.

 

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ALCO 244 Prime Mover
Posted by VGN Jess on Sunday, February 21, 2021 8:46 PM

Whenever I read anything about the FA-2, it always followed that the model "suffered mechanical difficulties" or similar but no examples are given. What were the top 2-3 mechanical difficulties that prevented the FA-2 from being "reliable"?

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