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Did the 244 kill ALCO?

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Posted by Steve_F on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 8:39 PM
This was posted here some time back, I found it interesting… http://utahrails.net/articles/alco-v-emd.php

 

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Posted by creepycrank on Monday, July 26, 2010 3:34 PM
Charles Kettering of GM engineering object starting in 1928 was to do research with Winton Diesel that led eventually to the 567. By the time the FT came out they already had 10 years to develop a light weight engine for rail use. The unit (solid) injector, balance shafts, uniflow 2 stroke principle, precision bearings, hydraulic lash adjusters were all part of the original design and still with the 710 in sometimes modified form. The object was to design an engine that was easy to work on and reliable enough to go long periods with out constant tinkering. The Navy program help to develop the 201A also used initially in locomotives but in Navy service the engine rooms are full of personnel that the Chief has to find something for them to do. Sloan and Kettering probably realized that to take on mainline steam power they had to put units together to equal the largest steam locomotive power. Steam locomotives were designed specifically for the topography, that is high tractive effort, low speed for the hills and a different set up for flat running at higher speed. The diesels could do it all without changing anything. The other builders saw electrification as the wave of the future for mainline locomotives and in the meantime they would continue to build large steam locomotives for that roll. They were part right in that a diesel is a electric locomotive with its generator on board. the problem with electrification is that even with its advantages with cost of power as in power from dams, they have to have a separate department to maintain the catenary. The initial success of the mu'd diesels for passenger power must have gotten the attention of the other builders. ALCO tried the DL109 first but it was too heavy. The diesel locomotive in freight service in 1938 is probably viewed as now the genset locomotive for use in the vicinity of the shop . The mu'd road diesel could run across the entire railroad with only stops for refueling whereas steam locomotives were changed frequently. The other locomotive builders although they had diesel engine business on the side they were for the main engine and rural electrification projects not needing a lightweight engine. It wasn't until the FT demonstration run that theyrealized what could be done with mainline diesel.
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Posted by tacitdreamer on Monday, July 26, 2010 12:25 AM

When I compare locomotive manufacturer's histories with diesel engine developement history,  I find some common names, and speculate that in the 1920's and 1930's, there must have been a lot of shanghaiing - er - recruitment of talent going on.  There in fact was a huge talent grab from interests in all applications of the diesel engine.

 I also wonder why all of the builders maintained the companies they purchased as separate entities for so long, even after they had been absorbed in every other way.

 It's obvious that any engine design should be made as versatile as possible to be competitive in as many markets as possible.  This driving force was already present among diesel engine manufacturers well before being puchased by a given locomotive manufacturer.  Engine designs used like the Cooper-Bessemer, or the De Lavergne, had already been through many iterations.

I believe that there is a lot of evidence that the builders were hardly lax at all in the quest to build competitive diesel locomotives, and in fact the history as we know it only reflects the comparitive resaults many concurent efforts.

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Posted by UP 4-12-2 on Monday, July 19, 2010 11:36 AM

carnej1

Regarding the C628, I have never read anything that suggested that it's axle loading was significantly heavier than other CC units of similiar size/HP...

Monon did have troubles with their fleet but I doubt that SD35s or U25/28Cs would have performed any better. Monon also purchased the 6 motored Centuries for a unit coal train service that never materialized, they may have been willing to spend capital to upgrade trackage if it had...

In the case of D&H is their any evidence to suggest that their other 6 motored road units (U33Cs, U30Cs, SD45s, and for that matter, C630s) were any easier on the track?

More than one source, both online, and in the printed books, has stated the Alco Century 628's were hard on track on Monon, D&H, and parts of LV.  It is actually pretty well documented.  The Alco trimount truck had an uneven axle spacing (due to the arrangement of brakes, etc.)--whereas comparable EMD and GE locomotives had an even axle spacing.  The uneven axle spacing by itself will provide problems with imbalanced dynamic loading of the rail. 

D&H had such bad problems with the big Alcos tearing up track that their operating territory was restricted to pretty much just the mainlines--they also pushed them off onto LV rails as run-through power when possible.

Other writers have commented that the Alco sales staff sold engines like the big C628's to roads where they simply would be a poor fit--because of the axle loadings, etc.  Monon replaced the C628's with C420's and was happier with the performance.

It is worth noting that by about 1978, D&H did send all their SD45's, U30C's, and C628's to Mexico on long term lease.  So perhaps there were also problems with the other big engines as well--but I believe the C628's were generally considered to be the worst offenders.

In the case of D&H, LV, and other northeastern roads, the track structure was weakened by many years of deferred maintenance.  If you watch the videos of the 70's you will see the big engines rocking and swaying all over the place on the decrepit track, passing through weed and tree filled yards that once held lots of anthracite hoppers.  Both scary and very sad at the same time to watch.  Those videos are why I stick to modeling railroads in the southwest, and not the northeast where I've lived my whole life.  Though I can love the paint schemes of some of the northeastern railroads, and their motive power rosters, watching those videos made me want to immediately rid myself of anything associated with the pre-Conrail roads.

John

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Posted by carnej1 on Saturday, July 17, 2010 2:35 PM

UP 4-12-2

Not just the 244, but also the turbocharger problems!

Roads like SP and Santa Fe, both of whom had large fleets of PA's, just replaced those troubled 244 crankshafts more often till Alco came out with new/improved versions.

Also, SP and Santa Fe incorporated the improved turbocharger when it became available (visible as the exhaust stack on the roof being rotated 90-degrees from its original as-built placement).

An improved, I believe even catalogued, Alco PA with the 251 engine would have been a solid passenger locomotive.  But the PA's reputation as a maintenance "problem child" combined with declining passenger ridership combined to spell the end of the PA's--and none were built.

It's not as simple as just blaming the 244 engine.  I think the real problems started during WWII when EMD was allowed to continue building diesels and the other guys were not--plus the pride or arrogance associated with building the ultimate steam power.  After the war, it was catch up--but too little too late.  Alco also sold diesel units that didn't fit certain railroads track structure (C628--too heavy axle loadings for roads like Monon and D&H and parts of LV)...the service record after the sale, and other issues all combined to do them in.

John

Regarding the C628, I have never read anything that suggested that it's axle loading was significantly heavier than other CC units of similiar size/HP...

Monon did have troubles with their fleet but I doubt that SD35s or U25/28Cs would have performed any better. Monon also purchased the 6 motored Centuries for a unit coal train service that never materialized, they may have been willing to spend capital to upgrade trackage if it had...

In the case of D&H is their any evidence to suggest that their other 6 motored road units (U33Cs, U30Cs, SD45s, and for that matter, C630s) were any easier on the track?

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

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Posted by UP 4-12-2 on Friday, July 16, 2010 11:22 AM

Not just the 244, but also the turbocharger problems!

Roads like SP and Santa Fe, both of whom had large fleets of PA's, just replaced those troubled 244 crankshafts more often till Alco came out with new/improved versions.

Also, SP and Santa Fe incorporated the improved turbocharger when it became available (visible as the exhaust stack on the roof being rotated 90-degrees from its original as-built placement).

An improved, I believe even catalogued, Alco PA with the 251 engine would have been a solid passenger locomotive.  But the PA's reputation as a maintenance "problem child" combined with declining passenger ridership combined to spell the end of the PA's--and none were built.

It's not as simple as just blaming the 244 engine.  I think the real problems started during WWII when EMD was allowed to continue building diesels and the other guys were not--plus the pride or arrogance associated with building the ultimate steam power.  After the war, it was catch up--but too little too late.  Alco also sold diesel units that didn't fit certain railroads track structure (C628--too heavy axle loadings for roads like Monon and D&H and parts of LV)...the service record after the sale, and other issues all combined to do them in.

John

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Posted by Tugboat Tony on Friday, July 16, 2010 8:43 AM

Speaking from expierance, i cut my mechanicing(sp) teeth on a 192 model alco.  the entire design of the "machine" is why they went out of business.  very complicated wiring for its day, a horrible engine design that leaked water at every seal, a cylinder head that had a steel on steel sealing surface ( i know not the only one) and blew exhaust everywhere including the stack.. the EMD principle seemed to be "simple" period.  The wiring on a compariable unit was much easier to repair and trouble shoot (albeit the GE TM's were of superior quality) the engines just ran, and any simpleton could maintain them, and well. 8-10 hours to change a cylinder on a 539 engine, vs 2-3 for a 567,645 or 710 engine. IIRC only 28 bolts/nuts total. EMD just built a better machine, and made it SIMPLE. which is what railroads needed then and could really use now.   my two cents.

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Posted by creepycrank on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:11 AM
While ALCO, Baldwin, Westinghouse and GE dabbled in diesel locomotives their vision of the distant future in the mid thirties was that diesels didn't have enough power per unit and would be used for switching and branch line service. Meanwhile they would continue steam development (remember steam turbine-electrics) and eventually mainline electrification. EMD/GM started to develop the lightweight 2 stroke unit injector type diesel with Winton engine in 1928. Part of the development interested the Navy who were interested in such engines for submarine use. Fairbanks Morse got into the Navy program after getting the design rights for the opposed piston engine from the Junkers company in Germany that developed an aircraft version of the engine. The 567 engine was an off shoot of the Cleveland Diesel 201 engine used in the earliest EMD locomotives. The 567 engine was ready for production by 1938 but there were several major revisions until the introduction of the 567A in 1941. This engine was produced in the 567ATL version for marine service and used in pairs on the 1000 LST,s built and some harbor tugs, some of which are still with us. ALCO, Baldwin and Cleveland Diesel all built marine versions of their engines for Navy surface vessels. I repeat, the success of the multi unit concept of the FT took them by surprise and yes they had a conflict in deciding to stick with their original plan or dump everything and try to catch up with EMD.
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Posted by erikem on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 12:52 AM

 One advantage that EMD had over Alco and Baldwin was that the 567 engine was used on many USN ships during WW2. Since engine reliability and maintainability is probably even more important in a war zone than on a railroad, EMD got a lot more leeway in devoting engineering resources to the 567 than Alco or Baldwin were allowed to with their respective engines.

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Posted by creepycrank on Sunday, July 11, 2010 10:40 AM
In ALCO terminology the 2 in 244 represents the cylinder size, in this case 9 inch bore and 10 inch stroke. The 44 represents the year the prototype ran. As you can see The 244 prototype first ran at the hight of WW 2. ALCO and Baldwin et al where in a panic after the success of EMD's FT and they had not considered diesel locomotives for line haul service, They envisioned that steam would go on until electrification where they were set up for production ( ALCO with GE and Baldwin with Westinghouse) You have to remember that ALCO-GE had diesel locomotive in production in 1925 when EMD had only been in business for 3 years. Baldwin and Westinghouse as well as GE had their own line on diesel locomotives. The idea that allowed diesel locomotives to challenge steam locomotives in line haul service is the building block concept of lashing together enough units through using MU controls to equal the horsepower of the largest steam locomotive. EMD perfected that with the "E" unit passenger locomotives and the steam builders had to play catch up. The war restrictions is just a convenient excuse for a lack of foresight on the part of Baldwin and ALCO. Both those builders realized that they had to develop a light weight engine comparable to the 567 and at the same time leap frog EMD in unit power. ALCO first attempt was the 241 then the 244. The 244 in 16 cylinder form developed 2000 hp for passenger service and should have been a world beater compared with the EMD's with 2 -12 cylinder engines in each unit but the extra maintenance killed sales. If there were no war production restrictions both builders still did not have a comparable product to sell. Baldwin didn't survive but ALCO did until overtaken by GE. The US plant stopped production in 1969.
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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Sunday, July 11, 2010 10:17 AM

Another factor that didn't help Alco was service after the sale.  EMD was faster with the fixes than the other builders when problems occurred.

I don't think that the multiple locations was a real issue.  After all, EMD built a plant in London, Ontario to serve the Canadian market and CLC was licensed by both Baldwin and FM for the same reason.

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Posted by locoi1sa on Saturday, July 10, 2010 8:05 PM

 There are a lot more contributing factors involved in ALCOs demise. The 244 reliability was probably a contributing factor. You must also look at the big picture. At the time of diesel development the government placed restrictions on the research and development of all locomotives. ALCO was prohibited in developing its diesel locos and forced to build steam locos under USRA regulations. EMD was allowed to keep building diesels right along.

 ALCO being a steam loco manufacture had to commit a vast amount of resources to the steam loco buyers and repair parts were still needed past the end of steam on class 1 RRs. EMD had no other drain on its resources.

 The economic down turn of the depression era was tough on a lot of companies. Some failed right away while others suffered and never fully recovered.

 The battle with GE and its electrical equipment was another factor to consider. GE did not want Westinghouse to be the only supplier but never helped the builders in any way. GE starting its own locomotive building was a blow to all the minor loco builders.

  Perhaps the greatest reason for ALCOs demise is the diverse locations. If they could have consolidated all the manufacturing in one location internal costs could have been saved. The most modern facility was Montreal Locomotive works. Having several manufacturing facilities in different parts of the country building the same types of capital equipment is more costly than having all manufacturing in a consolidated area. Tariffs on imported goods from other countries was prohibiting ALCO to supply locomotives from Montreal to the US carriers.

    Pete

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Posted by creepycrank on Saturday, July 10, 2010 5:06 PM
The 244 engine problems soured the relationship ALCO had with GE where GE decided to get into the diesel locomotive themselves. The 244 problems could only be resolved by a complete redesign which resulted in the 251. If EMD's FT model hadn't been such a hugh success the steam loco builder's would have taken their time developing their products and GE was expecting that after WW2 the major railroads would see the light and replace steam with electrification. In the mean time GE was humoring first EMD with designing their first electrical equipment then ALCO when things got more serious. Nobody expected that the EMD diesel would prove to be so economically devastating. First to steam locomotives then to electrification. ALCO would probably still be with us if they didn't lose GE's support and then having GE becoming a major competitor.
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Did the 244 kill ALCO?
Posted by R. T. POTEET on Saturday, July 10, 2010 12:33 PM

 

Most of the 244's problems, I am led to believe, are usually attributed to its dry-block construction; the 251 which went into production in (about) 1956 was, apparently, a very efficient engine yet its introduction was not enough to pull ALCO out of the doldrums and it was eventually driven into extinction.

Some of the companies post-244 offerings were impressive but they did not make a significant impact on the market. Had the 244 really soured the railroads on ALCO's product or were there other problems with its offerings?

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