Redux: How to build a locomotive

Discussion of products from the American Locomotive Company. A web site with current Alco 251 information can be found here: Fairbanks-Morse/Alco 251.

Moderator: Alcoman

wess

Post by wess » Sat Jul 02, 2005 12:07 am

What was it Morrison-Knudson did when they started building those small CAT powered EMD like switchers for one of those Texas terminal roads? I think it was in the Dallas-Ft Worth area.
wess

mxdata
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Post by mxdata » Sat Jul 02, 2005 6:54 am

The Boise Locomotive (Motivepower) units were designed in such a way that they could make use of many components from a retired EMD GP7/9/18/20 unit, including the frame and trucks. They could also be built on a totally new frame. The machinery (a CAT 3512 or 3516) is mounted on a skid which is supported in trunions that isolates it from the underframe and provides some vibration damping. Most accessory equipment is electrically powered so that it can be "used as needed" and is not a permanent parasite load on the engine. This also simplifies installation of some items by eliminating the need for alignment of drive shafts and belt drives. Locomotive control is by microprocessor system, several types have been used depending on whether the locomotive was sold directly by Boise or was marketed by EMD.

Providing an incentive for a customer to trade in an older locomotive can be a very important part of a sales effort. If the older unit stays out there on the market you may end up competing with it later.

Ol' Loco Guy

Post by Ol' Loco Guy » Sat Jul 02, 2005 7:28 am

Providing an incentive for a customer to trade in an older locomotive can be a very important part of a sales effort. If the older unit stays out there on the market you may end up competing with it later.
Sounds like the concept that kept Pielet Bros. busy all those years....

mxdata
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Post by mxdata » Sat Jul 02, 2005 8:31 am

Exactly right, OLG. You make them disappear so they do not go through a program like the CF7 conversion and hang around to take sales away from you later on. The relatively few items that ever came back out of Pielet Bros. were mostly small stuff carried out by EMD employees who were friends of the management there. Scrapping trade-ins is obviously not a popular thing with railroad enthusiasts, but if you are running a business the decision may look a bit different from that side of the fence.

2spot

Post by 2spot » Sat Jul 02, 2005 9:04 am

Here again is the problem. Providing a new or substancially new locomotive into a market that has lots of good used and very cheap power available isnt realistic. Youre still competing with Geeps built in the late '40s. Remember, many roads are using Alco power 'cuz thats what has been cheap for years. Many if not most of these outfits cant afford new power. GM doesnt sell many new GP20Ds does it? You'd be competing for the same market, more or less. You'd also be competing with the Green Goat and probably others. Maybe we should start a thread on how best to package an update kit for existing Centurys and RS's since a new Alco seems unlikely. Ask NREC if you can make something like a new one in North America.

mxdata
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Post by mxdata » Sat Jul 02, 2005 10:05 am

Yes, and with each passing year the ALCO 251 parts market is driven more and more by the US Military, so you may be eventually headed for a situation like that existing presently with Fairbanks Morse OP engines, where a new set of pistons and liners can cost more than a complete rebuilt EMD 645 engine of equivalent horsepower output.

We used to have a bunch of FM powered tugboats in this area. They have ALL departed in the last few years, the price of parts led to their demise. Curiously there are still a couple of Cleveland Diesel 278A powered tugs running around here.

So do you keep the ALCO 251, or do you sell it for its salvage value and put in a prime mover package that can be supported with parts from the local CAT or Cummins distributor? Any opinions, gentlemen? This is a good discussion, lets keep it going!

2spot

Post by 2spot » Sat Jul 02, 2005 10:50 am

BCRail did a bunch of RS10 & RS18 rebuilds with Cat 3516 power and Kato alternators. Basically rolled them out as new locomotives between 1990 & 1999. Now CN cant deadline them fast enough. They are treated as an orphaned brand - CN only owns EMD & GE stuff ya know. So far I havent seen anyone get interested in resurrecting these deadlined "CRS-20s". Remember these were 'as new' no expense spared rebuilt, repowered Alcos. If you were really serious about this idea, you'd start with one or two of these, repower them with Alco 251s again, then fix 'em up to current specs - like we've been discussing - and go from there. I'm calling your bluff.

mxdata
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Post by mxdata » Sat Jul 02, 2005 11:48 am

I haven't tried to buy any good 251 core engines on the used market lately, but I would expect that they might be rather difficult to find, and if you were lucky enough to find them, they would be fairly expensive. So if we are going to stick with medium speed prime movers, not the high speed stuff like CATs and Cummins, do we want to look for a good remanufactured EMD engine instead?

2spot

Post by 2spot » Sat Jul 02, 2005 1:00 pm

K heres what I'm getting out of this thread. Our hypothetical "Alco" has an EMD type frame, EMD -2 switch gear and Blomberg trucks. Now we're considering an EMD prime mover. I've given legal and financial reasons it probably wont happen. I've even given an alternative starting point. Now we're building an EMD, I dont know how else you could view this. I give up.

mxdata
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Post by mxdata » Sat Jul 02, 2005 1:28 pm

All good points and perhaps many of them are factors in why the authorized distributor for ALCO engines in railroad service, NREC, has not tried some of these options. I will have to give my friend at NREC a call sometime and ask him.

2spot

Post by 2spot » Sat Jul 02, 2005 2:29 pm

Seriously, guys. If there is no "Alco" content in this thing, why give it an Alco nametag? I havent deduced what about this would appeal to A&M, Apache or GVT, or any real Alco (only) road. It sounds to me like a Geep with some GE components thrown in. But I'll give you credit, you might be improving a Geep - just, this is not the forum to do it in. We started here to make a better Alco. Are you implying that a Geep with an "Alco" decal is how to make a better Alco?

Alcoman
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Post by Alcoman » Sat Jul 02, 2005 4:01 pm

I have heard that "CAT" power in any shape or form-parts included is more expensive than most other brands including Alco. This is one reason why railroads like CP did persue the Repowering of all the MLW M630's.
Plus most railroads donot have people experienced in repairing them.

There is a out in Canada that has tons of used diesel engine parts for ALCO,CAT,EMD and even a few GE engines.
The reason that parts are so expensive for any locomotive is BIG demand and LOW supply.
In 1983, the NYSW needed a 16-251 to repair # 3006. In 1983, a core unit suitable for rebuilding was going for about $ 20,000 at Naparano's in NJ.
Funny thing is, now, you can buy a entire used Alco for around the same price, but I bet that a 16-251 will still cost arount $25,000

I think that if there were more Alco suppliers, prices would drop. FM/ALCO has the market tied up around thier finger and they get away with charging what ever price they want.

mxdata
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Post by mxdata » Sat Jul 02, 2005 4:16 pm

So going back to OLG's original "shopping list" for this proposed locomotive, let me add a couple thoughts about equipment choices. OLG may be out at the museum today, so I hope he will provide his feedback when he gets a chance.

I strongly concur with the choice of an EMD AAR style control stand, switchgear based on EMD practice, and a suitable PLC with provision for add-on features, like "call-home" plug ins.

My preference would be to not use single core radiators, use sectional mechanically bonded radiators. They are easier to install and replace, less expensive to repair. I prefer not to have to keep a large spare with an enormous price tag hanging around the storehouse.

I would like to see a companion alternator with enough capacity to allow for several electrically driven cooling fans and an electrically driven air compressor, controlled on a "run when needed" basis. This would include a fan sequencing logic controller to manage the cooling system.

The ALCO engine accessory packages commonly applied in the Century series locomotives have some equipment and features which would be hard to duplicate and expensive to repair today. One thing I would prefer to change is the oil cooler arrangement, I would rather use a commonly available fin type to simplify parts inventory.

And last but my no means least, if you are going to retain 26 series air brake equipment, I would like to see the components mounted on a LUL type rack so you can change them quickly and easily without having to work around a lot of other obstructions and piping.

Do we want to provide this unit with optional cab air conditioning? If so, whose system and how should we power it?

Gentlemen, your turn!

Ol' Loco Guy

Post by Ol' Loco Guy » Sat Jul 02, 2005 4:26 pm

Mr. 2 spot,

First of all, forget about using the 'Alco' tradename. That was never proposed-nor would there any chance of it happening under the scenario I created. As has been hinted at many times before, it is almost most certain that GE still OWNS the Alco tradename.

The concept behind what I came up is based upon history. FM, with only an engine design to their name, spec'ed out a purpose-built version of the GSC frame built by Baldwin, WEMCO electrical gear (also similar to what was used by Baldwin), GSC switcher trucks (also used by Baldwin), set up a nan engineering office in the Chicago area (staffed with former EMD people) and built a 1000 hp switcher in an area of the existing plant.

The other outfit I borrowed from was Wabtec-and their predecessors-going back to Morrison-Knudson. Remember that their first loco job-back in 1971?-was the repair of some Alco switchers for City of Prineville. Today,
some 34 years later-they built new locomotives and components. Consider that BLW, LH and Alco did not last that long when the Post WWII replacement of steam began in wholesale.

My 'design' was just an answer to a question that somebody posed long ago-predicated on what other enterprises had done before in a similar circumstance. Fictional. Furthermore, I said that my idea was contrary
to the existing business model for selling new locos-the use of 'generic' parts.

Another way to answer the question would be to take an existing B23-7 give all the equipment a thorough overhaul, and replace the FDL engine with an Alco engine.

I think that is safe to say that as the installed base or Alco engines shrinks
in domestic rail, marine and stionary use-the availability of parts will decrease ever further-which of course will drive prices up.

The use of EMD material, components, etc is based upon the fact they never choose to or were able to patent any of this stuff. So, for all intensive purposes, the designs can be considered to almost be in the public domain-yes ?

At the same time, EMD used to be owned by a company who went after a whole host of aftermarket firms supplying 'restoration' parts for GM cars.
So-why was EMD silent when ICG (and others) turned out hundreds of 'remanufactured' EMD locomotives. ? I sure am not the one to answer that question. What I can guess is that all those locomotives turned into a bunch of lost sales for EMD.

Note that GE manages things quite a bit differently. Try and buy new GE locomotive material in the aftermarket. If one is a shortline-try and buy locomotive material from GE. You can't-you have to go through a distributor-and pay their mark-up. Emd eventually went this route, too.

As for existing Alco operators, they seem to have found a way to support tthe locomotives without much help from the 'factory.' For one thing, they trade parts and expertise between themselves-and also can rely on perhaps the most knowledgable 'Alco man' around-C G MacDermott for those issues that can't be solved internally. But the pool of good Alco material is shrinking-and someday these operators will have to look elsewhere for motive power. The upgrades they can do are fairly limited in scope and seem to deal with issues of available materials more than performance or fuel effciency.

2spot

Post by 2spot » Sat Jul 02, 2005 4:57 pm

Thank you, guys for your input on this topic, and OLG for posting it. I cant accept an Alco that has nothing Alco in it. Thats just me. Maybe you can. I put the BCRail CRS20s out there as an example of alternate powered Alcos - nobody cares about. Bringing out a "new" model designed more like a Geep I can live with because the economies of doing it so make sense. To me, this has to be Alco powered and evocative of Alco/MLW design or it becomes some cross-bred wierd hybrid of GP and GE stuff. Dont get me wrong. Alcos had GE stuff. I thought we set out to improve the breed. OLG, where did you see this going?

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