Century series electrical equipment questions

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

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JohnR
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Joined: Tue Apr 11, 2006 5:49 pm
Location: Union Grove, Alabama

Century series electrical equipment questions

Post by JohnR »

I know that GE provided Alco with their AC/DC transmission system before they introduced one of their own locomotives with it. However, after GE introduced the U25B to the market, in general did they sell to Alco their latest locomotive transmission electrical equipment as they developed it?

Over the life of the Century series of locomotives did Alco progressively update the transmission electrical system of the various models with improved components/subsystems? For example I believe that the C628 had the longest production run of any of the Century series. Were the transmission electrical systems such as the wheel slip and generator excitation systems on the units built in Dec 1968 the same as those on the units built in Dec 1963? Or were they improved/different versions?

Thanks.

JohnR

Allen Hazen
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Location: Edmonton, Canada (formerly Melbourne, Australia)

Post by Allen Hazen »

Search the archives of this and the GE forum! I think there have been relevant discussions (not of the specific C628 question, but more general).
---My impression is that the two builders had separate approaches to wheel-slip control, and that there were DETAIL differences in the electrical systems applied to U-boats and C-series: one point made in a discussion was that GE, wanting to simplify as much as possible, omitted some useful feature from the U25B that was included on the C425.
---There has been a lot of talk about GE not supporting Alco, and so hastening Alco's departure from the market, but I haven't seen many details. It may be that they didn't tell Alco in advance of new R&D work, but certainly once something was public knowledge Alco got it quickly. Recall that in the case of the biggest single innovation of the mid-1960s, the introduction of AC/DC transmission, Alco was able to get a C630 (with GE alternator/rectifier equipment) to a customer some months before GE's AC/DC U28B prototypes hit the road!
---Price is another thing. Alco paid money to GE for its electrical gear, whereas the electricals for GE locomotives came from within the company. I suspect it would be very hard, even if you had detailed corporate records at hand, to determine whether Alco was at a significant cost disadvantage in this regard.
---Federal law doesn't like monopoly. GM-EMD had gone through a long lawsuit about whether or not it had been doing naughty things in acquiring its (overwhelmingly dominant in 1960) share of the locomotive market. I ***SUSPECT*** (this is speculation on my part) that GE's lawyers would have told them to be very careful about doing anything blatantly unfair to put a competitor out of business!
---
But as you can see, I don't really KNOW very much about it.

Allen Hazen
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Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:14 pm
Location: Edmonton, Canada (formerly Melbourne, Australia)

Post by Allen Hazen »

O.k., I've found a published source for GE not being willing to supply its latest technology to Alco. In October 2002, "Trains" ran a special issue devoted to locomotives. On page 46 they quote Jack Wheelihan on the failure of Alco's C-636:
"The underlying problem was that GE wouldn't support this model, because by then GE had its own diesel locomtive line and they weren't going to give their premier electrical switch gear to Alco."
Wheelihan, after a long career with EMD, had gone on to other locomotive-related activities. My impression (backed up by comments from various people on Railroad.net forums) is that people in the locomotive industry talked to each other, so I would give an ex-EMD man's opinions on relations between Alco and GE considerable credit.

*istDS

Post by *istDS »

GE C&LE Division (later GETS) had a group that designed and supported equipment electrical (and other) equipment sold to Alco.

For example, the GTA9 alternator applied to the in C636 was not that different from the same item applied to the U33C. Ditto for the traction motors and other electrical auxiliaries. The C636 had some mechanical items supplied by GE that were not found in contemporary GE locomotive production-two different right angle gear boxes that drove the jacket water cooling fan and the engine intercooler cooling fan respectively.

All the schematic diagrams for Alco locomotives that I've ever seen carried the GE imprint.

I understand that a former Alco Service Manager is writing a book on his experiences. Perhaps this straight from the horses mouth account will shed light on the question posed by Mr. Hazen.

JFD

Allen Hazen
Posts: 2490
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 10:14 pm
Location: Edmonton, Canada (formerly Melbourne, Australia)

Post by Allen Hazen »

*istDS --
Thank you! I hope the former Alco service manager's book does come out: there are many aspects of locomtive history where testimony by participants in the events would be very valuable. But time passes memories fade, and people die: GE's entry into the market for big North American diesels and Alco's departure -- beginning and end of what I think was the most tumultuous and dramatic period of American diesel locomotive history since initial dieselization in the 1940s -- are 45 and 38 years ago!

*istDS

Post by *istDS »

Years ago, I had the opportunity to attend an annual banquet that was sponsored by one of the historical societies that dealt with the products of Chrysler Corporation. I was surprised to find out that the society had been able to document (in writing and on tape) via first person recall, every major vehicle, engine and transmission program dating from post-WWII until the bankruptcyin the '80s.

In contrast, the railroad historical groups have come up very poorly in this regard. To their collective peril, they ignored the folks who had worked for the builders until most of those people passed on. Fortunately, a few men have taken the bit and ran with it under their own steam, so to speak.

JFD

Alcoman
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Post by Alcoman »

*istDS wrote: In contrast, the railroad historical groups have come up very poorly in this regard. To their collective peril, they ignored the folks who had worked for the builders until most of those people passed on. Fortunately, a few men have taken the bit and ran with it under their own steam, so to speak.

JFD
This is for the most part true as only now are books being written using first person accounts of the Alco business while they still can.
The books being written are not being written by Historical groups but rather persons who have realized that time is running short as these former workers from Alco reach their 70's and 80's.
The same could be said about Alco Locomotive preservation. We have lost many rare examples of Alco locomotives because no one seemed to be interested in "saving" Alcos in the 40's and 50's.

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