• Cast Steel Locomotive Frames

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

  by urrengr2003
In the lineage of New York Central steam locomotive construction, when were cast steel frames used instead of fabricated frames? Would ALCO receive these frames from Adirondack Castings the firm that cast AD on diesel locomotive side frames?
  by Allen Hazen
My impression is that locomotive frames (in North America-- elsewhere built-up frames were the norm until the end of steam) gradually came to be assembled from larger and larger castings over the first few decades of the 20th C. (So, for an example from the late 1920s, the PRR M1a had a one-piece casting for the cylinders and the "saddle" the smokebox rested on, the rest of the frame being attached to that. Sometimes, at least, the two side rails of the main frame would be castings.). The final, one-piece, locomotive bed (including cylinders as well as frame) was, I think, introduced at the very end of the 1920s-- I'd have to check, and I'm not sure where to check, but I think the first New York Central J-1 Hudsons were too early, but that the last J-1 (and of course the later J-3 and S) locomotives did have one-piece cast beds.
Adirondack wasn't, I think, involved: these castings were produced by Commonwealth Steel (which, maybe just after the introduction of the one-piece frame, was bought by Alco and Baldwin, and, under the name General Steel Industries, operated as a joint subsidiary of Alco and Baldwin).
  by urrengr2003
Was General Steel Industries refered to as General Steel Castings? Many locomotive heavy castings of the 50's & 60's had the initials GSC cast on the piece. Thanks for sharing Baldwin & ALCO were behind GSI; never realized that fact.
  by Allen Hazen
I think GSI and GSC are the same outfit (which I suspect has undergone numerous changes of ownership, probably with minor name changes along the way). The actual foundery is in Granite City (Illinois): where Commonwealth was located before the Alco-Baldwin takeover.
Full corporate history is probably VERY complicated! Going to Wikipedia under each variant of each name might give the raw material for an outline history! (Steinbrenner's Alco book is, I think, good on corporate history matters. I'll try to remember to look at it to see what it says about Commonwealth/GSC, and report back if I find anything juicy.)
Just who makes large locomotive castings (truck frames, for example) now I'm not sure. A few years back a closeup photo of a truck on a GE locomotive was posted at "Fallen Flags" (I think) with a "RSA" founders mark: I think the source was a foundry in South Africa.
  by Pneudyne
General Steel Castings Corp., Eddystone, Pa., was shown as the supplier of the cast steel engine beds in the Train Shed Cyclopedia series reprints of the Railway Mechanical Engineer original articles for the NYC L-3, L-4 and S-1/S-2 (Niagara) class steam locomotives. (Also for many other steam locomotives that had cast steel beds.)

In the 1950s, General Steel Casting Corporation advertised its Commonwealth cast steel truck frames, examples attached.

DRT 195212 p.32.jpg
DRT 195812 p.49.jpg

  by Allen Hazen
Thanks for the ads! Scans from your files of "Diesel Railway Traction" are always a treat.
Eddystone, of course, is where Baldwin was located after the 1920s. GSC's having its home office there is a symptom of its being (in part) a Baldwin subsidiary. But I ***think*** the actual casting was still done at Granite City.
  by Allen Hazen
Hmm... The bottom of the second page of your ad lists Granite City, Eddystone, and Avonmore, PA, as locations. My guess is that GSC's location at Eddystone was an office in the Baldwin office building where the board of directors met: note above that line that if you wanted to order castings, you wrote to the Granite City office.
  by Allen Hazen
A bit more precision on the original question, about when cast steel locomotive beds were adopted for New York Central steam locomotives... Stauffer's book, "Thoroughbreds," about the New York Central Hudsons, has a bit of technical data. The original prototype Hudson, J1a 5200, had cast steel frames with bolted cross members (so: the two sides of the frame were castings, but they were then joined by separate cross pieces to form an over-all bolted structure, and cast steel cylinders, which again would have been bolted to the frame. A list of improvements on J1b and most J1c doesn't mention anything about the frame, but the last five J1c, built in 1929, had one-piece cast frames, as did all J1d and J1e.
The L2 Mohawks were built from 1925 to 1930, so I assume that with them, too, early members of the class had frames and cylinders bolted together, but by the end of production one-piece frames cast with integral cylinders had been adopted.
It should not be assumed that all railroads adopted the new technology at the same time (though I suspect NewYork Central was fairly early). I believe that of the Pennsylvania Railroad's J1 freight engines, built during the war, some had cast frames and others not. (Though this may have been a matter of what was obtainable under wartime conditions.)
  by Allen Hazen
Alfred W. Bruce's "The American Steam Locomotive" credits the "successful development" of the one-piece cast frame to General Steel Castings in 1925, remarking that initially the cylinders were separate but that the incorporation of integrally cast cylinder in the frame casting followed "soon," and that cast frames were used for most large locomotives after about 1930.
John H. White, in an "Afterword" written for a 1970s reprinting of Angus Sinclair's "Development of the Locomotive Engine" says the one piece cast Fram was introduced in 1926 (perhaps the one year difference is how long it took to incorporate cylinders?), and says that the one-piece casting replaced some 800 parts in a built-up frame (that's a lot; maybe he was counting individual bolts?) and that about 4,000 locomotives were built with cast frames.
  by Allen Hazen
But I seem to have guessed wrong about the nature of GSC's presence at Eddystone. There was a manufacturing plant there, as well as the one at Granite City (but large locomotive castings seem to have been done at Granite City, the Eddystone unit specializing in other things).
The company diversified, merging with others (they bought St. Louis Car) and changed their name to General Steel Industries in, I think, 1961. I looked at Wikipedia under a variety of corporate names, and lost track somewhere around 1970. By 1973 (they had an ad in the 1973 Simmons-Boardman "Car and Locomotive Cyclopedia") some of their characteristic locomotive products -- such as the frame for the EMD "Blomberg" truck -- were being made by Rockwell, which seems Mohave regarded itself as a continuation to the GSC operation: the Rockwell ad in "C&LC" claims they had made 27,000 Bloomberg truck frames, which indicates they were taking credit for all the earlier production.