• NewYork Central DES-1 (unbuilt)

  • 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 Allen Hazen
Here (with corrections) is something I posted a few days ago on the New York Central forum. No responses there, yet, but maybe I'll do better with a forum of diesel historians?

've asked this before, on this or another forum, and got no response. Let me try again. This is not a fantasy locomotive -- well, in a sense it is, I suppose -- but a novel locomotive design ordered by the New York Central but cancelled (at, I think, the builder's request) before it was built.

West Albany Hill was an operating problem for the New York Central. I believe a small fleet of switchers (steam and later diesel) was stationed there to act as pushers: even a Hudson with a booster needed help getting up the hill with a heavy passenger train!

So. In the 1920s, the New York Central launched a program to develop diesel locomotives. Three prototypes were built: the first "tri-power" unit for use in the electrified New york City area, and the two 4-8-4 boxcabs for the Putnam Division. But a fourth was ordered: a heavy (1000 hp, I think) switcher for use on … West Albany Hill. (And also for switching within New York City.)

All FOUR prototypes were to have General Electric electrical gear, and all the "mechanical portions" were to be from Alco, but four different diesel engine designs were specified: small Ingersoll-Rand on the Tri-Power, large Ingersoll-Rand on one of the 4-8-4, McIntosh & Seymouron the other 4-8-4. (M&S was later bought by Alco: it's plant in Auburn, NY, became Alco's engine-building plant, and the 531-538-539 engine series was considered an M&S design. But the engine used on the New York Central's prototype was an earlier design, with no direct connection to Alco's engines.) The fourth prototype was to have had a "Nelseco" engine. That's a brand name of the New London Shipbuilding and Engine Company, which -- don't ask me for the exact corporate structure -- was essentially the same people as Electric Boat Company: the submarine builder.

Which comes close to being all I know about the fourth engine. One interesting design feature has been mentioned: it was to be a B-B-B type: three two-axle trucks, all axles motored. This is a configuration that has been used on a reasonable number of electrics (one pair of Baldwin-Westinghouse rectifier prototype-demonstrators for the Pennsylvania in the 1950s, EMD's GM-10 prototype-demonstrator in the 1970s, a whole fleet of locomotives on Australia's Queensland Rail…) and a few diesel electrics (New Zealand Railway's Japanese-bult DJ class, and I think a fairly widely used type on Japanese railways), but so far as I know never for a North American diesel. (Hmm.. I wonder if Baldwin, whose early road switchers did not have under-frame fuel tanks, ever considered it…)

… And it was never built. Apparently Nelseco decided that their engine wasn't suitable for locomotive use, and returned the deposit on the contract.

So, my QUESTION: Does anybody know more about this unit? I assume a fairly detailed specification was drawn up, so somewhere there must be paperwork giving technical details. Were drawings made? Do we know what it would have looked like?
  by Allen Hazen
(A follow-up post.)
I've now re-read the section on this unbuilt locomotive in Kirkland's "Dawn of the Diesel Age". The New York Central had drawn up detailed specifications for the four experimental locomotives, and assigned them New York Central classes: DEF and DEP for the freight and passenger 2-D-2 units, DES-2 for the prototype three-power switcher, and DES-1 for this stillborn critter. They then signed contracts for their construction. Terms varied a bit: in some cases Alco was the prime contractor (responsible for buying the diesel engine from the engine builder), and in others the engine builder was prime contractor (responsible for ordering "locomotive mechanical portions" from Alco). GE was obviously deeply involved, but apparently happy to be, in legal terms, a subcontractor. As for this unit… Alco went as far as assigning it a construction number (which was later re-allocated to a steam locomotive after the contract was cancelled).
Timing: the contract for it was signed in June 1926, cancelled in June 1927. Other units from this experimental four-some were delivered in mid to late 1928, so -- had Nelseco not backed out -- that's the sort of completion date probably planned.
Kirkland remarks that there was no attempt to revive the project with a different engine (Alco was the prime contractor, and was supposed to buy the engine from Nelseco, so this would have been possible in principle). An obvious thought is that the project wasn't revived because of the depression, but since the original contract was cancelled well before the 1929 stock market crash, this probably isn't the explanation. Maybe there was no other engine-type on the market that seemed attractive?
GE was supposed to provide the electrical components, but not details are given in Kirkland's book. The three prototy[es that WERE built all had four GE 286 traction motors (a type also used on some New York Central straight-electric locomotives: Q and R classes, at least. Traction motors were less standardized in those days than they are now, so perhaps something different would have been considered for a six-motor unit. On the other hand, Kirkland reports that the 750 hp "DEP" road freight unit sometimes had to double hills on the Putnam Division because it had reached motor short-time limits. So maybe six 286 motors would have been thought appropriate in a unit intended for heavy switching and helper service?
Trying to find more about the Nelseco engines, I found a submarine history website. (Recall that New London Shipbuilding and Engine was part of Electric Boat company!) It looks as if a six-hundred horsepower Nelseco engine in the 1920s would have been an inline 8. With air injection, a feature that would soon be seen as obsolete and undesirable…

If anyone knows more...
  by Pneudyne
Hi Allen, I can’t help with your primary question, but I wonder about the exact format of the B-B-B wheel arrangement proposed for DES-1. It might welll have been three independent trucks under a single frame, but it could also have been of the rigid frame form, with the two centre axles carried in the frame rather than in a truck. One might think of that as being a 2-B-2 with powered pilot truck axles. I suppose that the Pennsy B-C-B variant in the P-5 series might be thought of as a later analog.

In that period, running gear for electric locomotives – and by extension, that for early diesel-electric locomotives - generally fell into one of the following categories:

1. For heavier line-service locomotives operating at lowish speeds, articulated trucks such as B+B and C+C.
2. For line-service locomotives operating at higher speeds, rigid frames with pilot trucks, such as 2-C-2 and 2-D-2.
3. Alternatively, for line-service locomotives operating at higher speeds, and particularly for the very highest speeds, articulated trucks that were also equipped with pilot trucks, such as 2-B+B-2, 1-C+C-1 and 2-C+C-2.
4. For switching locomotives and light locomotives, independent trucks, sometimes of the lateral motion type.

Working against (4) was that for higher powers, typical motor diameters of the time were such that relatively large driving wheels were required, this exacerbating the intra-truck and inter-truck tilting and weight transfer problems. The use of articulated trucks, that is those with interconnections that handled all buff and drag forces, allowed transmission of drag forces more-or-less at axle-height, thus making maximum use of the available adhesive weight. The trade-off was very poor dynamic behaviour at higher speeds, particularly very high lateral railhead forces. This could be tamed by the use of pilot trucks, preferably of the four-wheel type for the highest speeds. But even then, high-speed 2-C+C-2 locomotives usually required a lateral restraint device to minimize truck oscillation on tangent track.

Incidentally, the NYC T-class electric locomotives, with the B-B+B-B wheel arrangement, were of the pilot truck type not the span bolster type. The outer trucks acted as pilots to the inners, whose frames were extended outwards accordingly. The layout may be thought of as 2-B+B-2 but with powered pilot axles. Presumably this layout was chosen as being kinder to the track at typical operating speeds.

The earliest rigid-frame B-B-B locomotives that I am aware of were FS (Italy) DC electrics of circa 1927-28. (FS changed to the articulated body B-B-B layout circa 1940, and then to the single-frame triple truck B-B-B version at the end of the 1970s.) And also in the late 1920s, GE supplied some triple-truck DC electrics to the Mexicano. These were of the B+B+B type, that is with articulated trucks. The first B-B-B triple truck design with non-articulated trucks was probably the small diesel-electric design built by Alsthom for use in Madagascar around 1939.

So, whatever its planned configuration, the DES-1 would have had what was then a very new wheel arrangement. That the 2-D-2 layout was chosen for the DEF and DEP designs and B-B for the DES-2 does suggest that even though all used the same relatively modestly-sized traction motor, the rigid frame layout was preferred for line-service locomotives.

  by Pneudyne
A second reading through of the Kirkland commentary inclines me to the idea that the DES1 design was more likely a rigid-frame type.

In summarizing the respective NYC specifications, Kirkland refers to the DEF (NYC spec. #164) and DEP (NYC spec. #163) as having the 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, the DES1 (NYC spec. #165) as 4-4-4 and the DES2 (NYC spec. #166) as 0-4-4-0. Whilst one cannot be sure that all of those wheel arrangement designations followed the same logic, if they did, then a triple-truck single-frame design would most likely have been referred to as 0-4-4-4-0. Applying Occam’s Razor on the basis of what is actually known, then 4-4-4 is homologous with 4-8-4, and so referred to a rigid-frame design.

Kirkland also reported the Alco descriptions as being 484-OE-301 for the DEF, 484-OE-360 for the DEP and 404-OE-234 for the DES2. “404” referred to the 4-wheel leading and trailing trucks and zero main drivers. Unfortunately no Alco designation was mentioned in respect of DES1, although its estimated weight was 268 000 lb. One imagines that it would have been 444-OE-268 if it had been rigid-framed, and perhaps 40404-OE-268 if triple-trucked.

  by Allen Hazen
Thank you for the followup! "Modern" (PRR E3b and later) BBB electrics usually (always?) have provision for a bit of lateral motion by the centre truck. (Westinghouse PROPOSED a BBBB electric in trying to sell Electrification to Erie Mining (a Minnesota iron-ore railroad): I have always assumed it would have been a "stretch" version of the E3b. … The Baldwin/Westinghouse gas turbine electric demonstrator was also a BBBB unit.) This would, I think, have been a NEW IDEA in the late 1920s (though probably something Alco's engineers could have worked out the details of IF the idea had been suggested), so maybe it is unlikely that this configuration would have been adopted for the DES-1. But essentially the same engineering problem-- allowing lateral motion in a powered truck-- would have arisen, I think, for a… thing with the centre two axles in the rigid frame, since by the 1920s it was standard steam practice to have a bit of lateral motion in the pilot and trailing trucks, and I think this would have carried over to diesel design.
You report:
"And also in the late 1920s, GE supplied some triple-truck DC electrics to the Mexicano. These were of the B+B+B type, that is with articulated trucks."
GE was not the prime contractor for any of the New York Central's planned experimental locomotives, but would surely have been in consultation when the specifications were drawn up, so…
What I really need is a bit of documentation. I wonder whether relevant Alco (and Nelseco) paperwork survived, and if so where...