EMD's 50 series is notorious for high maintenance. UP ruthlessly eliminated most 50 series EMD's as soon as their leases expired. Other 50 series operators don't seem to feel much love for these locos either.
Why are so many 50 series still around? I would venture that the simple answer is that until recently most railroads had traffic levels high enough to warrant keeping those 50 series locos around until the could be replaced at a measured rate.
Note that NS seems to be the only road interested in rebuilding 50 series locos. Remember that NS has Juniata shops. Isn't this the largest, most capable RAILROAD OWNED shop still around? This opens possibilities for older locomotives to be reused in a way that railroads that closed their big shops don't have anymore.
Why not rebuild GE loco's? Good question! There have been discussions before discussing why GE for the most part don't get rebuilt. In the case of older GE's it seems that cost was a big factor. But what about more modern GE's? Well lets face it the -7 series is pretty much dead in North America. (tho many still see use elsewhere...Brazil for example) As for the DASH 8 series, there seems to be a dividing line in DASH 8 units where the earlier ones had very short lives, and the older ones look like they are going to live much longer lives. (not sure what those differeances are tho)
Back to Progress Rail and the PR43C. WIth out a doubt there is a lot of mystery surrounding these units. I think a lot of that can be explained in one word: CATERPILLER. Remember that Progress Rail is owned by Cat. They wouldn't have spent money buying Progress Rail unless they considering a presense in the locomotive market. Cat thinks in large terms, very, very, very large terms. From my perspective, this type of secrecy is standard operating procedure for Cat.
The question is, what type of presence?
There are past occasions when Cat has built a cobbled together prototype, let a customer operate that prototype (preferably as much as possible) and then take the lessons learned to create a whole new complete product line.
There have been other applications of Cat power in locomotive use. (D 17000 engine in the 44tonner for example) However most of the recent (re) powering projects have been anything but successful. I think that Cat had some high hopes that the 3600 series engines would do well in locomotive usage. While quite a number of railroads tried out the 3600 series, none of them showed any interest in large scale usage. (What was the biggest 3600 powered fleet? The BC Rail RS18C'S?)
I am sure that Cat had some expectation that the MK5000C would find market place acceptance. It didn't. That the MK5000C's ended up getting repowered into what amounted to a 50 series locomotive I am sure hurt Cat's pride. It isn't hard to conclude that Cat decided if they were going to get into the locomotive business they had to cut out middleman. Cat is a VERY prideful company, and I imagine that somewhere a discussion took place that Cat wanted Cat people doing the design, research, engineering, and product development. Cat decided that only ones who can be trusted to develop a presence in the locomotive market is Cat itself. I won't say that Cat is going to build all new locomotives. I can surmise that they are considering doing so.
I think that the photo in question is a "test train" only in the sense of shaking the PR43C down. It would be a sensible approach to put this unit on the road, with as little fanfare as possible, shake the bugs out, and then, and only then set the unit down for some serious testing.
Why no dynamometer car? This locomotive's drawbar power is not at question. What is of interest is all above the deck, and since most modern locomotves are already well fitted with sensors, a great deal of data can be gathered with a lap top. (or sent realtime via satellite to a monitering station)
What I find interesting is that this unit is running in Illinois. (Cat's corperate headquaters is in Peoria)
Last edited by FCP503 on Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.