• How hard would it be 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.
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 NRECer
By now, I think everbody should've figured out that the demand for new Alco-powered locomotives in North America is ZERO. Substitute the word
'Oldsmobile' for the word "alco'-and one will see how ludicrous the argument is.

In the past, outfits such as M-K and GE attempted to market 'like-new' Alco locomotives. The marketplace voted with its' wallet, and went elsewhere. For those who care to look, this fact is documented.

Those are the FACTS. Thee is nothing to be gained by beating the same dead horse over and over. He is still dead.

Finally, the current OEM of the Alco engine, FM Engines, doesn't appear to have any plans to sell into the railroad market. Again, if one reads the trade magazines that covers the diesel engine industry, one would know that. Again-I challenge one of your know it alls to contact the FM-Alco Product Manager and ask him what plans are afoot for the engine. It seems they are happy to just sell parts and engines to the operator with the largest installed engine base,ie, the American military.

I would like anyone to tell me how FM is supposed the engine to meet EPA Tier II without a current chassis design. Anyone ever see GE's test rig for the Evolution series engine ?

The final issue is the ongoing evolution and development of emissions standards for land AND sea based transportation all over the world. So, it is only a matter of time before the 251 is functionally obsolete on a worldwide basis. The sole exception may be Indian Railways, which reminds me.

For those who don't know, DLW has created (and sold?) a number of different export locomotive designs to both Asian countries and an outfit in South America. They also market parts worldwide.

Once again-I'll remind everyone that GE controls the license for manufacturing Alco equipment in India-and NREC owns the license for North America.

As for the land down under, NREC-Alco is a partner with an outfit that remanufactures locomotives. The Goninan products you spoke were indeed converted from retired Class 442 (Alco powered locomotives.) Basically updated C-30-7A's with GE 'Brightstar'' (MP) controls. The upcoming EMD mentioned will also use retired Class 442 units as the foundation. One might guess that NREC's role is to supply the component-salvaged from retired NA locomotives.

Final thought-as American operating companies begin to run more and more of the worlds railways, one will see more and more EMD and GE powered locomotives replace the older, oddball stuff.


  by wess
Someone has come up with a more specific approach to this topic. Alcoman, can we go ahead and lock this thread? It seems that the flamers are still bashing the purists in here, and thats NOT what I had in mind when I started this thread


  by Alcoman
I agree Wess.... If the flamers...and you know who you are; don't stop bashing this thread, I will lock this thread or worse keep the flamers locked out!
This is a FRIENDLY discussion on "What If" Nothing more. If you don't agree with the thread, then go elsewhere.
Thank You

..NOW, back to the thread!
  by pablo
I haven't added anything to this post for some reason or another, and I thought I might do so now.

What I've learned so far:
I didn't know that there was another company starting up, albeit in Austrailia, to market new locomotives. What a great idea to use the best of different manufacturers.

I didn't know that the Indian company had exported to other continents, though of course, it makes sense.

I also didn't know that the Indian company might be experimenting with components from other companies (i.e. EMD or GE, per se), though of course, based on the first thing I learned above, it does make sense.

Ol' Loco Dude made a great point above. The Chinese are indeed about to send us new cars, and they may be bad or good to start, but they will get better. Kia was a real dog a few years ago, as was Hyundai, but today...the Koreans lead the auto industry in quality. The Chinese will learn very quickly. Enough competition exists among the asian countries (Japan vs. Korea vs. China) that no one wants to be at the bottom. For car buyers, we all win. Only US auto manufacturers lose in that game.

I think that while we all debate this topic, which clearly has merit based on Australia's experiences, we will be missing the boat. The Chinese companies sending locomotives to the US face the very difficult proposition of shipping them across the Ocean, but once they figure that out, there is nothing to say it can't happen. Those who disagree...wait to see how the Chinese autos do. Perhaps I'm wrong, and they won't do well, but I have seen a lot of elderly men and women driving Kias, people who I thought according to demographics would run like hell away from a Korean car. Whatever the reason that they bought them, or we bought them, we ARE buying them.

Here's my opinion about the locomotive business: a Chinese entrant can only HELP the cause of another locomotive builder. Here's my logic; please try to keep up:
1. The Chinese manufacturer will do all it can to grab the lucrative part, the big choo choos, where the profits will be.
2. The US "giants" will do their best to keep those sales.

Here's what helps a new manufacturer:
3. The Green Goat will continue to rack up sales. Sure, they don't seem like a lot so far, but the numbers have been increasing. Anyone noticed how the stock in that company is doing?
4. GE, whose former engineers make up much of Rail Power (the maker of the Green Goat) R&D staff, just began a big push for their EVO locomotives. What was that ad campaign titled, ECOImagination? They recognize that the market is there for efficient hybrid locomotives. I think, however, as with 2 above, they may not have the necessary wherewithal to stick with a hybrid program when it has to slash profits to compete with the Chinese.
5. Whn Greenbriar bought EMD recently, among the items that Greenbriar stated was that EMD had not been aggressive enough at marketing their locomotives, and that included smaller locomotives like the 2000hp ones we've been talking about. In fact, the spokesman for Greenbriar specifically referenced the smaller locomotives saying that this was an area with potential for massive growth, and referred to the Green Goat as an idea that was popular as much for the size and stated purpose as it was for the hybrid technology. If anyone likes, I can try to dig up the article; I think it was on Trainorders.com. Again, though, as with 2 above, they may not have the money to stick with a program of smaller locomotives when they have to slash profits to compete with the Chinese.

So...what now? The giants will kill themselves for the big stuff, literally, and that will leave RPI with the smaller market to itself in the US. Someone that can market an emissions-compliant locomotive using the best of the market's materials will do well, I think. Then, when one of the two giant companies, EMD or GE, falls once and for all, the void that's left will necessitate a new company that might just be able to buy the losing company a la carte and go from there. The pension obligations alone of EMD almost caused Greenbriar to back out of the deal, and ultimately, that will help decimate these companies as much as the Chinese will.

Comments, anyone?

Dave Becker

  by Ol' Loco Guy
Some pundit just wrote " as the 20th Century was America's-the 21st Century will be Chinas. I'm not going to argue this-it is fact. Indirectly, the huge volume of Chinese exports funds the purchasing of American govt. debt
by the Chinese. Get the point(s). The wholesale demise of American industry (in my view) began during the Nixon Admin-when the American govt. allowed the Japanese to dump consumer electronics on our shores. One did n't need a PHD to know this if a) one went to Nippon and saw familiar items selling for many times more than in the American market (even with their weird distribution system) or spoke to Japanese who came here to buy Nikon gear on the cheap. Know I don't know if the dollar was strong or weak vs, the yen back then-but it doesn't matter...that is all manipulated anyhow. It is all about geopolitics. Back to the subject at hand-locos.

The first thing to remember is that large companies like EMD and GE have groups of people on corporate staff to watch these worldwide economic trends. So, the locomotive divisions of each just do their bit to tow the corporate line.

One thing that is well know is most of the growth in the world economy will take place in Asia.

GE has reacted to that by a) setting up a "Technology Center" In India that can develop all their product lines for 'local consumption.' The do quite a bit of loco R&D work there. Some of this is reflected in current DLW (Alco ) production-some will be reflected in models yet to be built. I think GE also built a diesel engine plant in Russia. Why ? because they have had some success selling loco upgrade kits to the Russian Railways. GE also has a 'deal' with an Indian firm to built GE design alternators, traction motors and so on. So-will anyone guess how long it will be before GE builds a locomotive assmebly plant somewhere in Asia. Of course-don't forget GE's existing interest in the DLW business in India.

One of the reason is that GE is on their toes in India is because DLW is building 4000 hp EMD's in the same assembly bays right next the Alcos.
EMD seems to have been developing a presense in Europe for quite a while, too. As time passes, more and more of the content of these EMd's will be locally sourced.

So-right now-the worldwide locomotive business comes down to four outfits- EMD, GE, Bombardier ( a whole bunch of predecessor companies) and Alstom ( also an aglomeration of many outfits). So, when the Chinese start to export heavy iron like locmotives-somebody is going to bleed.

  by wess
I think this is the best input I,ve seen in this thread in a long time. I've just found out things I didnt know were happening. It hasnt surprised me that China is thinking of sending a few toys for the US companies to play with. The only thing I didnt know about was the when. Guys. Thank you for the input
  by Allen Hazen
Did you see the press releases / media interviews a few weeks back when GE announced their plans for a hybrid locomotive? I don't remember the details, but the head of GE - Rail (or whatever the locomotive business division is now called) was talking a lot about the world -- and in particular Asian -- market. So I have a feeling GE (which in a lot of other industries is a very internationally-oriented company) sees locomotives as like jet engines: a business where the non-U.S. market is at least as important as the domestic, and in which their main competitors -- soon if not yet -- might be overseas.
  by Alcoman
Allen Hazen wrote:Did you see the press releases / media interviews a few weeks back when GE announced their plans for a hybrid locomotive? I don't remember the details, but the head of GE - Rail (or whatever the locomotive business division is now called) was talking a lot about the world -- and in particular Asian -- market. So I have a feeling GE (which in a lot of other industries is a very internationally-oriented company) sees locomotives as like jet engines: a business where the non-U.S. market is at least as important as the domestic, and in which their main competitors -- soon if not yet -- might be overseas.
Alco discovered that back in 50's and 60's. In fact, Alco had somewhere around 75% of the export market to themselves thanks to the World Bank.
By 1969, Alco had some very large orders-all export (which were canceled and sent to DLW) before they closed.

  by Ol' Loco Guy
When Welch ran GE, he was always alluding to the fact that the Asian market
was GE's future. GE built a large technology center in Banglore, which in fact carries his name.

The other fact I've been made aware of is India's 'brain drain.' Many products of the country's very fine higher education system come to the US in search of fame and fortune. As the Indian standard of living gets higher, that process will begin to slow. So, in the future, that country will become a force to be reckoned with.

Meanwhile-what I waiting to see is one manifestion of all that Indian brainpower : a new DLW 4000 hp AC Alco platform to go head to head with the EMD GT-46MAC.

  by N. Todd
The 251 is actually not that far from meeting some type of EPA Tier... Some money into improving it WOULD make it pass. Why do you think the engine is still being built... There is still a future!

If it is sooo easy to enter the locomotive market, I might as well buy the Alco rights from NRE and build my own, provided somebody do all the interior designing for me (QCM guys)! We already have our own truck design, the M-640 radiators, GE eletricals, the air conditioning and computer space design behind Ed's GE-like 630, and the nifty cooling system atop Robe's existing 636s.

Anyone want a conceptual sketch?

  by wess
N. Todd wrote:system atop Robe's existing 636s.

Anyone want a conceptual sketch?
Go for it Nick.

  by Jamshid
Forget emissions,I have some points to add:

1-The share of a modern diesel engine price on a conventional locomotive is as little as 15% of loco price.

2-Diesel fuel cost is the second (or even first) expenditure of railroads, which is 20 to 30% of total operating costs. (but not in my country!) modern diesels equipped with enough electronics and high pressure injection burn 15% less fuel than 251s or their contemporary rivals in same power. Saving from retrofit of a new engine instead of old one will compensate total retrofit costs in less than 10 years just by fuel saving!

3-Availability is one of most important parameters for rail roads, about 50% of loco immobilizations is related to diesel engine. Modern engines with monitoring systems have less scheduled and corrective maintenances and are repaired in less time. (it means smaller fleet)

4-Reliability is also a major parameter which is upgraded dramatically in new engines. With computerized control systems, more complicated procedures could be employed in order to prevent engine en-route shut downs by power adjustments.

5-The problem of size and weight has been solved with new engines.

With above figures who wants old engines!


  by Allen Hazen
Good points!
Statement that the engine might be as little as 15% of the cost of a new locomotive surprised me: conventional wisdom (from the 1970s) I thought was that the engine was about a third of the cost (with the electricals and the "locomotive mechanical portion" also accounting for about a third each). I would have thought the relative cost of the engine and the carbody (etc) wouldn't have changed much-- if anything, that the engine, needing higher quality metallurgy, would have become MORE expensive relative to the carbody. So: are the new electrical systems (AC transmission, microprocessor control now making up something like TWO thirds of the total cost?

  by Jamshid

Conditions have been changed since 70s :

1-New diesel engines are more powerful in less weight; I mean with fewer raw materials they can achieve the same power performance. With new technology high speed diesels are as efficient as and as durable as medium speed ones with cheaper prices. (A Daimler Chrysler MTU 16V4000R42 with 2MW rating is just 6.8 ton and its Bsfc at its rated power is 195 gr/kwh, for sure the engine price share for Austrian RH2016 locomotives which were equipped with these engines is less than 15%)

2-The number of locomotives in 70s orders were much more than today orders’. developing a new locomotive or even modifying an in hand model for new customer
conditions is very expensive, for an order of 20 or 30 locomotives; let me say 4000 hp locomotives, the price of a loco generally exceeds 3.5 million bucks. (NJT paid some 5 million bucks for each PL42AC locomotive of an order of 33, Pakistan paid 4.9 million bucks for each blue tiger locomotive of an order of 33, blue tiger locomotives are rated at 3000 hp and equipped with GE components.)

3- I mentioned OeBB RH2016s, it’s worth to add that for an order of incredible 500 locomotives very similar to that class for SNCF, the loco price is 2 million euros where as 5 similar locomotives for Hong Kong KCRC railroad (don’t mistake with KCR) were sold 5 million each!

4- Diesel engine builders have more cards to play, because a certain model could be used for genets, oil rigs, marine and other industrial applications as well as traction, so engine Manufaction could be considered mass production in comparing with loco production. (at least it worth to invest 200 million $ to develop a new generation.)

5- with decline of loco orders within recent years the share of diesel engine on a loco price has been decreased.

P.S I think the price of a new 16 cylinder 7FDL engine is (or was) about 450000 $, correct me if I’m wrong!

  by Allen Hazen
Thanks for the explanation! If you're right about a 7FDL-16 going for $450,000... well, that's 15% of the $3 million that seems to be a ballpark figure for new U.S. mainline freight locomotives these days!