• Why Are Newer Locomotives So Ugly

  • General discussion about locomotives, rolling stock, and equipment
General discussion about locomotives, rolling stock, and equipment

Moderator: John_Perkowski

  by tahawus84
After watching trains in dc for a day I was wondering why the newer passenger engines are so ugly. The Amtrak genesis is not to bad but the MARC and VRE ones are horrible. Any reason why the body style of a FL9 could not still be made with newer equipment? I know this is just my opinion and everyone still likes older engines just wondering if there was any reasoning for the new designs.
  by DutchRailnut
Simple the body style of the classic bulldog unit is not as strong as it looks and won't pass todays impact testing.
The FL-9 was a rough thin metal shell over a simple set of supports with a ton of Bondo to make it look good.
todays engines are maximized for inside space and strenght while maintaining a fairly light carbody.
the less weight used for shelll maximizes the size propulsion you can fit in body.
  by tahawus84
Thanks dutch. I figured there was probably a reason
  by mtuandrew
The other part of the equation is cost. You could make a modern locomotive that is as handsome as a bulldog E or a PA or an Erie-built if you wanted. Or, you could make a unit that performs the same but costs $100,000 less, by omitting the complicated stamping and fabrication inherent in a streamlined body. I think Amtrak and the other passenger lines could do better without significantly raising the cost, but for now we're stuck with the Genesis, the PL42AC, and the MotivePower units.

Moderator's Note: While this discussion began with passenger locomotives, it applies to freight as well (cough SD70ACe cough.) I'm moving this thread to General Discussion: Locomotives and Equipment.
  by NH2060
Not all newer locos are eyesores. I personally like the design of the PL42AC over the P40/P42/P32AC-DM (AMD-103/110) design. The designs for the EMD F125 don't look half bad either and will likely improve as the carbody design is finalized. I even quite like the F69/F40PH-2M "Winnebego" design over the standard F40PH design. A number of the newer British EMU and DMU fleets and the Intercity 125 and 225 replacements have a very simple, yet beautiful design. It really all comes down to the individual designer's tastes IMO.
  by DutchRailnut
The EMD F125 may never be built, its only a design concept, if EMD finds no takers it will stay as is, a sketch on paper.
  by MEC407
As always, "ugly" or "beautiful" are matters of opinion. I'm quite fond of the Genesis design, and I don't think the MPXpress design is that bad. The artist renderings I've seen of the new Brookville commuter loco look pretty good, too (in my opinion).
  by GSC
I liked the look of the PL42s when they arrived on NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line. And the disc brakes give it a "chrome wheel" look. Non-railfan friends have commented that the PLs look like a Space Shuttle. To me, they have a "fast" look to them, unlike several loco models that resemble kitchen appliances. The only thing that needs help is the rear of the loco - blank wall with red marker lights.

The older GP40s aren't exactly "pretty", they simply look like they mean serious business. A classic look.
  by kitn1mcc
the MNCR/CDOT BL-20 are a handsome lot. almost an updated version of the RS loco from the new haven

the Gennies look great in non amtrak livery

the new MBCR look awful
  by DutchRailnut
since we have not seen a MBCR HSP-46 yet, other than artist renderings I say the jury is still out on that thing...
  by Desertdweller
I can see no inherent reason why a modern carbody unit could not be built. One of the newer designs (I don't remember which) is a return to that style, at least in construction. In a true carbody Diesel, the body of the locomotive is a load-bearing component. This is why, when you see pictures of these locos with the side panels removed, there is a truss framework inside. This trusswork distributes the forces acting on the frame. It is also why, when a carbody unit is converted to become a roadswitcher (CF-7), it is necessary to add large gussets to the frame sides to make up for the loss of the body truss.

In a roadswitcher, the frame itself carries all the load and the body is simply a shell that rides atop it. This is also true of wide-body (cowl) units, and wide nose units which are simply roadswitchers with enlarged noses. Obviously, the cabs are the same widths regardless of the design, the wide part only applies to the width of the short hood.

I don't think that a carbody design is inherently inferior to a roadswitcher or wide-cab design in frontal impact protection. Modern units use a heavy overrider on the ends of the frame. These could be added to a carbody unit without a major redesign. Carbody units did include an overrider, but not as large as on modern units.

Both types used heavy collision posts mounted inside the noses. The weakness in the traditional design was that the nose door (the outer one) opens inward. So if you are unfortunate enough to hit a fuel truck at a road crossing, there is a good chance that fuel will enter the cab through the nose door. This is hardly an insurmountable design problem. All modern units with nose doors have doors that open outward.

Beauty is really subjective. I liked all the early cab units. I have ridden in several, but never had the opportunity to run any. Obviously, a lot of effort went into styling these to make them look good. I also liked the early cowl units, like the F40, DD40AX, SDP40P. My personal favorite to run was the GE -9 series. I even liked the oddballs: U30CH; DL109. (I draw the line at the Aerotrain units: The visibility from the cabs is very poor, and the whole thing looks ridiculous.)

Some of the current auto designers must work overtime to create ugly machines. This trend has worked its way into locomotive design.

The big advantage of the roadswitcher design has to be in maintenance. Can you imagine what it would be like to work inside an F-unit or E-unit engine room? Even a fairly straighforward operation like pulling a cylinder head would be a hot, dark ordeal. No sticking a truck-mounted jib crane or forklift tine through a door.
If you need to go in from the top, it's pull the radiators first.

  by John_Perkowski
Long story short: $$$$$

Locomotives will be built at the least cost to the purchaser. If pretty adds cost, pretty gets omitted.
  by Desertdweller

Unfortunately, you are right.

There once was a time when both locomotive builders and their customers valued style and were willing to pay for it. Is it a coincidence that the classic Diesel designs were products of that era?

The current thinking seems to be: "It is what it is, take it or leave it." :(

  by Allen Hazen
It seems to me that whenever (well, almost...) a locomotive builder starts with a clean sheet -- so, MAJOR redesign, not modifications of earlier types -- the result is likely to be aesthetically successful: the carbody gets designed as a whole, so it is a unified composition. But this doesn't happen often. What you get is a succession of modifications, with new details added piecemeal. The aesthetic results tend to be disastrous.

Mind you, even a new design isn't always done right the first time.

Case study: EMD hoods from the 1950s to the 1960s. Everybody agrees that the GP-7 is a good design. Aesthetically it wasn't improved on by later first-generation geeps. (Decorative skirting around fuel tank removed: my puritanical, FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION, conscience says this was a good thing, but my eye doesn't like it. Low short hood: certainly a good idea, but the long, sloping, nose on a GP-20 looks weak.) Time for a major revision, and we got the GP-30. Oops! "Skyline casing" in front of dynamic brakes a mistake. Rounded profile of sides of cab roof... just silly looking. Second try: GP-35. Clean, functional, easy-to-produce form: utilitarian, but solidly honest. No major changes for twenty years.

Case study: GE U-series and later. U-25B is (in my-- maybe biased since I am a GE fan-- opinion) the most artistically successful hood unit of all time. Sloping short hood on late units: better for operator, but I would say not so good for spectators. Rearrangement of equipment on platform in 1966 (= between the early and late U28 phases) allows for aesthetic redesign. Shorter short hood means you don't have the silly long slope of the late U25B. One definite improvement: rear end of long hood made vertical instead of slanted. I would claim that a U30B or U23B is right up there, just after the GP-7 aesthetically... though the need for cooling capacity leads to a worrisome bulge at the rear end... Later modifications are, I think, all downhill aesthetically: radiator "wingspans" on higher horsepower models maybe aesthetically a toss-up. "Step" in side of long hood (widens in front of radiator compartment to allow more room for cross-wise mounted equipment inside) on Dash-7 a definite step downwards. Enlarged, boxy, dynamic brake housing on last B30-7A(B) and C36-7 ... aesthetically disastrous!
Time for a change. All the work on the initial Dash-8 series was on the technical front: the carbody, with multiple roof levels and a cab roof that doesn't mate with the long hood, looks like something made from spare parts. But GE then DID get an industrial designer to do something about it, and the later Dash-8 carbody (B39-8E, B40-8, B32-8, C40-8) is... well, disturbingly similar to a GP-35, but also clean and unified in the way the GP-35 was.

Case Study: Wide noses. These are hard to get right. The original "Canadian cab" looked (I would say) better in its GMD version than its MLW version. I suspect that is because they hired better industrial design talent! In the U.S., GE's first try (on B39-8 test unit 809) was unattractive, but GE then put serious effort into it. Part of that effort was addressed to purely functional aspects: they (showing good sense!) talked to actual enginemen about what would be comfortable and convenient. But putting all the ideas together was matter of design: art. I think the definitive GE "W" cab (on B40-8W, C40-8W, Dash 9....) is very attractive, and the units built with it are handsome.

(But GE hasn't had occasion to call in a designer since, and -- I'll call this "Hazen's Law" -- modifications tend to be bad aesthetically. The huge enlargement of the radiator area (to accommodate the gas/gas heat exchanger) on the ES-44 makes this type less handsome, I think, than its immediate predecessors. And the photos of the "Tier 4" prototype suggest that the long hood roof has been raised over the engine compartment in a less than attractive way.