• Why do you like Baldwins?

  • Discussion related to Baldwin Locomotive Works, Lima Locomotive Works, Lima-Hamilton Corporation, and Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton.
Discussion related to Baldwin Locomotive Works, Lima Locomotive Works, Lima-Hamilton Corporation, and Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton.

Moderator: lumpy72

  by Mimbrogno
Well, I've been a member of this group for a while now, and I've loved Baldwin diesels ever since I started working on one at the Arizona Railway Museum, and I got to wondering about what made you love Baldwins so much that you joined this group? I know what it is for me, it's their engines, their reliability and power, their effecieny and their pulling power. I love them for their technical aspects, but I know that not all railfans are technical people, they just like trains. I mean, powerplants aside, a Baldwin is just like any other locomotive, only uglier! (second only to those hidious CNW AS-16M rebuilds!) So I wonder if you aren't so interested in their prime-mover, why do you like them? I never thought they were very pretty locomotives at first (especially the road switchers), but the rugged, utilitarian hood design grew on me to where think they are elegant in their own way. I guess it's an aquired taste.

So, what do you like about Baldwins anyway?
Matthew Imbrogno
  by Komachi
Well, I don't post on the Baldwin board too often, I'm more or less an ALCo. guy. However, Baldwin had some interesting locomotives that they put out on the market. I'm a fan of the "Sharknose" RF-16 design as well as the look of the "baby face" and "Centepede." Very unique locomotives.

As for their road switchers, yes they're not the best looking girls at the dance, but they got the job done. Although, I think the VO-1000 and the center cab switcher (can't remember the number off hand) they built for the Minneapolis, Northfield & Southern were sharp looking units. But that's just my personal opinion.

  by Legio X
I like the S-12 myself....

  by Xplorer2000
My fondness for Baldwins comes frome the three RP-210-H units that powered the two Pullman-Standard "Train-X"s, The Xplorer,(NYC) and the Dan'l Webster(NH)....ahead of their time, but seemingly doomed from the start. The "Babyfaces"also caught my eye....I wish someone would model them in H.O. scale....you get so sick of F-units some times....

  by Centurylover68
Baldwins are different from anyone elses designs. I love any babyfaces or sharks and those no-nonsense RS-12 s. I'd love to see an N-Scale Babyface.

  by R Paul Carey
Those NYC RS-12's in lightning stripes were the first diesels I could remember, with their slow-running 606A engines cresting the grade from Dunwoodie to Bryn Mawr Park with little effort (flat-out, of course, at 625 RPM!)...

These engines had "all the options" (steam generators, ATS, electric throttles, even - uncharacteristic for NYC road switchers - 3-chime airhorns). With their slightly higher short hoods, they looked purposeful when operated in reverse, a practice not uncommon on the Putnam Division in the mid-1950's.

In my later career, I was spared the task of maintaining any BLH diesels (thankfully), so my earliest and fondest memories of the RS-12s remain untarnished...
  by ljeppson
I have had very little actual experience being around Baldwins, except one. This experience indicated to me that these were very durable locomotives. For about 10 years two Baldwin switchers, ex-U S Army (I don't know what they were model-wise, but they had turbos) sat motionless at the J J Coan equipment company located east of the Union Pacific station in Salt Lake City from 1964 through 1974. In the earlier part of this decade I was a student at West High School in SLC, and I frequently studied these idle displays through the fence sitting on my bike. Years passed and I purchased a Scout 80. In Feubray 1974 I was returning to my home north of the station when I was astonished to see one of the switchers being run back and forth on the short spur into J J Coan (this was off of a D&RGW branch which was old Bamberger trackage). I was amazed to see the unit running at all, having sat motionless for at least 10 years. Anyway, the next week that particular unit was gone. I assume it was sold to an active assignment.

  by pennsy
Hi Komachi,

Looks like great minds think alike. I have both Baldwins in my HO gauge stable. The switcher is sure footed and can walk through any number of switches with a load behind it. However, my hands down favorite is the RF-16 Shark. In Tuscan Red with cat's whiskers she is incredible. And all axles powered allows the engine to lean into the load and walk away with it. As you know, I cannot leave my engines alone, and so the Shark has some lead weight in its belly. Helps out the traction and pulling power tremendously. PRR loved their Sharks and used them a lot on Horseshoe Curve. Excellent engines.

  by Petz
The sharks have a similar unique look as the PA´ s but grounded on the lower motorisation they had no chance in passenger services like E´s or even PA´s. If Baldwin would have been used two 608SC engines on the DR-6-4-20 and a standard MU - system there would be probably more buyers, the centipede was no alternative for passenger services.
On the other side AS 616 and the other road units looked very simple, after a road unit doesn´t need to impress passengers this was the right way.
I believe if the engines had been more rugged and could be uncomplicated MUed with others Baldwin would have been longer in locomotive business.
The sound of a hard working AS 616 engine beats all others........

  by Mimbrogno
Well I'm glad to see that we've got some interesting responces here.

I am a very mechanical person and somewhat a conisour of technological design and achievement. The designs I like the best are ones that are the most durable, reliable, efficent, and powerfull. The most important of those traits are efficiency and reliability. Sure, it's easy to make a super powerfull engine, like a drag racer's, but what's really important is how long will it continue to produce that power. The other big point is how well does it develop that power. Can it harness the power of the fuel provided clean and effectivly, without alot of waste or scattered forces? Other factors include how simple and 'elegant' the design is. When I say elegance, I don't mean fancy schmancy French artwork, I mean how simple can you make the parts for the different functions, and how neatly can they be interwoven into a system?

Baldwin has outdone all others on all of these accounts, at least in my book. If one were to take the time and effort to go into the depth of the details of Baldwin's engeneering, I feel that they would be thoroughly impressed. Baldwin and Westinghouse had designers who were gifted with a special mechanical inginueity which gave them the ability to work all the pieces of the locomotive together as a complete singular whole, not just as individual components that were simply slapped together like an erector set. The parts were all very simple in form and design, but they all complemented each other, balancing everything out perfectly. They were built also with a larger margine for error and wear. They were tough and very rugged, able to endure long periods of continuous hard effort. Baldwin infact underated their engines to extend their lifespan even further, setting the declared maximum power ratings at only 90% of the engines actual all out limit. Westinghouse was also brilliant in their design and application of the electrical equipment for the locomotives. Even from the beginning, Westinghouse transmissions were smooth and steady, with instant loading and immense power. Westinghouse craftily used a single line of wire to make two field coils that linked the exciter and main generator in perfect harmony, and fixed the voltage output at 600V over the entire engine RPM range. This intern forced the generator to shunt higher amerages, which is what gives the actual torque to a motor. This single load control shunt made of a single strand of wire, did the same function 50 years ago that many complicated monitors, regulating computers, and control systems do today, and they still haven't got every bug out of those computers!

Baldwins are super efficient, providing comparable horsepower to an EMD or Alco while burning less than half the fuel of their contemporaries. The electrical system also helps to boost this rating. When comparing the net engine horsepower put into the generator one a DRS 6-6-1500, which is a total of 1500 hp, the power rating delivered to the wheels is 1489.93hp, for an efficientcy rating of 99.3% Now the engine actually produces a total of 1625 hp at max rpm, with about 125 hp being spent on the auxiliary equipment of the engine, like the motor blowers, auxiliary generator, aircompresser, etc. When considering the absolute locomotive efficiency, factoring in all of these loads together, you get an efficientcy rating of 91.69% overall. Even the current GEVO C44-9ACE made today only achieves about a 94% rating, and that's with the "super efficient" AC traction equipment. The EMD's and Alcos of Baldwins time were only getting about 80 - 84% of the power to the rails. All of this is not to mention the fact that by overloading the electrical system at the maximum limit for 5 minutes, you get 2193hp, or a short time efficiency rating of 142.82%, on paper at least. (The that power rating would require more fuel obviosly, but the percentage would still probably be somewhere around 100-110%).

Other factors for Baldwin's superiority is that the engines can burn any fuel that will flow through the fuel pipes. Anything from propane and kerosene to bunker C oil, which is just shy of engine sludge, can be burned easily and without any modification to the engine itself, although fuel delivery modifications might be necissary.

There are still many more charactoristics I'd like to list, but I'm afraid I'm out of time for today, so I'll have to double the hill and come back for the rest of this train later.

Matthew Imbrogno
mechanical vollenteer, Arizona Railway Museum

  by Petz
@Matthew, many thanks for the very interesting details told here.
Some of this i didn´t know. So i can´t understand while the railway companies had no interest to let the baldwins run longer when they were so efficient in fuel consumption. Or had it been so difficult to train the maintenence employees on Baldwin peculiarities ?

  by Mimbrogno
Well there were many reasons why railroads got rid of Baldwin diesel engines. The two leading ones were Baldwin left locomotive production in 1956 and had frankly lost interest in railroads, and the other was the poor maintance most railroads gave to their locomotives. Some roads like SAL, SP, and many shortlines realized the advantages of Baldwin engines, and kept them around for the duration of their usefull lives, rather than dumping them the moment they paid back their cost and had depreciated.

Thankfully there is one group of people, and one railroad who also understand the advantages and superiorities of Baldwin locomotives. SMS Penn-Jersey lines doesn't just run Baldwins out of nostalgia, by they are actually making a profit with them because they truely deliver what they promised. Other shortlines today have put almost all of the old GP's and early Alco's to pasture, even though there is a great affection about them, because they simply can no longer afford to run them. Most of the lines dropped them when the parts supplies started drying up. EMD no longer makes 567 parts, and the Alco parts cache is dwindling. Part's cannot be had at prices affordible enough for a profit company to buy them.

On the other hand, SMS line's Baldwins have had no new parts produced in 40 years (although Cockrill in Belgum does make Baldwin parts, they are generally considered substandard and are not used much here).
SMS is running their Baldwins on used parts salvage from other locomotives, they're reconditioned as much as possible, but used none the less. In spite of that fact, Baldwin overbuilt their engines enough that even a worn engine can give good service.

Baldwin diesels don't really demand a lot from maintance crews, the only thing they are absolute about is that the maintance procedures are done correctly. A classic example is Pennsy's difficult relation ship with their Baldwins. The Pennsylvania didn't use Baldwin's service manuals, (they really didn't use anyones) rather they wrote their own maintance practices in the same tradition of the days of steam. They ended up doing more damage than good everytime they pulled one into the shop, which is why they didn't give satisfactory service.

The real shame is that Baldwin's advanced design principles and technology has been forgotten by manufactures today.
Matthew Imbrogno

  by Petz
So it seems the same problem i had viewed in some Pentrex videos; you see old locos working with obviously damaged engines and nothing would be done until the loco collapses. Then the repair costs will be a multiple amount of money and recources what would be losted when doing a correction shortly after the damage is visible.

  by pennsy
Yo Petz,

That pretty much reminds me of what Stauffer wrote in Pennsy Power. He stated that the Centipedes could not be stalled. They would stand there and just grind away at the track. And that is how PRR ran them, until they died right on their tracks.

  by Typewriters
I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that I appreciate your ardor, Matthew, but I have a couple of problems with your numbers and facts.

It is impossible for any diesel-electric locomotive to exceed one hundred percent efficiency. The load regulator will not allow anything over the stated 1625 BHP (in this case) steady state, and in any case it is impossible for the electrical equipment to develop more horsepower than delivered to it. Electrical overload only implies that the generator, cabling and traction motors are operating at high enough amperage that heat-related damage will result; it does NOT imply that excessive horsepower, as compared to the locomotive's rating, is being developed.

In that vein, we might compare continuous tractive effort ratings of various ALCO-GE and Baldwin locomotives of the period and find that the locomotives are comparable. In fact, Baldwin had to apply the new 68:15 "freight gearing" to match the 1950 GE 752, rated 1085 Amps, with the standard 74:18 gearing. My point here is that while the six-pole Westinghouse motor is regarded today as legendary, in fact at the time the continous ratings of Baldwin and ALCO-GE locomotives of comparable models were also -- ahem -- comparable, and not widely different.

Also, in point of fact Baldwin left locomotive production in 1956 after its locomotive production became unprofitable. Prior to this time, Baldwin (by that time B-L-H) had been bumped down in orders below Fairbanks-Morse, making it fourth in domestic locomotive manufacturing. Baldwin, in some quarters, had never recovered from the stigma given it by the essentially abominable record of the VO engine. It is true that many railroads didn't give the best effort maintenance-wise; but it's also true that maintenance quality is less of an issue for locomotives that stay OUT of the shops and on the road. I might note (and I think I have this on my site) the significant drop in mileage between bearing alignment checks required on the early 600 series engines, reflective of the fact that too many were failing in service. (For those unfamiliar, BLW reduced the requirement for bearing inspection from something like every 300,000 miles to every 50,000 miles, with a concurrent reduction in time if the mileage were not reached, in 1950 or so.)

So, then, while the locomotives were in some respects masterpieces of simplicity, they were also no good to a railroad if the installed parts were poorly designed or failed prematurely. This kind of operating cycle, with frequent failure or else frequently required inspection caused groups of such locomotives to be operated in smaller regions, "close to home" so that they did not have to constantly move system-wide to get back to the assigned shop for work. Excessive failure on the road also led railroads to assign such units to lower priority work -- like hauling coal or ore, which was always moving (even if slowly) and did not have to be in Chicago at 7:00 AM on the dot. That whole set of circumstances led to railfans believing that the locomotives were "better suited" for heavy mineral haulage. No, not necessarily; they were simply being operated in services where they could get home for inspection or work and could not tie up the services with the highest priority and profit per ton-mile.

NOW, this is not to say that the Baldwins were terrible, awful, horrible, junk, and I'm not bashing or flaming. What it DOES say is that on roads with large numbers of EMD and ALCO-GE units, the bean counters easily saw the poor operating economics of the Baldwin units and DID something about it. As Kirkland points out, a number of small lines in the West operated Baldwins for decades in heavy haul services. Those roads did not have anything like the requirements of a New York Central, or a Pennsylvania, nor did they have the overall conditions or route structure or traffic structure or economics - and they did not have large fleets of EMD or ALCO-GE units whose operating numbers could really make the Baldwins look bad. Railroads experiencing the loss of steel traffic and burdened with passenger and commuter traffic, as well as the overall cancer in the industrialized East could not afford anything that hurt the bottom line, and in the case of locomotives that meant first getting the bad units "out of the way" and then placing them in a lowered maintenance scheme wherein if they dropped, they were retired. As E.T. Harley put it, you "ran the last life out of them" deliberately NOT putting any more good money into them.

The financial terms under which the locomotives were acquired had a part to play, too, since many roads considered a locomotive's useful life in a span of years - and 15 years was a common figure. It is no small wonder why so many Baldwins were disposed of by Class I roads in the 1960's. Their figures simply didn't support putting any further maintenance and upkeep money in - and certainly didn't support rebuilding or remanufacturing. They supported only trading-in, and since the majority of trade-ins went to EMD and ALCO, scrapping was the natural result.

-Will Davis