This Month In Dieseldom

. . . March

Somebody's Large Digital Image Here
New: 1 March 2017 Image by: R. Craig
- Data from: R. Craig
California Zephyr * * The California Zephyr departed Oakland, California for the first time on March 20, 1949; its destination the western shores of Lake Michigan and Chicago. Running time was anticipated to be 51 hours, with Western Pacific, Denver & Rio Grande Western and Chicago Burlington & Quincy railroads all sharing the duties. For 21 years, the Cal Z traversed daily some of this nation's most exhilarating scenes, while providing services seldom matched by other railroads. The CZ, according to David P. Morgan (Trains Magazine editor lauerate), " was the train that behaved like a Carribean cruise ship, inviting you to loaf and look, dine and drink, with ultimate destination beside the point." The end for the "Silver Lady" of the rails came on March 31, 1970.
American Locomotive Company * * Early in world War II, one of the critical missions was to reconstruct the Trans-Iranian Railway, a vital supply link that would deliver the military tanks and fighting equipment used to repel Germany's massive war machine in western Russia. The railway included 150-miles of sun-baked desert, 7000-foot mountain ranges with -40 degree temperatures, 225 tunnels, 25-degree curves, and more than 450 deep gorges and chasms. The U.S. Government created a special railway battalion to take on the challenge. It was no coincidence that more than 50 percent of officers and men of the railway building unit came from the Alco-GE locomotive partnership. The "new" railroad operated its first train of men and war materiel on March 29, 1943. Daily tonnage on the line jumped from 200 tons (January 1943) to 3300 tons at the close of 1943. The railroad's initial locomotive fleet consisted of thirteen 1000-hp RS-1s modified to ride on six-axle trucks.

** In March of 1941, the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) introduced a new 1000-horsepower RS1 -- deemed by many to be "the first true roadswitcher". The model was built at the urgings of the Rock Island RR; initial units carried CRI&P numbers 748 and 749. During a production run that lasted 19 years, more than 350 of the B-B trucked locomotives were constructed. Grand Trunk Western 1950 and 1951 were the last RS-1s to leave Alco's Schenectady, NY plant.

** In terms of adaptability (or versaitility) few locomotives matched that of Alco's RSX-4. Eight-three of the six-axle diesel-electrics were built at the Schnectady plant for the U.S. Military. Employed by all branchs of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Alcos were built between March and October 1953. In many respects, they were akin to a modified RSD-4, with a close-clearance cab and carbody. Features included: flexibility to quickly change to any worldwide track gauge, adjustable-heighth couplers, all-weather roadswitcher-type carbodies, a 1600-hp prime mover, and space for a steam-generator. In military parlance, they were called MRS-1s. Several of these flexible and durable workhorses are still in use today.

** Alco shipped six new RS-11s wearing full New York Central colors and lightning stripes to the eastern carrier in March 1960. The shiny four-axle freighters carried road numbers 8009 to 8014. There was however one important overlooked detailed; the NYC had never "officially" placed an order for the new Alcos and had no intention of paying for them. Interestingly, NYC's first batch of RS-11s, had been delivered in early 1959, and they wore the railroad's then standard solid black livery with white frame stripe and "cigar band" logo. After many months of trying to sell the six notched-nose roadswitchers; Alco found a willing buyer. It was long-time customer Delaware & Hudson. When they emerged early in 1961 from the Alco paint shop for a second time, the 1800-hp Alcos wore the D&H blue & gray lightning stripe scheme and bore road numbers 5000-5005. Their tenure on the D&H was a long one.

** When Alco introduced the new Century Series locomotives in the early days of 1963, the catalogue initially included a 1500-hp switcher, 2000-hp and 2400-hp four-axle roadswitchers, and a 2400-hp six-axle roadswitcher. Those plans changed significantly with the unveiling of the 16-cylinder 2750-hp 251C engine in March 1963, and elimination of the C624 from the Century line. Within a short 12-months, Alco was ready to field a quartet of C628 demonstrators, which visited railroads from East Coast to West Coast. ACL (11), D&H (18), L&N (15), Monon (9), N&W (30), PRR (15) and SP (27) showed the only interest domestically. The demonstrators were sold to SP as #4870-4873 (later renumbered SP 7101-7104).

Baldwin Locomotive Works ** At Baldwin's Eddystone, PA plant, the first two production units of a new DT66-2000 (2000 horsepower) locomotive model are ready for shipment to owner Elgin Joliet & Eastern. The big center-cab locomotives carry EJ&E numbers 101 and 102 and are part of an order for 25 six-axle freighters. Two 1000 horsepower 606SC (super-charged) engines power these elongated transfer units.

** Let's be clear about one thing, Baldwin was the first builder to place in full-scale production a six-motor, high-horsepower freight hauling locomotive. It superceeded Alco's RSD by three years and EMD's SD by four. During a production run that lasted more than six years, the Eddystone workforce built a 1500-hp version (DRS 66-1500) and a later 1600-hp model (AS 616). With a production count of 221 units, the AS-616 was the more popular model by far. The last of BLW's six-motor freight haulers was shipped on March 31, 1954. Built as Trona Rwy's #52, the locomotive handled chemical / mineral-laden freights in the California desert until 1993. Currently owned by SMS Rail Lines, the locomotive has been sidelined for several years due to crankshaft problems.

** Westinghouse Manufacturing was an integral part of the locomotive building industry from 1895 to 1953. The industrial company was best known as a supplier of major electrical components, i.e. generators, traction motors and brake systems. However, it was also a loco builder, on a very limited basis, of small industrial units during the early days of diesel development. One such example was Cheswick & Harmer #5, a 530-hp industrial switcher produced in association with Baldwin in March 1933. Built as a 65-ton center cab, it was powered by a pair of 4-cylinder engines and used primarily by the eastern Pennsylvania shortline to haul coal to a power plant.

Electro-Motive Division ** Electro-Motive Corporation's streamlined E3A passenger model was an important milestone in the company's development of the diesel-electric locomotive. Design of the six-axle passenger hauler was driven, in a large measure, by the need for a locomotive platform to carry EMC's newly developed 567 diesel engine. Production of the streamlined model totalled only 19 units (17 cabs & 2 boosters), with first of the twin-engined diesels being delivered in March of 1939. Interestingly, eight different railroads purchased the E3, with the largest number (4) of the passenger diesels going to the Chicago & North Western. It should be noted that the E3 and E4 models were nearly identical; except, the E4 had a nose door which earlier E's lacked.

** In March 1952, Electro-Motive Division (EMD) dispatched two new 567B-powered SD7 roadswitchers on a seven-month tour of North American railroads. The two sales eambassadors sported a nazzy EMD red/yellow demonstrator paint scheme, produced 1500 horsepower each, and rode on a pair of flexicoil C-C trucks. Total production of these "special duty" freight motors totaled 188 units; all of them built at the company's LaGrange (Ill.) plant during 1952 and 1953. The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (and subsidiaries) were sufficiently impressed that they opted to buy 58 of the six-axle freight haulers. Meanwhile, Southern Pacific elected to try 43 of the new loco model, including EMD Demonstrator 990, which it repainted and numbered SP 5308. Retirement for the EMD arrived at age 55; it was donated to the Illinois Railway Museum.

** A cousin to the GP18, EMD's intermediate range-horsepower GP28 was driven by a non-turbo-charged 567D1 prime mover. Production lasted a short 20 months -- March 1964 thru November 1965. A total of 31 units were built. with nearly half of that number shipped beyond U.S. borders. Ten of the four-axle locomotives went to Mexico and another five went to foreign railroad operators. On the domestic front, Illinois Central was the single-largest purchaser of the model, 12 units with road numbers 9429-9440. The first arrived in 1964. One additional GP28 was added to the roster, when IC acquired the Mississippi Central and its #211 in 1967.

** New locomotive orders at the close of 1962 were at a low-water mark. North American railroads had completed their drive to dieselize, and an economic recession was making the outlook even more difficult. All of the major locomotive manufacturers were offering some-type of lucrative trade-in program in an effort to generate sales. Canadian Pacific, which had an immediate need, was one of the railroads to capitalize on the incentive. Their order took the form of two GP30s (#8200 and 8201) which arrived in late March 1963. Placed in transcontinental service, the two turbo-charged GMDDs were the only GP30s to be built in Canada.

Fairbanks-Morse & Company ** In the summer of 1949, Milwaukee Road inked a contract (LD84) with Fairbanks-Morse for the purchase of a single 1000-hp switcher. The six-cylinder diesel locomotive had been initially a H10-44 prototype for the testing of electrical equipment. Built in March of the previous year, the diesel had seen service also as FM Demonstrator #1000. Prior to delivery to the new owner, it received a fresh coat of Milwaukee Orange and Black. and was given road number 1819.

** Much of Fairbanks-Morse's manufacturing resources, during World War II, had been dedicated to the production of submarines for the US Navy. Consequently, FM was slow getting out of the chute as railroading's steam era was drawing to a close in 1947. In fact, eight years had passed before the Beloit (WI) plant produced a single cab unit. FM introduced its first C-Liners (Consolidation Line) in late 1950. Regrettably, it was about the same time that the versatility of road switcher-type locomotives was reducing the deamnd for new cab units. Thus, FM built its last cab unit (New York Central CPA 24-5 #4507) at the Beloit plant in March 1952. Total cab unit production ended at 99.

** Nearly two years ahead of Electro-Motive Division (EMD), Fairbanks Morse (FM) entered the roadswitcher locomotive market in March of 1947 by offerring a 1500-horsepower freight hauler. The Beloit-built locomotive featured an eight-cylinder opposed-piston powerplant and rode atop a pair of B-B trucks. Two new H15-44s were delivered also later that year as Monon 45 and 46. Production of the H15-44 lasted a short two years, with only 35 of the model constructed. Central of Georgia, Central of New Jersey, Denver Rio Grande & Western, Kansas City Southern, Long Island, Rock Island and Union Pacific were early purchasers of the model.

** Desperate for more horsepower in the early 1960s, Wabash RR contracted with Alco to re-engine its 20-year-old fleet of eight Fairbanks Morse H24-66 Trainmasters #550-557. The work, which was done at the Schenectady plant, entailed the removal of the existing opposed-piston engine and replacement with a 16-cylinder, 2400-hp Alco 251B prime mover. Locomotive controls and wiring were also upgraded. External changes included the addition of several air filters near the top of the long hood for better engine compartment ventilation. Prior to their return to home rails in March 1964, the six-motor locos were renumbered 592-599, and they received a new coat of the railroad's corporate blue paint with gold accent striping (see above photo).

General Electric ** In March of 1962, most of the news coming out of General Electric Transportation was aimed at promoting the manufacturer's new U25/U50 line of locomotives. There was another interesting event, however, taking place in Florence, Alabama. Transportation Services Inc. was using an unmanned-GE 44-Tonner to handle the switching at a coal barge loading facility. This was one of the first known applications of remote-controlled locomotive operation in day-to-day revenue service.

** General Electric had been producing high horsepower U-Boats for the domestic market for nearly eight years before the Missouri Pacific placed its first order for locomotives built at Erie. For MP, the issue had been one of reliability; GE's early FDL16-powered models had simply not lived up to advertising and promotion hype. However, six-axle GE power appeared to have one important advantage over their EMD counterparts -- a better continuous tractive force at sustained low speeds. Thus, MP ordered six new GE U30Cs for delivery in March of 1968. The six 3000-hp locomotives (#960-965) were immediately assigned to heavy ore drag service. Twenty-nine additional U30Cs were added to the MP roster during the following 5 years.

** On the Union Pacific, 1952 through 1953 was the decade of the "Big Blow" gas-turbine locomotives. Built by General Electric, these 83-foot goliaths stood an extremely tall 15'-8" and delivered 4500-hp to the rail. The first (#51 & 52) of ten production units departed Erie, PA before the end of March 1952. They employed cowl-type carbodies with large side air in-take filters. Based on the units' early performance, GE received a second order for the jet-like sounding locomotives. #61 was the first to arrive in March 1954, and it featured several notable improvements. The most significant was the relocation of air intake and filters to the roof and addition of an open recessed catwalk, from which the nickname "Verandas" spawned. The entire fleet of 4500-hp turbines was retired at the end of 1963.

** Lake Superior & Ishpeming, an all ALCo diesel-powered railroad, opts for two new General Electric roadswitchers after long-time builder and supplier American Locomotive Company declines a LS&I request in 1967 to construct a pair of Century 624 locomotives. Riding on six-wheel trucks and wearing a new reddish-brown LS&I livery, the two 2300 horsepower GEs are shipped late in March of 1968.

Attention: The hunt is on for new ideas for this section, please contact us with your suggestions and comments.


  • A Centennial Remembrance: The American Locomotive Company, by Richard T. Steinbreener
  • Classic Trains Magazine (Summer 2012)
  • Dawn of the Diesel Age, by John F. Kirkland
  • Diesel Era magazine (many issues)
  • Diesels from Eddystone, by Gary W. and Stephen F. Dolzall
  • Erie-Builts, by David R. Sweetland
  • Fairbanks-Morse Locomotives, by Jim Boyd
  • Our GM Scrapbook, by Trains Magazine
  • PA4 Locomotive, by Norman E. Anderson & C.G. MacDermot
  • Portrait of A Silver Lady, by Bruce MacGregor and Ted Benson
  • Railfan & Railroad magazine (many issues)
  • Railroading from the Rear End, S. Kip Farrington, jr.
  • The Diesel Builders, Volumes 2 and 3, by John F. Kirkland
  • Turbines Westward, by Thomas R. Lee
  • U-Boats, by Greg McDonnell
  • Extra 2200 South (locomotive magazine - many issues)
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