Friday, March 08, 2013

A GE Testbed #750 Cooper-Bessemer FVBL-8T Engine SURVIVES in 2013!

Received the following via email.

Ray Grabowski, Jr., President of the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society in North East, Pennsylvania, advises that a spectacular piece of railroad diesel-electric locomotive history, long believed lost to the scrapper's torch, was instead preserved!

Recall the 1954 four-unit, 6,000-horsepower experimental locomotive that ran with its streamlined carbody painted black and yellow as Erie Railroad #750A-750D. Owned by General Electric and leased to the ERIE, the Four-cycle Foursome spent half-a-decade testing in road service on the Erie. The set accumulated over one million miles of operating data that led to prime-mover and electrical refinements that culminated in the introduction of the landmark GE domestic model U25B. The Universal Series was a milestone in locomotive technology and a major step forward toward GE becoming the world's #1 locomotive manufacturer.

Ray reveals this surprising sequence of events regarding one of the four Cooper-Bessemer-designed power-plants:

"When GE was exploring its planned move back into domestic main line diesel locomotive markets, it developed the well known 4-unit rolling testbed locomotive set that ran for some time on the Erie RR. Of course, GE's tests supported the move back into the markets and the rest is history, BUT, what is not know is the complete story of what happened to those engines.

"The locos were re-powered and sold to power-hungry UP. The original prototype engines, removed from the locomotives, were subjected to further testing. One engine was sent to Cooper-Bessemer's factory in Mt. Vernon, Ohio for testing and disposal there. Welllll, it wasn't disposed of, as was reported to GE. Instead, shop forces adapted and installed it inside the Mt. Vernon plant as power for air compressors. It ran faithfully up until just a couple months before Rolls-Royce bought the C-B plant in 1996.

"The gentleman in charge of plant maintenance was originally involved in the GE testbed project. He contacted Lake Shore Railway Historical Society to see if there was interest in saving this 'engine that no longer existed.' Well, again, the rest is history and the engine is in storage in a warehouse in Erie, PA, waiting to come to North East to be added to the RR Museum's collection.

"What is great is showing the engine to people who 'know their engines', they will eventually say something like, 'oh, yea that's a, wait, that looks like a, maybe it IS a C-B'. I can't wait to get it to NE and on display. People just do not understand the size of a locomotive diesel engine."

Returned to GE in 1959, the engines were all rebuilt to UM20Bs and sold to UP. One A and one B unit of the four-unit, 6,000 H.P. GE testbed #750 set had had 1,200 H.P. V-8s and the other A & B set had 1,800 H.P. V-12s. This sole survivor is a 1,200 H.P. Cooper-Bessemer FVBL-8T* engine. It is not an overstatement to observe that every brand-new 4,400 H.P. V-12 GEVO (like every GE FDL engine before them) that departs GE's Grove City, PA Diesel Engine plant headed for the Erie locomotive assembly bays can trace its lineage back 59 years to this preserved piece of iron! It absolutely is one of the Granddaddies of the modern GE locomotive era. And all those giant GEs passing the Lake Shore Museum every day on the CSXT and NS mains owe a nod to that C-B design. What a treasure! This just such a surprisingly cool and exciting revelation! That reciprocating beast should bring visitors to the museum from far and wide, likely even from overseas.

Cooper-Bessemer sold the rights to General Electric in 1953 for the development of larger versions of its engines for locomotive propulsion. .

"James C. Rhoads was in charge of GE's modification and updating program on the C-B engines for their use in domestic road use from 1951 until his death in September, 1960. In 1948, Rhoads began advocating General Electric’s entry into manufacturing diesel engines for the locomotive business.

"In December 1958, Rhoads wrote a letter in response to a retired senior GE executive who had supported GE's entry into the domestic locomotive business. Rhoads's wrote: "We have been working on improving the Cooper-Bessemer engine and are running in the laboratory equivalent to 3,400 hp on a 16 cylinder engine, and we don't see that this is necessarily the end."

* Historical references refer to the tested C-B diesel engines with different IDs. Might this result from GE vs. C-B designations?