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THE LEGACY OF FAIRBANKS MORSE POWER


The Unsinkable O.P. Diesel: 2


BY PRESTON COOK


Last month, we discussed the early de- velopment of the Fairbanks Morse opposed piston diesel, and its applica- tion during wartime. This success led FM to pursue the development of a line of unqiue diesel locomotives.


Reality Sets In


The practical experience with the Fairbanks Morse opposed piston (OP) diesel in locomotives exposed some of the fallacy of assuming that an engine that was an outstanding performer in one application would be similarly im- pressive in all other uses. To begin with, the design of the engine posed some problems both for operation and servicing in locomotive applications.


48 DECEMBER 2011 • RAILFAN.COM


The OP engine stood very tall above the mounting rail, and in switcher and roadswitcher locomotives this immedi- ately demanded a high carbody that ob- structed some of the field of view from the cab. Just prior to World War II, Electro-Motive and Alco had fought a competitive advertising war over the visibility from the cab of switching loco- motives, which had resulted in Alco re- designing their 538 engine into the low- er profile 539 to allow fitting a lower hood on their switchers. Fairbanks Morse had no such option available with the OP; the engine was so tall that it was forced to have a high hood. In streamlined “covered wagon” loco- motive carbodies, the engine geometry


that had worked out well for Navy sub- marines proved to be troublesome for maintenance. The room in the side walkways was ample due to the inline arrangement of the engine, and the ac- cess to the inlet and exhaust manifolds and the individual fuel pumps was con- venient enough. Individual pistons and connecting rods could be withdrawn from the engine using a somewhat awkward handling mechanism, but in order to remove a cylinder liner it was necessary to open the top covers and re- move the upper crankshaft. The access to remove the upper crankshaft and to pull the liners was through the roof hatches. This required working with ladders or a roof platform to do jobs


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