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O P P O S E D - P I S T O N D I E S E L S : 2

LEFT: By the late 1970s Fairbanks Morse had been out of the locomotive business for 15 years and the continued operation of FM locomotives was problematic considering declining parts support and that the diesel engine was a valued salvage item in marine and oil field application. Chicago & North Western 1058, an H10-44 built in August 1949, is shown being scrapped at Oelwein, Iowa, on October 31, 1976. PRESTON COOK

the company’s resources. Alco learned from their early prob-

lems with the 244 prime mover and de- veloped the successful 251-series diesel engine which carried them forward for another 15 years until the entry of their partner GE into direct marketing of their own locomotive line created an unsustainable situation. Fairbanks Morse also learned from

Exit from the locomotive market

By the late 1950s, the rush to dieselize the railroads had largely run its course, and the practical realities of diesel operation and maintenance were being realized. Beyond the glitter of the commercial introduction of new prod- ucts at trade shows and the colorful ad- vertising campaigns to promote them to railroad management and the riding public was the oily reality of maintain- ing diesel engines and electrical equip- ment in a railroad environment. As the locomotives builders acquired practical experience with their products, some of them learned and incorporated that knowledge to their advantage, while others pursued paths that eventually led to their exit from the market. Baldwin and Lima were the first to

exit; the two noted builders of steam lo- comotives could not achieve lasting success as diesel builders singly or as a combined company. The decision to ex- pend their resources on engine develop- ment projects largely catering to the preferences of their largest customer, the Pennsylvania Railroad, exhausted

their early locomotive experiences, im- proving their manufacturing tech- niques and their locomotive auxiliary systems. The exit of Westinghouse from the production of locomotive elec- trical rotating equipment forced FM to develop their own electrical equipment and also led to the use of traction mo- tors and main generators produced by GE, which was headed into develop- ment of their own line of locomotives. Many of the railroads never quite adapted to the OP diesel engine. The direct comparison in maintaining two- stroke cycle diesels provided by the sizeable fleets of EMD 567 engines on many railroads tended to emphasize the more time-consuming maintenance tasks of the OP engines. They gradual- ly became the orphans of many sys- tems, good machines that ran well, but when they needed maintenance there was a tendency to shove them into a storage track and work on equipment that was more familiar. Meanwhile the FM OP engine went

on to considerable sales success in the postwar market, doing jobs that it was originally conceived for. It became a popular and well respected commercial marine power plant, was widely used in municipal lighting and pumping appli- cations, and achieved a respectable market penetration in the oil drilling industry. All of these applications gen- erally had a heavier average duty cycle,

and more constant speed high load run- ning than the engine saw in a locomo- tive, and the OP was definitely used to its best advantage in applications where it was heavily loaded. FM con- tinued to develop the OP design, even- tually building the 12-cylinder engine with an exhaust driven turbocharger arranged in series with the roots blow- er, allowing ratings of up to 3600 horse- power. FM gradually exited the locomotive building business as orders fell off in the slow market of the late 1950s. Its last new locomotives were built for Mexico in 1963, five years after their fi- nal deliveries to U.S. railroads. The lack of new locomotive production tend- ed to further isolate the fleets of FM lo- comotives on the American railroads, and the very high value of the OP prime mover for marine and oil drilling service resulted in a number of rail- roads retiring their fleets of FM loco- motives for scrap, and reselling the diesel engines into other markets. The last sizeable fleets of FM units operat- ing on Class I railroads in the United States were the groups of FM switchers and roadswitchers on the Chicago & North Western and the Milwaukee Road, with both railroads maintaining their units in areas close to the Fair- banks Morse plant in Beloit, Wis. The Fairbanks Morse 38D-8-1/8 op-

posed piston diesel engine remains a truly legendary piece of machinery. From its widely publicized wartime service in submarines, destroyer es- corts, and capital ships, through its subsequent uses in industry, oil fields, and locomotives, the OP engine re- mains one of the most highly regarded diesels, and has achieved one of the longest production runs of any medium speed diesel engine.


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