Diesel Service

Diesel Service Report

By June 8, 2020 No Comments

Diesel Service Report, June 6th, 2020

Volunteers working on projects this week were Taka Saki, Frank Kunsaitis, Doug Newberry, Carl Pickus, Tom Platten, John Salvini, and Richard Berk.

USAF 7441

Tom Platten continues his project of updating the locomotive appearances. His plan is to have the exterior and the interior of the cab painted back to a previous color scheme that was used when the locomotive was in military service. He is also building detachable arm rests for the window sills.

The locomotive has had a long history of randomly having the engines go into runaway as soon as they were started. All information that we have received indicated that the problem was a poor shaft seal on one of the gear pumps inside the fuel pump. Those seals were replaced in both engines and the rotating distribution discs were lapped smooth. After that work was completed, both engines were started and ran at their normal RPM. However, engine #2 still does not hold its fuel primed and the priming pump needs to be used to start it. Its easy to do but it would be better if it worked correctly. Best guess is that there is an internal check ball that isn’t seating properly. The locomotive is back in normal operational service now.

SF560 (Fairbanks Morse H12-44M)

Next Saturday at 10:00am, we will attempt to start the engine in front of Car Barn 7. This week a lot of work was done to prepare for that event. We have received a couple of photos of SF560 that we hadn’t seen before. This first picture was taken in March of 1974 in Emporia, Kansas. The photographer was Dick Humphreys and it is part of the Art Gibson collection.

Santa Fe then sold the locomotive to Metals Processing Inc, near El Paso Texas where it was photographed by Jack D Kuiphoff, January 19th, 1983.

Now it resides at our museum and is being considered for a restoration project. And it looks remarkably similar to what it looked like in 1983.

The evaluation for restoration is focusing mostly on the Diesel engine. If it works satisfactorily, then a restoration proposal will be developed. That proposal will focus on what needs to be done to the locomotive to make it presentable, the costs associated with the project, tasks to accomplish, man power required, and an estimated schedule.

For now, our work has focused entirely on attempting to get the Diesel engine running. The cooling system was investigated a few months ago and it was found that a drain valve was frozen. The stem of the valve was cut off in an attempt to free it up. What wasn’t known at the time was that the valve was already open. Replacing that valve will be very difficult.

John devised a temporary way to reinstall the valve by cutting a slot in the cut off valve stem and using a screwdriver to close it.

That innovative approach solved the problem for us for now. Note the dirt and crude on the floor.

Before the engine can be started, all the electrical brushes in the main generator, exciter generator and 75-volt auxiliary generator must be free to seat properly on their commutators. It’s a severe understatement to just say the brushes and brushes were dirty. Some were so covered with hardened oil residue and dirt that they were essentially unrecognizable. This is one of the brush areas from the main generator. Those twisted leads are the wires going down to the brushes. Frank had to use a hammer and punch to carefully remove them. If the project goes forward, all the brush holders will need to be removed for a good cleaning. Frank did get this set of brushes adequately cleaned up and working.


Every engine, Diesel or gas, must have free flowing fresh air coming into it in order to run properly. This Diesel engine has had a history of blowing oil out the stack and commonly that happens if a blower seal is bad. But a blower can also suck oil through its own internal oil seals if the air going into it is restricted. That’s like having a dirty air filter in a car. This Fairbanks Morse engine has a centrifugal air cleaner that swirls incoming air to extract the dirt in the air and then sends the clean air to the engine. But, just like in cars, the air has to have a free open path to go through. John wondered if the air filters in this engine might be plugged, which could be the cause of it blowing oil out the exhaust stack. Saying the air filters were plugged is a severe understatement again. They were all essentially totally plugged with an extremely hard mixture of West Texas dirt and oil that feels like concrete. This is a close up of the swirl vanes that are supposed to let air go through to the engine. Almost every one of the chambers were solidly plugged. It’s amazing that the engine ever ran this way. We will take the filters to a radiator cleaning company to see if they can remove the material.

This is just one of four of the cyclonic air filters that were plugged like this.

The condition of the generator brushes and air cleaner represent what the rest of the engine compartment looks like. This next picture shows what the total floor looks like in the engine area. If we go ahead with this project, cleaning the engine compartment will be the most challenging task that we will have. It is in worse shape than any other locomotive that we have at the museum. And, from what we hear from others, this was normal for most Fairbanks Locomotives.

Saturday, Carl connected an auxiliary oil pump to the lubrication oil system and oil was pumped from the crankcase through the engine until it was seen coming out from all the bearings, rod caps etc. That gave the engine fresh oil in all the places that needed to be oiled before we attempted to start the engine.

Frank checked air compressor oil level and found it to be OK.  The governor oil was drained, and new oil put it. After 30 years of sitting, there was almost a full load of oil in the governor.

Richard and John replaced a leaking fuel fitting on a filter canister. After the fuel pump was turned on, the new fittings still dripped a little so Frank tightened them even more. The dripping stopped.

By this time, we ready to try and roll the engine over to see if the governor would open the fuel racks enough to start the engine. The governor seemed to work correctly but we could not get the fuel racks to open. That will be looked at this week. If that isn’t solved, we won’t be able to start the engine next Saturday.

When the locomotive was in Texas, the scrap yard apparently had a failure with the mechanically driven cooling fan. They replaced it with an electric fan from an earlier model Fairbanks Locomotive. But that replacement electrical fan was never connected to electricity. Frank was able to connect electric cables from the locomotive 75-volt battery system to the new fan to see if it would move air adequately. It worked perfectly. So, if the project proceeds, a new electrical circuit will be added to operate the electrical fan.

The air brake system is a standard model used in many locomotives of that era. As such, parts to rebuild the various components are readily available. Ryan Keck has removed the independent brake valve and is having it refurbished. But we also know that there is a lot of work left to do on the air system. That will all be addressed as part of the refurbishment proposal. Even the air horn valve is faulty and the horn rope going into the cab broke the first time it was pulled.

Yes, this is a very rare & unique Fairbanks Morse locomotive. Everyone is wishing us the best as we attempt to go forward with the project. And hopefully the funding to do it will be found.

Dave Althaus

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