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Diesel Service Updates

Diesel Service Report – March 15 2023

By March 15, 2023April 18th, 2023No Comments

Diesel Service Report, March 15, 2023

ATSF Fairbanks Morse H12-44 SF560 Restoration

For the past few months we have focused on hard starting issues. Of course its a Diesel engine and its relatively cold outside so hard starting isn’t unique. But in this case it seemed very odd because in the past the engine started is similar weather. Now all of a sudden. it won’t start unless extra heat is added to the engine block and then use starting fluid. With the engine at a temperature of 85 degrees, and using ether, the engine would start, run about 10 seconds and then shut down. And then it was almost impossible to restart it. Nothing made sense.

Extra heat for preheating the block is provided using a 6000 watt electric heater. It circulates hot water through the block but not the radiators. It takes
about 8 hours to preheat the engine. We thought that cold weather might be the problem. But preheating to 85 degrees should be more than adequate for the engine to start almost immediately. And it wasn’t doing that.

We had installed known good injection pumps and nozzles so we pretty well knew those weren’t the issue. Then questions came up about having a severely worn out engine that had very low compression. Its possible but that doesn’t explain why it used to start with no problem.

The final thought was that the Diesel fuel might be too old to burn properly. We know that when we did start the engine with the fuel that was in it, the engine would barely run. However once it warmed up it ran fine. Obviously the heat increase from running made it possible to burn the fuel.
Since we had run out of things to do to solve the problem, we decided to put fresh fuel in the locomotive. Three hundred gallons of new fuel was put into the tank and circulated through the fuel system. The first attempt to start the engine after that still had issues. Most probably old fuel still in the fuel lines caused the problem. The next week the engine was preheated again. This time the engine rolled over a couple of times and started on its own without using ether. And once it started it continued to run like normal. And the exhaust smoke was significantly less than before. However, the engine had been preheated for this last starting effort. We don’t know yet if the engine will start without being preheated. That is one of our next tests. It used to, now we need to see if it still will.

Once the engine was running and warmed up this last time, there was still a little smoke out the stack. John Salvini and Richard Berk cut out injection nozzles to the number six cylinder and the smoke cleared up. So, it appears that something isn’t totally correct with the #6 cylinder. Either both injector nozzles need replacing or that cylinder has very low compression. John will be investigating that in the next few days.

Obviously this is very good news for the project. Now our task is to clean up the locomotive and get it ready for painting.

This (right) is what it looks like now.

Below is what it will look like when we finish the project. During the last couple of years, costs for everything have skyrocketed. At the moment it appears that we are still short about $25,000 to pay for the painting, new windows, and other things that still need to be purchased.

Thank you to everyone that has donated to the project. Without your donations, the project would never have been able to be started.

SF108 EMD FP45

Now that the COVID misadventure appears to be under control to a large degree, the Run-One program at the museum has grown very quickly. SF108 is the favorite locomotive selected by Run-One customers so it is operated almost every week and sometimes multiple times per week. This locomotive is our prime showcase for restoration quality and everyone loves to see it and operate it if possible.
However, large Diesel engines require lots of oil flow to lubricate all the bearing surfaces. This locomotive holds over 300 gallons of oil in the crankcase but that oil still has to be pumped though the engine before good lubrication can take place. Once the engine is started, it can take up to 20 seconds before oil pressure builds up adequately. That means there are 20 seconds of cold operation with less than adequate lubrication. Long term this can lead to very expensive failures of engine main bearings, rod bearings, turbo bearings, etc.
For many years now, railroads and locomotive manufacturers have installed what is called a “prelube” system. That is an electric oil pump that is turned on before the engine is started. That pump typically has to run about 5 minutes before it has pushed oil through the engine block and the oil pressure gauge can be seen to start to increase. Plus, an inspection of the valve rocker arms will show oil seeping out from around the rocker arm pivot point. When that is seen, its a good indication that prelube has done its job and the engine can be safely started.
SF108 does not have that prelube system installed. And with all the use that engine gets for Run-One operations, we have decided to add a prelube system. The electric oil pump has been purchased and the timer and motor contactor were in stock at the museum. The tasks will be to mount the electric motor, plumb its suction side to the crankcase, plumb its output port to a very good oil filter, then though a check valve and then plumb to the output of the main oil pump on the engine. We already have prelube systems on SP3100 and UP942 and now we will have it on SF108.


SP1474 ALCo S4

SP1474 has been one of our long term switcher locomotives. It has a 1000HP Mcintosh and Seymour engine that has been very reliable for over 30 years at the museum. But like every locomotive, small issues arise that must be attended to. A few years ago the locomotive developed a problem with the transition system. That system switches power to the four electric traction motors so the locomotive transitions from low speed operation to higher speed operation. It does the same thing that an automobile transmission does. But a locomotive transition system makes that transition depending on the main generator voltage. Once the voltage reaches a certain figure, relays switch the power going to the traction motors. If that doesn’t work, the motors receive too high of a voltage and quickly reach a point where they won’t run any faster. Now, something is intermittently disabling the transition system. Then when we try to troubleshoot it, its working again. Its hard to fix a problem that isn’t always there. We will find it but it may take some time.
The brake system on the locomotive is scheduled for refurbishment and testing. That includes replacing the piston cups inside the brake cylinders. On many locomotives that a quick easy job. But on 1474 its a big issue. Those cups can’t be accessed without jacking the locomotive body off of the trucks. And that’s a lot of work. We will do it because it has to be done but it isn’t a quick job to do. But just like many other jobs associated with locomotives, the quicker it gets started, the quicker its done.

USAF 7441

Just like 1474, this locomotive has been the go-to switcher at the museum for over 30 years. The Cummins engines are very difficult to get certain parts for anymore but the engines in this locomotive sill run acceptably well. Last year USAF 1601 had its trucks repaired and it became the primary switcher. But its obvious that we need to have the injectors replaced or rebuilt in 1601. We don’t want to take it out of service until 7441 is operational again. Last week we installed a new set of batteries in 7441 and started the engines again. Everything worked fine except for the air brakes. Those need some work before the locomotive can be used again.


OERM 1975

Our ALCo RSD1, ex DOT15, has been decommissioned and will be put into long term storage. There are serious issues with compression on many of the cylinders and our guess is that all six heads would have to be removed and refurbished in order for the locomotive to be functional again. It is a sister of OERM 1956 which is in very good operating conditions. The batteries have been removed from 1975, treated coolant will be topped off in the cooling system and the locomotive will be moved onto storage track at the museum.

UP942 and SP3100

Both locomotives run great and have no major issues at this time. Of course there are always things to attend to on every locomotive but for now, these two locomotives preform very well in Run-One operations and standard week-end operations.

– Dave Althaus

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