Diesel Service

Diesel Service Report

By March 7, 2020 March 27th, 2020 No Comments

Diesel Service, March 7th, 2020

Volunteers for the week were Richard Berk, John Salvini, Carl Pickus, Doug Newberry, and Frank Kunsaitis.

Before getting into the normal report, I want to take this opportunity to thank Fred Nicas for a terrific job that he did for us in Carbarn 7. Initially our compressed air system had one single distribution pipe with just a couple of contractor fittings. That meant that we needed to run contractor air hoses all over the place in order to have compressed air near where we were working. A couple of months ago this problem was mentioned to Fred. The next thing we know, Fred had his pipe cutting and threading machine mover over to our area, a few hundred feet of pipe located, lots of fittings and valves. After probably hundreds of man-hours later, we now have compressed air plumbed into at least 15 new outlets scattered around the south end of the carbarn. This makes it so easy now for us to work. Thanks Fred. We really really appreciate what you did for us.


John, Richard, Carl, and Doug worked on 3100 during the week. They put the locomotive over the Carbarn 4 inspection pit and finished installing the truck. That consisted of installing the traction motor nose snubber, traction motor wiring, cooling air bellows, sanding hoses, and the rest of the brake rigging. It was not easy but they finished it by late Friday. Saturday, the locomotive was moved back into the Carbarn on track two where it will reside until the oil cooler is reinstalled. Once the oil cooler is installed, the handbrake mechanism will be removed and repaired. Now, when the handbrake is set tight, it is almost impossible to release. That is most probably the root cause of all our flat spot problems on wheel set number two. Now that the new wheel set is installed, we cannot risk running the locomotive with the handbrake set. That problem cost us many hundreds of mman-hours that we sure don’t want to repeat again.


Frank checked the cooling fan assembly and found that the Falk coupling that is part of the cooling fan gear box drive shaft, has significant play it in. In other words, it is worn out and must be replaced. But that is easier said that done. These are very unique shaft couplings so our only option is to remove the total fan assembly in order to remove the coupling and try to determine if it repairable or if a new one needs to be purchased. In addition to the worn-out coupling, the fan gear drive has a leaking seal where the drive shaft comes into the gear box. So that unit must also be disassembled to replace the seal and inspect the gears. That work can’t be done without removing the complete cooling fan assembly. This locomotive is one of our better running engines so it will be a relatively high priority to get this repair work underway.


This locomotive is our Santa Fe Fairbanks Morse 1200 Horsepower H-12-44 Model. It was delivered new to Santa Fe in March of 1957. It was retired by Santa Fe 17 years later in March of 1974. It was sold for scrap 3 months after it was retired. It was purchased by Metal Processing Inc., in Vinton Texas, which is a few miles north of El Paso. It was acquired by OERM in January of 1990 and subsequently shipped to Perris. When it was used at MPI, they renumbered it as “100”. This picture shows what it has looked like since it arrived at the museum 30 years ago.

We don’t have many photos of the locomotive while it was in service with Santa Fe. This next one shows a similar locomotive of the same class and paint scheme. Its not known when this picture was taken or where it was. But many of these switchers worked in Argentine Kansas much of their life.

As we evaluate this locomotive for eventual restoration, we need to take a lot of things into consideration. Of course, it is a very rare locomotive. But that also means the replacement parts can be extremely expensive. From what we know now, if we had to do a minor overhaul of the Diesel Engine, and couldn’t do it ourselves, then the funding requirement would be well over $100,000. Of course, we pride in ourselves for being able to work on almost any brand of locomotive, but this one is a unique case. The Diesel engine is nothing like anything else we have at the museum. About the only thing it has in common with our other locomotives is that it burns Diesel fuel. Everything associated with the Diesel engine is unique to Fairbanks Morse. The only exception is the governor which is an industry standard Woodward Unit. Other than the Diesel engine, the rest of the locomotive is pretty standard and shouldn’t offer too many problems.

In the case of this locomotive, the term “Ridden hard and put away wet”, really applies. This next picture shows a good example of what we would have to deal with. Pipes that go through the floor, by one end of a walk way, had debris piled around them so deep for so long, that when the locomotive was in the rain, corrosion took place to the point that the pipes rusted totally through. Of course, this is just one example of the many dozens or hundreds of issues that need to be addressed as part of a restoration.


Again, we are not committing to restoring this locomotive, we are just evaluating the options. The old term “Money Talks” is really true with this possible locomotive project.

Our investigation will proceed in steps, hopefully resulting in being able to start the Diesel engine as a significant starting point. But there are many risks. Probably the highest risk is associated with seals around the cylinder liners. This locomotive sat outside without starting its engine since 2007. Our first effort will be to flush the cooling system, refill it, and check for leaks which would allow water to get into the crankcase. Invariably, those types of leaks indicate dried out seals. The leaks could be caused by minor faulty gaskets which would be easy to fix or leaking cylinder liner seals which would immediately stop any further work on the locomotive. Again, this is where large sums of money become involved.

The most risk free approach to fixing liner seals is to hire Fairbanks Morse Services to do all the work and supply the parts. Of course they would then install new piston rings and rebuilt injectors.

If we can get the Diesel engine successfully operating, the next major issue will be the perennial problem that Fairbanks Morse dual opposed piston 2 cycle engines had. Invariably they would blow oil droplets out the stack. That was usually caused by worn piston rings and liners, and/or bad oil seals in the scavenging air blower. That again is a very pricey problem and we have no ability to work on those blowers. An overhaul of an existing blower is being quoted at about $35,000, ten or more times what it costs to overhaul an EMD Roots blower.

If the oil blowing out the stack problem (called souping), could be solved, then the rest of the restoration project would probably be pretty straight forward. But for now, our first effort is to just try to get the Diesel engine started and then evaluate what the other problems really are.

Dave Althaus

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