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Diesel Service Updates

Diesel Service Report – May 28 2023

By May 28, 2023May 31st, 2023No Comments

Diesel Service Report, May 28, 2023

ATSF Fairbanks Morse H12-44 SF560 Restoration

Restoring any piece of equipment entails studying its history and trying to understand how its present configuration came about. Santa Fe’s Fairbanks Morse locomotives are pretty rare and the last new one was delivered in 1957, 66 years ago. A lot has happened to the locomotive since then, so our goal now is to try and understand its present condition and determine what we want it to be after the restoration.

What we do know is that our H12-44 is different from previous H12-44’s that Santa Fe bought. Ours is one of of the last order of six H12-44’s that were classified as Santa Fe class 559 and were delivered in 1957. This class was 45′ 9.5″ long. The previous similar class of H12-44’s was class 503 last built in 1956. Those were 49′ 2″ long. Fairbanks modified the H12-44’s by shortening them 3′ 4.5″ and incorporating a number of other changes. But the model designation was not changed, as far as we can tell. This new shorter model received the nickname of “Shoebox” when compared to the earlier longer models.

But, our Santa Fed “Shoebox”, SF560, is different from other Fairbanks Morse locomotives built to the same specification. There were modifications requested by Santa Fe when the locomotives were built. Fairbanks had been using their Specification #100 to describe what they would deliver to a railroad if the railroad ordered and “off-the-shelf” model. When Fairbanks Morse designed the “Shoebox” model, they issued a new specification for that modified design. That specification was #101. However, railroads all had their own unique requirements they wanted incorporated by Fairbanks Morse and an amendment document was prepared by Santa Fe and given to Fairbanks Morse along with the purchase order. To date, we have not found any of the complete amendment paperwork. We’ve seen one partial document from 1953 that listed some of the amendments but not all.

What we found was that Fairbanks specification #100 document stated that the cab interiors would be painted gray. The Santa Fe amendment we found asks Fairbanks Morse to paint the cab interior green, not gray. From our research it appears that Santa Fe asked Fairbanks Morse to then paint all their locomotives being delivered to have green cabs. Fairbanks Morse specification for the shorter H12-44 was their #101. But it had eliminated the reference to what color was to be used in the cab.

This is the console before being painted with the first coat of green.

When the restoration of SF560 began, it was obvious that many coats of paint had been applied to the cab interior. But no matter where we looked in the cab, the very first color was green. That corresponds to the conclusions we reached during the search of documents.

The next issue was to identify the color green that was used. There are numerous ways to accurately match colors. Samples can be taken to paint suppliers who take their magic color gun and have it print out an analysis of the colors and what ratio of pigments to use in any specific paint type to achieve that color. Or, a search can be made for an off-the-shelf available paint that is very close and is a good quality paint. During our SP1006 project a few years ago, we had the same issue to deal with. After a lot of frothing and getting nowhere, a discussion with a friend back east resulted in him suggesting that we look at an oil based paint called Oliver Green. Yes, Oliver Tractor Green. We looked into it, made sample comparisons and found that it was an almost exact color match. We then use it on SP1006 and will now be using it on SF560. Its an off-the-shelf paint bought from Tractor Supply, even in California. That is amazing! Carl Picus bought a gallon and tested it for color and it was an extremely close match to the first coat used in SF560. He then painted the Engineer’s console. It came out very nice. He also sprayed a little on the wall next to some original paint that had been sanded. When that old paint was whetted down, it was a dead ringer for the Oliver Green. Problem Solved!

In the above picture on the left, the duplex air gauges can be seen. The bezel’s are rusty and the gauges haven’t been calibrated since the early 1970’s. Further, the gauges that were supposed to be in there were made by Westinghouse as part of the WABCo 6-SL air brake equipment. The actual gauges that are in the locomotive are operational but were made by General Motors, most likely originally for EMD locomotives. Ryan Keck removed the existing gauges and will see if he has the correct Westinghouse gauges to reinstall. If not, we will use the EMD gauges until we can find the correct ones.

This is one panel that Carl has almost finished. The new linoleum will be under the black edge trim material that he fabricated to match the panel.

As noted previously, the cab floor was in very poor shape. Carl has spent numerous hours tearing out the old floor, rebuilding the super structure under the floor, cutting new plywood and fabricating new metal trim that goes around all the outside edges of the new linoleum that will be installed. This shows what the whole cab floor looked like. And it was much worse in some areas.

Harry Pederson continues to scrape and remove rust from everywhere. Its in thick cakes on the floor under the cab. Bob Bray has been wire brushing the skirt metal around the sides of the locomotives getting ready for a painter to begin the painting of the locomotive. Tim Johnson has been painting the floor of the radiator compartment with POR15. POR stands for “Paint over Rust”. It is a wicked tough paint that really turns rock hard overnight. It also stains your hands for a long time. Once that compartment is finished, the same will be done to the floor under the cab. We have one painting contractor so far, that is interested in painting the locomotive and is preparing a bid for the job.
Both the front and rear access doors to the cab and the two electrical compartment doors were in a sad state. Their bottoms had been wet for years and were rusted out. Carl cut out the rusted area and fabricated and installed new steel in those areas. He then smoothed everything down and will paint them with the Oliver Green paint on the interior sides that face into the cab.
The Federal Railroad Administration rules for locomotives, specify how often handbrakes are to be serviced. And those handbrakes are to be identified as to the date of the last servicing. This plate was found on the handbrake assembly that Carl refurbished. Notice that the dates are all about six months apart and have the initials AG in front of each entry. That stands for Argentine Kansas, the home repair facility that maintained this locomotive essentially for the whole time that Santa Fe owned it. Also note the flat slotted screw that allowed the maintenance worker to replace the tin plate when there was no room for additional markings. The inspection dates were stamped onto the tin plate with metal stamps and a hammer after each inspection and servicing. What is interesting is that previous information indicated that the locomotive was bought by a scrap yard in Vinton Texas in 1974. Yet the handbrake inspection record was last updated in 1972. It makes a person wonder if Santa Fe had the locomotive in storage for upwards of two years before it sold for scrap.
This (below) shows 12 Santa Fe Fairbanks Morse locomotives in a deadline of “doomed units”, as Even Werkema describes them. Vincent Porreca took this photo of the deadline in March of 1973. But this picture didn’t show SF560 in it. However, when SF560 was sold for scrap, it wasn’t cut up right away. It worked in the scrap yard from 1974 until 1990 when our museum bought it and Phil Palmieri led the effort to get it shipped to Perris.

SP1006 Troubleshooting

As noted in an earlier report, our 1939 EMC SW1 locomotive had issues with the main generator not making the amount of kilowatts that it should have been making. It was very sluggish. The trouble was traced to a faulty contactor interlock on one of the starting contactors. During that same repair effort, John Salvini and Richard Berk started looking into a question that has been on our minds since we restored the locomotive. We didn’t know if the governor was adjusted properly.
To begin adjusting the governor, the very first thing that must be done is to adjust the idle and maximum RPM’s numbers to the specifications. John and Richard have now done that. But shortly after the locomotive was restored a few years ago, we took it out on the mainline and made sure the engine was heated up to the correct temperature and then put a heavy load on it using another locomotive set with dynamic brakes. SP1006 spewed excessive smoke. We knew we had new high efficiency injectors and they had all been recently calibrated. Yet under heavy load, the engine smoked really bad.
The assumption then was that the load regulator was not properly controlling the main generator during heavy loading and that the Diesel engine was being bogged down and never reaching its rated RPM. That meant the fuel rack was wide open injecting as much fuel as possible into the combustion chambers. We knew from previous testing with a load box that the engine would reach its rated load and have a perfectly clean exhaust once the engine was up to temperature and correct RPM. So the question remained as to why the engine would smoke so much.
One issue that we found was that the the load regulator was supposed to reduce the main generator load slowly over a prolonged 30 second time period when the engine was under heavy load. We checked that and the timing was only 15 seconds. We have reset that to the recommended 30 second timing but expect that will not solve the smoking during acceleration or very heavy loads. More work will continue on that effort. The governor controls are very complicated so we have some thinking to do and testing to work through. This is a diagram showing how the load regulator works. The pilot valve’s function is to supply oil to the load regulator vane motor to reduce main generator battery field current any time the engine is attempting to increase its RPM or is under a heavy load. The goal for the governor is to try and match the output kilowatt power of the main generator to the output horsepower of the Diesel engine. That results in the most efficient operation of the locomotive.


The locomotive has been taken out of service until some issues have been solved. There is a significant coolant leak on the #2 engine by a water manifold. That whole area has to be disassembled to identify what is causing the problem. Most likely its a failed gasket but we won’t know until it has been taken apart. Secondly, engine oil is starting to leak from the #1 engine. It appears to be around the timing cover but we don’t know yet. Frank Kunsaitis inspected the gear boxes under the locomotive and topped them off with 140wt gear oil. All the axle seals on the gear boxes leak but are above the oil level in the gear boxes. The oil that does come out around those leaking seals is from the splashing when the locomotive is operating. It isn’t something that we plan to fix. Just keep the gear boxes inspected and make sure they have plenty of gear oil in them.


Frank also put this locomotive over the inspection pit and found nothing that needed servicing. It is ready for switching service when needed. One issue that we do need to address yet is that the #2 engine battery charging generator is not operational. The batteries are only charged from the #1 engine at this time.


The locomotive has had issues transitioning for a few years. It is fully functional for routine switching but will not transition into the faster configurations. This will be one of the more important tasks to solve near term.

– Dave Althaus

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