From the September 1990 concern of Automotive and Driver.
We have been giddy from velocity in Corvette ZR-1s and dizzy from the value of Cadillac Allantés, however we have by no means pushed a Basic Motors product that affected us like this earlier than. GM’s new SD-60 is a brutal-looking three-seater outfitted with every part an fanatic may hope for: all-wheel drive, all-wheel steering, an enormous midship-mounted V-16 engine, and brakes highly effective sufficient to cease a freight practice. Developed solely for tracks, it corners on rails. It belts out sufficient energy to gentle up a small city. And it is filled with computer-controlled every part—in truth, it is so difficult it takes an engineer to run it.
Sadly, the SD-60 is one vehicle you will not see a lot of except you spend quite a lot of time hanging round tracks. Meaning the one approach to sample one is to undertake primary coaching—which is simply what we did. We had been solely too happy when Basic Motors’ Electro-Motive Division noticed match to swing open the gates to its manufacturing facility and take a look at tracks in LaGrange, Illinois, for us. We got here, we noticed, we examined—and ultimately fulfilled a childhood dream certainly shared with many a accountable grown-up: We drove a practice.
The GM man on the scene was Keith Mahalik, a younger engineer—mechanical, not railroad—whose job it’s to be in contact with EMD’s prospects and develop ever-better software program for the pc methods on as we speak’s locomotives. Mahalik additionally has automotive proclivities: He describe himself as “a horsepower man” who likes huge engines of all types, somefactor his private transportation fleet confirms. Parked in his storage are a 1967 Corvette convertible motivated by a 427-cubic-inch V-8, a 1971 Olds 4-4-2 convertible outfitted with the high-output W30 bundle, and a 1967 Olds 4-4-2 avenue rod pumped filled with nutritional vitamins by a Detroit Diesel 6-71 supercharger.
Mahalik confirmed us into his workplace before our morning plant tour. Fittingly, the large brick constructing is previous its prime and a little bit shabby—like an outdated practice station. The 343-acre LaGrange plant complex was opened in 1935, a number of years after GM purchased Electro-Motive Engineering Company. The workplaces of the service technical engineers are a labyrinth of grey desks and metal partitions on the third ground. You stroll up.
The Nineteen Forties had been the glory days for LaGrange. That is when diesel-electric locomotives eclipsed their steam-powered forebears. Although it is onerous to think about now, steam locomotives had dominated the railways up by means of the Thirties. They had been immensely highly effective—some professionalduced as a lot as 6000 horsepower—they usually had the potential for velocity. At this time, Japan’s much-heralded bullet practice averages 125 mph, and the French TGV, which hits 160 mph on its common routes, is considered a marvel. Sixty years in the past, nonetheless, the quickest U.S. steam locomotives obtained passengers to their locations at higher than 100 mph.
Then, in 1939, GM’s Electro-Motive Division launched the primary profitable diesel-electric locomotive, the FT103. It took 4 of EMD’s new engines hooked in tandem to match the ability of 1 huge steam locomotive, however the FT103’s decrease working prices and cleaner-running powerplant—no soot, no cinders, no clouds of smoke—received the railroad over. Variations of the slab-sided FT103 had been produced by means of 1955 and used for a few years afterward.
Inside a Locomotive Manufacturing unit
As we headed for the manufacturing facility ground, Mahalik defined how diesel-electric locomotives work. “The essential format is similar as we speak because it was when the FT103 was launched. The diesel engine powers a generator, and the electrical energy from the generator drives six direct-current electric motors situated on the axles.” Doing it this fashion eliminates the necessity for a transmission. “Every electrical motor acts like an infinitely variable transmission,” Mahalik identified. Because the output from the principle generator is elevated, the electrical motor places out a easy circulate of energy; the extra juice that goes in, the extra driver that comes out. “One other benefit,” Mahalik added, “is that electrical motors have great low-speed torque.”
Extra than simply the format of locomotives has remained the identical for the previous half-century. After only a few minutes on the manufacturing facility ground, it turned obvious that the way in which locomotives are made hasn’t modified a lot for the reason that Nineteen Forties, both. The scene was pure Smokestack America; it may have been virtually any time within the final 50 years. The woodblock ground was lined in a dirty black goop, and an oily haze hung within the air.
We had been within the engine store. A lone employee labored at a forging press, stamping out exhaust valves. They glowed purple sizzling as they fell into their metal holding container. Farther down the road, an extended valve stem was being fuse-welded to the stubby tulip in a twig of sparks. The finished valve can be virtually the dimensions of a clarinet.
It is ironmongery on a grand scale. “The SD-60 locomotive you will drive today makes use of our newest engine, the 16-710G3,” mentioned Mahalik. “It is a V-16, with turbocharging and aftercooling. We charge them by cylinder displacement.” So the 16-710G3 engine within the SD-60 displaces practically 710 cubic inches per cylinder. That is, uh, a complete of 11,353 cubic inches, about 186 liters. Mahalik smiled. Jeez.
Then we noticed one of many engine blocks sitting on the ground, ready for meeting. Welded up from enormous slabs of rolled metal and big forgings, it was the dimensions of a motorboat. A field of connecting rods was sitting close by. They had been as huge as tennis racquets and quite a bit heavier. Choosing one up required two fingers. “It is 25 kilos,” mentioned Mahalik.
To construct an engine that is going to maneuver mountains—a single SD-60 locomotive can haul as a lot as 12,000 tons of practice—you’d anticipate the entire components to be large. However pistons that weigh 59 kilos every? An 1800-pound turbocharger? How a couple of crankshaft that weighs 3400 kilos—as a lot as a complete Olds Cutlass? A totally assembled engine, prepared to put in, weighs 39,600 kilos. And it is so huge that workmen should perch on six-foot-high catwalks simply to regulate the valves.
The size right here is staggering. There’s a lot metallic to lubricate in a 16-710G3 that the oil pan holds 395 gallons. Preserveing the engine working at a secure temperature requires a cooling system with 276 gallons of coolant. And your VISA gold card would wilt from only one fill-up; the tank can maintain 5000 gallons of diesel gas. Underneath full load, an SD-60 gulps 187 gallons of that gas each hour.
The SD-60’s engine is a direct descendant of the powerplant within the authentic FT103, however it’s technologically present. It’s a two-stroke, that means the combustion takes place each time the piston reaches the highest of its journey. Every cylinder head is fitted with a single overhead camshaft that operates 32 valves—4 per cylinder, all of them exhaust valves. A mechanical gas injector is situated lifeless middle in every combustion chamber.
The large turbocharger blows pressurized air by means of a pair of aftercoolers (“intercoolers” to automotive of us) and into every cylinder by means of a number of ports situated close to the center of every bore; the ports are uncovered when the piston reaches the underside of its stroke.
The SD-60’s turbocharger, by the way in which, can also be designed to behave as a mechanical supercharger. The turbo is so huge and heavy that it does not spin of its personal actwine till the engine is pumping out 75 p.c of full energy; solely then is there sufficient exhaust circulate to budge it. So till that time, a clutch-controlled mechanism drives the turbo off of the crankshaft—identical to an everyday supercharger.
We had been strolling down an open corridor in regards to the dimension of a hangar. A door opened to our left, and a roar issued forth that shook the earth. A person popped out and slammed the door shut. “That is a dyno cell,” defined Mahalik. “We’re working one in all our engines.” We walked all the way down to the place the dyno operator was sitting and appeared over his shoulder. The engine was turning 903 rpm. “Crimsonline,” mentioned Mahalik with a nod.
It was onerous to think about a lot metallic spinning round in any respect, however spin it did. At 900 rpm, the 16-710G3 was at its energy peak, booming out 4100 horsepower. When put in in an SD-60, the hulking V-16 loses about 300 horsepower to equipment—leaving 3800 horsepower to drive the generator, which drives the six 1000-hp electrical motors that drive the practice. You get a greater thought of the SD-60’s energy when you think about its torque, which measures—prepare for this—23,925 pound-feet at 900 rpm. As a lot as 65 Corvette ZR-1s.
We went by means of a few doorways and every part obtained quiet; we had been within the electrical meeting space. The gear was nonetheless imposing, even when the din was not. “The diesel engine truly turns three mills,” Mahalik defined. The smallest, which weighs a mere 800 kilos, is named the auxiliary generator, and it serves the identical objective as a automotive’s alternator: Its main responsibility is to maintain the batteries charged and to supply energy to some equipment. It additionally energizes (“excites” is the technical time period) generator quantity two, referred to as the companion alternator. The companion supplies power for any AC gadgets on the practice, equivalent to cooling followers, and excites the all-important most important generator.
We checked out some mains being wired up. Their outer rings, referred to as stators, had been as huge round because the consumption on a jet engine, they usually contained thousands of strands of wire intricately woven collectively—by hand, not machine.
“The SD-60’s generator makes 9900 amps close to stall and 1450 volts at prime velocity, which for this locomotive is 70 mph,” mentioned Mahalik. Once we expressed confusion as to how a lot energy that basically was, Mahalik chuckled and launched into the sort of easy explanation engineers love to make use of to light up the dim cranial cavities of liberal-arts majors: “We wish to say that it makes sufficient energy to gentle 250 properties.”
Lest these watts, volts, and amps fly uncontrolled and provides somebody an terrible shock, they’re rigorously managed by a posh computer-aided management system. Nowadays, just about each side of locomotive operations is, on the very least, pc monitored, if not managed outright. The SD-60’s three powerful microprocessors maintain tabs on all diesel-engine parameters and might report, diagnose, and log issues on the transfer. They watch over the rows of contactors that management course and braking and energy circulate to the electrical motors, decide the excitation of the generators, and handle the SD-60’s superior traction-control system.
All the electrical gear required to place the juice the place it is wanted is housed in what’s referred to as the high-voltage cupboard. We watched as a number of of those giant metal lockers—they’re about as excessive as a basketball hoop—had been wired up. The job appeared like an electrician’s nightmare—miles of multicolored wire looping all over the place, 1000’s of connections, a circuit board the dimensions of two workplace desks. Later, the cupboards can be put in within the locomotives’ cabs, the place they’d take up the whole rear wall.
“All the pieces comes collectively right here,” Mahalik mentioned as we entered the massive final-assembly corridor. At one finish, sheetmetallic was being fitted to the locomotive chassis, prepped, and painted yellow. An enormous overhead crane whirred. “Oh good,” mentioned Mahalik. “They are going to truck a locomotive.”
On the far finish, the crane picked up a freshly painted locomotive, sans wheels, as if it had been a scale-model Lionel piece, and hauled it all the way down to the place a pair of six-wheel vans—the finished axle-and-electrical motor assemblies—sat ready on a set of rails. Males, a few of them in white shirts and ties, stopped to observe. Warning bells clanged. The crane lowered the locomotive onto its vans like a loving dad or mum laying their child in its cradle. Trucking a locomotive is at all times an occasion, defined Mahalik. A GM automotive plant may spit out a brand new automobile each 60 seconds or so, however LaGrange seems just one locomotive each couple of days (there’s one other GM locomotive plant in London, Ontario).
Time to Drive the Locomotive
“Let’s go drive a locomotive.” Mahalik grinned and held out a pair of engineer’s coveralls he’d scrounged up. Scrounged, as a result of completely nobody at LaGrange attire like Casey Jones. Till I arrived, that’s. I skulked from the locker room out the again door into the practice yard—purple scarf, engineer’s hat, and all, hoping not one of the workmen would see me.
Proper exterior the door was our experience—a spanking-new pair of SD-60s in red-and-gray Kansas Metropolis Southern livery, coupled back-to-back. Sitting out within the solarshine, on their own, they appeared . . . huge. Actually huge.
Mahalik waved me up the steps. “Let’s fireplace it up,” he mentioned. After turning on the electrics within the cab, he opened a door on the locomotive’s waist and motioned toward me. I twisted the one two-position change to prime the large diesel. Then, as instructed, I twisted it the opposite approach, pushed on the guide throttle deal with with my proper hand and . . . wheeeee, wheeeee, went the starter. Rumba, rumba . . . BAH-RUMBAAAHH. The V-16 lit off like ten semis.
We marched as much as the cab, and Mahalik threw the reverser lever to “forward” and eased us by means of the yard at a strolling tempo. There have been rows of derelict locomotives parked to at least one facet. “We truly take trade-ins,” he mentioned, nodding of their course. The cabin was primary: a rubber mat protecting the ground, plain darkish vinyl on the three bucket seats, grey paint all over the place else.
It wasn’t fairly as inhospitable because it first appeared, although. These two KCS locomotives had been outfitted with elective air-con, electrically heated windows, and air-ride seats. A 99-channel two-way railroad radio, a rest room, and a refrigerator are commonplace. All of this luxurious is yours for a paltry $1.4 million. (To not fear, there is not any such factor as annual mannequin adjustments. You may anticipate your SD-60 to go about 1,000,000 miles between overhauls and final 15–30 years.)
Mahalik stopped the locomotive a couple of instances as a number of switches had been thrown for us. Then we had been on what’s, fairly actually, the take a look at observe—a three-quarter-mile-long personal straightaway on EMD property.
“Let’s do an engine self-load take a look at.” He motioned me towards the suitable seat, the engineer’s seat. The instrument panel angled to my left. It contained gauges for electric-motor present load, air strain, and brake-cylinder strain. Jutting out of the panel had been levers for the throttle, the dynamic brake, the reverser, the locomotive’s unbiased brakes, and one other for the practice’s brakes. Getting stopped is clearly a excessive precedence within the practice enterprise.
Mahalik punched a couple of keys beneath the pc show display on the excessive-voltage cupboard behind us. Dozens of inexperienced numbers winked on the display—engine parameters like coolant temperature, throttle place, generator voltage. The 2 that me had been horseenergy and rpm.
Mahalik defined that we’d be standing nonetheless, however the principle generator can be on full, offering resistance for the V-16 to work in opposition to—like an engine dynamometer. The present manufactured by the generator can be routed previous the electrical motors within the vans and on to an enormous grid resistor—essentially a large toaster—within the roof of the locomotive. The vitality produced by the generator can be dissipated as warmth. And to ensure the locomotive’s roof did not soften, a 100-hp blower fan can be blasting a gale-force wind throughout the glowing grid wires.
“The grid resistor is often used for dynamic braking,” Mahalik defined. In dynamic-braking mode, the electrical motors grow to be mills. Now they’re attempting to withstand the practice’s motion in an quantity roughly equal to their power, that means you may have about 5200 horsepower value of brakes—sufficient to sluggish a freight practice down in all however hilly terrain. The electrical energy produced by dynamic braking is spent by means of the grid resistors.
“Open the throttle,” Mahalik ordered. There are eight throttle positions, and I watched the ability readout climb as I notched the large lever by means of its journey. At place one, the engine was barely awake: solely 190 horsepower. By place 4, issues had been getting attention-grabbing: 570 rpm, 1310 horsepower. Place 5: 1765 horsepower. The noise was getting raucous. Place six: 2280 horsepower and 729 rpm. Place seven: 3350 horsepower, 824 rpm. Place eight-wide open: 3855 horsepower at 903 rpm. However wait, there was extra. I noticed a flash studying of 4133 horsepower, and the engine settled all the way down to a gentle 4055 horsepower. I opened the cabin door. Whoa! Hell itself was bellowing at me. I slammed it shut.
I eased the throttle again to idle. “Okay,” mentioned Mahalik, “now put the reverser in ahead. It is all yours.” I moved the throttle tentatively. The locomotive crept ahead. The view over the stubby hood was surprisingly panoramic. I eased as much as 15 mph, then went again to idle. Yeah, that is it. Like driving a small motel. And we stored coasting. Three-quarters of 1,000,000 kilos does not have a lot curiosity in slowing down, and the tip of the observe drew nearer. I used the practice brake. Forward lay the principle line, and the decision of shiny metal rails going off into the space. Perhaps sometime.
Going ahead was straightforward, however backing up was one thing else once more. The view rearward was restricted by the locomotive physique; we had been blind to the suitable. Maneuvering simply the locomotives was unnerving, so backing a freight practice round a railroad yard have to be amusing riot.
After a couple of uneventful journeys down the take a look at observe, Mahalik prompt we discover out what it looks like to tug a load. “I am going to put the rear locomotive into dynamic brake, and we’ll drag it.” Seemed like a megadollar model of “irresistible drive meets immovable object.”
It had begun to drizzle, good for displaying off EMO’s newest traction-control system, in accordance with Mahalik. “Okay, full throttle.” The SD-60 howled and shuddered and shook and started creeping ahead. You can really feel the traction-control system trying to find grip, pulling again the voltage when any of the six driving axles started to slide. “A radar transceiver below the nostril, aimed down on the observe mattress, feeds the computers true floor velocity,” Mahalik mentioned over the thrumming. We had been going lower than 10 mph. “When the observe will get actually slippery, the pc routinely places down sand to extend traction,” defined Mahalik, “however we do not fill our locomotives with sand earlier than supply.
“That is what it will be like dragging a heavy load in hilly terrain. You do not need to run a locomotive below about 12 mph, as a result of that strains the electrical motors they usually can overheat.” If extra energy is required to recover from the mountains, a railroad hooks up as many locomotives as are required, then shuts them down on the flat sections.
Having use of your individual private 4000-hp locomotive would not be value a lot if you happen to could not have interaction in not less than one act of juvenile delinquency, would it not? I throttled again to a cease and jumped from the cab. At my sign, Mahalik eased the pair of SD-60s forward and proper on previous me. There on the observe was my handiwork: a dime and a penny, pressed as flat and easy as your finest shirt. Ah, life is nice.
“Time to park it,” mentioned Mahalik with a shrug. However wait, Keith, we’ve not finished crucial factor of all. Mahalik smiled knowingly and pointed to the large lever atop the instrument cluster. “Go forward,” he nodded.
Kids of all ages, this one’s for you: WOOO—WOOOO—WOOOOOOOO . . . .
Basic Motors Electro-Motive SD-60
Car Sort: mid-engine, 12-wheel-drive, 3-passenger, 2-door, diesel-electric locomotive
Normal equipment: digital management system with show, cab heaters and defrosters, bathroom
Choices on our take a look at automobile: air-con, fridge, electrically heated home windows, air-ride seats, consolation cab
turbocharged and intercooled 2-stroke V-16 diesel, welded metal block and iron heads, direct gas injection
Displacement: 11,353 in3, 186,037 cm3
Energy: 4100 hp @ 900 rpm
Torque: 23,925 lb-ft @ 900 rpm
1-speed DC Electrical
Suspension, Main/Secondary: inflexible axle/rubber spring pad between truck body and metal bolster
Brakes: Electro-Motive Division 945-amp dynamic electromagnetic brakes with digital anti-lock management, plus twelve Sort 26L 2.5-inch-wide compressed-air-actuated shoe brakes appearing on the drive wheels
Wheels: 5.5 x 40-inch cast metal
Observe: 56.5 in
Size: 804.0 in
Width: 122.5 in
Peak: 187.0 in
Curb Weight: 390,000 lb
Gasoline Capactiy: 5000 gal
MANUFACTURER’S PERFORMANCE RATINGS
Prime Velocity: 70 mph
Gasoline consumption @ full energy: 187 gallons per hour
Director, Purchaser’s Information
Wealthy Ceppos has evaluated vehicles and automotive know-how throughout a profession that has encompassed 10 years at Basic Motors, two stints at Automotive and Driver totaling 19 years, and 1000’s of miles logged in racing automobiles. He was in music college when he realized what he actually wished to do in life and, by some means, it is labored out. In between his two C/D postings he served as government editor of Vehicle Journal; was an government vice chairman at Campbell Advertising & Communications; labored in GM’s product-development space; and have become writer of Autoweek. He has raced repeatedly since faculty, held SCCA and IMSA professional racing licenses, and has competed within the 24 Hours of Daytona. He at the moment ministers to a 1999 Miata and a 1965 Corvette convertible and appreciates that none of his youthful colleagues have but uttered “Okay, Boomer” when he tells one in all his tales in regards to the loopy outdated days at C/D.