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Never Smile at a Crocodile

by SHKarlson Mon Mar 13th, 2006 at 08:07:52 PM EST

NEVER SMILE AT A CROCODILE. The most recent Monday Train Blogging, which author DoDo notes will be offered intermittently in the future, focuses on crocodilian Alpine electric locomotives. Any electric locomotive with a center cab and long machine housings at each end suggests the eyes and snout of a crocodile, or in the United States, an alligator.

The crews of the North Shore Line referred to this motor, purchased secondhand from the Oregon Electric, as "the alligator."

Photo from Daves Rail Pix.

The original Swiss crocodiles illustrate several steps in the evolution of electric locomotives. The latest issue of BackTrack includes an article by R.A.S. Hennessey on "A Century of Electric Classification." (BackTrack's publisher charmingly continues to operate without benefit of a web site, let alone online content.) It focuses on the varying ways the engineers would design locomotives as well as classify them. The main design problem is housing the machinery. As Mr Hennessey puts it, there are two "main faces of electric traction morphology," which in North American parlance are "'steeple cabs,' with the driving cab centred between two bonnets;" and "'box cabs,' with a cab at both ends." The crocodile is clearly of the order "steeple cab." (The body has a passing resemblance to the roof line of a North American school house or church with a belfry.)

The variants of crocodile in DoDo's post illustrate a somewhat more challenging proposition, classifying the machinery. The canonical Swiss Ce 6/8 II has a guide axle at each end and two pairs of three driving wheels connected by siderods and driven by a jackshaft. That imitation of steam locomotive technology poses a somewhat simpler counterbalancing problem than a steam locomotive with both reciprocating and rotating masses. In When the Steam Railroads Electrified, William D. Middleton explains that early electric motors of sufficient power could not be made sufficiently small to fit under the frames. A larger motor above the frames also raised the locomotive's center of gravity, which improved its tracking ability. There were some very large applications of the jackshaft principle in use by the Virginian and Norfolk and Western in the Appalachian coal fields, as well as the Pennsylvania Railroad's DD-1 (the classification is simple enough: a 4-4-0 steamer is a Class D; if you couple two of them back-to-back you have a D-D, even if the engineers will call it a 2-B+B-2) that made Penn Station possible. One example is in preservation at Strasburg, Pennsylvania.

The locomotive is of the order "box cab."

Another design variant in the early years involved putting the armature of the traction motor directly on the axle, the famous "gearless bi-polar" design. Imagine your basic science fair motor with one field and a two-pole armature, but the armature must be free to rotate relative to the axis of the field. (The whole axle must rotate at a constant speed going around curves. Railroad wheels are smaller at their outside diameter than they are at the flange. The axle tilts on curves, with the smaller outside diameter turning as fast on the inside rail as the larger diameter at the flange is turning on the outside rail. There will be a quiz later.)

Despite the technical shortcomings, the bi-polar motor was used successfully by the New York Central's S-motor, which the National Museum of Transport notes, "was the prototype for thousands of Lionel and Ives model electric trains" (including models currently available.)

The picture shows the motor at St. Louis. Another is in the Illinois Railway Museum collection.

The other application of the bi-polar concept served the Coast Division of the Milwaukee Road, a mountainous stretch with few opportunities for fast running. The locomotives also provided inspiration for Lionel, Ives, and American Flyer, although with a bit more artistic license in the rendition.

One bi-polar is in preservation, also at St. Louis. The BackTrack article uses it as an illustration of variations in wheel arrangement descriptions. I shall simply use 1B+D+D+B1, in the North American fashion, with each grouping of wheels pivoting independently. Lionel and the other electric train makers of the 1920s often scaled their "Bi-Polars" down to two powered axles so the engine would go around the Christmas tree. Most were painted orange or black. The real ones finished their careers painted Milwaukee's Union Pacific-inspired yellow with red trim.

North American railroads also discovered what DoDo noted about the safety margin those machinery hoods provided. The Pennsylvania Railroad modified their P5a motors from box cabs to what we call "streamlined steeple-cab" design after a fatal grade crossing accident. The modified version has crocodilian features.

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The better-known GG-1 was designed from the beginning as a streamlined steeple cab type. A few remain in preservation, including one at the Illinois Railway Museum that has been repainted into proper Pennsylvania pinstripes and given its proper number 4927 back.

But is it correct to refer to any steeple-cab locomotive as a "crocodile?" In the United States, the steeple cab design dates to the earliest days of electric railroading, with a plant switcher built for the Ponemah Mills of Taftville, Connecticut, in preservation near New Haven.

Steeple-cab locomotives still provide electric freight service for the Iowa Traction, and less frequently for the East Troy Electric Railroad.

Emery, Iowa.

On shed at East Troy, Wisconsin.

But are all steeple-cabs crocodilians? The Bernina crocodile, although it looks like East Troy's L-8,

also a snowplow motor, the Bernina crocodile clearly has equipment hoods that pivot independently of the cab.

If the standard for crocodilian electric locomotive includes snouts that pivot independently of the cab (adding to the reptilian nature of the beast), there is a North American candidate, the Illinois Terminal Class D freight motor.

This picture, from Dave Mewhinney, illustrates the articulation perfectly.

(Cross-posted at Cold Spring Shops)

COOL! I think DoDo will appreciate this contribution to the ongoing train blogging!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 07:28:01 AM EST
Wow, thank you!

I was hoping for some US entry in the comments last week, now I got it in heaps!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 08:47:50 AM EST
I did some edits so that the article looks better on ET.

Special thanks for the Illinois Terminal Class D! From the photo, that is indeed a crocodile by every measure, what's more, a unique one with those four-bogies!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 09:14:44 AM EST
If I see it right, that wonderful North Shore loco also has four bogies!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 10:00:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Tim Hall, whose Where Worlds Collide often showcases his Swiss modelling in N scale, a true crocodile must have the jackshaft drive and swiveling snouts.  Thus the Class D lacks the jackshafts, and the Pennsylvania's L5, which had jackshafts, lacks the swiveling snouts.

The "four-bogie" configuration (two pairs of powered trucks articulated with a span bolster, and notated B-B+B-B, was popular in North America until more powerful motors were developed.  Note that the North Shore alligator and the Class D have two trolley poles at each end.  These could be set up to run as two locomotives running in parallel, in which case each pole received half the current the locomotive drew in that configuration.  The Virginian built some very large freight motors (for North American readers, they looked a little like a Fairbanks-Morse cab diesel) with the B-B+B-B wheel arrangement.  The famous "veranda" turbines of Union Pacific also had that wheel arrangement, and they gave up their wheels and traction motors to go under the General Electric U50 double diesel, which paired two diesel-electric power plants under one hood.

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.
by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 11:27:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Tim Hall, whose Where Worlds Collide often showcases his Swiss modelling in N scale, a true crocodile must have the jackshaft drive and swiveling snouts.

Ah, the German-Swiss battles... (The German crocodiles don't have jackshafts either.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 07:06:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't knew how to call locos with non-articulated snouts, but the North Shore Liners had the idea! Now here are some Europeans:


SNCF had three alligators, all built for the AC network (25 kV/50 Hz)  that was set up after WWII: classes BB 12000 and BB 13000 were four-axle light freight/shunter locos with slightly different looks, class CC 14000 was a six-axle heavy shunter. Below, from RailFanEurope, a photo one member of each class on Jean-Paul Lescat's excellent scanned dias.

Czechoslovakia & descendants

Shunting locomotives 110 (3 kV DC version), 113 (1.5 kV DC version) and 210 (AC version) have the same form on the outside. (But all of them display a bedazzling array of paint schemes.) Below a 110 in Slovakia.


Hungary pioneered industrial frequency traction on a large scale, but later locomotive development got struck. The last domestic attempt in the original line before buying the license of a Western design (and one already using a foreign solution, the Ward-Leonard system) was a light universal locomotive, built in two versions (with a slight difference under the hood): classes V41 (built 1958-1962) and V42 (from 1960-1964). Unlike my other European alligators, they were strongly assymetric. Below a restored V41, in original painting scheme except the red star.

From the seventies, Hungarian electric locomotive construction at Ganz-MÁVAG woke from the dead (though only until the early nineties). From 1983, they built 60 locos of the new shunter class V46. They are my favourites (maybe because they were new when I was a child). Here is one, freshly renovated, in Budapest Ferencváros:

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 09:55:48 AM EST
Those Hungarian steeple-cabs bring to mind five electrics that Niagara Junction bought in the middle 1950s.  Conrail later purchased them to replace the S-motors (!!) as station switchers for Grand Central Terminal.  With most of the commuter trains now protected by multiple-unit consists, there's little work for station switchers any more.

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.
by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 03:46:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you have against cocrodiles? :)

well maye you love them very much.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 02:38:10 PM EST
Crocodiles provided an improvement over steam locomotion in the years before the SD-70J became the universal diesel locomotive!

Stephen Karlson ATTITUDE is a nine letter word. BOATSPEED.
by SHKarlson (shkarlson at frontier dot com) on Tue Mar 14th, 2006 at 03:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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