Gas Turbine-Electric Locomotive Completes Preliminary Road Tests

Locomotive Engineers Journal; July, 1949.
Reprinted with permission.

Preliminary road tests of the 4800 hp Alco-GE gas turbine-electric locomotive included hauling of 85 loaded freight cars at speeds as high as 65 mph.

THE first gas turbine-electric locomotive to be built and operated in the United States, an Alco-GE 4500 Horsepower unit, has completed preliminary road tests and will see further service soon on the Union Pacific Railroad.

The preliminary tests were made in the East over a period of several weeks during which the developmental locomotive performed successfully on freight haulage runs. Additional road trials will get under way next month when the gas turbine powered unit is operated in freight service by the Union Pacific.

These announcements were made jointly by the General Electric Company and the American Locomotive Company at the G-E Erie, Pa., plant during the first public track demonstrations of the new locomotive in June. The locomotive first took to the rails last November.

Scores of railroad officials, members of the press and representatives of both companies convened at Erie June 16-17 (1949) for the second Alco-GE Railroad Executives' Conference. Highlighted by exhibition runs of the locomotive, the two-day session was an outgrowth of a similar conference at Schenectady, N. Y., in March, 1948 when the gas turbine power plant was first shown.

Both Charles E. Wilson, General Electric President, and Robert B. McColl, president of the American Locomotive Company, described the completion of preliminary operating tests as another step in the locomotive research projects of their companies. They reiterated earlier statements to the effect that the diesel-electric locomotive, "for the foreseeable future," will continue to be the prime source of new rail motive power.

G. W. Wilson, manager of General Electric's Locomotive and Car Equipment Divisions, told those attending the conference that "What we have seen so far of this new locomotive looks promising, but a great deal of exploring remains to be done."

He added that trials on the western road will be helpful in evaluating the potentialities of gas turbine powered locomotives, but said also that factory and operating tests must be continued on a long-range basis before "the ultimate possibilities of this new type of rail power can be completely evaluated."

Alco-GE spokesmen previously had expressed hopes that special research efforts, joined with experience to be gained from operation of this first locomotive design, may lead to the development of successful means of burning coal in a gas turbine-electric locomotive. They said that Alco-GE, is cooperating with the Locomotive Development Committee of Bituminous Coal Research toward that end. The gas turbine currently is fired by bunker "C" oil.

Knowledge gained from General Electric's wide experience in the aircraft gas turbine field was utilized in the design of the locomotive's power plant. The locomotive gas turbine differs from the aircraft jet engine in that the gases it produces are harnessed within the power plant and the resultant power is transmitted electrically to drive the wheels, whereas the aircraft engine provides forward thrust from the reaction of its exhaust stream.

The locomotive is of single-cab construction with an operating station in each end and has B-B-B-B running gear. It develops 53-hp per foot of length, weighs 500,000 Ibs. and has a continuous tractive effort of 68,500 lbs. at 20.5 MPH. It is 83 ft. 7 1/2 in. long inside of knuckles, 14 ft. 3 1/2 in. high over roofsheet and 10 ft. 7 in. wide over hand rails. Geared for 79 MPH, the locomotive carries enough fuel for 12 hours operation at 4500-hp.

The compressor, combustion chamber and turbine are of inline construction. Air is drawn through a compressor into several combustion chambers. Fuel is injected and the mixture burns, raising the temperature of the compressed air. Resulting gases expand and move at great velocity against the turbine blades, turning the shaft. The shaft drives both the power plant compressor and the generator. Power from the generator is supplied to eight traction motors, each of which drives an axle.

The gas turbine power plant itself is rated at 4800 h.p., with 4500 h.p. available for traction.

Historically, the idea of a gas turbine power plant is not new. It goes back many years. An outline for what was probably the first gas turbine was presented more than 260 years ago, in 1680, by Bishop Wilkins in a book, "Mathematical Magick." It was described as suitable for "turning of a spit, reeling of yarn, the chiming of bells, the rocking of a cradle, and diverse other domestick functions."

General Electric's own research in gas turbine development dates from 1904, when gas turbines were operated at both Lynn, Mass., and Schenectady, N.Y. The most significant resplts of the ensuing 45-year period are the G-E turbo - supercharger and G-E aircraft-type gas turbines.

The G-E turbo-supercharger, developed in World War I and demonstrated successfully in 1918 by Dr. S. A. Moss, was used widely in World War 11 military airplanes. In 1945, the turbo - supercharger was first applied on an Alco-G.E. diesel-electric locomotive.

A General Electric aircraft gas turbine, the TG-190 (Air Force designation J-47), powers the jet plane which holds the official world's speed record.

Before World War II the company bad actively undertaken development of gas turbines for such applications as locomotives, ships, small industrial plants, or central stations, but this was side- tracked during the war. In 1946, a specific project to develop a gas turbine for railroad application got under way. After extensive stationary tests at Schenectady, the turbine was taken to Erie last year and was installed as the power plant of a locomotive. Track tests began Nov. 15, 1948.


From the "Locomotive Engineers Journal", July, 1949. The Locomotive Engineers Journal was published by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in Cleveland, Ohio. Reprinted with permission.
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