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Nostalgia & History > A Little SP Break

Date: 11/26/12 09:46
A Little SP Break
Author: TTM

Tom Lewis caught SP 9006 in helper service at Wicopee OR in early April 1964. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks for looking,


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/26/12 09:46 by TTM.

Date: 11/26/12 11:53
Re: A Little SP Break
Author: aussiehinz

Great shot! I think I'd be terrified if I actually saw that thing coming toward me...!

Date: 11/26/12 13:26
Re: A Little SP Break
Author: hiline

Great catch and shot Tom! Thank's for posting.Bill

Date: 11/26/12 14:15
Re: A Little SP Break
Author: TCnR

Interesting photo, they seemed to have run anything, anywhere at least once.

I know that mud/snow mix. Also interesting is remains of a tie fire that was so close to the rail, possibly for the Mow crews to keep warm but also possibly just to get rid of the old ties. Both were common for the day.

Date: 11/27/12 01:55
Re: A Little SP Break
Author: john1082

For tax purposes the SP would sometimes place locomotives into service in Oregon. Given that the hydraulics were central valley residents, I wonder if this isn't a very early in service photo while waiting out the tax man in Oregon.

John Gezelius
Tustin, CA

Date: 11/27/12 09:23
Re: A Little SP Break
Author: WAF

No, testing them on various mountain grades

Date: 11/27/12 14:32
Re: A Little SP Break
Author: Notch16

Did someone light the KM Bat Signal? :-)

Neat pic; helper service for sure, since you can see that there are no numbers in the indicator boards. With no headlight, are we looking at the unit heading towards a meet? Light engines? It looks like an F7B behind, but it's a little hard to tell A or B.

Far as we've been able to determine, SP put both delivery batches of 'Series' ML4000 into service for a month or so in Oregon, for tax reasons. SP 9006 was part of the first delivery batch of seven units, and had already been modified by SP by raising the multiple-unit connector box as you can see in this pic; seems that the normal-length cables wouldn't reach all the way to an F-unit's above-door socket, and this was easier than carrying spare cables. It was the first SP mod to the 'Series' fleet. (You can also see a triangular plate in the snowplow below the coupler; SP apparently discovered interference there, possibly with glad hand connections, and added this cut-back mod as well.)

1964 was a watershed year for the diesel-hydraulic experiment. In February, all three of the Denver & Rio Grande Western 'Prototype' carbody-style units came West to join their three SP sisters. By this time, these true prototypes had been much-modified, with improvements to intake and exhaust, air filtration, truck ride motion snubbing, air compressor cooling, and control systems -- including the design and installation of U.S.-standard MU capability. DRGW pioneered this mod to the original all-pneumatic KM controls, and SP modified their units to match.

All these mods were being incorporated in the fifteen 'Series' roadswitcher-style units of 1964, as seen here. Some of the discoveries and mods to the Prototypes were so fresh that they were added on the fly to the Series units while still on the shop floor at Krauss-Maffei in M√ľnchen-Allach. For example, those cut-back triangles on the plows were added to the first batch of seven, but the following eight had a huge divot hammered into the plows for clearance while still on the floor.

The six 1961 Prototypes had many teething problems. If so, why did SP even bother to order 9006 and her fourteen sisters, for nearly eight million 1964 dollars (about 55 million bucks today)? It was because KM had argued for SP to purchase a larger fleet of second-generation models as proof-of-concept, since the six Prototypes were exactly that: rolling laboratories for SP, DRGW, KM and suppliers Maybach (motors) and Voith (transmissions) to learn how to better meet U.S. operating conditions. Testing on grades had revealed a liability in the intake systems which compounded with the high-efficiency, high-output twin-turbo Maybach V-16s to cause valve burning and cylinder failure. The external 'chimneys' added by Rio Grande and SP helped, but the general unsuitability of the high-speed Maybachs for operation as third or fourth units working slow speeds inside tunnels meant that SP had pretty much ruled out mountainous operation for the KMs. That happened quite early. And DRGW let theirs go entirely.

By 1964 all six 1961 Prototypes were living in the San Joaquin Valley, moving loads and MTYS at a 60 MPH clip. The Series units like 9006 were broken in for a month or so in Oregon, then began operating on the Bayshore-Tracy turns, often at night. That lasted maybe another month or so, and then they were sent to the Valley, with Roseville as the maintenance base. With rare exception, the only mountain service they saw after that was the occasional hike over Tehachapi in helper service out of Bakersfield.

So in Spring of 1964, when this pic was taken, mountain operation for the KMs had already been essentially restricted to break-in periods after delivery, and that was done mostly on scheduled manifests which likely had better operating speeds than drag freights. The Series units did do occasional mountain testing out of Roseville, but this was mostly for shakedown after major shop work or to test a new modification, and was most often done by assigning the test units to the shove out of Roseville, often picking up eastbound tonnage at Rocklin siding.

By the time the Series units like 9006 had hit U.S. soil, it's possible that some inside the SP had already cooled to the whole idea, but it was a little late to stop the music. SP 9006 had led the first batch of Series KMs out of the factory; here's an interesting account by the son of the Lead Project Engineer, for anyone who wants to do further extra-credit reading! :-)


~ Bob Z.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/27/12 15:34 by Notch16.

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