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Nostalgia & History > Santa Fe DL-109's

Date: 04/27/13 23:13
Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: alaska

Did this engine pull any Santa Fe name trains such as the Chief?
Were these engines operated in pairs of A units (back to back)?
I know these ALCO engines had problems and were short lived (HP ?).
Can you explain any of its mechancial problems?


Date: 04/28/13 00:38
Re: Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: jmw

This 1941 Alco/GE ad suggests the DL109's were assigned to the Chief but that isn't entirely true. They may have been assigned for a short time, one run?

If you search TO you'll find some threads that provide good info on the Santa Fe 109's.


Date: 04/28/13 01:29
Re: Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: Notch16

This informative text was posted last December by TO's resident Human Search Engine, the estimable Mr. Evan Werkema:

Said Evan: "I've gotten my head chewed off in the past for calling Santa Fe 50L&A a DL109/DL110 pair, so to spare others the decapitation, The American Locomotive Company - A Centennial Remembrance says their specification numbers were actually DL107/DL108, respectively. Each unit contained a pair of the same rough and tumble 1000hp turbocharged 539 prime movers that churned inside Alco's S2 switchers, so the set was 4000hp, or 2000hp per unit.

"When the 50 set was delivered, the Super Chief was usually powered by an A-B set of E-units, so an A-B set of Alcos fit the operating practice. They got off to a bad start - Santa Fe Locomotive Development says the Santa Fe rep attending the roll-out at Schenectady observed the carbodies shaking vigorously to the beat of the four idling 539's and refused to accept them. The structure was stiffened to reduce the shake and Santa Fe eventually took them, but even then, the locomotives' gyrations could reportedly be felt back in the train at station stops. The account of their first westbound run on the Super in McCall's Santa Fe Early Diesel Daze suggests that they all but melted the traction motors down to the ballast going over Raton Pass. After returning east, their career on extra-fare long distance trains was over, and naturally no repeat orders were forthcoming. Santa Fe wouldn't look to Alco for passenger power again until the PA's and PB's were introduced after the war. Santa Fe generally found uses for the 50L&A on lower grade assignments east of the Rockies like the Chicagoan or the Tulsan. Unlike the PA's, 50L&A could and did MU with EMD power, and several photos exist of them in mixed consists with E-units, turret cab 1L, or booster 1A. This 1946 Otto Perry photo at Ft. Madison shows 50L&A plus the 1A:


"The 50L did stray back to California in the 50's for local work on occasion - this view is from 1952 at San Bernardino:


Close quotes. And thanks, Evan, for that posting, and your usual diligence!

For those who haven't tried the TO search function lately, or ever, before responding to this thread I first typed "Alco DL109" into the little box up at the top right, the white blank box with the word 'search' after it. This gives you only 30 days worth of search results on TO postings. To widen the net, scroll to the bottom of the menu that appears below the search results, locate "Options", select "All Years" and then go back up to the Keywords filter line and click the 'search' button. That process or that sub-menu may not be apparent to some users.

Or you can just type a question, and TO members will spring into action to do the required keystrokes. I guess that works out pretty well. :-)

~ BZ

Date: 04/28/13 10:42
Re: Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: Evan_Werkema

alaska Wrote:

> Did this engine pull any Santa Fe name trains such
> as the Chief?

Thanks to Notch16 for digging up my previous post. Santa Fe's lone A-B set of pre-WWII passenger Alcos (produced under specification numbers DL-107 and DL-108 rather than DL-109 and DL-110) reportedly made just one round trip on the Super Chief when brand new:


Afterward, they were assigned to lesser, flatland assignments. Loren Joplin's site, http://santafe.gmbus.com/ , gives assignments for Santa Fe passenger diesels over the years. The units showed up in 1941, assigned to Chicago for maintenance. The first assignment listed is Trains 11 and 12, the Kansas Cityan and Chicagoan. Several E1's and turret cab 10L (formerly boxcab 1B) were also part of that pool. A note under the tables for Tr.19 and 20, the Chief, says "On layover days in Chicago units 1-6, 10, 11-15, 50LA can be used on #19-20 between Chicago and Kansas City or La Junta depending on availability. Units must be returned to Chicago for trains 17-18, 21-22 on the days they run," so it's possible 50L&A showed up on Chief early on east of La Junta. By 1946 the pool that included 50L&A was also covering Tr.5 and 6, the Ranger. In 1950, the pool's assignments expanded again to include Tr. 9 and 10, the Kansas City Chief. The assignment lists evidently didn't capture 50L's brief sojourn to Southern California in early 1952. The next change that made the lists came May 1954 when 50L&A were reassigned to Argentine to work Tr.47 and 48, the Oil Flyer. Some time after that, 50L got a second, oscillating headlight, which compromised her already questionable aesthetics even more. Somewhere, there must be a picture of 50L actually pulling a train with that second headlight in place, but I have yet to see it in print. March 1958 found 50L&A "laid up good" at Argentine, and that's where they remained until they were retired in 1960. Most published color photos of the units were taken during that prolonged period in storage:


> Were these engines operated in pairs of A units
> (back to back)?

Santa Fe only had one A-B set (one cab unit and one cabless booster). They often ran together, but were also MUed with EMD E-units or the 1L and 1A (rebuilt from EMD boxcabs). That Otto Perry shot in my old post shows 50L&A with the 1A, and the first photo in this thread shows the 50A behind a pair of E's on The Chicagoan:


The fourth photo in this thread shows 50L&A with 1A:


This Preston George shot of The Chicagoan shows 1L, and E-unit booster, and the 50A:


and this one shows 50L, 1A, and an E-unit booster:


> I know these ALCO engines had problems and were short lived (HP ?).
> Can you explain any of its mechancial problems?

The trouble going over Raton was apparently GE traction motors that weren't robust enough (the motors in the post-war PA-1's were a big improvement). Borrowing from another old post in that same thread, The American Locomotive Company - A Centennial Remembrance mentions that the rough and tumble 539 prime movers were suited to the intermittent power demands of switcher service, but in passenger service, there were vibration issues and also problems with piston seizures when the engines were required to produced full power for extended periods. A new oil cooled piston design helped with that issue, and the book mentions the Santa Fe units being retrofitted.

Having said that, Santa Fe 50L&A lasted on the roster for 19 years (1941-1960). By contrast, the EMD E1's lasted only 15 years.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/28/13 16:55 by Evan_Werkema.

Date: 04/28/13 14:43
Re: Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: MojaveBill

And they were ugly...

Bill Deaver
Mojave, CA

Date: 04/28/13 19:47
Re: Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: DWDebs/2472

The definitive first-hand knowledge on these units is the book "One Man's Locomotives" by Vernon L. Smith, published in 1987 by Trans-Anglo Books. It's a excellent book, written by a knowledgeable engineer and locomotive designer from his personal experiences.

It's out of print. Used copies are rare and very expensive ($195 and up!) at: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=one+man%27s+locomotives&x=0&y=0

- Doug Debs

Date: 04/29/13 09:59
Re: Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: TomPlatten

I can well imagine how rough these units were. It is bad enough with a single 539 prime mover if it not timed correctly or if you have one or more cylinders with a clogged injector or maladjusted fuel pump. They are tough prime movers, originally designed for marine use where vibration is better absorbed by the ship in the water. On a steel platform supported by trucks they can rock and roll unless properly maintained. If you put two of them on the same platform, as on the DL's, you are asking for trouble. I imagine they were not crew favorites!

Date: 04/29/13 10:36
Re: Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: ctillnc

Two U.S. submarines were commissioned in 1941 with twin Alco diesels (the Mackerel class), but no Alco engine made it into the hundreds of submarines that were built later. FM or EMD got all those orders. Was it because the twin Alco design was rejected for operational results, or because there were other uses for Alco engines in military equipment?

Date: 05/01/13 14:01
Re: Santa Fe DL-109's
Author: TomPlatten

When I was in the USCG back in 1968-1972 The ALCO 539's were used in the old 110 foot tugs. Those are all gone now. I think the Medium 210 foot cutters used ALCO 251's. Most of the large cutters use FM's.

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