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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Anyone on this board ever hand-fire a Diesel? I did . . . once.


Date: 03/29/23 18:43
Anyone on this board ever hand-fire a Diesel? I did . . . once.
Author: dsrc512

Wind the way-back machine to the late fall of 1970 during the Christmas tree rush in Michigan on the Cadillac and Lake City.  The C&LC had two Diesels; one leased from Joe Rogers (my entry into the railroad biz by way of Vietnam, a story for another time) was ex-CUT 25, a 750 hp Lima-Hamilton,  The second was a 1930 Baldwin-Westinghouse which had lost its original Beardmore-design engine.  It was replaced with a Hamilton diesel of around 350 hp.  I am not sure what it is.  Note the tense.  It survives at the Illinois Railway Museum.

One night, well below freezing, engineer Ed Seeley and I, conductor and soon to be hand pumper, were headed east from Missaukee Junction to Lake City with three empty 40' boxcars in tow when the engine sputtered and died.  I had earlier been sent to see if I could get the B-71 running after it had been out of service for a few years.  My only instructions were "Don't spend any money".  Did you know it is possible to patch a split low pressure water line with Bondo?  Ask me how I know.

From my poking around in the unit's innards, I knew where the fuel pump was.  The flexible coupling between the pump and its electric motor wasn't turning.  I gave it a twist using my thumb and forefinger, It briefly continued to spin and then quit.  That was a clue.  The problem wasn't mechanical, it was electrical.  We needed to get the unit to the engine house about three miles ahead of us as the unit had no antifreeze protection due to water leaks in the cylinder liners.  I uncoupled the three cars and tied them down.  I told Ed I would try and keep the coupling turning enough to keep some fuel coming to the engine.  By taking my belt off and slack looping it around the flexible joint and spinning it as much as I could, we were able to get the unit under cover.  The following afternoon, Joe Rogers came over to the house trailer I and another employee were renting.  He had the fuel pump armature in hand.  It had a broken wire.  He soldered it together on the kitchen table.  The unit ran until the line was sold and all but six miles scrapped.  In the spring of 1976, shortly after Michigan Northern began on April 1st, the same day Conrail began, I was there to couple onto the B-71 at Missaukee Junction.  The B-71 ran under its own power to the interchange.  MIGN moved the unit to Grand Rapids dead in train.  As near as I've been able to learn it never moved again as a live unit, passing through several owners along the way.  It was once offered to me for a dollar but by then I had enough to do trying to demonstrate you could haul grain on a granger 65# branchline without government subsidy.

Alex Huff             



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/16/23 09:44 by dsrc512.



Date: 03/29/23 20:07
Re: Anyone on this board ever hand-fire a Diesel? I did . . . on
Author: Lurch_in_ABQ

No, but I once tried to start a steam generator on an SDP40 too many times. On the final try the blast blew off my hardhat and singed my eyebrows. Safety glasses protected my eyes.



Date: 03/30/23 14:37
Re: Anyone on this board ever hand-fire a Diesel? I did . . . on
Author: wabash2800

Was this one of those funky looking units that ran at Armco Steel in Ohio? I photographed one at Jonesvile, Michigan some years ago to be used by a tourist railroad that never got started.

Victor Baird

Ok, I found a picture of the B-71 here at Trainorders.

Thank You Armco Steel - B-71 and B73 (trainorders.com)



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/30/23 17:35 by wabash2800.



Date: 03/31/23 12:36
Re: Anyone on this board ever hand-fire a Diesel? I did . . . on
Author: tgcostello

Great story Alex. Thanks for sharing it.  Wish we had a photo of you firing the diesel with you belt!
TC



Date: 03/31/23 13:42
Re: Anyone on this board ever hand-fire a Diesel? I did . . . on
Author: Notch7

Great troublehooting with your belt.   Made me think back to all those leather belts that ran auxiliaries on my old E7's.



Date: 04/02/23 06:20
Re: Anyone on this board ever hand-fire a Diesel? I did . . . on
Author: ironmtn

Great story - thanks. Love the instructions: "Don't spend any money". PSR on a shortline before there was PSR. 

MC



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