locked Re: Early Diesel switcher assignments

George Eichelberger

I’ve explained to people over the years; if you see an odd diesel consist or one that seems too large (Southern had a strict 24 (?) powered axle limit), look at the MU hoses as it passes. Engine(s) “dead in tow” (DIT) will not have MU connections in most cases.

BTW If anyone particularly knowledgable about MU connections over the years, please contact me, I’d like to discuss some of the details I’ve found working on the SRHA diesel book. In the early diesel years, the variety of EMD, ALCo and F-M MU connections and technologies required only particular combinations of units that could be MUd. A reason for the multi point MU connections mounted high on the the early Fs was so they could work with other mfgr's units.

As I have been researching/writing the diesel book, I realize how important photos showing the MU arrangements on different models are. (Check out photos of the Southern’s RS-2s for example. It’s hard to find two with the same MU connection arrangement.)

More trivia about SW-1500s….. Although EMD was moving to more electrical MU controls (vs pneumatic), the need to operate them with road power (as Bill S described) caused Southern to specify they had hose connections for sanders, etc. on both ends but only straight through piping. In other words, the SW-1500s did not need or use that control but other units in the consist might!

(I did say “trivia” but it is the kind of material I like to learn about when I read a book.)


On Sep 21, 2021, at 10:47 AM, Bill Schafer <bill4501@...> wrote:

Try a thru freight with a pair of F-7s back-to-back followed by three SW1500s on a 150 car train . . .

On Sep 21, 2021, at 10:42, Jason Greene <jason.p.greene@...> wrote:

That would be a sight to behold for sure. I’ve always thought an F7-GP38 pair looked odd but the idea of F7-SW1500 would be great. One for the layout for sure. 

Jason Greene 

On Sep 21, 2021, at 10:35 AM, Bill Schafer <bill4501@...> wrote:

Here’s another advantage to those SW1500s being delivered on Flexicoil trucks: they could be used as road power in a pinch. When I was in Southern’s training program in Greensboro 1971-1972, many of the Alco and older EMD switchers were retired and replaced with SW1500s. Some of these assignments were at outlying points and only worked Monday-Friday. 

In the meantime, yards accumulated freight during the week that exceeded what could be moved on scheduled trains, so Southern would operate clean-up extras on the weekends. On, say, Friday evenings, one of the lesser freights would gather up SW1500s and take them to, maybe, Monroe or Spencer, where they would be put to work on main line drag freights, mixed in with regular freight motive power. They would work on drags over the weekend and would be redistributed to their assigned locations before starting time on Monday morning. At 1500 hp, they were the equivalent of an F7 and were frequently mated with F-units on the drags. The disadvantages were that the SW1500s did not have dynamic brakes nor did the cabs have some of the creature comforts of F-units or GPs, so I never saw one in the lead, but they made dandy boosters. And I’m not aware that they were restricted speed-wise - they were good for 60 mph. 

No, I never took a picture of one of these main line trains with SW1500s. Yes, I am kicking myself. 


On Sep 21, 2021, at 09:45, George Eichelberger <geichelberger@...> wrote:


I don’t know (see my posting just now) but I suspect that particular roller bearing equipped switcher allowed Southern to close, or cut back, operations at the Alex disel shop.


On Sep 21, 2021, at 7:55 AM, TIM ANDREWS <ANDREWSTIM@...> wrote:

I grew up in Arlington and started hanging out at the Northern Virginia Model Railroaders layout in the old Alexandria yard office about 1971.  IIRC SW1500 2300 was the usual yard engine that I remember working there at least until I left for college in 1974.

On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 07:30:55 AM EDT, Rob Wingo <robertawingo@...> wrote:

Good study.  I assume the $35k operating savings is the steam maintenance costs vs diesel maintenance.  That’s alot of steam
maintenance!  But all of our steam was at least 20 years old by that time so no wonder.

I grew up in Alexandria, Va and I don’t remember seeing any true yard switcher after about 1970.  Is there a system level record of switcher assignments for that time period?


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