Turbine Electrics

I just couldn't resist.  I've felt a strong attraction to the GE Veranda turbines used on the Union Pacific for many years.  Sooner or later I had to have a C&O one.

Shown here hauling a coal train at Alleghany.

Turbine mania really struck hard when the Fall 2004 issue of Classic Trains magazine came out, with its big article on various steam turbines.  On the first page of the article is a drawing of a proposed Alco coal fired gas turbine electric (GTEL) locomotive, and I had to see what it would have looked like in 3 dimensions.

Here's the story on this one:

I don't know if any of you remember, but on the C&O, at least, they still hoped to find a way to power trains with coal burning locomotives, even as they dieselized, and actively conducted research toward that end.

Well, in our little fantasy world, the diesel onslaught was held at bay, at least in part, on the C&O by bunches of 4-8-6 and 4-10-6 (both conventional and later balanced compound) Super Power locomotives. As it worked out, because of these locomotives, the C&O never fully dieselized, and the coal fired gas turbine electric research conducted with Alco and GE paid off with the successful development of a 4000 HP coal burning GTEL. The first 4 test units were numbered 503 -- 506, class M-2, following sequentially after the failed "Chessie" M-1 class turbines 500 - 502.  The picture shows M-2 506, the last of the 4 test units, with a train of hoppers (there are probably a bunch of loads trailing a few empties at the front of the train), somewhere in Ohio north of Columbus. Note that the trailing unit is a tender carrying 40 tons of pulverized, fluidized coal. The lead unit contains the combustors, fly ash separators, turbine, generator, and electrical equipment. Since the state of the art in the mid to late 50s was not yet up to handling 4000 HP in only 6 axles (666 HP/axle) in drag service, the tender axles were powered, giving a much more manageable 400 HP/axle.  Of course these locomotives were equipped with MU control, so they could be run with others of their type or with diesels, much like the UP GTELs. Imagine the sight of a pair of these coupled back to back lugging a coal drag up the Alleghany grade!  After very successful trials, the C&O, Alco, and GE went back to their drawing boards to design the definitive coal GTEL.  The result was the fabulous M-3 class "veranda" turbines. These locomotives were uprated to 4500 HP, just like the somewhat similar oil burning turbines being built for the UP at the same time. The running gear was revised to incorporate 8 axles, in 4 two axles trucks on span bolsters, so that the locomotive didn't have to rely on traction motors in the tender which lost effectiveness as the fuel was used.