Portland Oregon, December 6, 1959. My buddy Mike left Prince Rupert and moved to Portland just ahead of us moving back to Seattle in 1959. Later, the family loaded up and drove down from Seattle to Portland to see Mike. As predictable, it turned into a railroad photo shoot for us!
We captured First Class #17 rumbling in from her afternnoon run down the Columbia River at St. John’s Junction heading for Portland. Having been “weened” on GMD’s this was like a trip to Candy Land seeing a Fairbanks-Morse lash-up.
My Dad was a diesel engineer on deep sea tug boats. And he had nothing nice to say about the FM OP (Opposed Piston) engine breaking down mid-way between Astoria and Honolulu. As he put it, you had to separate two motors to get to the problem.
And as further evidence of this misadventure by FM was a statement by another friend of mine who lived in Portland, whose Dad was a UP engineer, giving him rides from Portland to the division point at Hinkle. He wrote me that “If we left Portland with four units on line, and arrived at Hinkle, 184 miles, with three units on line, it was a very good run!”
The Erie-built was the first streamlined, cab-equipped dual service diesel locomotive built by Fairbanks-Morse, introduced as direct competition to such models as the ALCO PA and EMD E-units. As F-M lacked the space to manufacture the units in their own plant, the work was subcontracted out to General Electric, which produced the locomotives at its Erie, Pennsylvania facility, thereby giving rise to the name "Erie-built."
The unit's 2,000 hp, ten-cylinder opposed piston engine prime mover provided ample power to its A1A-A1A wheelset. F-M retained the services of renowned industrial designer Raymond Loewy to create a visually impressive carbody for the Erie-built. The initial windshield configuration utilized rectangular glass panes, whereas those units manufactured after March, 1947 (such as Santa Fe #90 and #90B) received curved glass.
Most units rode on conventional General Steel Castings trucks straight from the factory, excepting those destined for the New York Central (including NYC #5000) which were fitted with specialized assemblies. At least one Erie-built (KCS #61C) was later repowered with an EMD 567 series diesel engine.
Looking at these photographs I have a few questions that maybe my readers can help me answer. #1. What is inside that huge nose? #2. It seems to be a sizable cab; what is the layout for engineer, fireman, and head-end brakeman? And finally, #3. What is behind that huge aft radiator? I look forward to hearing from you!
Railroad Stuff: UP656A, Fairbanks-Morse, 2,000hp. Built as UP 706, April 1948, sn L1138. One of only 13 built; 8 "A" 5 "B" Scrapped in March, 1961.