Friday, May 8, 2009

Tacheeda, Bullmoose, Quintette Part 2

Up in the northern wilderness, the stroke of a pen had set in motion one of the most ambitious industrial enterprises British Columbia had seen since the Kemano Project put Kitimat on the map. While mines load outs, a railroad, and a new town site - Tumbler Ridge – were being constructed, a contract had been let in August 1982 for seven electric locomotives to be designed, proved, and delivered to BC Rail by December 1983.

An army of draftsmen and engineers were pouring over the drafting tables at General Motors Canada Limited – Diesel Division (GMDL-DD) in London, Ontario. Collaborating with Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (ASEA) of Sweden, drawing upon their vast electric locomotive expertise, working together against an uncompromising schedule to design, build and deliver a fleet of electric locomotives for a remote northern British Columbia coal hauler.

[Courtesy Paul Roy]

The resultant electric locomotive, officially designated the General Freight, 6,000 hp, C-C, the GF6C was a outstanding demonstration of locomotive engineering. Based on the 50kV AC, 60Hz paradigm, drawing juice from an overhead catenary multi-strand copper contact wire. Built at the GMD shops in London, Ontario in a record 14 months, the first of seven locomotives, road numbers 6001 to 6007, was delivered to BC Rail on time, on December 18, 1983.

Power was drawn from an overhead catenary system supplying 50kV AC, sent from the WAC Bennet Dam up on the Peace River. The ceramic insulators on the roof were hand made, exactly like you've seen pottery being hand shaped! The 48” fan draws heat from the dynamic braking resistance. And notice only Spiderman can get up on the roof, a deliberate design feature to keep maintainers away from the "hot stuff."

Once inside the locomotive, Thyristor - diode bridges converted the 50kV AC to Direct Current (DC) to power the six - axle mounted E-88 DC traction motors. HTC trucks such as those found on the SD40-2 were also utilized.

The GF6C units were rated at 6,000 horsepower, delivering 90,000 pounds continuous tractive effort to the rails, at 21.5 miles per hour, with a top speed of 56 mph.

Built on the same single solid steel 1” thick deck plate as the SD40-2, the units weighed in at 398,720 pounds. This worked out to 67,118 pounds per axle. Electric locomotives have some heavy components. Take for example the transformer, at 35,500 pounds – 17+ tons! The Thyristor converter cabinet; a hefty 7,700 pounds.

The overall length of each unit was 68’10”, 16’10” from top of rail to lock down pantograph. With pantographs fully extended to the catenary wire, 23’7”

Unlike the Milwaukee Road electrics, dynamic braking instead of regenerative braking was utilized on the GF6C. The Milwaukee Road electrics traction motors became generators on the downgrade, sending electricity back into the catenary and public system.

The GF6C used dynamic braking similar to diesel-electric locomotives. On the downgrade, the traction motors became generators sending current to a resistance regulated at 760A. A 48” roof mounted fan dissipated heat, often approaching 700 degrees Fahrenheit, into the atmosphere.

A wheel creep control system allowed each wheel to achieve maximum tractive effort by allowing the wheels to creep, that is, to rotate slightly faster than ground speed, at a controlled rate. Under severe conditions, sanding was applied automatically to increase adhesion. Above 5 miles per hour, manual sanding is disabled, yielding to the automatic system.

The cab layout included a "desk console" engineers and conductors position. Two additional “jump” seats are located on the machine room bulkhead. A Pacesetter Control was installed to maintain a constant creep speed on the car loading and unloading loops. Constant speed was maintained regardless of load conditions.

Designers cleverly created an 8 notch throttle control, designed to give engineers the “feel” of diesel-electric locomotives. Operating procedures will demonstrate the wisdom of this design. As a point of reference, Milwaukee Road EF units had a 32 notch throttle. As you may recall, Laurence Wylie, Milwaukee’s electrical wizard, came up with the “Wylie Throttle” to allow mixing of electrics with diesel-electrics, through a ratio handle.

The GF6C was equipped with schedule 26LUM air brakes, including a model 30-CDW brake valve.

All areas of the locomotive were protected with a fixed Halon system. In the event of fire, a warning horn and warning lights, gave operators 15 seconds to evacuate the cab or machine room, before the oxygen starving gas was applied.

The agreement with GMDL-DD called for seven units, which were delivered as follows with delivery month and serial number: (Ed note: following data verified, Extra 2200 South, Volume 92.)
  • BCR 6001 11/83 A-4340
  • BCR 6002 11/83 A-4341
  • BCR 6003 12/83 A-4342
  • BCR 6004 12/83 A-4343
  • BCR 6005 12/83 A-4344
  • BCR 6006 12/83 A-4345
  • BCR 6007 12/83 A-4346
Finally, a major design feature BC Rail demanded from the design group was the use of modular systems when possible, to facilitate field repairs one heck of a long way from London, Ontario!

Rolling Stock

Equally important to the power packs – the rolling stock. In the early days of operation, 98 car unit trains were assembled, machine loaded under a silo, and machine unloaded at a rotary dumper. More than 600 custom coal cars were ordered with Dresser Radial self-steering trucks and rotary couplers. These cars, based on a Canadian Pacific design, AAR Type GT, with open top and solid bottom, designed for machine or rotary unloading only.

These cars, numbered 900000 through 900639, were manufactured at Canadian National’s Transcona Winnipeg yards, between August of 1983 and February 1984.

The first series of cars had a single rotary coupler, the end of the car painted with an indicator. Operators had to be certain that two un-marked cars were not coupled, which would have resulted in drama on the rotary table! Subsequent car orders included double end rotary couplers.

The Canadian National Research Center, in conjunction with Dofasco and Dresser Industries developed the so-called "self-steering truck." The “self-steering” design put flexibility into the wheel sets, countering the wheels desire to climb over the rail head on curves, thereby reducing flange and rail wear. A comprehensive study was conducted on the Tumbler Ridge Subdivision, as all the new coal cars were fitted with Dresser DR-1 “self-steering” truck. This study yielded further refinements.

The Final Spike Ceremony

The “Final Spike Ceremony” and first coal unit train left Quintette on November 1, 1983. The original operational plan was to assemble 98-car unit trains, to be handled by two three unit road sets. The seventh unit would be on rotating “maintenance / standby status.”

3 Comments - Click here:

Anonymous said...

GREAT post, I visited Tumbler and the BCR Electrics in the summer of 1986 and was very impressed. I can't wait for your upcoming conclusion.

Mark Perry
Dauphin MB

Daryl Moulder said...

Good day

My name is Daryl Moulder

I was president of the Prince George Railway and Forestry Museum and a very good friend of Don Holzowrths.

I was the one who went through all the grief of getting BCOL6001 back into Canada. If it were not for Paul Roy and Family purchasing this engine and donating it to our museum, it would be scrap.

I am so happy to see that you have written about the tumbler line, I learned lots about this line from those who built it to those who ran it’s rails. I have many stories.

I would like to clarify a couple of things that you have in part 3.

All the electrics were hauled down at the same time, they were set up on a side track for about 2 weeks at Northwood Pulp Mill here in PG. Then they were taken to the BCR yards here in PG and they were parked way off in the back. They sat there on the MOW track buried behind trees.

We had fought for years to keep them here and then one day I get a call saying they are heading out tomorrow to N Van then onto Tacoma to a scrap dealer.

See the electrics sat here in PG until there lease was over, once the lease was over then they could do as they wanted with them, so they were quietly sold for scrap.

After many phone calls and trips to Vancouver and Tacoma and as mentioned the purchase of 6001 by Paul Roy and family, I was able to get 6001 back into Canada, and that was not easy to do. I had to deal with brokers, customs and even the US Government Transport got involved. I ended up having to call in some favours with some officials in our federal government, and after about a week and a half, 6001 came back into Canada.

I do have pics of 6001 being moved and the electrics in storage here in PG.

I also have pics of the last train being loaded at Tech.

After the line was closed, we were taken for a ride on the V-10 up to Tech and back. I also have pics of this. This is where we met rob who is a supervisor and he also worked along with Don on this sub.


Daryl Moulder
Prince George, BC

Unknown said...

Great Site, Last week, I got ahold of the control console out of one of the GF6Cs! After learning they only built 6, i kinda feel privilidged to own the console.
It wasn't in the best shape, but I am sanding it down and getting ready for repainting. This unit was missing its airbrake control assembly, but everything else is there. Still had the pacesetter unit, and the Tmacc Train event recorder.

Thank you for your diagrams, they really helped. I had a few questions, there are two small knobs that control something pneumatic on the left hand side of the control console, right above the alarm silencer button. Would you know what they are? There is also a switch marked CDU, that appears to have been written in white pen, Im not sure what it is for.

The other item I can not identify is a missing panel, its directly left of the speedometer and pressure guages, in the diagram its marked LIC.

I would like to find a radio unit to put in it. My plan for the unit is to convert it so it will be the master control to my G Scale garden locomotive.

I can send you pics if you are interested.



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