Monday, January 4, 2016

Wellman Diesel Electric Locomotive Crane


Most railroad photographers aim at the “stars,” the thrill of the chase, the nailing of a specific motive power type, and perhaps building up “roster shots” of their favorite locomotives.

But there is a whole bunch of candidates for “best supporting actor."  Maintenance of Way (MOW) equipment and crews maintain track stability and safety, enabling the “stars” to shine.

CN 50368

My nominee for "'supporting actor" would b the Wellman Diesel-Electric Locomotive Crane. She had a beautiful four chime air horn, and just kind of trudged here and there, doing this and that, to keep the Skeena Subdivision running smoothly.


Shown here at Terrace, B.C., April 9, 1959, in her “traveling configuration” with her accompanying “boom car.” Depending on the job and distance from civilization, the boom car carried petroleum, oil and lubricants, as well as support equipment such as cables, blocks, turnbuckles, to support the assignment.


In addition to routine pick and place hooks, the Wellman could manipulate:

•  Tongs for clearing brush and snags out of ditches and culverts; removing debris from around bridge pilings.
•  Operate a clam shell bucket for material handling; sand, gravel, ballast.
•  Load rail and scrap metal with a powerful electromagnet.
•  Place cement with her concrete bucket.
•  Drive pilings with her pneumatic pile driver tool.


CNR 50368 was built by the Locomotive Crane Division of Wellington Engineering Company in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1958.

•  Serial Number:  4364
•  Weight:  184,l000# (92.05st)
•  12 foot outriggers
•  "Not to be handled over 20 mph (32km)"



Broadly speaking, while the self-propelled crane fussed around the yard doing this and that, they, like any other motive power, required written authority to operate beyond the Yard Limit sign. This included issuance of train orders for crane operator and foreman to advance to the work area. This is covered under "Rule 93." (PDF 1 MB)


I've got a large tin full of train orders, and last night, on a whim, dumped it out on the kitchen table. Low and behold, I found train order Form 19R, dated August 21, 1958, giving diesel-electric locomotive crane CNR 50368, operating rights as shown. Notice she is referred to as "ENG" engine, just like any other locomotive.


So that's the Dispatchers written authority to operate beyond the Prince Rupert Yard Limit sign. (Reminds me of a phrase I heard somewhere along my travels. "If the Dispatcher does not know where you are, neither does God!)"

But how to warn other traffic that the Wellman was on the job?

Digging further into the pile of flimsies, unbelievably I found train order Form 31, issued along with the Form 19R,relating to the crane 50368 work extra designation.


Leaving out the technicalities, Form 31 announced special conditions that could, if not paid attention to, result in a incident with a poor outcome, such as derailment or worse, collision, out on the Road.

Unlike the pinkish Form 19R, the 31 was printed on buff paper. Like the 19R, the 31 had to be carried by the engineer and conductor.  But unlike the 19R, Form 31 could not be passed up to the engine and caboose with a train order hoop.


The train had to stop. In "those days" the station train order paddle pointing to the ground. The engineer and conductor (and operator) had to sign the Form 31, insuring everyone was aware of track conflict.

And in this case, a warning that Work Special 50368  requires traffic to stop and take instructions from the foreman at the work site as to how to proceed safely past the work area.

[Ed Note:  It's remarkable that this Blog  — Oil-Electric — has connected me with several individuals who worked on the Skeena Sub during my apprenticeship as a Ferroequinologist back in the late 1950's!]

I've recently exchanged email with  Harry Kruisselbrink in Smithers (British Columbia) who is a former CNR operator, now train buff and has written a book on railroading ('Smithers: A Railroad Town.')

Look at the two train orders for ENG 50368. Both authorized by "AAN." So I asked Harry two questions:

1. Who was "AAN?"
2. Did he know Don Vaale, one of Prince Rupert's operators, who I wrote about in a Blog article?

Harry's response:

"AAN is Alf Nunweiler who was a dispatcher and worked in the CN station here in Smithers on the 2nd floor right above my office. He moved to Prince George when the whole dispatchers office was relocated there, he then went into politics and became the MLA for Fraser-Fort George from 1972-75 even serving as a Minister of Northern Development under Dave Barrett. Nice to see his initial on the train order you enclosed.

"Yes, I knew Don Vaale. In the late 1950s (maybe 1958) he was a yard operator in Smithers - he was just a young man then and had not been married for very long. As I recall, he went into the hotel business (I believe Don's father owned a hotel in Prince George at that time) and later became very successful at it and established a chain of hotels including the Aspen Hotel here in Smithers.

"I'm very familiar with "the bug". My boss, Eric Tycho, was an expert at it - in fact he, along with a number of other hotshot telegraphers were constantly told "slow it down. You're going so fast we can't read you!" What a compliment, eh! There is still an active Morse Code group in BC and, I believe,across Canada. I started to learn the Morse code but at that time teleprinters came to the northline and so I grew up with them and never really learned the Morse code."



Bruce, another retiree from Canadian National I've connected with thru my Blog, penned a fascinating piece in his "Caboose Coffee" blogspot about his experience out on the road, operating what sounds to be a cantankerous locomotive crane,  CNR 50368.

Here is an excerpt from his article:

"The train orders provided for us by the train dispatcher in Prince George, and copied by ur assigned train order operator gave us authority to operate as a 'work extra' which was designated "Work Extra 50368".

Our working limits were outlined in our orders and usually encompassed the main track between siding west switch Eddy and siding east switch Tete Jaune, a distance of nearly thirty miles. This was usually more than we required on any given day because the crane, pulling the caboose, idler and gondola would only make about 15 miles per hour on dry rail and being pushed by a tail wind.

The crane's main air reservoir feed valve had been having trouble maintaining standard air pressure for the brake system on the train. This resulted in the pressure dropping without notice, stopping the train and not allowing it to move again until the problem was overcome.

This ate up quite a bit of time and the Road Master was beginning to show some irritation because of the delays."


Self-propelled locomotive cranes can be traced back to the late 1800's, manufactured in Australia, Europe or the United Kingdom.

And they truly were — a locomotive with a crane!

This magnificent "rescue" was built in 1870.  Classed as 0-4-0, she worked continuously in Australia into the early 1980's!


Initially, the name "Wellman" had no connection to locomotive cranes. He was a steel man.


So ... you ask, how did Wellman's name become welded to the south end of a north bound locomotive crane?

It took me a while to sort it out. Let me explain.

There was a Samuel Thomas Wellman, an interesting character who made important contributions in the late 1880's to the early industrialization of the United States.


Born in 1847, Wellman went on to be a major contributor to technology in the burgeoning steel industry.


■  In 1873, Wellman was selected by Charles Augustus Otis to oversee construction and serve as chief engineer and superintendent of its Lakeside Works in Cleveland. Wellman installed the first commercially successful basic open-hearth furnace in the U.S., which soon eclipsed the Bessemer process in 1886, and introduced mechanized charging, contributing to Otis's rise as one of the nation's most dynamic small producers.

And yes, he did design and Patent a crane —  a hydraulic crane — in 1871!  He subsequently made great improvement on its design and operation in 1878.

So while Wellman did design a crane, it was not a locomotive crane. His water-actuated hydraulic crane was used in the operation of an open hearth furnace. Among other inventions, Wellman invented the electromagnet used for lifting and sorting iron and steel.

■  1896. Building on his success with Otis, the Wellman-Seaver Engineering Co., was founded by Samuel T. Wellman, his brother, Charles. H. Wellman, and John W. Seaver, to engineer and design steel mills and industrial plant equipment.

■  In 1901, Thomas R. Morgan joined the firm, re-incorporating as Wellman-Seaver-Morgan Company. As Wellman-Seaver-Morgan contracted business from all over the world, it concentrated on expanding its material-handling equipment.


One of the company's executives, George H. Hulett, invented the Hulett Unloader. Eventually, 77 of these hypnotic  machines were constructed, revolutionizing the Great Lakes ore industry .

■  In 1930, the corporate name was changed to the Wellman Engineering Company.

■  In 1954 the Cleveland-based McDowell, Inc., an international construction and engineering firm, acquired Wellman, becoming Wellman-McDowell .

■  In April 1956, a fellow by the name of Martin Preston designed and patented (PDF 476 KB) this locomotive crane, assigning the manufacturing rights to Wellman - McDowell Engineering. The Wellman Diesel Electric Locomotive Crane was born! 

And that's how Samuel T. Wellman's name ended up welded on the south end of a north bound diesel electric locomotive crane!

Meanwhile, another locomotive crane was giving Wellman stiff competition. Ohio Locomotive Crane Company was founded in 1909 by Charles F. Michael. Located on North Sandusky Avenue in Bucyrus, Ohio, the first crane that was built only had four wheels, a framed cab with a coal burning boiler and a stubby boom made mostly of channel. In 1915 the plant was relocated to Southern Avenue where is it still located today.



■  In June 1960, Ohio Locomotive Crane Company purchased the Wellman-McDowell Engineering of Cleveland, to acquire the diesel electric traction drive system, a design that was becoming well known and preferred over the previous diesel mechanical drive the Ohio company had been using for many years.

■  "Wellman" carbodies carried the "Ohio" logo after 1960.

■  The company names and owners have changed over time and now is called American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. American & Ohio Locomotive Crane Co. is still located in Bucyrus, Ohio.


Finally here is a great video of Ohio (Wellman design,) CP414222 on assignment. Remember, built in 1976 after Ohio acquisition, hence the "Ohio" logo.

The model DE400, had a top speed of 60 miles per hour, as opposed to the DE300 rated at 25 miles per hour.

And how's this for the "Odd Ball" collection? Simply remove the boom (which may have been damaged) and utilize the diesel-electric car body!

Shown with permission, Robert Krol
Alaska Railroad runs a Wellman Diesel-Electric as a "Car Mover!  Apparently she's still on the active roster!

3 Comments - Click here:

Matt Farnsworth said...

Your mention of a four chime horn is interesting. Most horns designed and marketed for locomotive use in North America were single, two, three or five chime. Though there were a few types of four chime locomotive horns made they were quite rare. I have tried to find out what type that may have been on the CN 50368 but haven't been able to find any pictures of it other that what you posted. I do know that often MOW equipment had horns that are actually truck horns rather than locomotive horns so that may explain it.

Bruce said...

Love your coverage of Wellman Cranes, and in particular, the 50368 which I had experience with on CN's Tete Jaune sub in the fall of 1970. These are great photos of that crane and I enjoyed seeing it again. Great blog. Thanks, Bruce Harvey

Bruce said...

Matt, I believe that your observation regarding truck horns being installed on MOW equipment is well founded. In fact, the 50368 did have a four chime truck-style horn in 1970 when I worked with it between Jasper and Prince George.

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