Friday, February 15, 2019

How Wabtec/GE Locomotives are made

Since I have notes about Progressive Rail(Caterpillar)/EMD locomotive manufacturing, it is only fair that I write some notes about GE locomotives. Especially since I came across a couple of videos that do the heavy lifting for me.

GE was able to make a locomotive that met the Tier 4 deadline. EMD is making a Tier 4 locomotive, but I recently read that UP is putting most of the 100 units it bought into storage because of electrical problems.

GE Transportation was recently merged with Wabtec in a $11.1 billion deal. Wabtec is the current name for the Westinghouse operation that invented air brakes. They have expanded into other railroad technologies such as PTC (Positive Train Control) equipment.

Maria Ko
[I didn't realize the wheel flanges were so small.]
GE's original plant was in Erie, PA. I don't know if this is the facility that Alco used when they built locomotives. I've learned they build their engines in Grove City, PA. They also moved a lot of the locomotive production from Erie to a million sq. ft. facility in Fort Worth, TX (16 photos). In fact, for a while they were talking about closing Erie. At least they kept the production in the USA. I don't know what combination of cheap land, cheaper taxes, and union busting prompted the move. There is no point reading articles about the move because no one is going to honestly say "we moved to bust the unions," if that was the case.

Waxhaw Railroads created an album with 18 photos titled "Locomotive #7109."
Building a new locomotive has taken on a whole new proposition. This new assembly plant for General Electric is located in Ft. Worth, TX, where BNSF #7109 was built. That's [B-urlington N-orthern S-ante F-e] Railway. #7109 is the new ES44C4, [E-volution S-eries, 44-00 hp, type- C4].
CSX Transportation uses an older sister locomotive, the ES44DC.

The engines, or prime movers for the locomotive are GEVO12-4 [G-e, EVO-lution, 12-cylinder, 4-stroke], enormous 4400 hp engines. They turn the generator that produces the electricity for the electric motors [called "traction motors"] on the axles.

This is actually an assembly plant where compenents are put together. Different sections have been built elsewhere and are assembled at the Ft. Worth plant. Here are the six-axle trucks.

...and cabs are waiting to be installed onto the frame.

The giant overhead crane moves heavy parts around. The pieces are starting to look like a locomotive! Once all of the components are present and production is moving along, it generally takes 5 days for the assembly of one locomotive.

6Here is a graphic of what it looks like "under the hood."

The grey primer paint has been applied to the locomotive. 

A final coat of paint adds a gleam to the engine! Now for the striping and lettering.

Now she's finished and all dressed up and ready to test the rails! Hooray, a birthday!!

But this big beast needs a push from this little Bobcat to place it on the transfer table to go to the tracks. The locomotive weighs in at a staggering 462,000 [231 tons!] So, can this little Bobcat S850 pull it? Yes!

On to the transfer table it goes. The Bobcat has done its work.

Here is the builder's plate on the locomotive. The weight difference is due to the fuel, oil, water and crew.

This is where it is headed: to a line of engines head west to the BNSF yard for delivery. But while we were gone, the Bobcat has had a problem. Yes, it pulled the 462,000 pounds...

...but, NO, it didn't stop it. Just two weeks after assembly began at the new plant, this over-anxious locomotive needed to test the rails on the right. A runaway!!

Right through the fence it went until it hit the ground. What can stop 462,000 pounds? Only the brakes of the locomotive. And it was turned off. It got away. It made a mess.

Just WOW. How do you explain this to the boss? Or do you just go ahead and pack your bags and move? Well, it took a while to get it back in. The plant had no machinery for "disposition plan B." And this story was not exactly "planned."

The good news: but they did manage it. Here is #7109 sailing down the rails, free of the confines of a plant! You may see it in Waxhaw one day. That is why I post when "foreign power" [a reference to 'another railroad'] comes through town.

The Ft. Worth plant has now produced over 1,000 locomotives, for all of the US railroad lines. Here is a face-shot of the Kansas City Southern RR #4911. For some of you, it might be 'a face only a mother would love' but for the rest of us, she is a beautiful, yet powerful machine. And a lot smaller than 4400 horses would be! Thanks for listening to the story of locomotive construction and one locomotive BNSF #7109. Keep your eyes open... she may come through Waxhaw soon!
Pat Kitto Seems impossible to ever move this back on the tracks??
Waxhaw Railroads Pat Kitto just takes the right machines.... which they didn't have and had to call in.

(new window)

(new window) I can't believe they didn't hand the "bubbly gal" a torque wrench to finish installing the the "oh wow" oil pressure sensor. Letting the public think that finger tight is OK hurts my brain. I really miss the WWII produced videos that had a professional narrator behind the scenes focused on providing information. (I still haven't figured out if one guy did many films back in the 1940s, or if several guys did "the narrator voice." Some of the GE videos also had Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame. So they are not sexist. Sometimes they include a "bubbly guy.")

2/22/2019: Union Workers 'send message' to Wabtec with 'practice picket' demonstration outside GE plant
McCracken says while workers are frustrated with wages, worker control over scheduling has been a major factor, too. According to a press release sent by the U.E. union rep, Wabtec’s proposal includes mandatory overtime.

A 2:10 video about the plant

1 comment:

  1. While deleting a bunch of spam comments, I inadvertently deleted a relevant comment on this post. The comment indicated that the motive for Fort Worth was union busting. Erie is a union shop, but Fort Worth is not. The new management is trying to gut the current contract so the union is bracing for a strike. The company has had production problems in Fort Worth because the turnover is high. If I remember correctly, the comment said that the pay was low in Fort Worth.