Rebuilding a diesel engine from the ground up…

EMD 16-567 Engine Update

Several years ago, EMD GP-9 1732 suffered engine damage while in service… Further examination revealed that the crankshaft had broken-effectively sidelining the locomotive. At that time, the required scope of repairs was in excess of available resources required to perform that work, so the 1732 was set aside for future attention. In order to understand the eventual and future scope of repair, some background information is in order.

A failed crankshaft on a railroad diesel engine entails a complete teardown inspection in order to ascertain the degree of damage to the engine block, or in EMD parlance, the crankcase. First, the engine needs to be removed from the locomotive-not an insignificant task for a small railroad operation lacking in-house heavy lifting capability. Then, all of the power assemblies (heads, pistons, rods, and liners) must be removed, along with all the accessory items that are bolted to either end of the engine. Only then, can the crankcase be separated from the oil pan, rotated 180 degrees along its long axis in preparation for removal of the main bearing caps and then… the crankshaft. By now, it should be obvious that the scope of the tear-down labor component is rather excessive, considering that the minimum labor outlay will effectively be doubled in order to re-assemble and re-install the engine. Additionally, we haven’t even considered scope of repairs on the crankcase or acquisition of required material, i.e, crankshaft, engine gasket set and a whole host of other items-at a minimum.

With this entire in mind, it can be safely stated that this path is not a viable option, given the limited use the locomotive will see and the ongoing competition for scarce resources with other projects. Some might even view this option as a veritable “bottomless pit” or “black hole.”

The next option would be the acquisition of another diesel engine. Once again, a new or completely “rebuilt” engine would fall way outside the budget. Another choice would be the purchase of an “RTO” or “running take out” engine. In other words, an engine that is operable, and has been or will be removed from an operable locomotive. While this option can be less costly than those discussed previously, this course of action is not without attendant pitfalls.

The EMD GP-9, equipped with the 16-567C engine is one of the most, if not the most, popular locomotives ever to ply the rails. Long ago banished from Class 1 railroad service, this design still enjoys considerable popularity in regional, short line and industrial railroad applications. It is estimated that approximately half of the 4,000 plus units, constructed over forty years ago, are still in service. Many of these GP-9’s have undergone considerable mechanical and electrical upgrades in order to suit modern operating conditions and maintenance practices. Accordingly, pricing for complete locomotives has historically kept up with inflation-so much so that several examples of the GP-9 have been re-sold in excess of their original delivery price!!! In turn, this state-of-affairs maintains ongoing pressure on the supply of spares found in the second-hand market. At any given time, the supply of RTO engines can be limited.

Yet another issue pertains to the type of warranty (if any) offered by the seller-not to mention shipping and ultimately off-loading at Thomaston Shop. If this sounds like a case of the “moon and stars being in correct alignment” to conclude a successful deal, I wouldn’t argue the point.

A closing thought: Roy D Chapin, Jr., the automotive scion who purchased the Jeep brand for American Motors once said, “Be ready when opportunity comes… Luck is the time where preparation and opportunity meet.”

—Submitted by RMNE Locomotive Staff

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts about the RMNE’s ongoing process to rebuild its EMD 567-C engine block in order to return our GP9 1732 back to service. —DRM

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