What is 28 feet 4 inches long, weighs 100,000 pounds (plus or minus a few hundred), is almost fifty years old, is bright yellow with red trim and pulls excursion trains over the last existing tracks of the original Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad. If you answered anything other than the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad's General Electric locomotive number 46; stay after school!
The 46 has been in active service on the LS&M RR now for about eight seasons. It has been in our possession about ten years. What is the history of this little engine? This paper will attempt to help the reader understand more about the LS&M's first locomotive.
It all began in Park Falls Wisconsin. Park Falls is a quiet, small town in north central Wisconsin, about 100 miles from Duluth MN. The principle industry in Park Falls is a paper mill owned by the Flambeau Paper Co.
In the spring of 1945, as World War II was coming to an end, new plans for a prosperous future were in the air. The Flambeau Paper Co. management decided that their present class 10-26 1/4 D double end saddle tank steam engine was not as cost effective as it used to be. A replacement needed to be found!
Our history of the 46 begins with a letter dated Feb. 22, 1945, from a T.A. Webster (a sales engineer for Duluth's GE office). It seems that Mr. Webster had just sold a 45-ton diesel-electric locomotive to Northwest paper in Cloquet Minnesota. Mr. Webster felt Flambeau paper Co. should inspect Northwest paper's locomotive after it's scheduled April production. A copy of the operation costs report he had made to Northwest paper was included along with specifications for the locomotive. It appears that the locomotive Northwest paper purchased was also ballasted to 50-tons as is the LS&M 46.
The management of Flambeau must have inspected Northwest's locomotive sometime in the summer of 1945. Our next letter from Mr. Webster is dated October 1, 1945 and includes a summary of an investigation made by a Mr. Gettelman and him on September 26, 1945.
The report on the investigation conducted on the 26th of September included a blueprint of the grades at the Park Falls mill. It was determined that 27,000 pounds of tractive effort would be needed because at one point, in the Park Falls mill area, the track grade rises over five feet in 300 feet (1.7%) and the predicted train load would be 365 tons . The 45-ton locomotive would have about 30% adhesion resulting in more that enough pulling power for this situation. An extra five tons of weight would be added to the locomotive because trainline brakes were not to be installed in the #46, only straight air engine brakes. The practice of using only engine brakes in an industrial situation was common to save the time needed to pump up the air on the cars that needed to be moved.
Below is Mr. Webster's quote for a locomotive based on that investigation:
1 - 300-HP, 50-ton locomotive to include the standard accessories in accordance with specifications RY-24148E with the following additions or omissions:
A. Locomotive will be equipped with straight air braking only.
B. Locomotive will be ballasted to 50 tons.
C. Locomotive will be equipped with spark-arrester type mufflers.
D. A mechanical type speedometer with odometer attachment will be furnished.
E. Left side mirrors outside mounted will be furnished.
F. Left side windshield wipers will be furnished making a total of four windshield wipers to be furnished on the locomotive.
Total price of above locomotive F.O.B. Erie PA. $24,670
The services of a Field Engineer for one week to instruct Flambeau men in the use and operation included in the above price.
In October of 1945 Mr. Webster sent a letter to Flambeau Paper Co. and in that letter he explained "HOW THE LOCOMOTIVE WORKS". Remember this is a company that has used steam for just about all it's operations at the plant. Forty years ago the diesel locomotive was a new and unknown device. It seems that Flambeau Paper Co. was interested in the possibility of using only one engine on the locomotive. Mr. Webster quotes from the operation manual "With only one power plant-" "Do not try to pull more than half of the normal load" do "watch the load indicator of the power plant in operation and follow the rules given with respect of its indication." I wonder if Flambeau Paper Co. was thinking about saving money by operating on one engine, or did they figure it would help if one quit running they could still use the locomotive.
The next letter is dated March 21, 1946 and is a updated quote with the addition of cab insulation for the "satisfactory operation in this climate". Northwest Paper had been using their 45-tonner for 10 months now and Mr. Webster felt Flambeau should also insulate for crew comfort. The additional cost for insulation was $110.00. (Author's note: I have drilled into the cab and I can attest to the fact that there is indeed insulation in there. It gets wound around the drill and makes a mess.)
Well on April 20, 1946 Flambeau Paper Co. ordered the locomotive and the final price was $24,760.00 plus shipping and extra parts. The locomotive went through the Erie plant in October of 1946. The locomotive was shipped in late December. The date it went into service appears to be 1/13/47, that is the date the field technician installed the batteries and checked the charging rate.
The factory invoice lists the locomotive as a "50 TON DIESEL ELECTRIC LOCOMOTIVE, 300 HP-B-B-100/100-2GE733 SERIAL #27937 - DL - 6792263". The date it left Erie was Dec. 28, 1946 and loaded on C&NW flatcar 43769. It traveled over the New York Central to the Soo Line whom delivered it to Flambeau Paper Co.. It was shipped COLLECT! Shipping weight including spare parts and tools (less batteries) was 100,700 lbs.
The engine was painted the same as the Northwest's 45-tonner. The engine was TRACTOR Yellow with diagonal BLACK stripes. It kind of looked like a huge bumble bee!
The original HB series engines in the locomotive lasted until 1959. In August of that year a set of H-6-BI Cummins engines were installed in 46 for a total cost of $6,200.00. The first date that a Cummins salesman gave Flambeau paper Co. an estimate was in 1952. Was it possible Flambeau had trouble with the first set of engines that soon? This was the first major expense I can find for the locomotive except for problems with the charging of batteries. The replacement appeared to be done in the Flambeau paper Co. shops with the labor supplied by the engine dealer.
Eight new wheels were installed in 1962, 1964, 1971 and another set was installed in 1979. Traction motor and main generator replacements occurred in 1968, 1971, 1975, 1979 and 1982. It seems they rebuilt them and then had to replace them a short time later anyway. An item of interest in the traction motor/generator story happened at the time of the 1975 replacement. It seems a problem was noticed in early 1974 and two brand new motor-generator sets were ordered on a quotation from the Appelton Wisconson GE sales office. This quotation specified a total cost of $2300.00 for each set of motor-generator. When the units finally came to Park Falls over a year later and were installed, the total bill including instalation came to $15,000. After many letters back and forth a compromise was reached at $9500.00 for the exchange.
The engines that are now in the locomotive are the third set since it was built. These were installed in October of 1974 at Park Falls. They are Cummins model N855-L1. They each put out 175 horsepower at 1700 RPMs. Their bore is 5 1/2 inches and stroke is 6 inches. They displace a total of 855 cubic inches (both engines equal three cylinders of a modern General Motors engine). They bear serial numbers 10419173 and 10431213. They cost Flambeau Paper Co. $10,686.00 installed. These engines are the same as used in many over the road trucks and parts are available at most truck stops.
It also is evident that at least two times, while Flambeau Paper Co. owned the 46, they had to replace the axle bearings in the trucks. That was the main reason that the Flambeau Paper Co. stopped using the locomotive, one of those bearings had gone bad again. It was easier to get a used EMD engine than fix the old one.
The original yellow and black lasted until 1976 at which time the 46 was repainted red and silver. This paint was faded very badly when the LS&M received the locomotive.
In the 40+ years since it left Erie PA. the locomotive 46 has not been very far from its home. Now that the LS&M is using it on the New Duluth run this is probably the longest movement it has ever made over the rails. As far as I can tell, since it was unloaded from the C&NW flatcar in 1947 it did not leave the plant area of Flambeau Paper Co. until we loaded it on a flatbed truck to bring it here to Duluth. We had to truck it because of the damaged bearing and because with the side rods and double gear reduction it cannot ever be moved on its own wheels over 20 miles per hour unless traction motors and side-rods are removed.
Since coming to the LS&M the 46 has had the burned out bearings fixed on the defective truck, an all new air brake system (26L) has been installed, one wheel changed to replace a cracked one, one main generator re-built, the truck equalizers repaired and rebuilt, one traction motor re-built, and it also has been repainted bright yellow with red trim. The LS&M has spent more money on the engine, since its donation, than the Flambeau paper Co. paid for it in 1946. The locomotive runs good and we have found that the it is very well suited for our operation. When both of the Cummins engines are adjusted so that they pull together and the rails are dry the 46 can pull our train with power to spare. The 46 is a bit "Slippery when wet" and anything above walking speed is fast around the 46. We seem to have an excellent locomotive for our type of operation. The ability to function when one end quits has saved the day more than once. All excursion operations should only consider locomotives with more than one engine. It gets awful quiet when the locomotive stops on the main line with 200 or more tourists in the cars behind it!
The body of the 46 is in average condition and much better than most automobiles over five years old. The engines seem to be good for a few more years of the light use we give them. The sander need to be replaced and the air compressors rebuilt, but the engine has a long life ahead of it pulling passengers.
In October of 1996, the 46 will be 50 years old. We hope it will serve the LS&M and the City of Duluth for many more years.
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