Southern Pacific 9010

Jim Evans Photo

The Ground Relay

I got "separated" (by the SP) about two weeks after the first K-M hood units showed up in Roseville.  I did get to hostle the 9004 from the "launching pad" at Roseville to the ready tracks.  My favorite story came after the SP gave up on the K-M's.  I'm not sure if it was told in retrospective, or maybe was told of one of the ALCo's that lasted a while longer.  A Western man, R.J. Kelly, gets called for an Oakland-bound TBX from Bayshore.  A long while after he's on duty, the Bayshore roundhouse foreman becomes aware that he's still sitting on the track that was usually reserved for #374's power.  The RH foreman calls Kelly about why he's not moving.  "I can't get the Ground Relay to reset."  You shouldn't have to think about that one for long.

Anyone need an explanation, let me know.

Tom Irion 2008

Workin' On The "Krauts"

I have a few stories of working on the "Krauts".  They were interesting beasts.  Not everyone liked them.  I always suspected the shop guys hated them.

The best one was coming west on the Cal-P in 1964 with the 9021 (ed: a cab unit).  Somewhere between Davis and Suisun, everything goes to hell.  The air goes into full service.  The power dies.  The bells, lights, etc.

We look at each other and go, "What the Hell?".

I go back to see what blew up, to find the face plate of the engine room control panel on the deck.  It had fallen off and cut all the switches off!!  These were pretty much like light switches; up was "on" and down was "off".  The face plate, when it came off, tripped all these to "off".

So I take the plate and put it aside.  Turn everything on and restart the unit.  By this time we are stopped.  Went back to the head-end and told the runner what had happened.  Seems as though the West Oakland shop guys tried to "repair" the face plate's missing screws with stock US thread screws, which did not work on Metric.  DUH?

A couple of weeks later, while BS-ing with a fireman off the Sacto Div. the subject came up.  He told me that he "fixed it".  He picked up the face plate, after it had fallen off, AGAIN! and threw it in a hay field!!!  Yep.  THAT "fixed it".

In 1963 I caught the "beets" out of Tracy for Union City.  My engineer was J.R. McHale.  So we have these 3-4 "Black Widows" and to K-Ms (Carbodies) for helpers, on the point.  B.  "Smokey" Weslar was the helper runner.  We are slogging it out up Altamont, on our hands and knees at Midway, and Mac is pissing and moaning about how the krauts are junk with no power.  I told him they had had lots of power. . . if you would run them at full throttle.  (Remember, the K-Ms had a 16-position throttle vs. the US built stuff at 8.)

Mac says "What makes you think Weslear isn't running wide open?".

"Well, if you look in the cab at the tach on the back wall (of the trailing helper) it is only about 3/4 of the way up the scale".  Mac goes ballistic and calls Smokey on the radio to tell him "stop dogging it!"  Guess what?  The tach needle goes right up to the top end.

That same trip, the beets out of Tracy, we put the power on the head end and the helper couples up.  During the air test, a hose between the K-<s and Black Widows blew out.  Well, O.K.  We are in the yard and so what's the big deal?  The shop guys should come over and replace the B.O. hose, right?  Well, not right away.

Now.  You know this, and I know this.  But the K-M tech that was there at the time had a blue fit.  he could not get it in his head why the engine crew could not just take a hose (which all the units had in their "pieces-parts" bins) and FIX IT!   Guess what, "Gunter", this is America, not Germany.  So after about an hour, the show gets back on the road.

This same day (seems like Tracy was a "hot bed" for K-M stories) I got to chatting with "Gunter".  (No.  I don't recall the KM factory guy's real name.  "Gunter" just sounds good.  Who knows.)  During this conversation I was trying to get anything I could out of him on how the beasts worked.    He said two things:  1.) When the bells go off and the lights come on . . . it's too late.  2.) He told me, "I have no idea why your railroad is buying these locomotives.  America builds the finest diesel-electric locomotives in the world.  You call them Geeps".

When the K-Ms first came to the SP, 9000-9002, they were universally hated.  They had some kind of funky reverser thing that took, like a couple of minutes to work.  I am not sure what got done to them to make them "normal" as compared to any other diesel, but it did get gone.  I will say one thing about them, their cabs were QUIET!  Almost too much so.  I sort of liked them . . . except for the 9021 and the crap face plate.

McHale was the one who made the remark "Did anyone ever think about the Cardan shaft that was inches under our feet at "X" rpm's and only 3/4" of plywood between you and it???   Hmmm?"

One more K-M story.  Christmas day.  After the dispatcher finally gets around to send crews west out of Tracy to West Oakland, about midnight, I get two K-Ms with Dick Bragg as my hoghead.

We were all pissed that "God" (read "Dispatcher") had held us on HAHT (Held Away from Home Terminal) so long and we were not going to get home at a decent hour for Christmas with our families.  The conductor was Cy Holcomb (lived about four blocks from me in American Canyon/Napa Junction).  We had a green head brakeman.  It was cold, foggy and dark.  At Pittsburgh, we had a setout that had to go in "Gum 1" and double to "Gum 2".

We made the cut on the main.  Shoved Gum 1.  Cut off and pulled to set over into Gum 2.  As we were pulling out of Gum 1, the units started to bog down.  More power.  Sand.  More power.  Dick says, "I thought these things had power?".  I said, "They do."  Dick says, "Well, they don't . . .".

POW!  The air goes in.
So I go back and in the gloom of the fog there are three high-cube chip cars "sort of on their sides".

The deal was that the new brakeman did not know how to read the high switch stand target that was the joint track for the Santa Fe and the SP yard.  He split the switch and then we pulled back through it.  (Those chip cars never look good with 110-pound rail up through their ends.)

I will say this:  those two K-Ms buckled down and pulled those cars through a bunch of rail, ties and ballast.

Yes, Dick.  They DO have power!

Dan Ranger 2008

They Were Fast

The only things I can remember about the KM's were that they were fast - very fast compared to a diesel-electric, and that I could never find the water gauge to determine if we had ample water in the radiators.  The trip to Oakland with the 9010 was at night, but the trip from Tracy to Bayshore was during a beautiful morning.  It was too bad that someone did not "shoot" us as we climbed the Altamont with a short train. 

Southern Pacific (and the Rio Grande) had a dual interest in buying the KM's.  Both railroads wanted EMD to develop higher horsepower units.  From what I have heard, EMD was happy to stay with the 567 prime mover.  The first order for the 4000 horsepower KM units did not not impress EMD, but when the SP put in the second order, they took note resulting in the SD-40 and SD-45, and as you know, the SP was the biggest buyer of the SD-45. 

While the SP wanted bigger units, I think they also hoped that the KM's would work out.  I can't think that they expected those units to be at the scrappers in but four or five years.  Sure glad we used the 9120 on that trip in 1967.

C.G. Heimerdinger Jr.  2008

The Last Trip That German Engine Ever Made

It was after April sometime in 1968 because I had been a switchman and I was called back as a fireman for a vegetable empty reefer drag from Roseville out of Oakland to Salinas.  The engineer was Augie Carilla and the only reason I remember the trip at all is because of what happened.  We had a German engine with I believe it was a F-unit trailing and we changed crews at 10th street in Oakland.  The inbound engineer told us that there was something wrong with the lead truck on the German engine because every time he went over a trailing point switch on his side,  the engine jumped around real heavily.  So Augie asked the engineer if he thought the engine should be changed there in Oakland and the engineer said, "No, we made it down from Roseville". 

So, Augie and I took the train and being as it is slow all the way out to Elmhurst, we didn't make very good speed but once we cleared Mulford and got rolling, the first switch that we went through with a trailing point on his side, the engine jumped violently and then settled right down. So, he slowed way down and pulled out past Mount Eden where there was a lot of open track with no crossings and we stopped and cut the engine off and he got down while I ran the engine ahead real slow while he walked and checked the wheels on the lead truck.  He couldn't see anything wrong at all so we tied the train back together and we went on to San Jose but at a reduced speed but still, every time we went over one of those switches, it would bounce around but not nearly as bad.  We put out a note at Newark to have the engine changed at San Jose which they probably would have done anyway. 

When we got to San Jose, they headed us in on number 33 track which was the longest track in the yard by the fence at FMC and when we got down to the end, they cut us off and we went to the roundhouse.  To go to the roundhouse, you had to pull down the Santa Clara lead right next to the College Park Tower and go over a crossover switch and then back through onto the roundhouse lead.  As we were backing through, we got to the second switch in the crossover and the engine derailed and went on the ground.  So, they sent us up to go eat and get our rest while they rerailed the engine.  When we came back after about 5 hours, they still hadn't got the engine back on the rail but they found out that the center axle had broken on the engineer's side right where it was pressed into the wheel.  When it dropped on the ground, it got cocked and got wedged between the point guard and the truck frame.  We assumed that this was probably the last trip that German engine ever made.

Errol B. Ohman  2008

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