Sunday, February 12, 2017

F-9A Diesel-electric locomotive

Today we share something completely different  - a General Motors Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. (EMD) model F-9A diesel electric locomotive which painted in the dark green and yellow colors of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway (SP&S RR) displayed on the grounds of the Columbia Gorge Interpretative Center Museum near Stevenson Washington.

Click to enlarge this cutaway F9 drawing from a GM brochure

The locomotive has a 4 foot 8 1⁄2 inch gauge, 40 inch wheels and is 50 feet 8 inches long, 10 feet 8 inches wide and stands 15 feet tall.  Depending on gearing a F-9A locomotive could attain a top speed of105 miles per hour with a 21-tooth pinion and 56 tooth axle gear. With a total weight of 258,000 pounds fully fueled with 1200 gallons of fuel oil  200 gallons of cooling and 230 gallons of oil  water the locomotive's center of gravity was 63 inches above the rails.

A schematic from the F9 Operating Manual

EMD began production in early 1954 as one of the final first generation models of the series 16-cylinder model 567C 45 degree V-type two-stoke diesel that displaced 567 cubic inches  per cylinder, with a 8-1/2 inch bore and 10 inch stroke for a total of 9,072 cubic inches that could produce a hefty 1,750 horsepower at 800 revolutions per minute (RPM). The engine sat backwards in the locomotive with generator just behind the cab.  

A direct current (DC) 600 volt generator powered four D37 traction motors one on each powered axle to produce 40,000 pounds of continuous tractive effort and 56,500 pounds of starting effort. In addition an alternator supplied AC power for cooling fans and blowers. Three levers - selector, throttle and reverse - and two brake air valve handles controlled the operation of the locomotive. The F-9A Operating Manual encompassed 534 pages.

Just 100 F9As were built at the EMD La Grange, Illinois plant before production ended in the spring of 1960. This unit was one of 39 purchased by the Northern Pacific railroad between 1953 and 1956; Northern Pacific was the largest single purchaser of the 18 railroads that bought EMD F-9A locomotives.  

This locomotive is painted as one which met passengers from the North Coast Limited which ran 1892 miles from Chicago’s Union Station to Seattle’s King Street Station. The North Coast Limited could typically make the run from Chicago to Seattle in just less than two days or 46 hours, and was renowned for its excellent food and the Vista Dome cars for panoramic viewing as the train ran through Yellowstone National Park. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) discontinued service on the North Coast Limited line on October 1, 1979

Passengers headed to Portland Oregon disembarked the North Coast Limited and embarked on the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway Route #1 at Pasco Washington which passed through Stevenson Washington on tracks adjacent to the Columbia River which can be overlooked from the Center’s property.  

In March 1970 Northern Pacific, Great Northern, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway merged to form Burlington Northern which purchased the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in 1996 to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway. Later renamed BNSF the corporation was purchased by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 2009.

BNSF donated this F-9A car body (no mechanicals) to the Columbia Gorge Interpretative Center Museum which has completed the exterior and cab restoration. The Museum hopes someday to complete the interior restoration and use the locomotive as the basis of a virtual reality exhibit. Check out Museum’s website at
Photo by the author

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