"Unstoppable" and the American diesel electric locomotive

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"Unstoppable" and the American diesel electric locomotive

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Nov 13, 2010, 2:40pm

I saw the movie Unstoppable yesterday and thought it was just beautiful and so exciting that it leapt right over the plot holes.

It brought to mind, however, the fact that for a long time I've been curious about two things regarding American diesel electric locomotives (I assume that they are still diesel electric) that are not covered in any of the books I have seen and only skimpily cover in an issue of Trains published within the past couple of years.

I would like to know more than the average man what is in the cabin, cockpit, flight deck, bridge, or whatever of the locomotive and how things work there. And I would like to know what's under the hood, what connects that to the wheels, and so forth.

I there a lavishly illustrated book that shows and describes those things?



Modificato: Nov 13, 2010, 11:49pm

Athough something of a rail buff, I'm not an expert on locomotives, and am not mechanical. Looking through LT, a fairly common book seems to be: The Contemporary Diesel Spotter's Guide: A Comprehensive Reference Manual to Locomotives Since 1972 by Louis A. Marre. I'm not sure how many illustration of the innards of a locomotive there might be.

A nice book I saw listed at Amazon.com is Locomotives: The Modern Diesel and Electric Reference by Greg McDonnell.

Modificato: Nov 14, 2010, 12:46am

I'll look at both of those; thanks.


PS It occurred to me that the word I was looking for in my third paragraph was probably 'cab.'


Nov 14, 2010, 9:15am

Cab is right.

Living on Long Island, there aren't too many diesels, as this is emu territory, with relatively few freight (goods) trains.

Nov 14, 2010, 9:25am

There are quite often photos of the inside of loco cabs on www.railpictures.net, but not sure how you would search for them if you were looking for them specifically.

Nov 14, 2010, 1:40pm

Thank you, John. I've saved that.

I think I'm looking for some explanation and narrative too. I thumbed through a book at a bookstore. It had one picture of the inside of a cab and mentioned that it even had a conductor's desk. I'd like to know more about the development of things like that. When did we lose the fireman? That was the source or major illustration of the word 'featherbedding' in the sixties. What does the throttle quadrant or panel or whatever look like? And so forth.

I also want to see what is diesel, what is compressor, what is generator, etc., etc. under the hood with labeling and some explanation.

I live too far from railroads in general to look at them in person, and those details may be open only to journalists and railroad men anyway.


Modificato: Nov 15, 2010, 8:38am

I don't have a good reference for US practice, either. Sooner or later an American diesel buff will post here with a link to a good historical or technical work, but unfortunately most railway books these days, especially the ones you are likely to see in non-specialist bookshops, tend to be heavy on photographs and light on text. I'm currently reading 9489652::Railroads in the African American experience, which is excellent and covers at least some of the social/labour history questions you have, but is probably a bit too specialised for what you need.

For a quick fix, there's a lot of background about railway engineering on the Railway Technical Web Pages. Their diesel page: http://www.railway-technical.com/diesel.shtml has a cross-section of a US-style diesel engine that might answer some of your questions. Another thing you might perhaps like to try is playing with a simulator - even the obsolescent Microsoft Train Simulator, which you can get for around 10 dollars these days, has pretty good representations of train dynamics and lets you get an idea of how the controls work in practice.

ETA: The collection of diesel loco operating manuals referenced from the RTWP article is now here: http://www.rr-fallenflags.org/manual/manual.html - that should give you some idea about typical control layouts for older locos.

Nov 15, 2010, 10:01am

To see pictures of the inside of diesel and steam cabs on Railpictures go to the home page and look on the left hand side. Under the heading "Categories" is one for "In-cab" click on that and you will get the phone book.

As for details about how it works and recommendations concerning books on same I'd recommend posting your question either on the OGR forum


under the discussion section "Real Trains" or over on the Trains forum


both sites have contributors who actually run diesels and steam and I know both sites have contributors who could point you to the books you seek.

Nov 15, 2010, 4:50pm

thorold, the top page at your first link is replete. I'll be going back to it to pore over it and see where it takes me. I tried to access a couple of manuals at the second link, and neither would load; I'll try again later.

mersenne6, I was happy to join the trains site; I've known that publisher for 50 years, and was happy to see that I could be a part of it. I also found the locomotive section of the site; I'll be asking my question there soon enough. It may take me a while to approach the oguagerr site which looked on the face of it to be a little complicated (unlike LibraryThing where you have to did to find the complications). I am very happy to have the tip on digging the pictures out of Railpictures.

Thank you both very much.