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06-16-2011, 10:37 AM #21
Joe it isn't complete hell in a handbag for US industry. It just seems like a lot of that stuff is moving south. When I was with Alstom, they were at the time comissioning a WaldrichSeigen lathe that could swing about 30ft dia, and suspend 350ton turbine shafts for nuclear steam turbines down in Chatanooga. I think that was well over a billion dollar plant expansion. While I believe they had to demolish the old steam drum shop to build this new turbine shop it really wasn't too big of a loss since most modern boilers are going supercritical anyhow with no drums. When I was in Chatanooga I believe they were also getting a few new large heavy equipment factories in town too. I seem to recall maybe it was Volvo or someone opening a huge plant.
Meanwhile here's a neat company to check out. Spirit AeroSystems I heard on the news yesterday that Boeing intends to crank out 2, 737 aircraft each day until 2014! In my opinion Boeing looks like one of those dumb outsource everything MBA screwed up companies who barely seems to be building aircraft anymore. However spend a few moments cruising Spirit's site. Here's their work on that 737 Spirit AeroSystems - Boeing 737 If you ask me Spirit looks like they build more of Boeing's aircraft than Boeing. Most of their work gets done in Kansas, and Oklahoma.
Looking around Spirit's site it looks like they may have taken a lot of photos down, but I recall when I saw pictures of their fuselage buildup floors with row after row of these massive cylindrical objects all I could think to was the photos of the old locomotive works with their partially assembled locomotives. If you ask me, with Spirit having to deliver 2 fuselages a day for the 737's alone for the next two years that is a ton of stimulus!
So it isn't all lost but sure isn't what it used to be.
06-16-2011, 01:39 PM #22
The massive steam locomotives that emerged from the ALCO Schenectady works were the final refinement of a long line of machines. Mention was made in the thread about aircraft manufacturing today, and I often think that building steam locomotives in the past was the equivelent of todays aero industry- ideas, the need for speed and operating efficiency, materials development and the evolution of the machine tools necessary to do the job. The running repair and overhaul of steam locos always seemed a bit basic, but factories such as ALCOs were often in the vanguard of manufacturing technology and foundry work. And as ALCO proved with some of their final passenger locos, a little bit of aesthetics and bling didnt hurt the cause.
I have a VHS tape from 2001 titled 'Iron Horse Schenectady - Locomotives for the World'. It is the story of the American Locomotive Company and was produced by WMHT Educational Communications. It might still be available, and is worth a viewing.
The attached thumbnail is of the antithesis of the last ALCO steam giants. It is a little narrow guage loco supplied to Cuba by the Dickson Manufacturing Co in 1900. Dickson was later to be a part of ALCO.
06-16-2011, 10:29 PM #23
I've spent the last 16 years going into industrial plants trying to salvage some of America's historic industrial machinery. Sometimes I am the last person to visit before the wrecking ball, Moltrup Steel, Greenville Steel Car, Weirton Steel blooming mill, Niagra Machine Tool Works etc. and other times I know the end is near. Rest of Weirton Steel, WP Steubenville North plant, etc. I see firsthand the wanton destruction and think of the senselessness of it all.
I just want to keep a little bit of that industrial heritage around, and wherever I go my goal is to help preserve that memory. Whether its acquiring and moving equipment myself or merely assisting others in their projects, every little bit helps. I'm honored to have been the inspiration for more than one group to try to save industrial equipment and engines, and gladly give my time and expertise to help others get started, regardless of what the midget has to say about my rigging abilities.
With the Tod Engine safely ensconced in its own building where it can pass the time with other preserved historic relics, I've turned my attention to moving two more large pieces, the Westinghouse Corliss engine and a blast furnace scale car. I'm also giving a lot of time this summer to helping the Steel Industry Heritage Corporation get started on the long road toward the preservation of the Carrie blast furnaces. I really cannot talk up Carrie enough. It is the holy grail of industrial preservation in the US. I am so very honored that they let me use my talents to help keep the place standing, and I hope it does continue to stand for another hundred years.
I can't say enough how eternally grateful I am to those of you who have donated money, tools, supplies, and your days off to help with these various projects. I'll keep doing what I do as long as there are people who appreciate it.
06-16-2011, 11:33 PM #24
Actually, what is going on is everyone (including all of us) is picking a "piece" of our industrial heritage - and running with it.
I've mentioned the Ingersoll Rand Compressed Air Magazine article "The Last Iceman always makes money." This article describes the "lucky ones" who are able to make a going 21st century business of their 20th or 19th century work and interest.
And we have a larger and larger share going to museums, both public and private. The rise in private museums in the last 30 years (since 1980) is unexpected by me. There is the APM, the NEWSM, Tod, and several others that escape me. Some of these are quite small endeavors including the Greenfield Museum of Industrial Heritage which started in the last year or two in the old Wells Brothers factory in Greenfield.
And there are those of us who don't take up the museum banner, but do it on our own in "private."
In a way we're all becoming like the Ray Bradbury book Fahrenheit 451. You may remember that books were banned in that world: with no written word, interested and dedicated people would each take up and memorize a book. You became "the book." Want to read a book? You go find the person who "is the book" and have him tell it to you.
We're each of us the 'keepers of our flame.'
When the day comes (not if) we need that flame to rekindle an American (or intelligent) renaissance, we'll be here to do it. Unlike so many of our cultural bretheren, (i.e. Goldman-Sachs, the Federal Deficit, the gutting of an industrial country), maybe we won't be so eager to repeat the mistakes of the past.
That day can't come a moment too soon...
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06-17-2011, 12:52 AM #25
UTC just finished tearing down the old Carrier Plant at Carrier Circle here. I don't know how many millions of square feet of heavy buildings and warehouse buildings were taken down. Lots of history there also. GE built the buildings in WWII, built tanks, bazookas and jet engines there I understand. oh well!
06-17-2011, 02:47 AM #26
In 1966 my family moved to Schenectady, I well remember the ALCO plant. About 67' of so the first Duplex Steam loco I ever saw arrived at the plant for some rebuild work. It was a big deal in all the papers at the time, and my dad drove us down to see it parked outside the plant. GE then purchased the plant, and converted the office area for their own use. My brother interned a few years at GE and worked in some of the old ALCO workshops.
The office's are now rentals, there is a road where the assembly shop was, that was torn down 25 years ago. There is still sitting another relic of times past, a Nuclear Reactor owned by RPI sits unused at the edge of the old ALCO property. Its a small whitish concrete building surrounded by a couple fences, if you recall as you drive past the site.
During WWII they built tanks in the locomotive building, I worked with a guy who was a ALCO employee during that time.
06-17-2011, 04:17 AM #27
06-17-2011, 09:52 AM #28
Joe, has hit the nail thoroughly on the head, Big Time! Well spoken sir There is nothing on Gods earth, as depressing, &dispiriting as to see the tearing down of a large and imposing factory building, Not just the factory vanishes, but bang goes a way of life, The once proud workers employed therein are scattered to the four winds.
I suppose one of these days, i will again trundle myself along to another North British Locomotive Co reunion, for ex employees of that massive concern, of which i am one, at the time of its demise, i was an employee in its steel founding division This concern was the biggest loco plant, this side of the pond, and with the demise of the company, a large swathe of Glasgow never quite recovered, Close a factory, the brightest of the workers move on, the "less able" & old, somehow or other either perish, die off due to age, or if they are younger in this category, take menial jobs, or go on long term welfare with frequent health issues I wonder what became of the Alco workforce, By this i wonder as well,, what was the effect on the wider society?
Tyrone states the U.K. had a fifteen year start on the United States at self imploding our industrial base, try thirty years is more like it, with its misery for the workers, In the West of Scotland, firms fell like ninepins, from the balmy new order of the early 80/s. Brave new world! A resounding vote of thanks to the financial sector and our slimy politicians
I hope Joe you did not arrive in time to see the cutting of the girders on which runs the big overhead cranes, and the subsequent pulling them over the edge to instant destruction This i witnessed happening to the giant under whose mighty shadow i earned my corn in the past That afternoon i walked away really saddened.
I feel a real sadness and empathy hearing of the destruction of that world famous works
Never mind i will meet up at the reunion, & wonder where the greatness went!
06-17-2011, 10:01 AM #29
I am really curious as to the facts behind this.
First- has worldwide production of locomotives gone up, down, or stayed flat, over the last 50 years or so?
That is to say, is SOMEBODY still making locos, or are there fewer being made in total?
Second- how many locomotives are still made in the USA?
Wiki says there are still two majors, GE and EMD, along with a couple of smaller ones, in the USA. And EMD is the largest locomotive builder in the world.
List of locomotive builders - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I just wonder if the USA is still making locomotives, just in different factories, or if the production is really offshored?
I know that GE is building a new locomotive factory in Texas-and EMD is building a new factory in Indiana- but I dont know how that figures in in terms of quantity built.
I know the prevailing wisdom is that we just dont make anything anymore.
And that may be true.
But it would be interesting to know what the actual US production figures are now, and what they represent as a percentage of the world annual locomotive manufacturing.
Because sometimes these factories are torn down not because we dont make the object any more, but because fewer guys, in a non-union state with better infrastructure (and better weather) can make just as many in a smaller, newer plant.
Certainly that is true with autos, where fewer, smaller factories with less employees actually make MORE cars, that are more complicated and sophisiticated, than the great old Michigan plants that are being torn down.
That may or may not be true here- anybody know?
06-17-2011, 10:57 AM #30
I just bought inrustitrust.com, no content yet but its going to go up fairly soon. I think being able to repair things in my generation is getting rare enough that eventually, my income might increase to cover the expenses I've got in my extensive tool set...
If you haven't seen them yet I'd check out this article on PM:
Will tinkering ever get another chance?
And definitely spend some time checking out both hackaday.com and makezine.com. I think that there's some real talent on there doing a lot with very little.
I think that there are some very intelligent, motivated young people right now that are lagging far behind where their fathers or grandfathers would be in establishing a business making things, because of the ridiculous amount of debt most recent grads have, and the fact that a bunch of asswipe bankers won't lend to anybody right now who isn't the lowest of the low hanging fruit (and lets face it - manufacturing sure as hell isn't it)
06-17-2011, 12:50 PM #31
The US economy is a lot bigger than it was in the 1940s, so it's no wonder that there is more manufacturing going on these days than sixty or seventy years ago. The difference is how it seems like an afterthought in today's economy, whereas it used to be the core. See John Oder's thread on the P&W factory demolition (USA Heavy Iron Disappearance) for some good pics of what a machine tool plant was versus what Haas is doing today, for instance. As one poster aptly noted, the "cool factor" is missing.
Part of what strikes a nerve with the demolition of the ALCO plant is what this says about what was valued decades ago juxtaposed with what is valued now.
06-17-2011, 11:14 PM #32
To Joe and all other contributors of this thread,
Like you, I've seen the wholesale demise of industries through my lifetime, being raised in a machine tool town (Halifax, West Yorkshire) and seeing world renowned firms such as Stirk, Churchill Redman, Denham, Swift, Asquith, Butler, Kitchen & Walker, Town, Graham & Normanton, Sagar, Ormerod, Binns & Berry disappear or almost so. I walk past the site where my own apprenticeship company once stood - now a Staples store. My own collection of historic engines and machine tools sits within a building once used to create mighty planing and other machines - now largely silent save for my activities.
My experiences of working in some of these establishments are amongst the most treasured memories I have, but with the passage of time they start to become slightly blurred. I have rescued many significant machines and engines, some of which are displayed and running again. hopefully for many generations yet to come. As a mere mortal I cannot stop this seemingly inevitable decline but am proud of what I have achieved.
Where I feel to have made a real contribution in the last decade is through working alongside a renowned industrial historian, recording historic industrial buildings by measured drawings, photography and detailed research not only of the structures themselves but also the process being carried out within. Certain planning guidelines require this work to be undertaken, the developer footing the bill. The record remains (hopefully) in perpetuity.
The Historic American Engineering Record and Historic American Buildings Survey are outfits which should be involved in this issue. As individuals we can do little but lobbying these bodies might make a difference.
Check out their websites - interesting reading !
06-18-2011, 09:31 AM #33
Here is link to photos inside and out of the ALCO plant before destruction;
Copy & paste the link into a new browser window;
06-18-2011, 10:06 AM #34
If I am not mistaken I believe what caused the downfall of Alco, Baldwin and Lima the 3 big steam locomotive builders of their day was their steam era manufacturing mentality. Anyone who loves steam locomotives quickly realizes that with few exceptions they were practically all different road to road. While many parts were standard volume produced each railroad had their own philosophy on what was needed so as a result steam locomotive production runs were usually in units of 20-200 or so. If one can imagine with tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands built there had to be enormous innefficiencies with this level of custom design.
I seem to recall reading either in my book on Lima Locomotive works, or Baldwin where they were talking to an executive of GM's ElectroMotive Division or General Electric he flat out said that our customer's will no longer get nearly as much say in the design process and that they would only run a few models sold to everyone. My real interest is in the steam era so I am not one to talk too much to the problems making the transition of the locomotive builders but I seem to recall it was the steam mentality that did them in.
Also the good news about the shutting of Alco if there is any was that it wasn't like this was jobs lost to China, but rather Lagrange Illinois (GM Electromotive division) and Erie, PA to GE. Today from what I understand these 2 factories make almost 99% of America's locomotive fleet I think GE has 70% and EMD 30% or something. Furthermore I believe that GE's Erie plant currently exports a large percent of their total yearly production.
While I would agree completely the loss of large manufacturing in this country is tragic, and to me as a guy who loves steam locomotives the loss of one of the biggest steam locomotive factories in the world is heart breaking. At the same time in the scheme of the things loosing a defunct steam locomotive factory probably isn't the biggest loss for the country in this day and age, especially when one considers that the manufacturing of the more up to date product is still centered in this country.
One other thing about a factory like this. These large factories were often optimized for the particular product that they built, and may not be easily converted for other work. I was reading somewhere that one of the biggest things that doomed the storied GM Willow Run plant that used to crank out 1 B-26bomber a day was that they had 50ft high ceilings. While that may have been great for building bombers, when you have a modern factory that is only using the first 10 ft of ceiling, you now have 40 additional feet of height to pay to heat that is doing you nothing.
Something like this can't be taken lightly when considering a plant with several square miles of floor space.
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06-18-2011, 10:17 AM #35
while I, too, lament the tearing down of great old factories, I still wanna know, WHY?
A few facts I have discovered-
Siemens just got a deal to make 70 plus new locomotives for Amtrak, and they will be made in Sacramento.
Press Releases - Siemens Global Website
the motors will be made in Alpharetta Georgia.
Both facilities are newish, and employ far fewer workers than Alco did. 750 in Sacramento, in a factory built in 1985 or so.
06-18-2011, 10:19 AM #36
Can anyone tell me, A) When did Alco close its doors as a locomotive manufacturing concern?
B) When did Baldwins close down as well? ( NOTE-- Today, I have done some reading and now find, that Baldwins closed in1954, This surprises me very much, that this big firm vanished so early on, as they also built for all over the world, Some of the big eight &ten coupled last war austerity locomotives supplied to the U.K. ministry of supplies &war department were Baldwins, Over here two British firms who manufactured these locos, spring to mind , Vulcan Foundry of Newton -Le -Willows, & North British
The locomotive firm over here i worked for North British Loco Co, closed its doors in the early sixties, ( I have now checked my personal papers and see that i was along with the rest of the workforce laid of in 1962- HOW TIME FLIES!) Believe me it was traumatic seeing a firm as big as that bite the dust, Even yet i find it a sorrowful chapter, Many of the old hands i worked with never survived its end My reason for previously asking the date of the closure of Alco & Baldwins, was at that time i remember someone saying Baldwins had gone down at the same time as North British Loco, Now i realise this was wrong
Could some of the big Diesel syndicate guys have had a hand in the closure of these big firms? My reason for asking is this-- At the time of the North British closure, the rail system around Glasgow was electrified, The building of these passenger trains was by and large put in the hands of a firm not generally in the building of trains, The Pressed Steel Co, I believe in co partnership with Metro Cammell However during the early days of the running of these fast inter urban trains, Problems arose, during the automatic switch over from 600 volts to 11000 volts when leaving the built up suburban line system to the countryside lines, When occasional explosions occured in a compartmentin the front of one of the carriages, due to the change over gear giving an inboard transformer a high voltage on the wrong tapping,
This was not the fault of the firm building these trains, but the bugs in a pioneering system, sadly some passengers were badly hurt or even killed, i cannot remember the details
What i can remember is this sad fact, A then member of parliament for another locomotive town,, sent a rumour around the world, that this sad happening was the fault of North British, Bang went a lot of confidence ,good will & orders, so our man could garner orders for down south in his constituency! pity as N.B. were not involved
Coupled to this was some of our West of Scotland newspaper hacks purveying a lot of rubbish about the work standard in the West of Scotland
Also North British had teamed up with a German firm, and the system they were building was not a commercial success in their product
It does not take a lot to tip a large firm over the edge, The above plus a pretty inept board of management works wonders for the welfare of the firm.
Last edited by cutting oil Mac; 06-18-2011 at 10:35 PM. Reason: further information
06-18-2011, 12:09 PM #37
I was looking through my 1941 Locomotive cyclopedia and noticed that the Alco Diesel engines were all named Alco-GE. I never realized that Alco-GE were partners, but apparently they were. Here's what Wikipedia says for what it is worth;
By 1948, Alco possessed 40% of the diesel locomotive market. PA and FA-type road units, as well as the ubiquitous S series (660 and 1000 horsepower) switchers and RS series (1000, 1500, and 1600 horsepower) road switchers represented Alco well in those years of motive power transition. Much of their success in this period can be tied to their pioneering RS locomotives, representing the first modern road-switcher, a configuration which has long outlasted Alco. General Electric was represented in the electrical gear of every locomotive produced by Alco. The complete conversion to diesels, unfortunately, did not mean that Alco was to maintain this production standing.
Nevertheless, the company held the number two position in the market until General Electric, dissatisfied with the results of its partnership with Alco, entered the domestic road diesel locomotive market itself in 1956. GE quickly took the number two position from Alco, and eventually eclipsed GM-EMD in overall production. Despite continual innovation in its designs (the first AC/DC transmission among others), Alco gradually succumbed to its competition, in which its former ally, General Electric, was becoming an important element. A
So I would say for all the sad factory closings we've seen over the years where jobs disappeared from the country never to be seen again at least this story did not end that way. With this being said though the politicans in New York State, and the rest of the Northeast and their anti buisness rules had better wake up fast. In my Googling I noticed GE Transportation will be building its first US manufacturing plant outside of Erie in Fort Worth Texas http://www.conntact.com/manufacturin...ive-plant.html. I think if anything the trend I am seeing is no one wants to build big plants here in the Northeast! Meanwhile it would appear Texas keeps on bringing in the jobs.
06-18-2011, 12:12 PM #38
I'm a steam RR nut, don't even look up when a diesel goes by.
It is my understanding that the demise of steam locomotive power was due to the cost of operation.
Four Diesel locomotives on the front, two in the middle, and two on the end can be operated by one engineer / driver.
Much quicker availability when starting from cold. More time on the road, less in the shop. All those sliding and rotating parts on a steam locomotive exposed to dirt wore and had to be lubricated. Diesel smoke somewhat less noxious than coal smoke.
Diesels do not hammer the road the way steam locomotives do with the reciprocating motion. Diesels easier to fuel as opposed to coal or bunker oil and water. The steam freights had to stop for water more often than fuel. The fast passenger trains used a track pan and a scoop to pick up water on the fly.
With all of that, there is nothing like the sight and sound of a steam powered double headed heavy freight struggling to pull a long coal drag up a grade.
06-19-2011, 01:15 AM #39
Paul Amen brother, The diesel with all its efficiency &manpower savings will never approach the steam locomotive as an iconic example of mans ingenuity, Where i am concerned they are more akin to a biscuit box on wheels.
From the illustrations i have seen on the web, The American freight diesels seem to be fairly nicely kept, being finished in bright colours Over here in the U.K. Our diesels freighters seem to be grubby, Maybe this is down to cut backs on the cleaning schedules, due to corporate greed which nowadays is endemic.
As you say the sound of two big steam locomotives on a slope with a heavy load, is fantastic, This sound, can never leave ones "memory bank" The same goes for the eye candy of seeing them,
Even yet after fifty odd years seeing our big austerity locomotives, with a long rake of wagons is a sight &sound i still miss.
Sometimes, when one visited a house pride of place on the sideboard, was a photograph of grandpa with his steam locomotive, And in the local tavern beside big factories, workers would talk steam for hours, Nowadays nobody talks diesel
A way of life vanished with progress.
06-19-2011, 03:24 AM #40
I am not one to dismiss a diesel with such a savage stroke. Those EMD diesels (stationary power units) that used to be down in the center of Gloucester, MA had a certain charm about them. Essentially the power unit of a diesel locomotive, each one of the twelve had a "life of it's own." You could walk down the man aisle and put your hand on each cylinder in turn and tell from the feel whether it was "hitting" or not. Of course you had to wear earmuffs to do this because otherwise you'd be deaf as a haddock by the time you were done.
Improved power lines feeding Gloucester and the EPA (no more stink of diesel exhaust over Gloucester in an east wind) eliminated what little charm remained in those diesels.
However, that day I was invited to the deckplate of the Essex Railway steam locomotive lives on in infamy in my life. Before we departed my engineering friend and myself made a point of examining the steam locomotive. The engineer caught our interest - and knowledge level - and invited my friend and I to ride in the locomotive cab for the outgoing trip. Once in motion I was surprised by the amount of "rolling" that a steam locomotive did. It was more like driving a sailboat.
The engineer allowed me to sit in the "captains chair" for a moment and pull the throttle, release the airbrake, and ease the machine into motion. I did get a little sense of "power" involved here - for a moment. Meanwhile there were nine cars of passengers behind us and the warning in my ear "Don't forget you got real people behind you - go easy and treat them like a railroad train full of eggs." I was fortunate in that the engineer had the foresight to "take up the slack" between cars before turning over the throttle to me.
Once well in motion (perhaps 35 mph) I left off and my associate took the helm for a while and later got to stop that trainful of eggs using the airbrake - I'm glad it wasn't me.
After we left the cab and rejoined our wives, I had to ask my wife where we were - I was so engrossed with the locomotive I had forgotten to take note of where we had driven ourselves to. I paid better attention to the ride (and my wife) on the way back.
I think my wife understands this "failing" of mine. "Intuitive about all things mechanical and electrical - but socially inept."
Well, I hope the former is true. The latter is still in dispute.