And then diesels came along by Buzz Baxter (Buzz456)
The railroad industry underwent a huge transformation when the first diesel electric locomotive appeared on the scene. They went farther, faster, and didn’t beat up the rails like the last generation of steam engines. They didn’t need water towers and coal bins. They didn’t need nearly as many repair facilities or the kind of talent it had taken to keep the fire-breathing giants alive.
Very shortly after someone thought up the diesel electric someone figured out how to hook units together so instead of having multiple crews to run multiple locomotives one just had to plug them into each other and you doubled or tripled or whatever you wanted to get the horsepower you needed to pull the train.
Diesels still smoked in the early days but a whole lot less than the steamers and left behind the odor of diesel fuel instead of coal smoke. They were sleek and bright colors and the passenger trains has all kinds of nifty Mars lights and air horns that excited the soul as they flashed and blazed their way through small and large towns at seventy- nine miles per hour leaving air swirling after they passed.
Every child who lived near a railroad with passenger service heard that if you stood too close to the tracks you would be sucked under the train. Every child had to see how close they could stand so they could tell their friends that it wasn’t true.
The freight trains were loud, so loud with the multi unit first generation diesels hammering away in unison as they labored up the grade or in the mountains whined their way down grade shedding clouds of hot air as the dynamic brakes kept tons in check.
Soon all the problems of seeing out of the covered wagons became obvious and while they were used on the mainlines for many years in both passenger and freight operations, a new creature was born the road switcher.
Gp and RS and SW became common terms running long hood forward for safety and short hood forward for visibility, turbo chargers and superchargers were installed and these replaced all but the most dependable of the FA and F and E’s.
Horsepowers increased, more axles to handle the weight and the giants we see today were born. Other than the serious rail fan most of these aren’t even identifiable from one to another other than the distinctive sound of the EMD compared to the GE. The lovely paint jobs of the fallen flags are gone and we are now dominated by a few major corporations largely not competing head to head for the business.
However if you sneak off the well beaten path of the major carriers there exists out there in the tangled web of the cities and the maybe not so bright rails of the countryside you will still find those F and E units, those early PG units, those Alco’s smoking away and who knows what else if you look hard enough. These branch lines labor away mostly successfully away from the crowd. You can close your eyes and imagine a day when hundreds of railroads connected the Country made freight and passengers grow our country.
Just listen to the sounds and smell the diesel fuel. And don’t forget to give the engineer the hand signal and see if you can get him to give you a short blast on who knows what horn.