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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Connecticut sells its last FL9 locomotives NEWSWIRE

Connecticut sells its last FL9 locomotives NEWSWIRE

By Scott A. Hartley | October 3, 2018

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CDOTFL92024
CDOTFL92024
Connecticut Department of Transportation FL9s stored at New Haven, Conn., in 2014.
Scott A. Hartley
NEW HAVEN, CONN. – Six Connecticut Department of Transportation Electro-Motive FL9 locomotives, stored out of service since 2009, have found new homes from New England to Texas. The new owners include the Boston Surface Railroad Co. of Woonsocket, R.I.; Massachusetts Coastal Railroad, headquartered in East Wareham, Mass.; Webb Rail LLC, in partnership with the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum of Lenox, Mass.; and the Grapevine Vintage Railroad of Grapevine, Texas. All plan to restore their new acquisitions to running condition.

The six FL9s were part of the New York, New Haven & Hartford’s onetime fleet of 60 dual-mode electric/diesel-electric locomotives, built between 1956 and 1960. EMD designed and built the units for use as diesels in most locations, but having the capability to operate as electric locomotives in New York City’s rail tunnels to Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station. The New Haven was the only railroad to purchase the model, but its FL9s subsequently worked for Penn Central, Conrail, Metro-North, and Amtrak, and later for several tourist railroads and museums.

The State of Connecticut at one time owned 10 FL9s, and took the unusual step of repainting all of them in their original red, white, and black New Haven “McGinnis” color scheme. All were part of the Nutmeg State’s contribution to a pool with Metro-North for commuter services in Connecticut and New York. Between 1995 and 2001, a fleet of 31 General Electric dual-mode P32AC-DM units replaced the FL9s on Metro-North’s mainline commuter trains on a 1-for-2 basis. A dozen Brookville Equipment BL20GH road-switchers delivered to Metro-North and CTDOT in 2008 bumped the last FL9s off branchline services. Connecticut’s last six FL9s, all rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen in 1993-1994, were placed in storage in New Haven, Conn., in 2009.

Earlier this year, the state posted the FL9s on an auction list, and the winning bidders were notified in August. Sale prices ranged from $51,100 to $93,100 per unit, according to a Department of Transportation spokesman. Three of the six stored cab units already are on their way to their new homes.

Boston Surface Railroad Co., which purchased No. 2027 (built as New Haven No. 2015 in 1957), has proposed operating commuter service over the Providence & Worcester Railroad between the railroad’s namesake cities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The company’s CEO, Vincent Bono, hopes to acquire additional FL9s or other cab units to power Boston Surface’s planned trains. The locomotive will be moved to Davisville, R.I., for mechanical work by the Seaview Transportation Company, Bono tells Trains News Wire.

Massachusetts Coastal Railroad, a southeastern Massachusetts freight operation, purchased two Connecticut FL9s, No. 2011 (originally NH No. 2038, built in 1960) and No. 2026 (NH No. 2007, built 1957). Chris Podgurski, president and chief operating officer, says the units will be assigned to the company’s Cape Cod Central passenger operation. Podgurski is pleased with the two FL9s the railroad has acquired, commenting on their good wheel condition and their Caterpillar head end power units. He remarked that FL9s will be returning to territory that they once covered while working for the New Haven.

Heading to the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum is Connecticut DOT FL9 No. 2024, which was built as New Haven No. 2058 in 1960, and was the second-to-last cab unit manufactured by EMD. BSRM teamed up with Webb Rail LLC of Fishkill, N.Y., owner of former New York Central observation car Babbling Brook, to acquire the historic locomotive. The FL9 is en route to BSRM’s station and museum in Lenox, Mass. Although the organization already is referring to the unit as No. 2058, museum officials tell News Wire that no decision has been made to restore its original number in the near future.

Grapevine Vintage Railroad, which acquired FL9 No. 2014 (originally New Haven No. 2041, built in 1960) and No. 2016 (NH No. 2044, built in 1960), operates a variety of excursion trains over a 26-mile former Cotton Belt line near Fort Worth. Railroad president P.W. McCallum says that the pair will receive the “cabernet and champagne” colors already worn by the Grapevine’s passenger car fleet. The streamlined FL9s will operate in pull-pull fashion, with one at each end of the train, to facilitate direction changes at the ends of the line. Grapevine expects its1896 former Southern Pacific 4-6-0 No. 2248, as well as the two FL9s, to be in service in 2019, McCallum tells News Wire.

Just four FL9s are in service in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Quebec. Fans of these popular locomotives are hoping that six more will be added to the active list.

13 thoughts on “Connecticut sells its last FL9 locomotives NEWSWIRE

  1. Iver, does that mean they couldn’t start the prime mover with third rail power? Wouldn’t they start the diesel before leaving third rail territory?

  2. Anna, the problems NH had with the FL9 (as I understand it) we’re brought on by themselves. Primarily, it was deferred maintenance. Crews could not count on the starting batteries to be strong enough to turn over the prime mover when switching from electric to deisel-electric operation.

  3. Ron Salters – I’ve just reserved Diesels to Park Avenue from the library, so I hope to fill the gaps in my knowledge about FL9s.

  4. Joe Kurland- I seem to recall that the earliest FL9’s were equipped with roof-mounted “mini-pans” which were used to receive power from overhead 3rd rail in areas of complex trackage at GCT. And that these devices were a source of problems.

  5. Mister Crowe.

    Not sure there is (or was) a design flaw. It is simply something stuck in my memory from many years ago, and it came from an article stating that the FL9 design was “undesirable” because of the complexity of the machinery required to support two modes of operation.

    Me, I don’t see what the problem (if there was a problem) is. To me it seems like a straightforward engineering exercise. The prime mover drives a generator which produces a great many amps at a nominal 600 volts DC. The line voltage is 750 VDC. I can see a design change required to bring the operating voltage up to 750VDC (wikipedia says 660VDC, other sources say 750VDC…you pays your money and you takes your choice…) vice 600, which would require changes to the traction motors, the generator, and possibly the contactor cabinet. Specifically, all insulation would have to be rated to the higher voltage, but none of this is rocket science. Of course, all this is speculation and I am not privy to how the EMD engineers did it…but that is how I would have done it.

    Having done it it seems to me to be a fairly easy exercise to bring the locomotive to the beginning of the electrified segment, parallel the generator and the hot shoe, then drop off the generator and kill the prime mover. Why I read what I read has always remained to me a mystery.

    One possibility I can think of is that the New Haven is the only railroad to have ordered the FL9, but then it is a unique design, implemented to solve a problem unique to their operating environment. If then for that reason to call the design a “failure” also brings to mind the Southern Pacific cab-forward locomotives, and the tunnel motors they had…are we then to call a design for a specific set of operating conditions a “failure” because it did not see widespread adoption? That is simply not reasonable.

    On the other hand, I don’t know the operating and maintenance history of this design. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. Thank you.

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Go find your own damn lawyer.

  6. I find myself agreeing with Mr Landey on this issue. The FL9 was built for the New Haven RR as a duel powered locomotive as Ms. Harding states. Having grown up and living along the New Haven main line as well as the Danbury branch I saw these locomotives in service for most of my life. I cannot remember any significant problems with them. They served many years not only on the New Haven, but on many of the other commuter lines in and out of NYC. I am not sure of what design flaw Ms. Harding refering to.

  7. I have long been a fan of the FL-9. It is an elegant looking locomotive, and unique not only in being dual mode, but having 5 axles. It looked very handsome in its McGinnis paint scheme, and also with the NYC lightning stripe paint scheme given it by Metro North even though New York Central never had any. Some time ago I was in correspondence with an employee of the Metro North Harmon Shops where a number of FL-9s spent their last years as they operated on the Hudson and Harlem divisions. We were both sad to see them retired, and I am delighted that some will be back in operation, though not in a place where their dual mode capability will be utilized.

    There was a book about them, “Diesels to Park Avenue: The FL9 Story” by Joseph R. Snopek and Robert A. Le May. According to Google, there is a free download available from http://globemarketer.wpengine.com/diesels_to_park_avenue_the_fl9_story.pdf, however my internet connection is behaving badly and I cannot access it at this time. Bob LeMay gave a talk about FL9s at the January 2010 meeting of the Amherst Railway Society.

    All the ones I’ve seen have 3rd rail shoes which would operate from the New Rochelle junction to Grand Central, and on the ex-NYC Hudson and Harlem divisions which were originally electrified as far as Croton-Harmon and (I think) White Plains North. I don’t remember ever seeing any with pantographs for running under New Haven’s catenary. So, I would guess they ran on diesel power east and north of New Rochelle.

  8. Mister Landey.

    Then why does the design have such a bad reputation? I have heard from other sources that they were not successful, it seems that they should have been. What is the real story?

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Go find your own damn lawyer.

  9. ANNA _ As you understand it the FL9 design was not successful. Which explains why they’ve been in service in the intended dual-mode format for 62 years.

  10. As I understand it, the FL9 design was not successful. The concept was to have a unit which could operate on diesel in the open but when in the tunnels and underground areas of New York City would run as straight electrics. This way a power change step in bringing a train into the city would be avoided.

    From this article the GE P32AC-DM were or are successful in this role. What are (were) the technical reasons for the failure of the EMD design?

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Go find your own damn lawyer.

  11. Good catch, F. Gregory. Three FL9s (including the very first unit built — originally New Haven No. 2000) were transferred to LIRR, and rebuilt with alternating current traction as “FL9AC” units. Six Metro-North FL9s received the same treatment. All are now scrapped, although some of those original LIRR bilevel coaches can be found on tourist railroads.

  12. For several years, FL9s were also borrowed by the LIRR to experiment with DM operations into – and out of – Penn Station. Thru service to Port Jefferson was thus provided before purchase of the present LIRR (DM) fleet.

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