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Missouri Pacific #1741
Hot Times on the High Iron

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For a photo of MP 1741:
- posted at (ABPR), Bill Weibel Photo/Joseph Testagrose collection

#1741 also can be seen on page 83 of "Missouri Pacific Diesel Power" by Kevin Eudaly

Missouri Pacific #1741
by JD 'Tuch' Santucci

In April 1954, Missouri Pacific GP7 1741 began its life as the MoPac 4307. In later years, it was renumbered to the 286. Then, in the mid 70's, it was again renumbered, this time to the 1741. In the late spring of 1981, it gave its life in the line of duty for its company, with a great deal of help from me.

In May 1981, I was in the final rounds of my Student Engineer training with the Missouri Pacific. I would be heading back to school in North Little Rock, AR in early July to complete my classroom studies and take my final exams in both the operating rules and air brake and mechanical. In the meantime though, I was still training and having fun doing it. I was given the opportunity to work with some really good Engineers, with a couple that really took the time to show me a great deal of some of the "tricks of the trade." I was feeling really confident and ready to be examined.

On this particular afternoon, I was working the afternoon BRC (Belt Railway of Chicago) Clearing Transfer, more commonly known as the "Clearing Run." We would do a few chores around Yard Center, get our train doubled up, air tested and proceed north to Clearing Yard in Bedford Park, IL near Midway Airport on Chicago's Southwest side. We would deliver our train the BRC, get an outbound train out of there, and return to Yard Center. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, some evenings, it was a twelve hour ordeal. Others, it was short, six or seven hour affair. It all depended upon the mood of the railroad gods.

We were assigned the 1741 and a GP15-1 as power for that evening. It has been a lot of years, so I really don't recall the number of the other unit, but it isn't of consequence at this time. Anyway, we had around 70 cars that afternoon and it was a rather warm and sunny day. We got out of Yard Center around 1700 or so as I recall, evening rush on the roads of the Chicagoland area. My regular Engineer had marked off for one reason or another, and I had an extra board Engineer as my trainer for the evening, a girl named Rowena Trotter who was a great person and fun to work with. "Weenie" had not been a promoted Engineer very long herself and was still in the learning phase. We laughed and joked and were discussing different aspects of the job as the afternoon progressed.

We had gotten the highball by Dolton Jct (also known as the Panhandle is this line, portion of the old Pennsylvania, the Indiana Harbor Belt and Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroads all crossed here) I was now attempting to increase the train speed from the 15 mph over the diamonds there to the 40 mph maximum then allowed on the old Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad. The CWI was owned in part by the MoPac and we routinely used the line to reach Chicago proper and connecting railroads north of Dolton Jct. The engines were just roaring away and speed was slowly increasing as we climbed the "Bumtown Hill" up and over the Illinois Central Gulf's Chicago District and Suburban District. I never had a clue that years from now I would wind up operating on those very rails. At one time as recently as 1965, there was a suburban passenger station at the top of the hill from the days of CWI "dummy" or commuter trains, but it was long gone at this point. The only thing that remained was an enclosed staircase to the long removed platform.

As we topped the hill and rounded the curve and entered Roseland (a community of Chicago), the alarm bells began to ring. Even in my short
tenure as a student, I had learned the instinctive reaction to immediately turn and look to the alarm lights to see what the problem might be. The red, hot engine light was illuminated indicating that this unit was running hot. The GP7's had a switch for the number one cooling fan on the rear bulkhead that manually operated this particular fan. On occasion when it was chilly in the overnight and morning hours this time of year, some Engineers would flip the switch off so as to allow the heaters to work and blow warm air into the cab. They would tie-up the power and leave the switch off. As long as it the engine wasn't working hard, it would not overheat when the day got warmer. So, that was the first thing I checked. It was on, so the fan being switched off immediately ruled out that as the cause. I turned and looked back as we rounded the right hand curve to observe my train for defects and immediately discovered the reason for overheating. We had broken a cooling water line coming from the radiators to the prime mover. Water was shooting several feet into the air and all over vehicles stopped at the numerous crossings we passed through in Roseland.

Being that this was a higher crime area, we dared not stop here. The vandals would be out immediately to start their shopping by breaking into the cars and vandalizing the train. This would include closing of angle cocks connecting the brake pipe, pulling the pin lifters to cause the train to uncouple and various other acts. We continued to pull. Normally, when a locomotive begins to run hot, protective devices will reduce its Rpm's and amperage to help keep the unit from burning itself up. Should it get hot enough, the system will automatically shut the unit down. For some reason, the system didn't work as designed. I kept it in run 8 and she kept right on working in run 8. We dared not isolate the unit as our speed would drop rapidly and we didn't want to give the vandals opportunities to board the train. We just kept on pulling. The head man got up and started to read off the temperature from the thermometer on the rear bulkhead. As we rapidly lost our cooling water, the temperature climbed about as fast. Before the unit finally died, it had reached an operating temp of about 250 degrees F. Now remember, water boils at 212.

We continued like this keeping an eye on the water blowing out. Weenie was concerned that we might get in trouble for doing this. I told her we were better off doing this than to isolate the unit and deal with the consequences of that action. I wasn't worried. I figured the worst they
could do was fire me. It wasn't like I would have to pay them back for the damage done to the unit. Finally, the water fountain stopped indicating that either we had lost all the water or diminished the pressure enough that what remaining water there was could no longer circulate throughout the cooling system. But, the 1741 continued to soldier on in run 8. We crossed 95th St and turned out onto freight main #3 at Oakdale where the former Rock Island South Chicago District, now LaSalle & Bureau County (later Chicago Rail Link) crossed. We pulled up to 80th Street and stopped at the stop sign there. When the train stopped and I put the throttle back to idle, the 1741 gave up the ghost. It shook, made a strange whine and abruptly stopped dead. It didn't slowly wind down and die. We went back to ascertain the damage. There was a distinct smell of burnt oil and everything was too hot to touch.

I should mention that the GP7 and GP9 series of locomotives were built with what several mechanical people have told me were "sloppy" tolerances. This was to allow the engine to continue to run even when there were problems. I would guess this was to improve reliability. I also heard this from some EMD people I have met over the years as well. This probably explains why there are still quite a few of them still operated in regular revenue service to this day, some 50 plus years after the very first GP7 was built.

Upon returning to the cab, I proceeded to call the CWI Dispatcher and inform him that we had lost the 1741 with a broken cooling water line. He asked if it was down for the count and I told him that indeed it was. I didn't bother to mention the fact that we had run the hell out of it before it passed away though. He really didn't need to know that part, as did anyone else for that matter.

We finished out the trip and returned to Yard Center without further incident that evening. We only had 32 cars coming back, so the remaining GP15 had no problems bringing the train back south. I wrote up a work report telling of the broken cooling water line and the loss of all the cooling water in the system. Again, I didn't mention the fact that we had run the hell out of it before it dropped dead. I figured they would discover that little fact on their own.

Several days later, I happened to see a Roundhouse Foreman that I was acquainted with. He asked me exactly what I did to that engine that evening. I responded something to the effect of running it until it died from low cooling water pressure. He told me that I had "boiled the viscosity" out of the lube oil. He went on to tell me the lube oil had the viscosity of water and looked like nothing more than black water. He also mentioned that the oil had a very distinct burnt odor to it. The moving parts in the diesel engine itself had seized up tight. This would explain the abrupt stop instead of the normal slow down to idle and dying. He also told me they decided to retire the unit right then and there, and not attempt any repairs. MoPac had figured the GP7's and 9's had reached the point in their lives that it was no longer economically feasible to pour money into major repairs on units that had pretty much seen better days. The attitude had become "If it suffers a major failure, it gets retired and traded in on new power." And that is exactly what happened to it; went to EMD in trade for either GP38-2's or MP15DC switchers. Before doing so though, it went back to North Little Rock and was cannibalized for usable parts. I'm betting there weren't too many mechanical parts worth saving though.

Several months later, I saw this unit dead in tow enroute to the IHB and Pielet Brothers Scrap Yard in McCook, IL, which was right across the tracks from EMD. Many trade ins to EMD wound up here. And some twenty-seven years after it came into the world, MoPac 1741 became another carload of scrap to melted down and reformed into a beer can or a bumper for a new Ford.

Had this been a newer unit, I most likely would not have run it to its demise. Had I done so in that case, it is almost a certainty that the MoPac would've held a fair and impartial investigation "to determine responsibility, if any", and I would have been fired. But alas, it wasn't, there was no investigation, and I didn't get fired. Which is good for me.

And so it goes.

Reproduced with permission from the February 20/2000 "Hot Times on the High Iron"  ©2000 by JD Santucci

Max. Speed
MP 4307,
MP 286,
MP 1741
EMD 16-567B V-type 16-cylinder 2-cycle
1,500 hp,
rerated to 1,600 hp
65 mph
T-I to EMD

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 l Last Update to this page: 17 April, 2008
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