Whitcomb Center Cab Locomotive

Whitcomb Locomotive Repairs

By admin, June 14, 2007

Crew travels to historic steel mill to resurrect 50 ton diesel locomotive.

Whitcomb Center Cab Locomotive

Whitcomb Center Cab Locomotive inside steel mill

A helper and I traveled to a historic steel rolling mill in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and returned a Whitcomb 50 ton industrial-railroad diesel locomotive to operation.

Our first priority was simply to install new batteries and service the fuel system. Naturally, nothing had been done to store the locomotive after it was last run! I also corrected some problems with the battery charging system before it caught on fire.

Cummins single disk pump

Cummins double-disk fuel system, horribly obsolete!

My prior experience with small orange locomotives, antique Cummins diesel engines, and the obsolete double-disk fuel injection system helped me get the engines started. The double-disk system is an improvement over the earlier single-disk, but has virtually no support at this point; I could convert these engines to modern PT pumps for reliability if I could find key components. It’s a shame that wasn’t done many years ago when conversion parts were readily available.

Solenoid throttle control

Crazy solenoid throttle control

The Whitcomb uses an “interesting” electric throttle which energizes solenoids in binary combinations onto a rocker arm to increase engine rpm. It took a bit to get this working halfway well. I proposed replacing it with a servo actuator and 24Vdc PLC if the locomotive was going to really be used, as throttle response was fairly unpredictable to give decent train handling.

Locomotive Operator's Station

Locomotive Operator’s Station

Once we had the center-cab locomotive running, I got to test it on track inside the steel mill buildings. I also instructed steel mill personnel on basics of how to start and operate the locomotive.