Locomotive Ownership and Numbering

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I have been creating a locomotive roster data base on my computer that traces individual locomotives through their various numbers and owership and have just begun entering the Southern Railway after purchasing Paul Withers' book "Diesels of the Southern Railway 1939-1982". I am confused on how to enter ownership. Certainly some locomotives began life as CTC, CNOTP, or AEC but at some point came under the Southern umbrella. Would I be correct in keeping the original owners reporting marks or should they become Southern at some point? Also, the small letters that sometimes follow a locomtive number, what is their significance?

-- ROB JONES (BOTEIN@AOL.COM), February 26, 2000


Until recently SR and NS entered the actual ownership on the federal cab cards. If the engine was sublettered AGS, then Alabama Great Southern was listed as the owner. Southern Railway (or later Norfolk Southern Railway) was listed as the operator. In most cases the sublettering was for accounting purposes rather than actual assignment. Over the years an engine may have had its sub-lettering changed. NO&NE engines later became AGS, due to a corporate simplification. Some Southern engines were later transferred to subsidiaries. C&NW and original NS engines changed sublettering a lot. Some Southern engines even got SOU sublettering long before the merger with N&W. To be accurate you would have to trace each individual engine's ownership records. As for the later-day numbers following the engine number on the sides of the engines, they are alpha-check numbers. This was a system adopted by SR to help spot inaccurate number reporting. The appropriate check letter for each engine was derived from a mathematical computation based on the digits in the engine number. As info, some of the engineers (including myself) thought the alpha check system was stupid and refused to use it. We still got paid.

Ben Lee, engineer- North Charlotte District

-- Ben Lee (Bengineer7@aol.com), February 28, 2000.

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