Identify this locomotive : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

I came across this and dont know just what the hell it is... it looks like a diesel GG-1 with all these wheels... here is the link. How many of these monstrocities did the SAL own and how long did it operate and how did it operate, im assuming it was a passenger loco... anyone?

-- troy nolen (, June 02, 2000


As you know, MTH just came out with a 3-Rail model with full sound that it is beautiful. It consist of 2 units (A-A). The best thing about it, it comes int he Citrus color scheme. Very nice. Nicolas Biangel 24 July 2001

-- Nicolas Biangel (, July 24, 2001.

As a follow up to my answer on June 5th, I found the Trains article I referenced. It is the May 1982 issue.

-- Jim Coviello (, January 07, 2001.

Troy, years ago an old engineer based in Abbeville, SC, talked about first time he road in a Centipede as a fireman. Said it was very long & he wondered if it would make the curves. Atlanta-Hamlet line has some curves which did take out several of the 4500s before they were moved to Fla & elsewhere. He didn't like them because of their long, rigid bodies. Preferred Fs.

-- Conrad Cheatham (, June 08, 2000.

I spent a little time researching these engines and came up with some interesting information. My sources were John F. Kirkland's 1994 Interurban Press book "The Diesel Builders Volume 3 Baldwin Locomotive Works" and Calloway/Wither's Seaboard Power book. Kirkland worked for Baldwin from 1940 to 1970 and was present during the time the units were constructed.

Apparently the story of these locomotives began in 1940 when Baldwin began construction of a prototype 6000 HP diesel unit. It was to be a single ended cab body unit, utilizing a 4-8+8-4 wheel arrangement, with the lead truck being powered in the freight version and the lead trucks being idlers in the passenger version. The traction motors to be used were newly developed eight pole units from Westinghouse rated at 750 HP. Baldwin numbered this demonstrator 6000 and began construction in May 1941. After Pearl Harbor, Baldwin was granted authority to continue construction of the unit, however, the unit was taking a long time to complete and in early 1943, Baldwin's executives ordered that the unit be completed as quickly as possible. Four of the eight engines were installed and the unit commenced testing in May 1943. Test runs were made on the B&O and the Reading, but it was soon realized that the unit could not compete with more modern locomotives with fewer engines, so the unit was placed in storage.

In 1944, several Seaboard motive power officials were visiting the Eddystone plant and noticed the stored 6000 demonstartor unit. A thought was expressed that the 2-D+D-2 truck arrangement may provide a solution to the tracking problems experienced by the Seaboard in high speed passenger service. Now here is a surprise! The E units which the Seaboard was using had and A1A truck which was noted for its tracking and gentleness on curved track. Using a longer based D type truck would have exacerbated tracking problems on curves. I think that the problem was more related to tractive effort on the Seaboard's hilly and curvy right of way and its relationship to freight service. Remember, at this time the SAL just started to use B trucked FT units, after it was used to operating articulated steam. I am sure that the representatives were more interested in freight service as opposed to passenger service. This is borne out by Withers/Calloway in their statement that only the first unit had a steam generator, and by 1949, the units water tanks were converted to additional fuel tanks. Another clue that these units were destined for high speed freight operation was their gearing-The original demonstrator had 25:54 gearing which permitted a maximum speed of 120 mph. The gearing was changed at the Seaboard's insistence to 21:58 which resulted in a maximum speed of 93.5 mph. At the same time, the SAL was getting ready to buy more EMD E units with 117 mph gearing!

Anyway, the locomotive was redesigned to use two 608SC engines rated at 1500 hp. The entire running gear and portions of the demonstrator's car body were used to construct Seaboard 4500-the first "Centipede". The unit had a Baldwin construction number of 71579 and it went into Seaboard service on December 13, 1945.

The remaining Seaboard units were built in 1947. They were numbered 4501-4513 and were built in two separate lots. These units were identical to 4500 but did not have a steam generator. 14 similar units were built for the Nationales De Mexico and 24 were built for the PRR. Two were constructed for the UP, but the UP cancelled the order and they spent their lives as Baldwin demonstrators.

Originally, the SAL assigned the Centipedes to freight service between Atlanta-Richmond and Jacksonville-Richmond, but it later rebuilt the units with electric throttles and then assigned them to Florida, and service to Montgomery Al. Scrapping commenced in 1957 and all units were gone by 1960.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 07, 2000.

I recall an article on this engine in Trains or Model Railroader several years ago. I remember the point was made that SAL was looking for a way to compete with ACL on passenger train speed but was limited due to it's many curves, longer route and lighter rail. The centepede design was supposed to distribute the weight better so that it could take the curves at higher speed. As it turned out it was better suited as a freight locomotive.

-- Jim Coviello (, June 05, 2000.

The Baldwin centipedes were a Baldwin idea based upon their thinking that a diesel unit could be constructed to emulate contemporary el;ectric locomotive practice. They put in 6 1000 hp prime movers over a truck arrangement which was similar to that used by Electric locomotives, but not quite. Overall the units were hybrids, but with none of the usual vigor of a hybrid.

They suffered from prime mover problems-oil leaks, piston problems, tracking problems, etc. PRR demoted their units to pushger engines while at the same time derating the units to 5000 hp.

I have more info on these engines in several Baldwin books-let me know if you want copies.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, June 05, 2000.

Ok, I dont have access to this article, i wonder if someone that has it can scan it and send me it by e-mail. I would really appreciate it... What was the problem with these locos, other than being baldwins? were they prone to failure or just too expensive to keep operational (all those wheels), i doubt derailment was a problem... thanks, -Troy

-- troy (, June 04, 2000.

While it is true that SAL and PRR were the only domestic owners of the Baldwin Centipedes, the National Railways of Mexico (NdeM) also owned a number of the units and used them until the late 1960's, unless I'm mistaken. They lasted longer apparently because the Mexican shop forces had extensively re-worked the "Gringo" engines, re-arranging the oil lines and the electrical system, according to what I've read.

-- Robert H. Hanson (, June 04, 2000.

Troy - The SAL diesel locomotive that has raised your curiosity is a Baldwin Loco Works "Centipede". The SAL received their first unit, #4500, in December 1945. The Centipedes began to be retired in 1957 and all were out of service by 1960. Numbers were #4500-4513. If I remember correctly, the only other major user of BLW Centipedes was the Pennsylvania RR. While initially intended for passenger service and perishable fruit trains, by the late 1940's they had been religated to freight service. There is a well researched article on these engines by Warren Calloway in the July-August 1991 issue of DIESEL ERA magazine (vol.2, no.4), a copy of which may be available from DIESEL ERA or used railroad magazine dealers.

-- Tom Underwood (, June 02, 2000.

here is another picture (in color)... gotta love those early SAL diesel color schemes!

-- bump (, June 02, 2000.

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