Historic Cooper-Bessemer Engine to be Preserved

Article originally appeared in Trains Magazine online News Wire March 6, 2013.

NORTH EAST, Pa. – The Lake Shore Railway Historical Society in North East will soon be the recipient of a historic diesel engine thought scrapped decades ago.

In 1954 General Electric produced a four-unit, 6,000-horsepower experimental locomotive that was leased to the Erie Railroad. It had a streamlined car painted black and yellow as Erie Railroad No. 750A-750D. The four spent half-a-decade testing in road service on the Erie, accumulating over one million miles of operating data. This data led to electrical refinements that culminated in the introduction of the GE U25B in 1959. The Universal Series was amajor step forward for GE that eventually led to its overcoming General Motors as the world’s No. 1 diesel locomotive manufacturer.

The locomotives had Cooper-Bessemer-designed power plants that were presumed to have been scrapped, but through a remarkable series of circumstances, one survives. Ray Grabowski Jr., president of the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society, recounted the story: “The locos were re-powered and sold to power-hungry Union Pacific. The original prototype engines, removed from the locomotives, were subjected to further testing. One engine was sent to Cooper-Bessemer’s factory in Mt. Vernon, Ohio for testing and disposal there.Well, it wasn’t disposed of, as was reported to GE. Instead, shop forces adapted and installed it inside the Mt. Vernon plant as power for air compressors. It ran faithfully up until just a couple months before Rolls Royce bought the C-B plant in 1996.

“The gentleman in charge of plant maintenance was originally involved in the GE test bed project. He contacted Lake Shore Railway Historical Society to see if there was interest in saving this ‘engine that no longer existed.’ The rest is history and the engine is in storage in a warehouse in Erie, Pa., waiting to come to North East to be added to the museum’s collection.”

The survivor is a 1,200 H.P. Cooper-Bessemer FVBL-8T. Cooper-Bessemer sold the rights to General Electric in 1953 for the development of larger versions of its engines for locomotive propulsion. Today the new locomotives that depart GE’s Erie, Pa. plant can trace their lineage back 59 years to this preserved engine. The museum hopes the engine will attract more visitors, perhaps even from overseas.

For more information on the museum go to www.grape-track.org.

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2 Responses to Historic Cooper-Bessemer Engine to be Preserved

  1. Reggie Bruce says:

    I have an old Cooper Bessemer engine Instruction. It is from the 30s or 40s I think. I need to do something with it if there is anyone who would have a need for it I would like to give it away. I hate to throw it in the trash if it has any historical significance. the manual has 16 sections from Description to Maintenance. It has blueprints and mechanical drawings. Please inform me if anyone would need it. I would mail it to you at my expense. Thanks: Reggie Bruce: Florence, Alabama

    • Patrick Smith says:

      Hi Reggie,

      This is a long shot, but do you still have your Cooper-Bessemer engine manual? My railroad museum would be interested in acquiring and displaying it. Let me know. My email is yamahafreak (at) cfl.rr.com. Thank you!

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