Open Throttle #10460

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The Story

This heavy PRR passenger train is pulling out of Altoona station to begin the climb up the mountains to the west. In the lead are two restored vintage Pennsylvania Railroad E8 diesel locomotives. Under load, they throw up some black smoke. While idling a long time waiting for departure, excess diesel fuel has built up in the cylinders. When the throttle is notched open to go, black smoke pours out the exhaust when any excess pooled diesel is burned off.

These locomotives were built by the EMD section of General Motors for the PRR back in 1952. This vintage model is known as an E8, sometimes nicknamed “bulldogs” or “covered wagons” by the crews. Designed for high-powered high-speed passenger service on the Pennsylvania Railroad, each one has two diesel engines inside that make a total of 2250 horsepower, which was a lot back in their day.

These beautiful diesel locomotives have been restored to their original appearance and road number when they were brand new on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Today, they are privately owned by the Juniata Terminal Company. They did the full end-to-end restoration and the locomotives are based out of their facility in Philadelphia. Often away from home, they run on excursions and quite a few special functions commemorating railroad history as they are here, at Altoona PA’s annual Railfest.

At this showing in Altoona, they were giving rides on this passenger train up around the Horseshoe Curve and back. Two of these 60-year-old engines paired had plenty of power to simply walk away with a very heavy long train of heavy vintage passenger cars. Passenger cars from that era had bodies made of steel and floors of thick concrete to make for a smooth ride, and their weight was considerable.

I spoke with an engineer a few years after this image was taken who had run this pair pulling an excursion on the former PRR New York to DC corridor. The marked speed for that section of mainline is 100 mph, but he claimed to have run these locomotives up to 110 for a little stretch, just to see how they’d do. Naturally, I asked him how it went. The reply was “smooth as glass”.

Location: Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks

 

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