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Janesville & Southeastern #52 at the National Railroad Museum
|Builder||General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD)|
|Build date||September 1947 – May 1949|
|AAR wheel arr.||B-B|
|Gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Prime mover||EMD 567B|
|Power output||1,500 hp (1,100 kW)|
|Tractive effort||56,200 lbf (250 kN)|
|Railroad(s)||See "original Owners"|
The EMD BL2 is a four-axle B-B road switcher built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD). Often considered the "Ugly Duckling" of diesel offerings from EMD, the BL2 set the stage for the company's widely successful GP series of locomotives.
EMD's diesel program was well underway in the late 1940s and early 1950s, thanks to the success of the company's FT demonstrations across the country. While the F-units in production were great for moving trains over the railroad, their full-width carbody made it difficult for locomotive crews to see to the rear of the locomotive. The F-units also lacked anywhere for a brakeman or switchman to stand and ride short distances while performing switching duties. The F-units did have grab irons and stirrup steps, but these features were a hindrance in locations with tight clearances.
Since the engine inside the locomotive's hood didn't take up the full carbody width, it seemed only logical that the hood could be "cut away" a bit to allow the crew to see and ride safely. This wasn't an entirely new idea either, as the Pennsylvania Railroad's GG1 fleet, which featured large cutout sections in its hoods, had been in service since 1934.
Another problem facing EMD was that ALCO was making inroads into a market that EMD would have liked to keep to themselves; ALCO's RS series road-switchers were starting to take over many of the tasks that EMD wanted to fulfill with their own locomotives. Likewise, Baldwin and Fairbanks-Morse had started their own models of road-switchers.
EMD's designers and engineers set to work and came up with the carbody reminiscent of the GG1 with mechanics that contained the technical knowledge they had learned with the company's F-unit series. Starting from an F3, the product of their efforts became the BL1 EMD Demonstrator #499 in September 1947. The BL1 Demonstrator was EMD Project 89499, thus the 499 Demonstrator number. The BL in the locomotive's model name officially stood for "Branch Line", indicating that EMD felt the locomotive was best suited for light traffic and frequent switching chores.
The BL1 and BL2 were virtually identical, differing only in throttle mechanism. The only BL1 was built with an air-actuated throttle. The BL1 was converted to a BL2 in February 1948 by replacing the air-actuated throttle with a standard electrically-actuated throttle. The production BL2 used the standard electro-hydraulic governor and notched throttle as used in the F3. While EMD public relations claimed the difference between the BL1 and BL2 was a lack of MU control, photographs of the BL1 demonstrator clearly show it was MU-equipped.
This model of locomotive was sold for both freight and passenger service and the locomotive's intended purpose could be easily identified by the presence or absence of an exhaust stack between the two windshield panes. This exhaust stack was for the steam generator on passenger service units.
Limiting the locomotive's success were several mechanical and ergonomic features. The mechanical components within the engine compartment were difficult to access and maintain, reducing its appeal among railroad shop crews. The locomotive's carbody lacked the full-length walkways of subsequent GP diesels, making it difficult for the brakeman or switchman to move from one point on the locomotive to another during switching operations. Finally, although the industrial designers at EMD tried to build a carbody that evoked high-class passenger trains while retaining the utilitarianism of railroad work, the visual design never quite caught on. However, even though the BL2 didn't succeed very well, EMD's engineers learned quite a bit from the endeavor and incorporated all of the good ideas from it into the company's widely successful GP series of locomotives.
|Bangor and Aroostook||8||550-557 (later 50-57)|
|Boston and Maine Railroad||4||1550–1553||Steam generator; no MU|
|Chesapeake and Ohio Railway¹||14||80-85, 1840–1847||Steam generator in 83, 1840-1842 dual controls|
|Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad||2||1600-1601||Steam generator, EMD 499 to C&EI 1602|
|Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway ("Monon")||9||30-38|
|Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad||5||425-429||Steam generator added in 1951|
|Electro Motive Division||1||499||Demonstrator built as BL1 in 9/47, converted to BL2 in 2/48, sold to C&EI 1602 in 12/48|
|Florida East Coast Railway||6||601-606|
|Missouri Pacific Railroad||8||4104-4111|
|Western Maryland Railway||2||81-82||Built without MU, added later|
- ¹ The first six of the C&O units were actually ordered by the Pere Marquette Railway (PM), but were delivered after the C&O had purchased the PM. Units were delivered with C&O markings and PM lettering, leading to a myth that a handful were delivered before the merger with the PM.
The following BL2s have been preserved:
- Monon #32; Kentucky Railway Museum .
- Western Maryland Railway #81; Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum , Baltimore, Maryland.
- Western Maryland Railroad #82; Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad .
- Janesville & Southeastern #52, ex-Bangor and Aroostook #52; née-Bangor and Aroostook #552 National Railroad Museum , Green Bay, Wisconsin; currently operating on Saratoga and North Creek Railway #52 .
- Bangor and Aroostook #54; Lackawaxen and Stourbridge Railroad , Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
- Bangor and Aroostook #56; Janesville, Wisconsin.
- Bangor and Aroostook #57; Cole Transportation Museum , Bangor, Maine.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to EMD BL2 locomotives.|
- Pinkepank, Jerry A. (1973). The Second Diesel Spotter's Guide. Kalmbach Publishing Co., Milwaukee, WI. ISBN 0-89024-026-4.
- Holt, Brent. The BL2: EMD's Ugly Duckling?
- "BL2..... A Final Study" by Dan Dover, Ed Skinger, and Win Cuisinier, Extra 2200 South Issue #46 pp 20-24. Drawings by Win Cuisinier (Preston Cook).