A Brief History of Lehigh & New England #601
and Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern #602

by R.H. Piligian

This is intended to clear up some misinformation and "fuzzy" facts concerning Whitcomb 65 ton center cab diesel electric locomotives in general, and the L&NE/WK&S Whitcombs in particular.

L&NE #601 was constructed by the Whitcomb Locomotive Company, of Rochelle, IL, at the time a subsidiary of Baldwin Locomotive Works. It was built as part of an order for 99 similar locomotives for the US Army Transportation Corps in 1944. These locomotives were numbered in the 8400-8498 series, bearing Whitcomb serial numbers 60406-60504. They were classified by Whitcomb as 65-DE-19a, the 65 standing for the gross weight in tons, the DE standing for diesel electric drive, and the 19a believed to bear a relationship concerning the production run number from the first run of that particular model. The Army specification called for a locomotive to be able to run on any european main line, have a top speed of at least 45 mph, and must be capable pf operating in multiple unit with similar locomotives. L&NE #601 was constructed with serial number 60458, USATC #8452, re-numbered by the Military Railway Service upon arrival in Italy to #1362. While in Italy, it was used in a variety of service, ranging from yard duty to operating in MU with other Whitcombs on coal trains.

WK&S #602 had a similar history at the time of construction. It was constructed with serial number 60473 and bore the number USATC #8467. While no definite information has surfaced, it is believed that #602 was shipped to France or Belgium for use during the war. These locomotives were shipped overseas in three large crates, one each for each assembled truck and one large crate containing the locomotive frame and carbody, totally assembled. From information in a Whitcomb locomotive manual, apparently the locomotives were equipped with standard AAR couplers for shipment to the Port of Embarkation, removed prior to shipment and european couples applied upon delivery in Europe.

Whitcomb constructed the locomotives in accordance with standard locomotive practice for the 1940's era. Two Buda (correctly pronounced beauda) DCS-1879, 283 HP at 1200 RPM, engines were used for prime movers in each locomotive. The horsepower rating of this particular engine has been misstated in various publications but the 283 HP appears in both Whitcomb manuals and official US Army publications. These engines were supercharged and had 1879 cubic inch displacement. They utilized the "Lanova" principle of combustion that relies on an internal "energy cell" to provide complete combustion of diesel fuel oil. The electrical equipment was supplied by Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co. and consisted of two 197-A main generators, four 970-A traction motors and the various standard Westinghouse control equipment. With a 14:72 gear ratio and 42 inch diameter wheels, the locomotive had a maximum speed limit of 46½ MPH, quite fast for a military locomotive of the time. As was the practice in early diesel electric locomotives, the main generators were located away from the cab, with the radiators placed close to the cab. It was believed at the time that this provided for the cooling air to be blown away from the electrical cabinet and away from the cab in an effort to keep the cab cool. It was later proved that running the main electrical cables through the engine rooms was far more detrimental to the life of the locomotive than the benefits of a cooler cab.

The locomotives served the military well during World War II. Whitcomb received an Army-Navy "E" Award in January, 1944, for outstanding production of these military locomotives. These locomotives were used to pull the first train into the city of Rome after it was taken from the Germans. They pulled the first train across the Rhine River after the Corp of Engineers rebuilt a bombed out bridge. Whitcomb 65 tonners pulled the first train into Paris after it was liberated by the Allies and pulled the first supply trains and hospital trains into Belgium after that country was taken back by the Allies. While they were cantankerous and somewhat a maintenance headache, particularly the Buda diesel engines, they ran and often ran well. I spoke with an ex-MRS locomotive mechanic several years ago and he provided some interesting information about his tour of duty in Italy. The Buda diesel engines had heads that were prone to cracking due to a design flaw that provided too little cooling across the length of the head. As locomotives were laid up for relatively minor repairs, the mechanics would scrounge parts from the offending locomotive, mostly the heads, rendering the locomotive inoperative. The mechanic also stated that many of the trains were equipped with at least two, and sometimes three, Whitcombs for fear of breakdowns out on the road. He said they could pull well and were liked on coal train duty.

After VE day in 1945, the USATC decided that many of these Whitcombs were worth rehabilitating and being shipped to the Far East to fight in the war against Japan. 118 of these locomotives were shipped back to the US. By the time the locomotives arrived in the US, the hostilities ended in Japan. They arrived at Hawkins Point, near Baltimore, MD, and were stored pending disposition. With the war over, the US government disposed of these locomotives beginning in 1947. Most of the locomotives were sold through brokers to industrial operations or shortlines. The only modification that occurred to these locomotives was the removal of the european couples and the installation of bolt-on AAR coupler pockets and couplers. Whitcomb, however, repurchased some of the locomotives. These locomotives were rebuilt and reclassified to 70-DE-26. These rebuilt locomotives now weighed 70 tons and were equipped with wider cabs, side walkway extensions, side handrails, a larger oil reservoir, and spring-equipped draft gear couplers. Most of the rebuilds also had their MU gear removed.

L&NE #601 was purchased from the US government in February, 1947. The locomotive was not modified to a 70 ton configuration and retained its' as-built 65 ton appearance. It was purchased to replace the steam locomotive assigned to the Alpha Portland Cement mill in Martins Creek, PA. The Alpha mill contracted with the L&NE for switching duties and the L&NE thought it would be cheaper to use a diesel. The steam locomotive would require deadhead moves back and forth to Tadmor Yard for any type of servicing, let alone for monthly inspections. Also, the L&NE needed to have someone watch the steam locomotive during times of inactivity. All of this added up to unnecessary expenses that could be saved with the use of a diesel. Apparently, the benefits of diesel power through the use of #601 convinced management to pursue total dieselization in late 1947. #601 continued to be used until sometime in 1954. It was then sold to Panther Valley Coal Company in December, 1954 for use in the Lansford, PA area. It is unknown to the author when 601 was finally scrapped.

Several years ago, I spoke with ex-L&NE engineer Dick Powell about #601. He said that his first job upon qualifying as an engineer was running #601 at Martins Creek. Most of the work at Alpha consisted of spotting coal hoppers on the coal trestle. This operation included a procedure that, while it worked, was less than desirable. The locomotive would couple up to three hoppers, the limit of the trestle, and back up the "Woods Track" north of the Mill. The #601 would then "give it hell" and push the cars up the ramp. When the engine reached the top of the incline, the engineer would "dump" the air brakes, stopping the train before it flew off the end of the trestle. Mr. Powell never said whether a train went off the end! He said he liked running the locomotive because it was so much cleaner than the steam locomotives. He also remembers running the engine over to Tadmor for it's monthly inspection.

WK&S #602 has a much different past. Upon return to the US, it was repurchased by Whitcomb and rebuilt to a 70 ton configuration. Gulf Oil Corp. purchased two of these locomotives around 1950 for use at its Point Arthur, Texas refinery. They were numbered 7 and 8. Sometime around 1960, #7 was shipped to Philadelphia, PA to replace a smaller locomotive. It was used to move salt and catalyst cars along Pennypacker Avenue and the package department's black oil rack. In 1979, #8 was shipped to Philadelphia. This was done because parts were becoming scarce, and hence expensive, for Whitcomb locomotives. #8 would be used as a parts engine and never operated in Philadelphia. In 1983, #7 was out of service for an extended period of time and Gulf rented another locomotive. Finally, in 1984, Gulf purchased a Trackmobile and retired #7 permanently. Both locomotives were subsequently donated to the Cornell Railway Historical Society of Cornell, NY, for preservation. Unfortunately, the cost of moving both engines was well beyond the means of the Society and they were offered to the Anthracite Railroads Historical Society, due to the L&NE/Whitcomb connection. In 1987, the WK&S was approached about the possibility of leasing #7. #8 would be scrapped in place as it was partially disassembled. Any salvageable parts from #8 could be removed before scrapping. It was agreed to paint the locomotive in an L&NE paint scheme and renumber the locomotive 602. It was moved to Kempton in the fall of 1988 and rehabilitated for operation in 1989.

October, 2000

Return to #602.