A direct descendant of the LVA range was the A/AS series introduced in 1969/1970 as marine generators and propulsion units. Design wise it was based on the LVA though its frame was cast rather than fabricated, being primarily intended for marine use it was suitably beefed up. For example the 12LVA24 weighed 14,400kg for a continuous rating of 2,650bhp at 1,050rpm, whilst the 12ASV25 weighed 18,900kg for a continuous rating of 3,000bhp at 900rpm. The ASV engines could also operate on heavy fuel.
Its a cloudy ??? as HS4000 Kestrel transitions dockside at Cardiff into a Russian freighter for a new career in the USSR. The ship was the MV Krasnokansk which ironically was powered by a Sulzer RD76 main engine!
At some point a Sulzer manager did visit Russia to assist HS4000 with some governor problems. During 1995 Geoff and the former Brush test bed foreman tried, through Sulzer Moscow, to see if the locomotive still existed, with the intent to try and bring it back to the UK. Unfortunately by the time of this request the locomotive had been scrapped.
The end of the Rail Traction business
Sulzer's first locomotive entered service in 1912, the company remained in the Traction business for over fifty years before concentrating on the Marine diesels. The reasons for the departure from the traction business include:
In a high level meeting with the BRB George Sulzer gave a commitment that 'the Sulzer engine will be put right, whatever the cost' - refering here to the 12LDA28C. The costs were high, the problems very significant, so much so that BR were considering re-engining the Class 47's with the Ruston 16RKC.
The bad experience with the 12LVA24 on BR in the Class 48.
The costly private venture with Brush on the 'Kestrel' locomotive which came to nothing. This project had developed from BR's desire in the 1960's to operate a fast mixed traffic locomotive. This requirement was later changed to slow freight locomotives and fast lightweight rolling stock, resulting in the Class 56 and the HST with no need for further development of 'Kestrel'.
In the lesser developed countries the early inroads made by Sulzer were not sustained, GM/EMD had tied up the market with simple cheap locomotives.
Outside of the traction business things were changing, not necessarily for the best. Sulzer had long been the leader in the marine engine world - now they were losing sales to B&W as fuel consumption became a major concern for ship operators. The days of the loop scavenged two stroke were drawing to a close, but Sulzer were finding this tough to swallow. Fortunately Sulzer faced the challenge and spent two years designing & developing their own uniflow scavenge engine, which became the RTA series.
After the loss of 'Kestrel' the few remaining service engineers had more or less a free hand in what they did. My patch included the LMR, WR & ER, based in Derby, moving here permanently in 1970. We had company cars so it was no problem to go out into the field to investigate problems. The resources of Derby Works and the BR Derby metallurgical laboratory were on hand to help, frequently calling in someone from the CM&EE department to assist. As long as a report of my activities was produced for Sulzer management all would be well.
During the early 1970's complaints started on the Southern about the smokey Class 33's, from this came a working party to look into this, later the investigation was enlarged to include the Class 47's. The investigation was known as the Black Smoke Working Party and was overseen by the BR Fuel Injection committee. Although this problem first surfaced on the Southern we on the LMR didn't consider them to be a proper railway for diesel operations! After all they barely had one hundred Sulzer engines in service, whilst we on the LMR had about 650 to look after!
The investigation ran for two years, most of the problems were related to the overhaul procedures at Derby and Crewe. Injector nozzles were being repaired when it would have been better to simply scrap them. However the vested interests in the workshops wanted to carry on their reconditioning, a sort of job creation scheme. Nozzle seats would be ground until the case hardening was ground right through. When such a nozzle went back into service it lasted about eight hours before leaking and dribbling.
It was proven in extensive load testing on a Class 24 at Reddish depot and later on the test rig at Derby that it was better to run them longer and then throw the injector nozzles away. A new injector nozzle would cost about GBP15.00. Nozzles would normally require overhaul between 1,500 & 2,000 hours. Nozzle problems would lead to high exhaust temperatures which could lead to turbocharger failures, valve failures and exhaust pipe problems. Other manufacturers engines also experienced problems, but revealed in different ways. For example the English Electric CSVT engines used to suffer from fuel dilution of the lubricating oil.
Other investigations related to problems affecting the engine timing and the set up of governors and fuel pumps - information gained in this fieldwork proved useful for my later work with the marine engines. Much time was also spent on dealing with the fractures occurring at various locations (cylinder blocks and crankcases) in the LDA28's. Although these did not normally cause failures in traffic they did require major works attention, some four years were spent off and on at Derby working with the CM&EE in tackling some of the repairs.
Investigations were carried out into why engines required oil changes. This involved a study of the oil histories of hundreds of Sulzer engines. The information gleaned from this study continues to have use today. Likewise a study was carried out into the life of lubricating oil filters and the influence of piston scraper ring band width on the running-in of engines.
At the end of 1976 I transferred to the Sulzer Marine Division, leaving Derby in 1977, moving south to the London area.
When the Sulzer Traction department was being wound down in the UK I moved over to the Sulzer Marine Division and started a complete new episode in my life of marine engine technical service work, commissioning and sea trials. This included trips to the Hellenic Shipyards in Greece on commissioning work and to Porgsgrun, Norway for a guarantee dry docking on a Ro-Ro ship.
The downsizing and eventual closure of the Sulzer UK traction department sent the service engineers to many locations. Some stayed with Sulzer, like myself moving to their marine division across various parts of the globe. One stayed with Sulzer to become the Managing Director of Sulzer Nigeria. Others stayed in the engineering field but changed companies, one to General Electric in Vancouver, another to a power station in St Moritz. Some simply retired, whilst others are no longer with us, hopefully their experiences are recorded somewhere, about times & events now fast disappearing.
The first task handled in the marine division involved working with the Sulzer A25 (son of the LVA24), there are many thousands of these A25's in service as marine generators and propulsion units. The five cylinder version rated at 950bhp at 750rpm was the most common of this family. A three month stint in Winterthur allowed for training on the slow speed diesels and the Sulzer Z40 series. The easy going ways of the traction business were not mirrored in marine service. Problems would require travelling at short notice, making one's social calendar full of uncertainty. Whereas a failed locomotive could be swiftly replaced, a ship with motor trouble needed to sail no matter what. Big financial penalties and loss of goodwill meant marine service engineers needed great flexibility. It was not unusual to board a ship coming into the locks at Tilbury in the early hours, work all day on a problem, sail down the river to test the engine, then leave the ship with the pilot. This involved scrambling down the jacobs ladders whilst underway, and then jumping onto the moving deck of the pilot launch!
On the large marine engines most of the routine work, such as piston changes was carried out by the ship's staff. The Sulzer engineers normally only had involvement in the more complex problems such as bridge control systems, high liner wear, engine fuel pump timing, performance analysis etc. There was always someone onboard to help if required. Other work involved standing by at drydock, supervising overhauls and attending sea trials after docking. All ships had engine tools with a good range of general equipment socket spanners and the like, plus a small machine shop. I usually carried a vernier, small shifter, torch, feelers, setting gear for fuel pumps and small mirror.
I left Sulzer in 1979 to work for the service department at Paxman Diesels for seven years. This mostly involved looking after foreign navies.
As at 2005 I am still involved in Marine technical service work. Earlier this year I was supervising the overhaul in Belfast of an eight cylinder Sulzer marine engine producing 8,000bhp at 510rpm type ZA40S, once refitted it was off on twelve hour sea trials to Rosslare.
The well worn phrase that truth can be stranger than fiction certainly overtook your webmaster during 2008 whilst working on an article about the reminiscences of an ex British Railways driver on the LAMCO iron ore railway in Liberia. Whilst the article was a wonderful look into American style railroading in West Africa, the railway did not operate any Sulzer powered locomotives, but did own some ex British Railways Class 08 shunters and railcars. However shortly after completion of the article an email arrived concerning the possible export of at least two used locomotives from Romania to Liberia for use on the iron ore line which was to be reopened at some point. The email was asking for an evaluation to be made of the two locomotives, these were fitted with Sulzer six cylinder engines.
The request was forwarded to Geoff who was contracted to visit the two locomotives in Romania and carry out the necessary inspections. The view below shows Geoff (in red overalls) at the factory alongside a Mr Stoica and Faur built LDH125-472, now suitably refurbished. It is believed that at least two locomotives were shipped to Liberia, but the global recession in 2008 saw the planned restart of the mine operations put on hold.
When Geoff sent this photograph for inclusion on the webpage he remarked that it was in considerable contrast with the one at the top of this page, taken some forty years earlier!
With thanks to Geoff for sharing these experiences, hopefully more memories (& photographs) will be added as time permits. All errors and omissions belong to your webmaster!
During June 2009 your webmaster made a return visit to England to celebrate some significant family birthdays and to put some faces to names that had been only email addresses until this trip. Geoff was gracious enough to drive up to Derby for a pub lunch and an afternoon of memories. It was a wonderful afternoon and long overdue after just over four years worth of emails between us. I wish the time spent together could have been longer, but it was not to be.
|Two alumni of Winterthur stand side by side at the summit station of the Snowdon Mountain Railway on September 23rd 2009. On the right is #6 Padarn, built in 1922 by the Swiss Locomotive Works, Winterthur. The locomotive is one of six built by SLM for the Snowdon Mountain Railway, equipped for rack & pinion working on the 800mm gauge track. On the left is Geoff, our story teller, whilst on holiday in North Wales with daughter Sally. |
Photograph courtesy Sally McEwen.
On his visit to Derby during June Geoff had mentioned his upcoming holiday to North Wales, he was looking forward very much to this trip especially to be able to spend time with Sally. I hope this photograph provides a way to close this story, regrettably I am sorry to advise that six days after the photograph was taken Geoff passed away suddenly.
Page added May 22nd 2005
Page updated October 24th 2009