BL2 Road Switcher

EMD BL2 Road Switcher locomotive, The New Tygart Flyer Excursion Train, Elkins, West Virginia

EMD BL2 Road Switcher locomotive, The New Tygart Flyer Excursion Train, Elkins, West Virginia

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

BL2 Road Switcher

The BL2 Road Switcher was built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) between September 1947 and May 1949.

EMD had been producing diesel powered locomotives since the 1930s with the most successful being the F-series which was introduced in 1939. The F-series design made them the perfect unit for moving trains over the railroad but not for switching duties. Their full-width bodies made it difficult for the train crews to see the rear of the locomotive. Although they had grab handles and stirrup steps for the crew to use during switching duties, these proved to be an impediment in places with tight clearances.

The solution was for EMD to design a locomotive specifically for switching duties. Starting with the F3 and employing the cut-away hood-design reminiscent of the GG-1, the EMD designers came up with the BL1 Demonstrator in September 1939. BL stood for “Branch Line”, indicating that EMD thought this engine best suited for lighter traffic duties and frequent switching operations.

The production units were classified as BL2. The BL1 and BL2 are virtually identical, differing only in the throttle mechanism. The BL1 Demonstrator was converted to a BL2 in February 1948. Although production lasted for 21 months, only 59 were produced including the converted BL1. Whilst solving the issues that restricted the F-series, EMD did not solve all the design problems. Several ergonomic and mechanical features of the BL2 severely limited its success. 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.

Aesthetics were also an issue. Although the industrial designers at EMD tried to build a carbody that evoked high-class passenger trains that worked so successfully with the GG-1 especially in the eyes of the public while retaining the utilitarianism of railroad work, the visual design never quite became popular. Even though the BL2 didn’t succeed very well, EMD’s engineers learned from the endeavor, and incorporated all of the good ideas from it into the company’s widely successful GP series of locomotives.

EMD BL2 Road Switcher locomotive, The New Tygart Flyer Excursion Train, Elkins, West Virginia

EMD BL2 Road Switcher locomotive, The New Tygart Flyer Excursion Train, Elkins, West Virginia

–  Click on the image to enlarge or purchase  –

The Western Maryland BL2s

Of the original 59 units built, seven have been preserved including both of the units originally sold to the Western Maryland Railway. The first unit, road number 81, can be seen at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum in Baltimore. The second, number 82, operates at the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad. The images seen here are of number 82 at the head of The New Tygart Flyer excursion train operating out of Elkins, West Virginia.

Summary
BL2 Road Switcher
Article Name
BL2 Road Switcher
Description
The BL2 Road Switcher was built by General Motors Electo-motive Division between Sept 1947 and May 1949. Of the original 59 units, seven have been preserved including both of the units originally sold to the Western Maryland Railway
Author
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
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2 Comments

  1. Your choice of viewpoint really adds to the sense of power of this Loco, Mark.
    LensScaper recently posted..An Untroubled MindMy Profile

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