Locomotive 1818

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Brief service roster

Delivered by EMD in may 1952
Transfer to Europe after modification to European standards
Tests in Germany from january 14, 1953 to september 18, 1953
Tests in France from september 24, 1953 to march 17, 1954
Tests in Belgium from april 20 to april 28, 1954
Transfer back to the US
Transfer to USNavy (at Depot at Hawthorne) in september 1970
Transfer to Alaska RR in december 1977
Service for ALCOP train from early 80's to about 1992
In use at Clear Site Air Force base near Fairbanks
January 1999: The unit was retired!
January 2000: The unit will be preserved in Alaska!
March 2000: Nescessary funds are raised, and so...

#1818 IS SAVED!

The 1818 unit was a model MRS-1 without dynamic brakes, manufactured by Electro-Motive Division (EMD) in May of 1952, serial number 15883, on order number 7013.

The European history of this unit

1) Germany

Almost immediately after the unit left the GM factory, the unit was modificated to meet the European standards for rolling stock, and it was shipped to Germany where it was stationned in Aachen. There, the unit was not only used by the USArmy, but the unit also served as a demonstration locomotive for General Motors. The USArmy asked the "Deutsche Bundesbahn" (DB) to test, if the MRS-1 locomotives were suiting for the intended purposes (see history). This offer of the USArmy suited the DB fine, because it had the opportunity to test a big diesel locomotive in daily service on its own net. The DB hoped to obtain information about the fuel consumption of such a locomotive in different operational patterns.
From january 14, 1953 to september 18, 1953 the unit was based in the Frankfurt-Griesheim shop (Bw Frankfurt-Griesheim), Germany. The 1818 was used parallel to a normal steam locomotive schedule, e.g. on the F3/F4 (Merkur) passenger trains from Frankfurt/Main to Hamburg-Altona and back. However, after extensive testing, German engineers preferred diesel-hydraulical traction for their diesellocomotives.

Picture from the collection of A. Spühr, scanned from MIBA 11/1986, showing unit 1818 in front of -probably- train F4 "Merkur" at Osnabrück main station, in 1953.
For the DB's steam locomotives, this was the longest distance to run (702 km). It was also the longest run for steam locomotives in whole Western Europe! In this schedule, the MRS-1 was compared to steam locomotives of classes 03.10 and 05. The DB's test department for locomotives in Minden (VAL) conducted also tests on the line Lehrte-Isenbüttel to evaluate the performance rating of the MRS-1. Steam locomotives of the classes 03, 23 and 50 were used as comparison for these tests. In switching service, the MRS-1 was compared with a class 55.25 steam locomotive. Further tests were conducted on the steep grade from Laufach to Heigenbrück. During this test the MRS-1 pulled the passenger trains D 403/D 404 and F 55/F 56 ("Blauer Enzian") between Munich and Hamburg-Altona.

This picture shows unit 1818 in front of passenger train D 404 near Laufach. Picture by Bellingrodt, scan from Eisenbahn magazin 11/95.
The tests turned out positive, the fuel consumption in road service was less than that of a comparable steam locomotive. It was also possible to cover a broad range of operational patterns with a single locomotive.

2) France

Starting on september 24, 1953, the unit was stationed for six months at the depot of Saintes (région Ouest), France for the same purpose it had in Belgium and Germany. The unit was renumbered in France to '060 DU' It was mainly used for freight trains towards Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Angoulême, with a daily average distance travelled of 924 km. The unit was also used for a passenger train towards Paris-Charolais. The unit was also seen in Paris-Nord and Saint-Gervais-le-Fayet. In january 1954, the unit was transferred to the depot of Oullins, for static tests. The unit stayed in France until march 17, 1954, after which it went back to Germany.

Overview of services in France:

3) Belgium

Unit 1818 during the tests (probably at Schaarbeek), april 1954. Photo NMBS, Scan by Stefan Nicolaï

From april 20 to 28, 1954, the engine was in Belgium to check if future Belgian diesel engines, that would have the same engine as the 1818 loc, would be satisfactory.
Here is an overview of the tests on Belgian tracks:

During all tests, the machine was conducted by a German driver, assisted by an American technician and four people of the NMBS. During the short stay at the depot of Kinkempois, the local people nicknamed the unit 'le corbillard' (funeral car), due to its overall black paintingscheme.

Back to the US, and on to the Alaska RR

Unit 1818 was transfered to the Navy (US Navy Ammunition Depot at Hawthorne, Nevada) as number 65-00574 in september 1970 (read about the EMD MRS-1 activities on the history-page).

Like many of the units assigned to the US Army, #1818, carried on the Navy's books as #74, came in basic black. The thirteen EMD versions of the MRS-1 are deployed around the country, including five at Hawthorne, Nevada. Picture from the July 1976 issue of "Rail Classics" magazine. Photo by David Lustig, scan by Randy Houk
After the unit finished its Navy adventure, it was transferred (along with 1814-1817) to The Alaska Railroad where they did civilian duties.
Later, unit 1818 went back into military service with the US Air Force.

Secret mission...

In the early 1980s, the senior military people in Alaska needed to establish a new alternate command post to replace the command post at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage in case of a nuclear attack. The previous alternate command post had been at a site a few miles outside of Fairbanks, but it was closing down. They decided the command post should be mobile, and there was some desire to outfit an airplane, but they couldn't get funding or approval. Funding was a major problem, and they wanted to do something as cheap as possible. Then they decided that a train was just what they needed:
The ALCOP train!
It was deactivated about 1992, a victim of the fall of the USSR.

It's a great actor too...

Unit 1818 even gained "video fame" in the rail video: "Alaska: Steel Rails in the Midnight Sun" by Patrick A. Hunstinger of Mind's Producktion Anchorage. In this video, the MRS-1 gives for only about 5 minutes (including a cab ride) a wonderful performance.

The current job

Locomotive 1718 is now at Clear Site Air Force radar tracking Station between Healy and Nenana, South of Fairbanks. It is used there to move around coal cars - they have a coal fired power and heating plant for the station.

There are plans now (february 1998) to do some upgrading of the electrical system. This means that the 45 year old unit will remain active for quite some time!

Unit 1718 on September 7, 1983 at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska. At this time it was dedicated to pulling the Air Force train, although the loco was still owned by the ARR. Photo/scan by Curtis Fortenberry.

Picture of 1718 by Ed Alford on John Combs' ARR pages photogallery.

What will the future bring?

The unit deserves a honourable retirement after 45 years of duty! But preservation should be the only word here to use!

And yes, in march 2000 it came true. The unit will be preserved by the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry in Wasila, Alaska. We needed to raise $3000.


Now we need to wait for nescessary infrastructure-works in Wasila, for entering the unit on her grounds...