photos by: John Powell
c/n 75481, b/d 3/52
- built for Medford Corp. as # 8
- 1968 to Magma Arizona
- purchased by the Southern Oregon Chapter,
NRHS in 1995
photo by: Larry Tuttle
photos by: John Powell
photo by: Nicholas Todd
Freshly painted - White City, OR.
Up until 1952 the Medford Logging Railroad used only steam locomotives to move
harvested timber from the Butte Falls region to the large Medford Corporation
(MEDCO) mill in Medford. Then in 1952 the decision was made to purchase a new
diesel locomotive from the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton Corporation (B-L-H) of
Philadelphia, PA. Built as construction number #75481, it was placed in service for
the Medford Corporation in March 1952.
Medco ordered a "switcher type" locomotive for several reasons: (1) its relatively light 100-ton weight would be easy on the rough and sometimes wobbly logging railroad tracks between Butte Falls and Medford, and (2) this type of locomotive has a cab located at one end, allowing better visibility for engine crews when switching log cars.
When B-L-H constructed this diesel locomotive it was assigned Medco No. 8, numbered right after the logging railroad's highest numbered steam locomotive (No. 7), which now is on display off I-5 at the Caboose Motel in Dunsmuir.
No. 8 has an 800-hp., 6-cylinder, non-turbocharged engine (called a "prime mover") that is connected to a main generator. This main generator is then wired to 4 Westinghouse 362-type traction motors that are mounted onto each of the 4 axles of the locomotive. Each traction motor is connected to a 'bull gear' on each axle and that in turn moves the wheels. Probably the simplest way to describe today's diesel locomotive is that "it is an electric locomotive that carries its own power plant."
This locomotive is B-L-H's Model S-8 switching locomotive. It is a smaller version of their more popular 8-cylinder, 1200-hp. Model S-12 locomotive.
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Medco No. 8, besides being the only diesel locomotive they ever owned, has another distinction that makes it special - it's the only Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton diesel switcher ever equipped with factory-built dynamic brakes.
A locomotive equipped with dynamic brakes is able to better control a train when going downgrade. It is similar to down-shifting your car into a lower gear to control speed. When an engineer "shifts over" his locomotive into dynamic braking, the electrical wiring to the traction motors is changed, making them generators. A generator has a natural retardation and this is transferred to the axles. At the same time the generator generates heat. This heat is transferred to dynamic brake grids on the hood to dissipate the heat.
Medco No. 8 was in continuous service until 1962 when the logging railroad was shut down in favor of using trucks to haul the logs. For the next six years No. 8 sat in storage at the Medco mill, awaiting an uncertain future.
In July 1968, Medco No. 8 was sold to the Magma Arizona Railroad at Superior, Arizona. The Magma Arizona is a 28-mile railroad east of Phoenix that hauled copper ore and perlite, a volcanic material used in gardening. Just as Medco did when they got their diesel, Magma Arizona decided to keep the "No. 8" number as it, too, fit right after their highest numbered steam locomotive - Magma Arizona No. 7.
The Magma Arizona Railroad eventually acquired two more diesel locomotives (Nos. 9 and 10) - this time from the McCloud River Railway in California. There in the hot Arizona desert sun the three diesels closed out Magma Arizona's steam operations and toiled in relative obscurity.
In 1992, Magma Arizona No. 8 suffered a main generator failure while in service, so it was set aside for repairs. The railroad even acquired a replacement main generator for No. 8. However, a downturn in business meant the other two locomotives could handle what business there was. Suddenly No. 8 became surplus and our chapter found out about it. We began a "Bring Back Alive in '95" campaign.
In August 1995 the Southern Oregon Chapter, National Railway Historical Society in Medford purchased No. 8, a spare main generator, spare axle and other components from the Magma Arizona Railroad. These spare parts were transported back to Oregon by railroad flatcar and gondola car free of charge by Southern Pacific to the Willamette & Pacific Railroad shops in Albany, Oregon.
At Albany the first thing to do was to replace the failed main generator with the spare one we acquired from Magma Arizona Railroad. After this was completed then we next checked over the prime mover and electrical parts. On August 24, 1996 we successfully started Medco No. 8's engine for the first time near four years.
The next project was replacing the one remaining solid bearing axle journal with a new roller bearing journal. The other three solid bearing journals were replaced with roller bearing journals by the Magma Arizona, but they never got around to that last axle. We sent the axle to Livingston Rebuild Center of Livingston, Montana and they did the conversion for us with their large wheel press.
October 5, 1996 - a special day for No. 8. While at lunch the employees at Willamette & Pacific decided it was a good time to see how good our restoration work was by trying out No. 8 in yard switching service. When we came back from lunch there was No. 8 ready to go to work. We watched No. 8 run around their yard, pushing and pulling as many as 25 cars at a time. It was a beautiful sight.
In December 1997, the good people of the Willamette & Pacific Railroad informed us that with their increasing business they needed the space around their shop where No. 8 was sitting. Since the locomotive was in running condition the W&P RR people suggest running an excursion train as a fund-raiser from Albany to Corvallis, then up to McMinnville and return. We agreed and so on February 23, 1997, Medco No. 8 was ready to pull her first railfan excursion train.
The day before and the day of the trip, Chapter president Jerry Hellinga took out two of the famous Medco's diamond logos stencils and quickly painted them on the sides of the cab. We were ready to go, but bad luck struck. About 6 miles out of Albany the main generator acted up and soon fried itself; stranding the train and passengers on the mainline. A W&P RR engineer thumbed a ride back to Albany and brought back a spare locomotive to complete the day's trip. Thank You W&P RR.
We still had to move No. 8 to Medford so arrangements were made between the W&P RR and Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad to tow the locomotive from Albany to Medford. On July 11, 1997 Medco No. 8 arrived back home after an absence of 29 years. The Central Oregon & Pacific did not charge us for the move. Thank you!
In 1997 our chapter made arrangements to rebuild the main generator at a cost of over $16,000. It was installed in January 1998. No. 8 was ready to run again, and run it did!
Of all the tests our Chapter performed, one we never had the opportunity to test was the dynamic brakes. On May 17, 1998, Medco No. 8 made a run from Central Point to Ashland and return. We found the dynamic brakes worked just like new. Then on June 6, 1998 we tested No. 8 in yard switching service - this time in Medford, right where she did it 29 years ago. After two hours of successful switching of loaded log cars and other railroad cars, our Chapter placed No. 8 in storage. In June 2002 this chapter moved Medco No. 8 under power to a new storage location here in the Rogue Valley, where it is currently stored in operating condition.
Our next big project is to repaint No. 8 to how she appears in the color builder's photograph above. The cost will be around $10,000. When done, Medco No. 8 could appear for special events in the Rogue Valley.