Rowland's team consisted of some of the best names in the business of steam technology including Livio Dante Porta (an Argentine mechanical engineer who studied under noted French steam designer Andre Chapelon), physicist David Berkowitz, Bill Withuhn mentioned above who was also an industrial engineer, the Babcock & Wilcox Company founded in 1867 that helped design the Norfolk & Western's Jawn Henry, Dr. John T. Harding whose background was in physics and who had worked in the FRA's High Speed Ground Transportation program, and more than a dozen other associates with exemplary backgrounds in transportation or related fields. As the team began brainstorming the ACE 3000 concept they ultimately concluded that it was practical and a low-maintenance, economical competitor to the diesel could be built.
It was Porta, himself, that drafted the first concept that became known as the original ACE 3000, or Second Generation Steam (SGS) locomotive. The general consensus of the locomotive's design was that it would feature a 2-10-0 wheel arrangement, burn coal, operate at high speeds in freight service (15 to 70 mph), carry a look not unlike a conventional diesel with a semi-streamlined cab design, feature 3,000 nominal drawbar horsepower and 4,000 at its peak (based from the, then standard GP40 series), and use the latest in advanced computer technology to still allow the standard crew size of the day. A drawing of the locomotive was done by Gil Reid showing it pulling an intermodal freight at speed and it was from that point interest within the railroad community began to seriously gain traction, at first by Burlington Northern.
However, BN was looking for something a little different than Porta's original 2-10-0. Instead, the parties worked together and came up with what was termed the ACE
3000-8, a 4-8-4+4-8-4 trainset that was a double-ended, streamlined design. Between the locomotives the design called for a small car which would be used to haul the coal (similar to a tender). Just like with the original ACE 3000, the 3000-8 would use compound expansion, which offered more efficient applications of steam and water if designed correctly (as believed was possible by the 1980s). This type of steam technology was first developed in the U.S. in 1904 with the B&O's "Old Maude" 0-6-6-0 #2400. However, most railroads shied away from compound expansion at the time since it was too complicated and offered little advantages over simple expansion.
With Burlington Northern's interest growing other major backers began to appear including the C&O/Chessie System and Babcock & Wilcox (B&W). By November of 1982 prototypes were in the works, which were to be ready for service by 1985. Unfortunately, while no one realized it this proved to be the pinnacle of the project. A year later during the spring of 1983 the Coal
Oriented Advanced Locomotive Systems (COALS) group was formed with BN, Chessie, and B&W primary stakeholders since ACE simply did not have the resources to fund the multimillion endeavor, which left the company essentially on the outside looking in and only providing the locomotive design itself. As quickly as the project had progressed it fell apart just as rapidly; during the fall of that year it was announced COALS would break up since the parties could not agree on the project's financing.
This put the ACE 3000 endeavor back, squarely on the shoulders of Rowland and his team. While they believed a working prototype could sell the new steam technology the small company just did not have the millions of dollars in funding necessary to do so. In any event, Rowland was able to put something on the rails for testing in an effort to gain publicity and hopefully fund the project; his own C&O 4-8-4 #614T. On January 2, 1985 armed with an army of gadgets and technical equipment to gather data concerning the efficiency of the Greenbrier in service it left the C&O main line at Huntington, West Virginia heading east towards Hinton. The bitterly cold temperatures during the trials and issues with the #614T made the tests somewhat inconclusive but the big 4-8-4 overall ran relatively well. Ultimately, the results of those trials were never published but Rowland and his team did determine, incredibly, that the steamer used less fuel than a comparable Electro-Motive diesel from that era (the GP40).
One of American Coal Enterprises' final designs was the most attractive, visually, referred to as the ACE Mark I or ACE 6000. The locomotive's design was primarily the work of Porta, once again, and it was intended for use in fast-freight service. The steamer was to be a 2-10-2 semi-articulated, double-ended setup capable of producing 6,000 horsepower. With streamlined shrouding the locomotive it actually more closely resembled an EMD locomotive according to an artists' rendition of the design. Further refinements, though, to the Mark I saw it converted into a Garratt configuration (an articulated steamer with three parts whereby the boiler sits between a pair of axles on each end of the locomotive). With this latest change the Chessie System began losing interest in the project, the only remaining railroad still on-board with the concept.
By the mid-1980s oil prices had began falling, which sealed the fate of
the ACE 3000. Soon after, Chessie pulled the plug of its
financial support and having never received public money to finance the
concept American Coal Enterprises foundered. It was ultimately never able to put a working prototype into service, which was estimated to cost $1.25 million
per unit. The ACE had the data on their side, enough so anyway to at
least push forward in producing an example of their concept. However, with limited funds, a
small design team, and lack of support/interest from most of the
railroad industry they were never able to show the world their idea.
Since the 1980s it is said Rowland still hasn't given up on his ACE 3000
project but has also never been able to draw renewed interest.
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ACE 3000 Project