The Centipede, DR-12-8-3000
The Baldwin Centipede, technically listed by the builder
as a DR-12-8-3000 or DR-12-8-1500/2, was perhaps the most unique
diesel-electric locomotive ever built. Constructed during Baldwin's
early years of diesel development the radical design was more on par
with electric locomotives with the model's odd wheel configuration.
Surprisingly, several units were built for a handful of railroads
although as became common with Baldwin-built diesels the DR-12-8-3000
proved troublesome in service and difficult to maintain. By the 1950s
most railroads had scrapped their Centipedes due to the locomotives' troublesome prime mover,
difficulty to maintain, and the damage it caused to the track
structure. Today, none of the DR-12-8-3000 designs are known to be
preserved as most were scrapped before the 1960s. From a historical
standpoint this is a shame considering the distinction these locomotives
hold in industry, even though they were unsuccessful.
The Baldwin Centipede gained its name from its odd wheel arrangement,
which resembled the legs of a centipede. The DR-12-8-3000 featured an
electric locomotive undercarriage of a 2-D+D-2 wheel arrangement. These
odd sets of numbers and letters designate powered and unpowered axles.
Unpowered axles are designated using numerals whereas powered axles are
distinguished by using letters, typical in electric wheel arrangements.
So, for instance, in a 2-D+D-2 arrangement the "2" refers to two
unpowered axles front and aft and the “D” refers to four powered axles
whereby “A” equals one powered axle, “B” equals two powered axles, “C”
equals three powered axles, and so on.
Using Baldwin's rating system, however, the Centipede was a DR-12-8-3000. Breaking down the designations the DR referred to Diesel Road
unit; the first number, 12, was the designation of twelve overall
axles; the second number, 8, was the designation of eight powered
traction motors; and 3,000 stood for the horsepower rating (in later models Baldwin
would shorten the horsepower number to include only the first two
digits of the rating so a 2,000 horsepower unit like the "Babyface" model
would be DR6-4-20). Given the locomotive's numerous wheels and
extremely heavy weight (593.71 tons) it probably comes as little
surprise that it offered the highest tractive effort of any diesel locomotive in history; 205,000 pounds starting and 105,600 pounds continuous.
The Baldwin Centipede, using the builder's infamous "Baby Face" carbody
design, began production in December, 1945 using two demonstrators
assigned to the Union Pacific. It was a massive locomotive using two
606 SC model prime movers
that, again, produced 3,000 horsepower with a length of 91 feet.
Surprisingly, the DR-12-8-3000 sold relatively well initially, as
railroads were impressed with the incredible tractive effort it offered.
The Pennsylvania and Seaboard Air Line railroads, who were quite loyal
to Baldwin, purchased several units. The PRR would eventually buy 24
while Seaboard picked up 14. Although PRR and SAL were the only two
American lines to purchase the Centipede National de Mexico also bought
14. Along with the two demonstrators, of which UP ultimately declined
to buy, 54 total DR-12-8-3000s were built by the time production had
ended in 1948.
Baldwin DR-12-8-3000/Centipede Production Roster
|National de Mexico (Mexico)||6400-6413||14||1947-1948|
|Seaboard Air Line||4500-4513||14||1947-1948|
Aside from the Centipede's maintenance and over-the-road
troubles (to make matters worse, each order was customized with
components placed in different areas of the locomotive making
maintenance a headache), the model's weight caused significant wear to
track. Additionally, its lack of dynamic braking made it difficult for
use in heavy drag service along with the fact that Baldwin did not make
it MU-capable (meaning it could not be operated directly from a lead
locomotive). Lastly, for more information about the Centipedes and please refer to the chart above for a complete production roster.
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