1977 EMD 16-645E6

Anybody here think their truck will still be in service 111 years from now? Here’s a 118 year old tugboat that remained in service for all but seven years of it’s life. The tug we now know as Ohio started life in 1903 as Milwaukee Fire Department No. 15. Just over 106 feet long with a sturdy ice-breaking hull, she was originally powered by a reciprocating steam engine. Built in Chicago as a fire boat, she was equipped with three American Fire Pump Company fire pumps and could push 9,000 gallons per minute through two large and numerous small water cannons. Because she was built to serve Milwaukee, it was appropriate #15 be christened with beer rather than champagne. She singed her stack more than once fighting fires on the waterfront and served Milwaukee for 45 years before being retired in 1948.

The new Ohio was christened in 2019 and is the second of 10 tugs slated to be built to the same Damen Stan Tug 1907 design in the Great Lakes Shipyard at Cleveland, Ohio. At 64 feet, new Ohio is a bit shorter than the old 106 foot vessel but their beams (width to landlubbers) is about the same. The newer vessel draws about four feet less water. At 2000 total horsepower, new Ohio delivers about the same power as the single EMD in the old vessel, but it’s divided into two engines and two props. The two 1000 horsepower MTU 8V4000 V8 diesels each feed 3-bladed, 71 inch Kaplan style props in Kort nozzles through Twin-Disc MGX-5321 gearboxes with 5.46:1 reduction. New Ohio is far more maneuverable than the older. Ohio also has hybrid propulsion to save fuel. The FlexaGen system is a motor-generator coupled between the main engines and the gearboxes. With the main engines running, which is most of the time with a tug, FlexaGen supplies stable power to the main electrical system so a generator (in this case a 65 KW Deere) needn’t be run when underway. The units can also supply propulsion without the main engines running, or provide a propulsion boost if needed. The new Ohio delivers 30 tons of bollard pull, which is about six tons more than the old vessel. First of the new class was Cleveland in 2017, followed by Ohio and Michigan in 2019 and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2020. photo courtesy Paul C. LaMarre III SPECIAL THANKS TO TOM KUBIAK

In 1952 Great Lakes Towing Company (GLT) bought the vessel and started an extensive overhaul to convert her into a diesel tugboat. Out came the steam plant and firefighting gear and in went a World War II surplus, 1,700 horsepower Cleveland Diesel 16-278A Navy Propulsion Diesel Generator Package that had been removed from a scrapped, war-weary destroyer escort (which mounted four such units). With a sleek new superstructure and modern towing gear, she embarked on a fresh life in 1954 as the Lawrence C. Turner, renamed Ohio in 1973.

In 1977, the well used 16-278A diesel-electric plant was replaced by a new 1950 horsepower EMD 16-645E6 marine diesel backed up by a Falk gearbox turning an 8-foot diameter, five-bladed propeller. The tug then continued to work the lakes until being retired in 2014. In 2018, GLT donated the historic vessel to the National Museum of the Great Lakes, at Toledo, Ohio and after a year of cosmetic repair and refurbishment, she became available to tour and enjoy at the museum. Her 2019 dedication at the museum was held jointly with the christening of the new Ohio, officially ending one working career and beginning another.

Winton, General Motors, Cleveland, Electro-Motive and EMD

The EMD diesels of today have a storied history that goes back to 1911 and an engineer named Alexander Winton. Scottish born in 1860, Winton was the son of a marine engineer and emigrated to the United States in 1879. Young Winton took an engineering job at a factory, later working as a marine engineer. In 1891, he had saved enough money to start the Winton Bicycle Company but soon got interested in automobiles and transitioned onto the Winton Motor Carriage Company in 1897. Winton was one of the first in the car industry to discover the advertising benefits of having a racing team. He notably competed against none other than Henry Ford, who was also a fledgling car manufacturer at the time. Loosing to Ford didn’t seen to hurt his business either. Winton was a prolific inventor, with more than 100 patents in his name and is generally credited with inventing the 5th wheel trailer concept. Winton built well-regarded cars and trucks but that business gradually faded as his other business flourished. In 1924, Winton shut the car factory down to focus on his engine business.

With no fuel aboard, the old Ohio rides high. This does show off the secret of her icebreaking skills, at least to the extent it was known in 1903, that sloped back stem.  No doubt that icebreaking capability served her well throughout 111 years in service on the Great Lakes.

By 1911, Winton had grown wealthy and commissioned the construction of a large motor yacht to be called LeBelle after his wife. He was active in its design and construction but chagrinned at the lack of what he considered suitable engine choices. At the end of a fruitless search, he determined to design and build his own engines. In that process, Winton Engine Company was formed and began producing engines in 1914. It started with gasoline engines but soon began producing oil and distillate engines, eventually full diesels, mostly for marine use.

A few years down the road, one of Winton’s earliest large-scale customers proved to be an historic nexus. Electro-Motive Company (EMC) was a builder of gasoline-electric rail cars… gasoline engines powering generators that powered electric motors. What we would can a hybrid drive today. They had started in 1922, just as Winton’s engine business was really hitting it’s stride. Winton built gasoline and distillate engines for EMC, the two firms forming a happy business relationship.

Ohio at work in 1980 towing the retired bulk freighter SS Peter AB Widener on the first part of her journey to the scrappers. At this point, the EMD was just getting broken in. Widener was 580 feet long at this stage of her life and weighing in at about 6,000 tons. Ohio is doing the heavy pulling here but being helped at the opposite end by a steering tug.  Paul C. LaMarre III collection

By 1930, Alexander Winton was 70 years old and presumably ready to retire. When General Motors made an offer to buy Winton Engine Company, that offer was accepted and it became a division of GM on June 20, 1930. GM wanted Winton to jump start a 2-stroke diesel engine development that had begun a couple of years earlier. During the acquisition, they discovered EMC was one of Winton’s largest clients. GM saw potential in the idea of internal combustion-electric rail vehicles and soon purchased EMC as well to gain a foothold in that business.

From here, it was a flurry of diesel development. The research GM had done was mingled with the research, expertise and experience of the Winton engineering team and the highly competent EMC team. By 1933, they had developed the Winton 8-201, an inline, 1,608 cubic inch, 8-cylinder 2-stroke diesel with an 8 x 10-inch bore and stroke, making 600 horsepower. Two preproduction units were operated at the 1933 Chicago “Century of Progress” World’s Fair, garnering a substantial amount of publicity.

Developed primarily for rail use, the updated production 201A Series diesel found a high-profile home in the lovely Burlington Zephyr streamliner built to Burlington specs in conjunction with Budd Company in 1934. It was the first diesel-electric locomotive in mainline service, hitting speeds of over 112 mph on its inaugural run between Denver and Chicago. The hoopla surrounding that locomotive became the incentive for EMC to develop it’s own line of diesel-electrics and now you know the beginning of the ongoing story of the legendary Electro-Motive diesel-electric locomotives.

From the mid-1930s on, Winton, GM and EMC worked separately but together to develop and market products that incorporated the basic two-stroke Uniflow ideas fine tuned at the GM Research Division. Winton, GM and EMC all had slightly different markets and objectives but the base engine technology worked for all. Winton (which became the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division, CDED, in 1937)  carried the marine and stationary markets. GM’s Detroit Diesel Division (eventually) developed and marketed smaller road, marine and stationary diesels that started with the 71-Series. EMC worked in the rail market, mostly building locomotives and the 201A was their mainstay. These were not exclusive divisions of labor but mostly so.

CDED went on to fine tune the basic 201A design while realizing the need for an update. In 1938 they debuted the 567 Series, which was built under the Cleveland banner until 1941. That year EMC became EMD (Electro-Motive Division) and were tasked with all work related to rail applications, including engine development and they more or less took over the 567 as a locomotive engine. Cleveland Engine incorporated the lessons learned with the 567 into engines more suited to their marine and stationary markets. WWII would put EMD to building marine engines for the war effort but after the war they would revert back to doing mostly rail work.

At the working end of the vessel, you can see the Almon-Johnson 322 Series electric towing machine. The winch is powered by a 50 hp electric motor. A 240 volt, 300 amp DC generator, powered by a 6-71 Detroit, lives in the engine room to feed it. Typically, the winch mounted up to 3,000 feet of 1-1/2 to 2-inch wire rope and it could generate 30 tons of pull, with a good safety factor, and has an automatic tractor device that maintains an even strain on the cable. Given the era this unit was installed, it’s likely to be WWII surplus. The U.S. Navy LST (Landing Ship Tank) mounted two of these winches on the stern and when those ships were scrapped by the hundreds after the war, they were slurped up by the maritime industry. They are still in use and popular today.

201 + 567=645

Production of the 201A at CDED was prolific but the engine had a weak link, namely piston, ring and liner life. Winton, EMC and GM Research worked together on this problem. It was partly a lubricant problem but mostly an engine design issue that could not be solved in a piecemeal way. After much fruitless effort on quick fixes, it was deemed more cost effective to design a new engine. The end result was the 567 series launched in 1938, 567 being the per-cylinder displacement as with all other Wintons. This development resulted in new designs that were built by CDED, the 248 Series, the later 278 series and a host of others.

The wheelhouse of the Ohio frozen in time as it was in 2014, when she was laid up. If this place could only talk.

Through World War II and well into the 1950s, CDED built a plethora of engines for all venues, very notably for submarines. When nuclear subs began dominating, engine production at CDED dwindled. The Navy had been CDED’s biggest single market and by 1962 things had slowed down enough that the CDED plant in Cleveland, Ohio. All engine manufacturing moved to the EMD plant in Illinois. EMD was dominating the diesel electric locomotive market but would also produce marine and stationary engines and sales slowly picked up. Gradually, engine production would center around the 567 Series, regardless of the market.

The 567 Series was originally offered in V6, V8, V12 and V16 configurations with an 8.5 x 10 inch bore and stroke. Like all the Uniflow engines, they used Roots blowers for scavenging. They produced air pressure just slightly above atmospheric pressure. In 1959, the 567D introduced turbocharging to the EMD lines. Only the V16 engines were so equipped but it boosted the power from a median 1,500 horsepower to 2,500. The compressor was mechanically driven at low speeds but as exhaust flow picked up, the clutch would kick out and the turbine would take over. In marine applications, the 16-567D was rated for up to 2,400 horses. In rail use, the upper rating was 2,850 horsepower. Everybody liked the power but the turbo units were problematic, so over years in service, many 567Ds were reverted back to Roots blowers to 567Cs with up to about 2,000 horsepower outputs.

The big EMD V16 weighs in at about 17 tons and is almost 20 feet long. Plus the Falk reversing gear with a 3.57:1 reduction gear. The upper row of round covers accesses the intake chamber. The lower row accesses the connecting rods. Note the row of Racor filters in the right foreground. Generators and pumps line up on either side of the big main engine.

By the mid-1960s, the 567 got an upgrade in displacement. Introduced in 1965, the 645 Series had a bore increase from 8.5 to 9.1-inches and produced approximately 160 horsepower per cylinder in the marine form. The 645 would go a long time in service but would be replaced by the similar 710 Series, the increase in displacement achieved by an inch more stroke.

In many ways, the big two-stroke GMs are just like the little Jimmies you might have seen in the 53, 71 or 92 series. They use the Uniflow principle, meaning air is pushed in via ports in the lower parts of the liner under pressure from mechanically driven Roots blowers and exhaust is via conventional valves at the top of the cylinder. At the top of the head here with the cover open, you see the six exhaust valves per cylinder configuration of the 645 Series engines and the mechanically driven unit injector in the center.

The Old and the New

Various descendants of the 567 are still in production and widely used in all venues, though rail is still the primary one. That’s 83 years of service… longer if you count the 201A as part of the family. The older engines are still plentiful in commercial maritime use, though the EPA sometimes offers incentives to commercial operators to repower vessels with more modern engines. Such programs, and new Coast Guard regulations on commercial vessels, have sealed the fate of many old tugs like Ohio. In theory, a hull operated in fresh water has a nearly unlimited life and can be repowered numerous times but a tug is lot’s more than a powerplant. The drive systems of tugboats have evolved and the performance of the latest ones is well beyond anything the old Ohio could do, even with a new, emissions-friendly powerplant.

Each bank of eight cylinders has one of these gigantic roots blowers supplying enough air to feed 5,160 cubic inches at 900 rpm at slightly over atmospheric  pressure. That’s enough air to launch your diesel’s cylinder heads into the next county and they would probably take as much torque as your engine can produce to turn them. 
The 567/645 Series engines are all vee-type engines set at 45 degrees. The block is constructed of plate and rolled steel welded together. The cast iron cylinder liners have their own built in cooling jackets and the pistons are cast iron. Each cylinder has a separate cylinder head. In the 567 era, they had four valves per cylinder but the 645s use six per cylinder. They are Uniflow, so the intake ports in the liners are fed via chambers in the crankcase (accessed via the found covers) and air is fed to each bank via Roots blowers at the rear of the engine. The camshafts operate the exhaust valves and unit injectors, driven via a geartrain at the back of the engine that also drives the blowers.


Great Lakes Towing

National Museum of the Great Lakes


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