A Road-Switcher Like None Other
Written by Gary Dolzall
Electro-Motive’s unique BL2 diesel road-switcher, in Western Maryland liveries, is coming soon to Train Simulator
The unique Electro-Motive BL2, designed by legendary EMD chief engineer Richard “Dick” Dilworth as a road-switcher with a splash of style and panache, is coming to Train Simulator! Dressed in two Western Maryland liveries, the BL2 will be joined in this upcoming DLC by WM Alco FA2 and GE 44-tonner diesels and a selection of Western Maryland freight equipment!
In the mid-1940s, despite the competition of other locomotive builders such as Alco, Baldwin, and Fairbanks-Morse, the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors lorded over the North American diesel market. EMD’s fantastically successful line of streamlined “F-units” had, by 1947, morphed from pioneering FT to F2 to F3 and the classic F7 would join the line in 1949.
But EMD’s dominance of the diesel market nonetheless had one notable weakness: the road-switcher. In what would become the standard design of the American road-switcher – narrow hoods with external walkways for bi-directional crew visibility, cab placed behind a short nose for crew protection, and more often than not four-axle (B-B) trucks, the road-switcher had made its first surge in the marketplace with the Alco (American Locomotive Company) 1,000-horsepower RS1 of 1941. Then, in 1946, Alco debuted its 1,500-horsepower RS2.
Secure in churning out freight-duty F-units, passenger E-units, and end-cab diesel switchers by the hundreds, EMD had been slow to embrace the road-switcher design and only toyed with the concept in turning out a handful of elongated switchers such as the NW5. But the success of the Alco RS-series, along with the presence of similar models offered by Baldwin and Fairbanks-Morse, made EMD take notice.
EMD’s Dick Dilworth was unrivaled in creating diesel locomotives of both mechanical perfection and style, and thus when he put EMD’s first 1,500-horsepower road-switcher to blueprint, he wished to give the diesel a bit of panache beyond that of an angular road-switcher design. The result, in the form of EMD BL1 demonstrator No. 499 of 1948, was a semi-streamlined diesel with a beveled rear hood and slightly narrowed nose to provide bi-directional visibility. Internally, the BL2 was, for all intents and purposes, identical to the EMD F3. Still anxious to not undercut its own F-units as masters of the main line, EMD’s “BL” designation stood for “Branch Line.”
The BL1 demonstrator was followed two months later by production models designated BL2. In a production run that lasted 13 months, EMD produced 58 BL2s for nine railroads and the buyer list was as eclectic as the diesel itself, ranging from Maine’s Bangor & Aroostook to Florida’s Florida East Coast, from Monon to Missouri Pacific, from Boston & Maine to Rock Island. Also among the buyers were the Chicago & Eastern Illinois, which acquired the BL1 demonstrator, and the Western Maryland, which purchased a pair of BL2s as the railroad dieselized.
In reality, the BL2 was one of Dick Dilworth’s few marketing missteps and it was replaced in 1949 by the GP7 and EMD’s landmark and long-lived line of “Geeps.” But despite the BL2s uncommon external appearance, it was an entirely reliable and trust worthy locomotive and many of the BL2s enjoyed lengthy careers, including Western Maryland’s duo. Early in their careers, Western Maryland BL2s 81 and 82 could be found roaming the “Wild Mary’s” main lines, then later in life, the pair became regular denizens of WM’s sprawling hometown yard at Hagerstown, Maryland. Indeed, the Western Maryland BL2s survived to acquire Chessie System road numbers (7181 and 7182) in the 1970s and worked into the 1980s. Western Maryland BL2 81 is today preserved at the Baltimore & Ohio Museum in Baltimore, Maryland and sister No. 82 found a home on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad. A number of other BL2s also remain extant and in operable condition at museums and on tourist lines.
Beautifully re-created by DTM (Digital Train Model), the EMD BL2 is soon coming to Train Simulator in two Western Maryland liveries – its original “Fireball” scheme and the WM “Speed Lettering” livery which it wore for most of its career. And in addition to the masterfully modeled BL2 (which features an authentic cab and controls plus customizable details), this upcoming DLC will be loaded with content – it will also include Western Maryland Alco FA2 diesels in three liveries (“Fireball,” “Speed Lettering,” and “Circus Colors”), the General Electric 44-tonner diesel in “Fireball” livery, and a selection of five types of freight equipment! And the BL2 DLC will include a selection of realistic career scenarios on the popular CSX Hanover Subdivision route (which was originally a Western Maryland line).
Get ready to climb aboard a distinctive road-switcher quite unlike any other – the Electro-Motive BL2 – which is coming soon to Train Simulator! – Gary Dolzall
The unique Electro-Motive BL2, designed by legendary EMD chief engineer Richard “Dick” Dilworth as a road-switcher with a splash of style and panache, is coming to Train Simulator dressed in Western Maryland liveries! Built by EMD in 1948-49, the 1,500-horsepower BL2 (above and below) was a semi-streamlined diesel with a beveled rear hood and slightly narrowed nose to provide bi-directional visibility. Internally and mechanically, the BL2 was, for all intents and purposes, identical to the EMD F3. In Electro-Motive’s nomenclature, “BL” stood for “Branch Line.” Screenshots by Gary Dolzall.
Western Maryland was one of nine railroads that purchased the BL2, with the “Wild Mary” acquiring two units in 1948 as part of its dieselization program. WM BL2s 81 and 82 originally were dressed in the railroad’s attractive “Fireball” livery (above and below). Note: Screenshots depict content while in development.
For most of their careers, Western Maryland’s pair of BL2 wore the WM’s classic “Speed Lettering” livery (above and below), and indeed their careers were long. Each of the units worked into the 1980 and both of the distinctive duo are today preserved.
Beautifully re-created by DTM (Digital Train Model), the upcoming EMD BL2 is provided in “Fireball” and “Speed Lettering” liveries (in standard and snow-dressed versions), features an authentic cab and controls, realistic sounds, and customizable details.
The Western Maryland EMD BL2 DLC will be loaded with content – along with the distinctive EMD road-switchers, it will include Western Maryland Alco FA2 diesels in three liveries (“Fireball,” “Speed Lettering,” and “Circus Colors”) and WM’s General Electric 44-tonner diesel in “Fireball” livery (above), plus a selection of five types of freight equipment including WM’s classic 1800-series steel cupola cabooses in three schemes (below).
With the upcoming Western Maryland EMD BL2 pack, you’ll be able to get right to work – the DLC will include a selection of realistic career scenarios on the popular CSX Hanover Subdivision route (which was originally a Western Maryland line) and is QD-enabled.
Get ready to climb aboard a distinctive road-switcher quite unlike any other – the Western Maryland Electro-Motive BL2 – which is coming soon to Train Simulator!
A Road-Switcher Like None Other