Our in-situ machining specialists recently carried out line boring of the main bearing pockets on a 20-cylinder, two-stroke engine. The engine is installed in an American-built diesel-electric locomotive and operates in Scandinavia.
Line boring became necessary due to the seizure of three main bearings. We performed the repair work in our workshop in Gothenburg, Sweden.
We routinely carry out line boring on all kinds of diesel and gas engines, mostly on main bearing and camshaft bearing pockets, or to install sleeves to stop water leaking along the cylinder liners into the oil sump.
This particular job stands out due to the innovative design of the engine. And not only is the design innovative, it was very successful too. Between 1965 and 1983, almost 29’000 such engines were built!
Innovative engine design
In a nutshell: This engine is very compact, very powerful and it runs at a rather high speed for this size of engine: 900 – 950 rpm. This results in a rather remarkable maximum piston speed of just over 12 m/S at mid-stroke1. Because of its high power and compact packaging, this engine has a high power to weight ratio. This is achieved through innovative design features that are worth looking at. Here we look at three of them.
1) 45 degree angle between A- and B-bank
V-engines are a common configuration for internal combustion engines. In a V-engine, the cylinders are arranged in two banks, which form a “V” shape when viewed from the front of the engine. The angle between these two banks is known as the “V-angle” and can vary significantly between different engines.
Most V-engines have a V-angle of 90 degrees. However, this engine type uses a V-angle of only 45 degrees. This design choice can have several implications for the engine’s performance and characteristics.
A 45-degree V-angle results in a more compact engine design compared to a 90-degree V-angle. This can be particularly beneficial in applications where space comes at a premium, such as in high-performance sports cars, in motorcycles or, you guessed it, in railway locomotives.
However, a smaller V-angle can also result in increased mechanical stress and vibration, as the forces generated by the pistons are not evenly distributed across the engine block. This can lead to increased wear and tear on the engine components, and may require additional mechanisms to counteract the imbalance.
In terms of performance, a 45-degree V-angle can potentially offer improved balance and smoother operation compared to a 90-degree V-angle. This is because the smaller angle allows for better primary balance and reduces vibrations.
In conclusion, while a 45-degree V-angle can offer some advantages in terms of compactness and potentially smoother operation, it also presents challenges in terms of increased mechanical stress and complexity of manufacture. As with any engineering decision, the choice between a 45-degree and 90-degree V-angle will depend on the specific requirements of the application.
2) Non-offset V-engine block
Some V-engine blocks have cylinders that are not offset (when viewed from above), meaning that the cylinders of both banks are exactly aligned. This design is known as a non-offset V-engine block. One advantage of this design is that it results in a more compact engine, as the cylinders are arranged in a more space-efficient manner.
However, there are also some disadvantages to this design. One potential issue is that it can result in increased mechanical stress and vibration, as the forces generated by the pistons are not evenly distributed across the engine block. This can lead to increased wear and tear on the engine components, and may require additional mechanisms to counteract the imbalance.
Overall, the choice between an offset and non-offset V-engine block will depend on the specific requirements of the application. While a non-offset design can offer some advantages in terms of compactness, it may also have some drawbacks in terms of increased mechanical stress and vibration. It is important for engineers to carefully consider these trade-offs when designing an engine.
3) “Blade and fork” connecting rods
The blade and fork type connecting rod arrangement is a unique way of joining two pistons to a single crankpin. In each pair of engine cylinders, a “fork” rod is divided into two parts at the big end and a “blade” rod is tapered from the opposing cylinder to fit this gap in the fork. This type of connecting rod has long found application on for example V-twin motorcycle engines (by BSA and Harley Davidson, among others) and V12 aircraft engines. The most famous example of a “blade and fork” engine is probably the Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engine. Close to 200’000 such engines were built over many years. They were installed in many very famous aircrafts, such as the North American P51 Mustang, the Supermarine Spitfire, the Avro Lancaster and the Hawker Hurricane.
The advantage of this arrangement is that it allows both cylinders and rods to be in the same plane, as is required by an non-offset engine block. It also makes the motions of the two pistons identical. In the aircraft world, there were additional reasons for using fork-and-blade rods, rooted in history. Both Allison and Rolls-Royce produced V-12 engines which used knife-and-fork rods.
However, there are also some disadvantages to this arrangement. The underlying physics and manufacturing practice supporting plain journal bearings have improved to the point that big-end bearings no longer require the support of a full-width bearing. This means that side-by-side con-rods can now be used instead of fork-and-blade rods, which are more complex to manufacture.
Overall, the blade and fork type connecting rod arrangement has its advantages in terms of simplifying design and making piston motions identical, but it is more complex to manufacture than side-by-side con-rods. With advances in bearing technology, side-by-side con-rods have become a viable alternative. However, the choice between the two arrangements ultimately depends on the specific requirements of the engine design.
The work that we carried out to get this 20-cylinder engine block back into good working condition consisted, broadly, of the following tasks:
- Laser alignment and dimensional check
- Hardness check and Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI) to search for cracks
- Line boring of the 12 main bearing pockets to remove existing fretting corrosion. We machined all main bearing bores to nominal dimension.
- Blue fitting of the bearing caps
1This is an approximation calculated according to the formula PSmax = 250 x π x 950, where 250 is the piston stroke in millimeters and 950 is the engine speed in revolutions per minute