Giant Diesel loco throws a piston

This 2010 message-board post allegedly details the mayhem wrought when CN locomotive 2699 ("a 212 ton, 6 axle machine powered by a 4400 hp V16 4 stroke Diesel") threw a piston while passing through Independence, Louisiana. The piston punched a hole in the roof of a nearby house, ploughed through the upper story and came to rest embedded in the wall of the ground-floor living room. I can't find any news reports to substantiate the description, though.

Locomotive Engine Failure - Blown Piston (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)



  1. That’s putting a leg outta bed…! I’ve seen cars throw a rod and make a mess (knocking a starter motor clean off) but this takes the cake.

      1. All diesel locomotives are diesel-electric. There may have been direct-drive diesel back in the dim pre-history of before I was born, but I’ve never heard of them.

        Anyway, from my days in the diesel generator world, the piston looks right – my boss had one on his desk to use as an ashtray.

        1. There are direct diesel locomotives, mostly used in switch engines that shuffle cars around in railyards. The amount of power that main line prime movers have makes a direct mechanical transmission hiiiiighly impractical.

      2. diesel-electric prolusion is the extremely common in the rail industry (and also in mining and marine industries).
        basically, a large diesel motor powers a generator, which in turn feeds electric motors. there’s no capacity to store electricity in these systems.
        new-generation hybrid locomotives do store electricity though and these are slowly becoming more common.

        btw, having seen piston come through the hood of a car, i can imagine the chaos this locomotive would have created

  2. I feel now is a good time to post some pictures from the ships I used to work on:

    Cylinder liner:

    Top plates (i.e. the cylinder heads):

    Turbo (1 of 3):

    A complete set of one ship:

    And another:

    The train threw a piston and a liner. The train’s engine is about the same size as one of the generators on a ship.

  3. Apparently this is what happens if you don’t torque the cylinder head/power pack bolts down. At least according to the forums this example came from.

  4. The locomotive is a GE, so 4 stroke diesel electric. They have crankcase overpressure devices that stop the engine turning, but can be reset by opening the door midway back the catwalk and pressing a button. Done it a few times at track speed when I needed all of them running. When I started, we were allowed to press it once; now not at all unless authorised by mechanical.

    Anyway GE locomotives, like nearly everything with the GE logo, are junk. The only reason railroads buy them is so they don’t end up with only one vendor left, which would be GM.

    Also, it’s more like 275 tons.

  5. Just because there’s no news story about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The number of fascinating things I’ve been told to not bother writing about at local newspapers would astound you.

  6. I once witnessed an ordinary-sized car blow a piston. A column of smoke with a piece of junk riding on top of it. Awesome, scary.

    The giant diesel version would indeed be a BVD-stainer.

  7. Here is an earlier posting of this story from 2008 or thereabouts.

    Look under “4-3-2-1-Launch Piston!” – CN Railway – April 2008

    The contributor writes, “On April 4 2007, Canadian National Railroad Locomotive Number 2699 experienced a catastrophic cylinder failure while operating at Independence La.” … “This incident was confirmed to me personally by a Canadian National Railway Engineer whom I trust implicitly. I do not know the name of the photographer.”

    I can find no other potentially reputable source of this story. Finding anything through Google searches is painful at best. There are INNUMERABLE redundant web site blogs and forums that have copy+pasted this story – every one of them with the identical photographs and text.

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