Cleveland Diesel Engine Division – GM’s war hero turned ugly stepsister.

A Primer on the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division of General Motors. 

In 1912, Alexander Winton formed the Winton Gas Engine & Manufacturing Plant, in Cleveland Ohio.   By 1913, Winton was on to building his first diesel engines.   Between gas and Diesel, Winton was beginning to lead the way with propulsion systems for some of the country’s leading yacht’s – a growing industry, but the tide would turn shortly, when Winton broke into the work boat and stationary engine market: tugs, ships,  car ferries, dredges, municipal power, pumps…the list is virtually endless with what that could benefit from a Diesel engine.  Winton’s first Diesel sale was in 1917 for use in the Auxiliary Freight Schooner “Sherewog”. By 1924, a new industry was added to the list: Rail cars.  Electro-Motive Engineering Corp. was building self-propelled railcars and using Winton gasoline, and later Diesel engines to power them.  By 1930, Winton was powering 58% of the Yachts registered with Lloyds of London.

Winton’s Logo

While the railroad side of things with EMC powered by Winton was growing, Winton was pioneering something else: Diesel-Electric-Drive for marine use.   At the time, the common type of marine diesel engine used was direct reversing.  Meaning-to shift from ahead to astern, the engine would be shut down, and then restarted in the opposite direction.  All of this being done by the engineer, in the engine room.   With Diesel-Electric-Drive, the captain has all that control right at his fingertip, combined with the almost no delay in shifting directions. The first installation of Winton Diesel-Electric drive was in Mr. Russell A. Alger’s Yacht, the “Elfay”. “Elfay used a Winton 115HP model 59 engine, which drove a 75kW generator, powering a 90HP electric propulsion motor. 

Fast forward to June of 1930.  The ever-expanding General Motors Corporation purchases Winton to get its foot into the Diesel engine market and shortly after decides to also purchase Electro-Motive in September, Winton’s then largest customer.   The success and growth of Winton and Electro-Motive Corp. under General Motors is well documented, and thus I won’t get into that here, however down the road we will be covering Winton’s large 4 stokes. By this point, Winton has made several engine designs, mostly 4 stokes, in both direct reversing as well as engines specifically for Diesel-Electric setups.   Even though the Diesel was taking charge, several smaller gasoline engines were still in production, and Winton even began to dabble in distillate-burning engines, which was a fuel somewhere in between gasoline and kerosene.   A new design was introduced in 1932 on the Winton 138, which now featured welded crankcases fabricated by the Lukenweld division of Lukens Steel Company.   This simple change started a new trend – lighter weight engines. 

By the mid 30’s, the US Navy was in the market for a compact, reliable Diesel engine for use in submarines.  The Navy gave Winton a contract in 1932, and the new Winton 201A engine (502 cubic inches per cylinder) fit the bill after some exhausting tests. The 16-Cylinder, 2-stroke engine, with an 8” bore and 10” stroke used uniflow scavenging, as well as the unit injector.  The 201A would go on to power EMC’s various Streamliner passenger locomotives, as well as switchers.   Preston Cook has covered the 201A development well, and I urge everyone to check out his write-up which will be linked at the bottom of this post.

The Winton 16-201A setup for Submarine use. Click for Larger. Winton Photo.

While the 201A was a quasi-success in both the submarine and railroad market, it was ultimately not a successful engine.   General Motors Engineering, working with both Winton and EMC – under Mr. Charles Kettering, would begin to develop a pair of new engines that fixed the issues with the 201A.  EMC focused on the railroad end of things, and the EMC 567 line was born, and Winton would focus on the marine and stationary side of things, thus the Winton 248 was born.   Again, the 567 history is well covered online and in print, and I won’t go there (see links at the bottom of this post).  Production models of the 248 was started in 1937, with the 567 coming a bit later in 1938. 

Winton 16-248. Click for Larger. Winton Photo.

The Winton 248 – was a 2-stroke engine, slightly larger than the 201A with an 8 ½” bore and 10 ½” stroke (just slightly larger than the 567 at 595 cubic inches vs. 567 per cylinder), used a unit injector, and had uniflow scavenging with a Roots blower mounted on the front end.  While the 201A used more traditional push rods to actuate the exhaust valves, the 248 used overhead camshafts.   The 201A was a 60-degree V, the 567 was a 45-degree V (The 567 only having need fit in the 6’ width of a railcar), and the 248 was much narrower, and was only 40 degrees, a big space savings when you are in a submarine! Between 1937 and 1943, the 16-248, rated at 1600HP at 750RPM was utilized in 55 US Navy Fleet subs, several sub tenders in 16, 12- and 6-cylinder configurations, and a lone non-naval use, the City of New York Fireboat Fire Fighter, which had a pair of 16-248’s.   A single 8-248 was built as an experimental rail car engine in 1935.  

Cleveland 16-248’s in retired FDNY Fireboat Fire Fighter. These are likely some of the oldest operable General Motors Diesels. Fire Fighter will be covered extensively in the future. Click for Larger.

Shortly after the introduction of the 248, Winton Diesel would be no more.   General Motors decided to rename Winton Engine Company to Cleveland Diesel Engine Division of GM as of 12/30/1938.   It has been noted in many places that “Winton became EMD!” Well, no.  Winton became Cleveland Diesel.   Electro-Motive Corporation would be reborn as the Electro-Motive Division of GM in January of 1941.   CDED, being led by George W. Codrington, who joined Winton in 1917, was starting to gear up for the inevitable: World War II.    A briefly used “General Motors Sales Corp., Diesel Engine Division” name was used in conjunction with the CDED, EMC and Detroit Diesel brands between 1937/1938.  Sister company Detroit Diesel was started in January of 1938 at an all new plant, building the small diesel, the new 71 series 2 stroke line, in 1, 2, 3, 4- and 6-cylinder configurations. 

The “Television Set” logo used by CDED.

While EMC was progressing forward with locomotive development centered around the 567 engine, Cleveland Diesel would also lend a hand.  EMC would build 567’s for railroad use only and would supply CDED with basic engines.  Cleveland would modify 567’s for marine or industrial applications.  Thus, any EMC/EMD non-railroad 567 application was sold and serviced by Cleveland Diesel, carrying CDED builders plates and engine numbers, right up to the end of CDED in 1961.  In fact, the very first production 567 engines were a pair of 8 cylinder 567’s used in the tug Thomas E. Moran.  CDED would help develop the 12-567/reduction gear installation for in the WWII Landing Ship Tank (LST), which EMD would mass produce in LaGrange. 

The first production Cleveland/EMC 8-567 engines used in the tug Thomas E. Moran in 1938. These would be later removed and replaced with a single 12-278A. Click for Larger. From Cleveland Diesel booklet “A New Conception of Diesel-Electric Drive”.

With war on the horizon in 1940, CDED was already ramping up production for the Navy through various shipbuilding contracts – many of which CDED acted as the General Contractor for the entire program, from planning to launching.   Realizing that they would not be able to keep up with demand for the upcoming Navy contracts, CDED started to expand.  The former Winton plants #1 and #2 on 106th and 110th Street in Cleveland were added onto with the addition of several new assembly bays, machine shops, powerhouse, stock rooms, offices, and pattern shops.   After the events at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, Cleveland Diesel needed more room – and fast.   In January of 1942, CDED met with the Bureau of Ships in Washington and they outlined the need for a new plant.  Ground was broken in February on a new 343,445 square foot factory, located on 76 acres just 1.6 miles southeast of the Winton plants.  The new plant would be owned by the Navy and operated by CDED.  Plant #3 opened in November of 1942, and was mostly used as the final assembly, testing and shipping facility, with Plants 1 and 2 feeding it parts and supplies. 

Former CDED Plant #3 in 2012. Unfortunately a very quasi-1970’s looking office was built in front of the original entrance. The plant has since been expanded several times. Click for Larger. J. Boggess Photo.

The success of the Winton 248 led to a slightly refined engine in 1941 with the introduction of the 278 engines.    The 278 used the same bore and stroke as the 248 but featured reengineered cylinder heads and injectors, as well as an entire redesign of the deck and water manifold for the liner cooling.   The 278 was offered in 6, 8, 12- and 16-cylinder models, and were used in several Navy uses, mostly YTB and fleet tugs. Only a handful of submarines received the 278, repowering a few of the original 201A powered subs.   The 12-278, rated at 900HP at 700RPM being the most common.  Out of 512 278 engines built during the war, 348 engines were 12-278s.

The 278 would be refined one last time in 1942 with the introduction of the 278A.   While essentially the same engine as the 278, the 278A used a slightly larger bore of 8 ¾” with a 10 ½” stroke, bumping it up to 631 cubic inches per cylinder.   There was some crossover in parts on the 3 models mentioned above, but they were all different engines.    The 278A, offered again in 6, 8, 12- and 16-cylinder variations, in many power output options ranging from 1800HP/900RPM 16 cylinder, down to 480HP/700RPM 6-cylinder models.   Unlike the previous 248 and 278 engines being used for generators only, the 278A was now able to handle a reverse/reduction gear as well.    The 278A would go on to be one of the most widely used engines during WWII, and it would be easier to list what they were not used in.    CDED would receive the Navy’s prestigious “E” award in May of 1942 for production, which would later be renewed two more times. 3,495 6/8/12/16 278As were built in the 1941-1945 war years alone. 

One of eight Cleveland Diesel’s in the Destroyer Escort USS Slater. Click for Larger.

While the 248/278/278A were the major players for CDED, they did produce another high horsepower engine during WWII – The 16-258.   This engine was originally a Winton-designed engine, for submarine service, as a 4-stoke, direct-reversing engine, making 1500HP at 900RPM. CDED added a pair of turbochargers, and the newly-dubbed 16-258S made 2000HP at 900RPM– quite a number for its day.  The 16-258S was used predominantly in sub chasers. 

    With the 248/278/278A lines being the high horsepower models, Winton developed several smaller engines that would be used as generators.  The 233, a small 5 ¼” x 7” engine, the 228 which had the same bore and stroke and the larger 6-cylinder 241, which was an 8”x10” 4 stroke engines.  The 268 was introduced by Cleveland Diesel in 1938, initially in a 4-cylinder, followed by an 8-cylinder, then a 3-cylinder model.   The 268 was the first smaller 2 stroke developed under CDED, with a 6 3/8” bore and 7” stroke.   These engines respectively drove 100, 150 and 300kW gensets for auxiliary power.   The 268 was updated in 1940 into the 268A with a slightly larger 6 ½” bore but the same 7” stroke.   CDED would go on to build massive numbers of both 3 and 8-cylinder 268A engines, that were used as generators in everything from submarines, destroyers, LST’s, destroyer escorts, tugboats, ships and anything else that needed electric power.   The 268A would ultimately be offered with a reverse gear for propulsion use in smaller craft. Throughout the war years, 4,778 3-268A engines were built and 4,521 8-268A engines were built.

A 1942 built Cleveland 8-268A on display at the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay, WI. This engine originally powered the Navy PC-502, and later the tugboat Arrow. Click for Larger.

War production for CDED would ultimately amass 5,562 Navy ships – 141 Submarines, 376 Tugs, 399 Destroyers, 1140 Sub Chasers/Escorts, 1817 Landing Craft, 992 Minesweepers/Layers, 299 Cargo Ships, 89 Tenders, 48 Transports, 97 Patrol/Rescue/Salvage Vessels, 85 Carriers/Ammo Ships/Other and 79 Battleships, Cruisers and Gunships.  39.5% of these used CDED for propulsion and auxiliary, 23.75% for propulsion only and the remainder for auxiliary only.  21,709 engines were ultimately built strictly for WWII service. 

After the end of WWII, CDED would opt to vacate Plant 3.   Demand for the 278A and 268A plummeted after the war, simply due to the sheer numbers built, and the fact that a massive number of essentially brand new, surplus engines were now available.    The original Winton plants #1 and #2 would be more than enough to keep up with future demand and service.    Plant 3 would wind up being taken over by sister division EMD in 1946.   EMD operated Plant 3 for locomotive production, specifically switchers and GP7’s until late 1954.   After EMD, the plant would be used by Euclid, GM’s construction machinery division, and later Terex.   Today Plant 3 is home to many smaller, non-GM businesses.    

Throughout WWII and after, CDED did extensive advertising, and utilized some rather amazing paintings in many. They also produced a monthly newsletter “Diesel Times”, which typically covered a specific boat or project in detail, as well as several booklets about the company and some of its history. Click for Larger.

   With the Naval contracts winding down, Cleveland Diesel would need to find an alternative to stay viable.    Before and during the war, CDED worked closely with TAMS Inc. Naval Architects with Naval Architect Richard Cook on a multitude of projects.   General Motors saw this as an opportunity and purchased TAMS outright and folded it into Cleveland Diesel.   TAMS, now known as the Marine Design Section of CDED, and being led by Mr. Cook’s successor, Naval Architect Joe Hack, led CDED into the new world of commercial shipbuilding, something Winton helped pioneer many years earlier.    The vast majority of tugs, especially in the Northeast, would be Cleveland-designed, and powered. 

    With WWII over, massive amounts of virtually new ships were coming home, mostly to be scrapped.   At the same time, many commercial maritime operators were in dire need to major fleet upgrades – specifically tugboats.   CDED saw the opportunity and would wind up buying back several engines out of various craft, specifically LST’s, Destroyer Escorts and many others.  CDED would then rebuild these engines to new condition, assign them a new serial and order number, and package them for reuse.   Like its Winton ancestor, CDED was pushing Diesel-Electric-Drive.  The Destroyer Escorts were just that, and CDED would take an engine, generator, and propulsion motor, and lo and behold, you now have a 1600HP Diesel-Electric tugboat package.   CDED would also work with several subcontractors and other GM divisions and supply the entire propulsion package and various auxiliary’s (steering, switchboard, generator engines etc.).   While Diesel-Electric was still the go-to of the time, it was expensive and heavy, even with all the WWII surplus components being utilized.    The new trend for tug propulsion was in clutch drive, with reverse-reduction gears.   Once again, CDED would put together a package, with either a 278A or 567C later on, with typically a Falk MB series gear, on a common base.    While the surplus engines were being used quite a bit, CDED was still indeed producing brand new 278A and 268A engines as well.   Tugboats were by far the bread and butter, but CDED was providing propulsion systems for ships, fishing boats, municipal power plants, and any other non-locomotive diesel use you can think of.   George Codrington finally retired after a long and successful career and was replaced with Thomas Hughes in 1953.

Cleveland 16-567C in the CDED (Joe Hack) designed tug Nancy Moran. Click for Larger.

The Navy work was still happening as well.  The Navy would come to CDED with an interesting request – the need for a non-magnetic engine for Minesweepers.  These engines would feature a unique nickel block with a variety of stainless, copper, brass and bronze fittings – literally, everything but steel were used in these engines.   CDED put together a few different packages, with 8-278A’s with reverse/reduction gears, 8-278A Impulse Generator sets, 8-268A’s with reverse/reduction gears, 8-268A’s with generators as well as a smaller number of 12-278A’s for the Canadian Navy – all of these engines being non-magnetic.    Another Naval development came with the 16-338 engine, a 16-cylinder, 4-layer vertical radial diesel engine for use in submarines.   The 338 engine has its roots in the 16-184A “Pancake” engine EMD built for subchasers during WWII.  Only a handful of the 16-338’s were built, and were used with generators for a single class of post-war Diesel submarine, which were ultimately a failure. 

A CDED Non Magnetic 8-278A, which drove a 530kW impulse generator (another WWII surplus piece), with a heavy flywheel mounted in-between. These were installed on AM-421 and AM 498 class Minesweepers. c. 1952 Cleveland Diesel Photo, J. Boggess Collection.

The 1950’s started a new era in CDED – The Diesel engine horsepower race.   In the mid 1950’s, the US Navy was experimenting with turbochargers, specifically with the 278A engine, and getting successful results.   De Laval was doing its own testing, using the 268A engine, and Detroit Diesel was working with Garrett-Air Research on their own.  EMD was a bit behind in the development, as they were working on their own, in-house designed turbocharger to be used on the 567D engine, after being encouraged by tests done by Union Pacific using Garrett turbos on EMD 567 powered GP9’s.     Cleveland Diesel took the research from the 278A testing and developed an all-new engine dubbed the 498.   While using the same bore and stroke as the 278A, the 498 was all new.    The engine used floating pistons, like the 567 line now used, elimination of the water deck style liners, improved wraparound connecting rods, and a simplified gear train system all mounted in a much heavier crankcase.   On top of that, a De Laval exhaust-driven turbocharger was added, used in conjunction with a smaller Roots blower and an intercooler.   The 498 was offered as a propulsion engine, with either electric or clutch drive packages, or for use in stationary applications.   An 8, 12- and 16-cylinder model were offered rated at 1400, 2100 and 2800HP at 850RPM.  A 6-cylinder model was proposed, but never built.   Only fifty eight 498 engines were ever built, as by the time most of the teething bugs were worked out and the salesmen were really pushing them, the end was near for Cleveland Diesel.  

Cleveland Diesel 8-498 with a Falk 14MB reverse/reduction gear. Click for Larger. CDED Photo.

The last major development by Cleveland Diesel was the 358H line of engines.   These were a massive loop-scavenged, horizontal radial Natural Gas, spark ignition engine, with 16 cylinders with a 12 ½” bore and 14 ½” stroke.  The engine was developed for industrial use, aimed towards natural gas pumping stations, or municipal and industrial powerplants.   The engine was rated at 3300HP at 600RPM.    The largest user of these was Reynold’s Aluminum, who used 42 of these engines, each driving 2000kW generators mounted vertically, for powering aluminum electrolytic smelting operations.  CDED displayed a 16-358H Turbo model, which used a pair of De Laval turbos, bumping the horsepower up to 4500.  CDED would dabble in a few other markets, including a Free Piston Gas Turbine engine for ship propulsion.

Cleveland 16-358H engine with generator. Click for Larger. From CDED booklet “More Power for You”

All good things must come to an end, and this happened to Cleveland Diesel November 1st, 1961, when the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division of General Motors was merged into the Electro-Motive Division.   By now, EMD was making major strides with the 567 line (now up to the turbocharged 567D).  The last new 278A’s were non-magnetic engines built in LaGrange sometime in the late 1960’s. EMD would continue to supply parts for the various CDED lines, however all development stopped, specifically with the 358 and 498 engines.   Joe Hack, along with his brother Al, would purchase the Marine Design division and start their own company – Marine Design Inc., and would continue to design tug and barges for the next 25+ years.    Electro-Motive would not keep the parts support for Cleveland long, and they sold the entire line to Hatch & Kirk of Seattle, WA.   H&K to this day supplies parts for the 278, 278A and 268A engines, predominantly to foreign governments operating surplus US Navy equipment.   I was shocked to hear one of the leading engines supported today was the Non-Magnetic 278A.  

Today, the number of Cleveland Diesels in daily use – from what was once the largest supplier of medium-speed marine diesel engines – dwindles every year.  The largest fleet user today is the Great Lakes Towing Company, which operates several 278 and 278A powered tugs throughout the Great Lakes (along with one of the last 498 engines up to just a couple years ago).  GLT has been very helpful with our Cleveland Diesel history and documentation projects.  Several museum boats have CDED power, including the USS Cod in Cleveland and the Destroyer Escort USS Slater in Albany, both some of the best Naval museums one can visit.  A small, shrinking number of tugs are still around with Cleveland Diesels, as well as those in foreign navies.

USS Slater, returning from drydock in a fresh WWII Dazzle paint scheme. Click for Larger.

After spending several years working on a Cleveland Diesel-powered tug and meeting fellow CDED historian Jay Boggess – we have set out to gather and document Cleveland Diesel as much as we possibly could. Unfortunately, not all that much about CDED (unlike EMD) is on the web, which was one of the bigger influences for starting this blog.  The last several years we have been documenting boats and power plants, visiting libraries, acquiring and digitizing old manuals and documentation, collecting old parts and greasy things, and anything else you can think of.    While a handful of engines were listed above, Winton and Cleveland Diesel combined would roster a whopping 252 different engine models through a 48-year span.   At some point, we will share the roster (it needs a bit more cleanup yet), and quite a few posts will be dedicated in the future to cover many models in depth, with photos, diagrams and the like.    If anyone has anything they would like to add to our research – we would love to hear it, please shoot an email over!  Stories, manuals, documentation, anything.   Plenty of holes in the CDED history yet to be filled.  Of course, Thanks to Jay Boggess for helping write this.

Some links to visit:
USS Cod Submarine Memorial
USS Slater – DE 766
Fireboat Fire Fighter
Preston Cook History on the Winton 201A
Preston Cook – 567 engine in the 21st Century
Cleveland Diesel – US Auto Industry in WWII (A really cool website to browse!)

Production 278’s await testing at one of the Cleveland plants, December 1941. Alfred T. Palmer/ Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division