Best ALCo Unit

Discussion of products from the American Locomotive Company. A web site with current Alco 251 information can be found here: Fairbanks-Morse/Alco 251.

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Allen Hazen
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T-6 and others

Post by Allen Hazen » Wed Aug 03, 2005 12:03 am

Going by survivorship, Alco's switchers seem to meet the "rational railroad manager is glad to have them" test, but there is something disturbing about them: the S-2, built from 1940 to 1950 was the best seller of the lot. The S4, almost identical to the S2, didn't sell nearly as well.
Why? My guess is that by 1950 the railroads wanted more than 1,000 hp for most switcher applications. All the other companies building switchers for general service (i.e. switchers for other than the specialty niche's GE was selling the 44 and 70 tonners for) on American railroads-- EMD, Lima, Baldwin, and FM-- went to 1200 for their heavy switchers in 1950, and Alco didn't. I think this was not a good commercial decision on Alco's part.
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Leading to the T-6. Probably a fine locomotive in various respects, with big GE 752 traction motors for hard pulling. But at 1000 hp it was closer to a competitor for EMD's SW-900 than for the popular SW-1200.
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I'm not sure what this implies, because I guess I'm not sure of EXACTLY the criteria we should use in judging the "best" Alco locomotive. But it wasn't ... a very good locomotive for the market.

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Post by mxdata » Wed Aug 03, 2005 5:19 am

Since the string started with the terminology "unit" rather than "locomotive", you could possibly make an argument in favor of the M4 Sherman Tank in this discussion. Of course a lot of other manufacturers built them too.
"We Repair No Locomotive Before Its Time"

Centurylover68

Post by Centurylover68 » Sat Aug 06, 2005 7:30 pm

Those C424/5 locomotives were good sellers. As were those wonderful RS-1s. S6s were a bads locomotive though. Governor couldn't keep up on em.

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Best Alcos

Post by TheChessieCatLives » Sun Aug 07, 2005 9:03 pm

!he best Alcos were the T-6 switchers, the C628s and the C636s. Just think how good an Alco would look in CSX or Norfolk Southern paint.

Centurylover68

Post by Centurylover68 » Mon Aug 08, 2005 5:09 pm

I beg to differ on the fact that C636s were good engines. I heard lots of bad things about them. The amount sold is one fact. Even Canada wasn't enthralled with them. Now those LRC were one cool engine. Good looks with a good engine. Too bad about those traction motor problems. Amtrak was seriously looking at them. Imagine one in Amtrak paint! Now A real good engine was the RS-3, nearly bulletproof and a good hauler to. L&N sure liked theirs and they used them for a while.

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Post by MEC407 » Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:57 pm

I have to wonder about the C628. After all, weren't those banned from some cities because of their excessive smoking (even by ALCO standards)?
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ALCOs

Post by TheChessieCatLives » Mon Aug 08, 2005 11:30 pm

To my knowledge, Conrail had a large number of Alco Big Sixes and four axles they recieved from the Penn Central, Lehigh Valley, Reading, and the EL. Their collection ranged from the C420s to the very rare C636s was possibly the largest Alco roster East of the Mississippi.

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Post by MEC407 » Mon Aug 08, 2005 11:41 pm

Conrail did have a lot of ALCOs during its early days, but they didn't last long -- the majority of them were sold or scrapped by 1981, Conrail's 5th anniversary.
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Post by TheChessieCatLives » Tue Aug 09, 2005 12:35 pm

Now if CSX had any and TOOK CARE of them, what would they look like today?

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Post by Alcoman » Tue Aug 09, 2005 1:21 pm

Centurylover68 wrote:I beg to differ on the fact that C636s were good engines. I heard lots of bad things about them. The amount sold is one fact. Even Canada wasn't enthralled with them. Now those LRC were one cool engine. Good looks with a good engine. Too bad about those traction motor problems. Amtrak was seriously looking at them. Imagine one in Amtrak paint! Now A real good engine was the RS-3, nearly bulletproof and a good hauler to. L&N sure liked theirs and they used them for a while.
What Kind of Bad things? CN/CP kept them running until the early 90's What do think the Cartier Had/Has? They would have sold more had they come out with this model earlier and been in business longer.
What is the NYSW/DL running as we speak? C636's/M636's!
The LRC for your information had the SAME 16 cylinder 251 engine as did the C636/M636. And Amtrak DID have them...for 2 years.The reason Amtrak did not keep them is the lack of money.
What traction motor problems? They had the same traction motor as the C636,C420 or RS-3..
Where do get this misinformation? Better re-read your Alco History Book.

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Post by TheChessieCatLives » Tue Aug 09, 2005 1:56 pm

Maybe CSX needs to borrow some of the Susie Q's Big Sixes for some power! :-D

espeefoamer

Post by espeefoamer » Tue Aug 09, 2005 7:32 pm

My favorite freight ALCo was the low hood RSD15 Alligator.That was a cool locomotive!For switchers,I liked the S2 and S4 models.Another favorite was the RS1.As a child I rode behind a A-B-A set of PAs on the San Joaquin Daylight,but I only know that through pictures my grandfather took on the trip.The only passenger ALCos I rode behind as an adult were a high hood RSD12 in Mexico,and a LRC between Toronto and Montreal.

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Post by N. Todd » Tue Aug 09, 2005 9:56 pm

!he best Alcos were the T-6 switchers, the C628s and the C636s. Just think how good an Alco would look in CSX or Norfolk Southern paint.
Well there are those chopped down RS-11s on CSX. There's your prime example. And for NS...it's too bad that the C-630s and T-6s didn't get repainted.
I beg to differ on the fact that C636s were good engines. I heard lots of bad things about them. The amount sold is one fact. Even Canada wasn't enthralled with them.
Okay, this is kinda true and not true. The first three batches (SPS 3488 and IC) weren't exactly the best, it's not like Alco had the money to make them perfection at the time... Although note the radiator compartment screening and shutters were different on the first order. The demos, SPS's last order, and the Aussie units (Bechtel and Hamersley) were fine, reliable locomotives. Amount sold? Let's see, when the C-636 was introduced, it was obvious that Alco was falling. I don't think most railroads would want to purchase a soon-to-be orphan. I have also heard that some railroads like SP and ATSF turned down the demos because 636-2 was a lemon of some sort. I'm sure WP would have bought some if it wasn't for their route/track layout. Off topic, I hear something like Clinchfield tried them, is that true? And what does Canada have to do with the C-636s other than the QCM units? They didn't market it up there.
Now those LRC were one cool engine. Good looks with a good engine. Too bad about those traction motor problems. Amtrak was seriously looking at them. Imagine one in Amtrak paint! Now A real good engine was the RS-3, nearly bulletproof and a good hauler to. L&N sure liked theirs and they used them for a while.
I thought the LRC's main issue was the tilting system. But that's not my area of knowledge. But, there were TWO in Amtrak paint. Unfortunately, those two went to VIA and were soon sold to Century Metals. Personally, I think BBD should have stuck with the original exterior design (M429LRC). The RS-3 was pretty neet- save the 244!
I have to wonder about the C628. After all, weren't those banned from some cities because of their excessive smoking (even by ALCO standards)?
Look at it this way: in humid areas like the midwest, you won't be having any mosquitos when a C-628 passed by.
They would have sold more had they come out with this model earlier and been in business longer.
I thought the key to sales was customer service. It would have helped if they 'borrowed' a GE sales rep...
Maybe CSX needs to borrow some of the Susie Q's Big Sixes for some power!
They have been stealing them quite often.
Anybody else?

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RSD-15

Post by Allen Hazen » Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:33 am

Now that someone has mentioned it, I had been wondering if maybe a case could be made that the RSD-15 (a.k.a. Dl-600b) was the "best" Alco diesel model: the one that, compered to other locomotive types available at the same time, a railroad would have wanted. My reason for suspecting this is... that the Santa Fe DID want them!
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The Santa Fe's "alligator" order came at a time when the locomotive business wasn't particularly booming: dieselization was essentially finished, and the big boom in replacement "second generation" diesels was still a few years away. So they didn't get them because nothing else was available.
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They had a fair idea of what the locomotive was like. They had bought the Dl-600 (RSD-7) demonstrators several years previously, so they knew what the electrical system and the "locomotive mechanical portion" were like. Between the Dl-600 and the PA, they knew what an Alco engine could do when it was in working order, and by 1958 or 1959 when they placed the order they should have been able to pick up from the grapevine something about how the 251 compared to earlier Alco engines. So they didn't by the RSD-15 blind.
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Santa Fe had a large and varied, but majority EMD locomotive fleet. So they didn't buy the RSD-15 because their mechanical department was competent only with Alcos. They weren't the D&H!
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It was a big order: 50 units.
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So. I can't think of a similar order by a U.S. railroad for any other Alco model. So I'm left wondering. The Santa Fe's management were professionals, they knew what they were doing. Did the Dl-600b, compaired to its contemporaries, look better than other Alco diesel types did?

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C-636

Post by Allen Hazen » Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:45 am

I don't have much to add on the C-636's intrinsic quality, but I'm not sure its history supports very strong claims for it.
The type lasted a long time on the Canadian railroads and on captive iron-ore railroads in Quebec and Western Australia (actually the M-636 on the former). But
(i) EVERYTHING lasted a long time in Canada. In the early 1990s CN and CP had older locomotives, on average, than any of the major U.S. railroads. I think this had more to do with Canadian tax laws than with the quality of the locomotives inquestion!
(ii) The iron ore carriers were also railroads of a type that one would expect to keep whatever locomotives they had for a long time: small, fairly uniform, fleet of locomotives and a shop that knew them well.
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As for the C-636. The Australian operators apparently thought the Alco-design "Hi-Ad" truck was good for their railroads (heavily engineered, good track, no excessive curvature): they liked it better than they did the MLW ("Dofasco") truck on the M-636. In the 1980s, they started to replace the C-636 fleet by having them re-built (by Goninan, GE's Australian licensee) as C36-7 or C40-8 from the frame up, keeping the Alco trucks but getting rid of the aging Alco engines. Few if any of their M-636 were rebuilt in this manner.

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