Your expericences with Alcos

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

Moderator: Alcoman

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Your expericences with Alcos

Post by Alcoman »

Tell us about your experience with operating or working on Alco diesels.


Alco experiences

Post by soundandfury »

My experience is limited to one specific loco. I learned to be an engineer mostly on EMDs but since then I have preferred the RS3 that we use. After running EMDs, the Alco is so different that it is hard to run anything else. The only problem we ever have is with the GE electricals. The 244 works good like the rest of the 50+ year old machine but the socalled bulletproof electricals are a source of occasional headaches. Any pointers any one would post will be appreciated.

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Post by alcodoc »

Once during an eastbound battle up the main out of Scranton. An M636 and a C424 were working their guts out on a grain train. All of a sudden the traction motor blower bearing failed and the fan blew up along with the bearing on the 424. The crew didn't realize what had happened and kept on going. This unit was a CP alternator converted job so the blower also cooled the diode banks. They promply "flew south for the winter" and a fire erupted. The crew finnally stopped the train and called the fire department.......The funny part was..........They thought the traction generator cables were "hydraulic hoses" and flooded the generator and near-by parts with LOTS of water! Oh well. life on the railroad.....don't worry, the engine survived and still runs today. I got a million of 'em.

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Post by Alcoman »

Hey Alcodoc,
"hydraulic hoses" ....Sounds like it came from the "Atomic Train"! Remember that movie? hydraulic brakes.....


Post by NYC-BKO »

Alcos, if you didn't mind the cab always smelling like something electrical was burning even though it wasn't they were great. When an Alco was working right they just didn't quit working. I was lucky enough to run some before they were retired. How about that air starter, you could wake up the dead with it.

When I was a Road Foreman I had a crew complaining because they had a C420 in the consist, I had to tell them, "you may not go fast up the hill but it'll get you up it" they didn't believe me till it actually did. I knew it would dig down and not quit as long nothing went wrong on it. They praised it afterwards. (The GP-8 died going up the hill!!!!) 5 mph all the way.

Being a railfan too, I loved them even though other crews and enginehouse people hated them ( pipefitters nightmare ).

:D :D :D :D

Loco Electrician

Post by Loco Electrician »

I worked on them for about 5 yrs out of my career, and while they do have some good points, I find them to be a 'last place' builder in my experience. I guess some people like them, but I really don't.


Post by NYC-BKO »

I can understand why you didn't like them if you had to work on them, they weren't easy. The only reason they went to third rate was when GE started building their own locos they still sent their junk electrical equipment to Alco and refined their own, Alcos prime mover was still better than GEs.


Post by RdHseRat »

There is nothing in this world like a ruptured fuel line crossover pipe on a 251. First you smell the raw fuel oil. You can't stop quick enough. When you do shut the throttle off, the contactors open and everytime one of thems arcs. Instant fire. Just hope that you are near a grade crossing in a town, because all of the fire extinguishers in the world rarely help.

But 251's, 244's and 539's were working fools.

Ol' Loco Guy

ruptured x-over

Post by Ol' Loco Guy »

Same sh_t on a U25B !!! Why they didn't use a armorflex (milspec) hose
is beyond me !!!

ALCO C-420

Post by ALCO C-420 »

Not sure what crossover lines and power contactors have common, since they are about 15 feet and a steel wall apart. I do understand the crossover and the exhaust bellows and the main gen have in common. But I also know what a service crew is, and what they are looking for atleast every 23:59 minutes.

Lehigh Valley Railroad

Post by Lehigh Valley Railroad »

C630..... Ran it once, and never again... Like as said totally different.

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Post by mxdata »

The first ALCO I got to run was a DL109, and there is nothing else out there that sounds (and shakes) like two 539's running at slightly different RPM on the same underframe.


Post by wess »

I never got to run one, but had my share of riding em. C424's and 425's on the KYLE, and Panama Railroads last operable RSC-3. And have to admit that A1A arrangement on the Panama 901 was very smooth ride, though the track seemed to be non existant much of the time. Just two rails hangin in space. This was about five years before KCS blessed the line with standard gauge,F40's and stack trains.


Alco experiences

Post by switchstand »

The first road diesels in Sherman, Texas were in a three consist of Alcos, aba.
I worked the summer of 1963, on the Frisco as Alco engines were being replaced for EMDs. The four stroke Alco engine produced a most enjoyable orchestra of sounds pinging and galloping at idle. A road engine had a faulty governor that caused the engine to lag behind the throttle position making the locomotive pull after the EMD engines had already sped up and loaded. I laid over in Ft. Worth and tried to sleep in the cab as the governor tried to find a constant idle speed by speeding up the engine, shutting off fuel, coasting down close to stop and then speeding up again, about a ten second cycle of events making the locomotive rock side to side. At that time the locos were getting old. There was an overhead water tank that I had to stoop in order to walk under it with rust stains and water seeping out of the underside of the tank. I thought what a great amusment park ride the Alco would make. There was a large turbo charger air leak blowing on your head before you walked under the leaking water tank so loud that the sound of the engine was canceled out. Met a lead Alco frieght on the main line that had my brother and an engineer who was our friend at the throttle. That is the last time I remember ever seeing heat waves shooting thirty feet above the roof from cooling fans and engine exhaust making for a supreme work horse scene. It was all music and poetry to me then.

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