• Alco Export Locomotives

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

  by Pneudyne
From the thread “GE Export Diesels” in the GE forum:
Pneudyne wrote:On the other hand, Alco was trimount oriented. And when MLW came to build 1-C-C-1 export locomotives in the 1970s, it developed its own trimount-type 1-C truck.
Here is a picture of the MLW 1-C truck:
MLW Motive Power p.07.jpg
And one of the locomotives under which it was used, an MX615 (with 8-251 engine) for Nigerian Railways:
from MLW Motive Power p.01a.jpg
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  by Pneudyne
And the export model pages from that MLW catalogue. It's undated, but I'd guess not earlier than 1972, and not too much later than that.
MLW Motive Power p.12.jpg
MLW Motive Power p.13.jpg

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  by Pneudyne
The attached article from Railway Gazette International (RGI) provides a more detailed description of the MLW 1-C truck.
RGI 197203 p.108.jpg
RGI 197203 p.109.jpg

I suppose that to be properly accurate, one might better describe this truck as being of the modified trimount rather the conventional trimount type. Weight transfer from the locomotive frame is by three-point loading, but effectively all three loading points, being rubber-in-shear from a lateral perspective, determine the rotational circle. The centre-pin carries no vertical load, but transmits drag and buff forces, and has limited fore-and-aft compliance. Laterally it is damped but not directly constrained; rather the three rubber primary mounts provide the lateral constraint.

Some other aspects of the article are not quite right, though.

It is stated: “This order introduces the MLW/Alco 251 engine into Africa for the first time”.

Not quite. In 1964 Alco supplied a solitary DL-543 (with AEI electrical equipment) to the Sierra Leone Development Company (SLDC). In 1970 MLW supplied another three DL-543 to SLDC. These were not AEI-equipped; presumably they had Canadian GE equipment.

The axle loading for the East African Railways (EAR) 88 class (MX620) was 13.3 tonnes (a little above 29 000 lb), not 12 tonnes as stated in the article. And the total weight was around 100 tonnes (roundly 220 000 lb), not 87 tonnes. I suspect that the RGI staff were reading from the MLW data, which gave a base weight of 87 tonnes for the C-C variant of the MX620.

When EAR was split up, Kenya received the 15-strong 92 class (MX624) whilst the 20-strong 88 class went to Tanzania, who circa 1978 acquired another 15 examples.

Thus with the 54 MX615 for Nigeria, MLW built a total of 104 1-C-C-1 export locomotives, out of a worldwide total of 732 (my count).

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  by Pneudyne
In addition to its agreement with AEI in the UK, recorded upthread, Alco also entered into an agreement with UK engine builder Paxman, as recorded in Diesel Railway Traction for 1961 April. This allowed each to manufacture and market the other’s engine designs, outside of the USA in the case of Paxman-built Alco engines and inside the USA in the case of Alco-built Paxman engines.
DRT 196104 p.168 Paxman-Alco Agreement.gif
This agreement does not seem to have borne any fruit, though. According to Strapac, Alco did offer a Paxman-powered diesel-hydraulic design to SP as an alternative to the Alco-powered DH643. Whether there were any other Paxman-powered Alco proposals is unknown.

Paxman was best known as a producer of high-speed diesel engines. Possibly these might have had some appeal to Alco for use in light axle loading export locomotives, perhaps to compete with the GE small Universals, but presumably Alco could also have used Caterpillar engines had it wanted to build such locomotives. Still, the use of any third-party manufactured engine was probably unattractive to Alco, as that would have reduced its in-house build to the mechanical parts only, approximately one-third of the total value. So in that regard, a licence-built Paxman engine, with reasonable Alco-built content, would have been more attractive.

Even though the agreement came to nothing, the Alco 251 engine did feature in Paxman advertising of the period, such as this example from DRT for 1961 December.
DRT 196112 p.45 Paxman.jpg
It’s interesting that Paxman did not mention its own YL-series medium-speed engine. That was a 9¾” x 10½” unit that ran at 900 to 1000 rev/min. Its only railroad application appears to have been in licence-built (and modified) form by Breda of Italy for a series of locomotives built by Breda for FS (Italian Railways). So evidently Paxman saw the Alco 251 as being the better engine of the two for locomotive applications, and focussed its advertising on that model.

Paxman was part of the Ruston group, which was taken over by English Electric (EE) in 1966. EE was absorbed by GEC (UK) in 1969. So both of Alco’s UK partners, AEI and Paxman, ended up being within the GEC group.

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  by Pneudyne
The Alco DL-531 was mentioned early in this thread, and was evidently part of an expanded export range announced in 1956 October.

In a general sense, it could be said to have been comparable to the EMD G8 and the GE U9B/C, thus falling into the category of a light road locomotive of compact dimensions and of around 900 hp. In the EMD and GE cases, their respective models were simply their next larger sizes of around 1200 to 1300 hp, the G12 and U12B/C, fitted with less powerful, lower-cylinder-count engines. So they may have been a bit longer and heavier than strictly necessary for the role, but the commonality no doubt helped keep production costs down.

Alco was in a different position, in that it did not have a “next-size-up” locomotive because at that time it did not have an engine intermediate between its 6-251 and 12-251 models. Thus of necessity its 900 hp export model was essentially a standalone design. That being the case, it appears to have made this a virtue by producing a locomotive that was a bit shorter, and a bit lighter than its American competitors.

The DL531 was 42’0” over end-frames, as compared with 43’0” for the EMD G8 and 46’4½” for the GE U9B/C.

I haven’t seen a definitive baseline weight number, but 150 000 lb for the CM-gauge C-C version is my best estimate. The CM-gauge A1A-A1A version of the EMD G8 (there was not a C-C option) started at 156 000 lb (back-calculated from the quoted minimum axle loading), and the GE U9C at 170 000 lb.

In profile, the DL531 was essentially the same as the GE Universals, namely 12 ft high and 9 ft wide, although specific railroad variants were sometimes higher and/or wider. The EMD G8 and G12 were 12’2” high and 9’2” wide.

The DL531 powerplant was the established Alco 6-251 engine and GT584 main generator that had previously been used in Alco domestic market switchers and a couple of GE models including the White Pass & Yukon shovel-nose units. The GT584 was fitted with a belt-driven auxiliary generator-exciter combination. There has been some discussion of the relative merits of gear-driven vs. belt-driven auxiliaries in the GE Export thread; the empirical evidence is that whilst the former was preferred for higher output road locomotives that operated at habitually high load factors, the latter was acceptable for switching and lower-powered general-purpose locomotives. Lower first cost, lower weight, and easier (if not more frequent) maintenance and repair may have been factors.

So established practice was weighted in favour of retaining belt-drive for the DL531. Space considerations might have been a factor as well. The DL531 as laid out did not appear to have had room to accommodate a main generator with gear-driven and overhung auxiliaries, although that is not to say that a different positioning of equipment could not have been used. Presumably Alco would have had access to the GT599 main generator, with gear-driven auxiliaries, that GE had developed for its own U9B/C. Developing a variant to mate with the Alco engine should not have been a problem. The inference is that on balance, Alco did not consider the extra complication justified for a locomotive in this class. As well as with the standard GE761, the DL531 was also available with GE764 motors for three foot gauge applications.

In the late 1950s, there was a market for this kind of locomotive, and the DL531 sold quite well in that period. The EMD G8 also sold reasonably well, but was noticeably outsold by the more powerful G12. The GE U9B/C had minimal sales, whilst the U12B/C did very well. So the "next size up" was perhaps an even more important market sector.

So it is not surprising that, as recorded by Steinbrenner (page 405), Alco saw its lack of an intermediate power export locomotive as a problem that needed a solution, hence the DL535, released late in 1961. Given that Alco did not then have an eight-cylinder version of the 251 engine, its only recourse was to uprate its 6-251, to 1350/1200 hp. It would be a few years before the same higher per-cylinder output was applied to the 12- and 16-cylinder variants, so it was something of a bold step. On the other hand, it was a lowish risk move, since arguably the bottom end at least of in-line six was less stressed at a given per-cylinder output than were the vee versions.

The DL535 had a longer frame than the DL531, at 45’4” as compared with 42’0”. This made it just a foot shorter than the GE U12B/C, which had become the U13B/C by the time that the DL535 was released. In part this extra length was required to accommodate a larger cooling group for the higher output engine. The higher power required a larger main generator than the GT584 used on the DL531, and Alco chose the GT581, which is also what GE had used for its U12B/C. However, Alco elected to retain belt-driven auxiliaries as had been used for the DL531, and this necessitated the development of a special version of the GT581, as hitherto that had been built only with gear-driven auxiliaries, and was used by Alco in that form for its larger locomotives. In isolation that could be seen as a retrograde step, but Alco evidently chose the arrangement that it saw as being best for this class of locomotive, even if it meant introducing a new part. Base weight was 158 000 lb, quite a bit lighter than the 177 000 lb that GE quoted for the U13C (1420/1300 hp) and the 190 000 lb for the EMD GR12 (1425/1310 hp).

Indian Railways (IR) was the first customer for the DL535, and to some extent that model might have been designed around the IR requirements for a light metre-gauge locomotive. In particular its restricted overall height of 11’1” looks to have been of IR origin. And presumably IR had wanted something more conventional than the rather odd EMD GA12 acquired previously. The DL535 was the IR YDM4 class, initially supplied by Alco and MLW, but later home-built by DLW Varansi, with quite a few exported to places such as Tanzania and Vietnam.

Returning to the DL531, here is an equipment layout diagram:
Alco DL531 Layout.gif
And this diagram shows the dimensional differences for the Australian version built by licensee Goodwin. These differences were mentioned earlier in this thread.
Goodwin-Alco DL531.gif
There were some dimensionally different DL535 variants/derivatives, about which more next year.

Happy New Year!
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  by mandealco
Great info. Thanks.

I've been looking for information on any tenders Alco may have prepared for potential sale to New Zealand Railways. NZR started buying large numbers of G-12s in 1955. Being an Alco fan I'd like to know what an alternative history may have looked like. I model N-scale and would like to build a theoretical NZR Alco. I have built a C-636P just to see what one would look like, and am now building a C-636F.

A lot of the G-12s in NZ are still around, though have been rebuilt several times over.

Happy New Year to you too.
  by Allen Hazen
Happy New Year! And thank you, Pneudyne, for the many, many, informative posts about GE and other locomotive builders!
I'm about to be out o touch for a few days: if I have any comments in about a week I'll be in touch then.
And again,
Happy New Year!
  by Pneudyne
Pneudyne wrote:There were some dimensionally different DL535 variants/derivatives, about which more next year.
As mentioned previously, the Alco DL535 was 3’4” longer than the DL531. The truck centres were also moved out by 3’4”, from 28’0” to 31’4”, with the locomotive total wheelbase thus moving from 34’4” to 37’8”.

In 1965, Alco built the broad gauge DL535S for RENFE, Spain. This was four feet longer than the standard DL535, at 49’4”, with the extra length being in the short hood, so that it could accommodate both a dynamic brake unit and a train heating boiler, and not just one or the other. In this case the truck centres and total wheelbase were increased by three feet over that of the standard model. The DL535S was quite heavy, at 185 000 lb.

At the same time, Alco built the apparently similar, but metre gauge DL537 for OSE Greece. I haven’t seen explicit details, but I imagine that dimensionally it was the same as the DL535S. Why the different designations is not immediately apparent.

The 1969 three foot-gauge DL535E, as built for White Pass & Yukon, differed again. The overall length was 48’4”, three feet longer than standard, and this appears to have been taken up by the addition of front and rear end platforms. However, it retained the standard truck centres and total wheelbase, the extra length being obtained by increased overhangs, albeit asymmetrically so. The front overhang, truck centre to end-frame, was 9 ft, whereas the rear overhang was 8 ft, as compared with 7 ft at both ends for the standard DL535. So the running gear was effectively displaced 6 inches rearwards. This asymmetry was not unknown with low-short hood derivatives of what were originally high-short hood designs, and was found in some of the GE export Universals. This was a very heavy DL535 variant, at 210 000 lb. For comparison, base weight for the 12-cylinder DL541 (and probably also for the DL543) was 211 500 lb. And on the 3 ft gauge, the Colombia version of the GE U20C weighed 199 000 lb.

On weights, the 158 000 lb base number I previously quoted for the DL535 comes from the Alco listing in Jane’s 1969-70. Whilst Jane’s is not completely error-free, in general one assumes that what is manufacturer-provided data can be taken as being authentic. An earlier brief article in “Railway Gazette” (RG) for 1961 December 08 quote a base weight of 77 tons. Normally one would expect RG to quote in long tons unless otherwise annotated, but if so this would equate to roundly 172 000 lb, which seems too high. Possibly RG forgot to convert the short tons number provided by Alco. 77 short tons, 154 000 lb would make more sense. However, as there is an element of uncertainty, I am more comfortable with the 158 000 lb number on the basis of the information available to me.
Alco DL.535.jpg
That the DL535 gave Alco a competitor in the intermediate power class is illustrated by the progression of the Chilean State Railways (FFCCE) metre-gauge fleet. From the 900 hp GE U9C, its Dt9000 class, in 1957 it moved up to the 1200 hp GE U12C, its Dt12000 class, in 1961, followed by the 1200 hp Alco DL535, its Dt12100 class, in 1962. From there it went to the 1310 hp EMD GR12 as its Dt1300 class in 1963, and finally to the 1300 hp GE U13C as its Dt13100 class in 1968. So it fielded the Alco, GE and EMD contenders in this power class. The FFCCE version of the DL535 was quite heavy, at 187 000 lb.

mandealco wrote:I've been looking for information on any tenders Alco may have prepared for potential sale to New Zealand Railways.
The only case that I know of, and I think it is fairly well known, is that in the 1955 NZR tender that resulted in the initial EMD G12 order, Goodwin did bid an Alco model that could be sourced from Alco, MLW or its own production. The Goodwin offering was of 975 hp, so I imagine that it was something close to the DL531 design, but with A1A-A1A running gear. The DL531 was still a year away, but probably by then in the planning stages. I suspect that Goodwin knew that its offer, although compliant with the tender requirements, was not particularly competitive, and this may have been one of the first business opportunities in which Alco saw that its lack of an intermediate power locomotive was a disadvantage. Also, it was probably aware that despite the apparently open nature of the tender, that NZR had a very strong preference for the EMD design. GE bid a 1200 hp locomotive that was probably a precursor to its U12, then not too far in the future. Fairbanks Morse also bid, as did Baldwin licensee Cockerill of Belgium.

Whether there were any Alco contenders during the 1960s I do not know. One would have to search through the archives in Wellington to find hard information on any Alco locomotive designs offered to NZR - I haven’t tried it myself.

Presumably any “alternative history” would start with Alco locomotive designs that were actually bid or otherwise offered to NZR. Without that constraint, one may certainly come up with plausible model variations that would appear to have met the various NZR requirements, but that is entering the realm of speculation.

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  by mandealco
Thanks for the great info. I met a guy at the Christchurch Trainshow last year who has access to the NZR archives, and he is keeping an eye out for Alco tender documents for me. A DL-531 would have been a better option than the Dj class, and would likely still be with us in reasonable numbers.
  by Alcoman
I came across this drawing that ALCO proposed to overseas customers. If someone knows more about this, please chime in as I don't have further info on it.
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  by Pneudyne
The 45’4” frame length suggests that it might have been a derivative of the DL535. MLW did build the 1350/1200 hp DL536B for Tunisia, this being an end-cab, B-B derivative of the DL535. To speculate, in the late 1960s CP (Portugal) might have been a potential customer for an Alco turret cab unit of this power output in the late 1960s. At that time it bought 67 1350 hp, B-B turret-cab units from English Electric (EE). As CP was an established Alco customer, one might expect Alco to have bid on this business. The turret cab was likely a CP specific requirement, as it was also non-standard for EE.

  by obsessed railfan
Pneudyne wrote: Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:40 pmThere were some dimensionally different DL535 variants/derivatives...
In 1965, Alco built the broad gauge DL535S for RENFE, Spain...
At the same time, Alco built the apparently similar, but metre gauge DL537 for OSE Greece. I haven’t seen explicit details, but I imagine that dimensionally it was the same as the DL535S. Why the different designations is not immediately apparent.
It appears that certain Alco standard model numbers ending with a letter suffix designates a modified standard model to suit a particular country's specifications. In the case with the DL535S which were built for Spain, the "S" represents Spain.

Interestingly, according to the Alcoworld railfan site, there were also several proposed but not built export models that also would have been modified versions of a standard model. This included proposed DL515I for India, DL515T for Taiwan, DL543SA for South Africa, and DL550K for South Korea.