Allen Hazen wrote: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.
IMO, EMD led the switcher race because for the same reason the led the rest of the diesel race in that era- the company was designed
to build and market diesels. They did not have to adapt, as Alco did. Want proof? Just look at Lima and Baldwin, which exited the diesel locomotive market in 1956, after decades of success building steam engines. I don't have an exact date for FM but I believe they, too, ended loco production during the '50s.
I am surprised that RRs didn't see the inherent value of an S-4 switcher, which is basically an improved S-2. After all, the higher torque of Alco's 4-stroke engine should have made it superior to the 2-cycle an engine of an EMD, even if the latter unit had an addiitonal 200 HP. But then again, it's that old marketing dilemma, isn't it? or did the inustry decide that easy maintenance was more important than fuel efficiency or superior pulling power?