• BC Rail

  • 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 MEC407
BC Rail had quite an extensive ALCO/MLW roster at one time. Eventually they got rid of most of them, except for a few RS18s which they rebuilt with Cat engines.

I would like to hear the opinions of ALCO lovers as to why a seemingly ALCO-friendly railroad would decide to abandon the 251 in favor of EMD, GE, and even Caterpillar.

There is a lot of talk on here about how the 251 is such a great motor, and how it's superior to the competition. Did BC Rail make a bad choice in dumping it? Why or why not? Thoughts?

  by mandealco
I don't have any facts or dates in front of me, but I believe they bought the EMD SD-40-2s because they couldn't buy any new MLWs at the time due to a lengthy strike in Montreal.

I also heard they did not like the SDs which is why they disappeared early. Possibly a case of shop maintenance staff not being familiar with the EMDs. This is the opposite of what happened in most other places where Alcos were the orphans and didn't get the attention they needed.

Modelling NJ in NZ

  by N. Todd
While I am not sure as to why they discarded the six-axle MLWs so early (not before CN and CP did); I think around the mid to late ninties was about the limit for power their age on a equivilant class 1 railway. Since new 251s are not cheap, it is pretty obvious as to why they no longer run MLWs. They already began cannibalizing a few of the C-425s in the late 80s.
The 251s in the RS-18's were completely worn out when they were repowered, but the locos weren't.

  by MEC407
So, as far as the RS18s are concerned, this was simply a case of them needing new prime movers, and it being more cost effective to put in new Cat engines than to put in new or rebuilt ALCO engines?

Anybody know how much a new Cat engine of comparable specs costs, compared to a new or rebuilt 251?

And how have the Cats been performing? Are they more reliable than Alco engines?

  by 2spot
The RS18 Cat (CRS20) locomotives, mostly work everyday. Four have been retired. My last trip up north I saw two of them switching Quesnel, BC. Otherwise it was all GE's. As far as I know, BCOL still rosters 15 SD40-2's today.

  by Alcoman
I have heard that Cat parts are more expensive than Alco parts. This is one reason railroads have not embraced the Cat engine.
I have also heard that MLW lost BC Rail as a customer because of delivery deadlines that MLW could not meet.

  by MEC407
Alcoman wrote:I have heard that Cat parts are more expensive than Alco parts.
That seems odd, considering the huge number of Cat engines in every conceivable type of service, ranging from construction to industrial to marine and everything in between. I'm not disputing what you're saying; it just seems strange. Certainly that are a lot more Cat engines currently operating around the globe than Alco engines, yes?

  by missthealcos
BC Rail did replace the M/C630's before CN or CP did...most were gone in 1990, 8 lasted into 91.....

There was a decsion made to eliminate Alcos, just as there was to eliminate all 244's in 1985. Simple as that. It was based largely on shop/labour expense. After the alcos began to leave, there was an immediate, and consequent slow downsizing of what was a MAJOR rebuilding/maintenance facility in Squamish..how many railways had a very new "Locomotive rebuild center"? It was an impressive operation..but someone decided it wasn't cost effective..and after the Alcos began to go, it dwindled until there was barely anything left...GE salesmanship played a large role in the decision..no in house overhauls etc...warranty, you get the picture. the SD40-2's were never much loved from what I have heard(although, contrary to above, they didn't leave early, they are still around, more were purchased 2nd hand. although most, if not all 2nd hand ones are now gone), and I have never heard a single operating employee who won't tell you the GEs are terrible, always have been, and that they would take the old Alcos over them any day. Other than the 40's(and electrics), no new power was purchased between 1975-1990..had MLW/BBD still been building locomotives, there prob would have been more. Simply put, it had more to do with eliminating the assocaited expense of running the Alcos than any real need to get rid of the units themselves. I know people who worked on them, ran them, even some who were responsible for their replacement. It was a sad time when the Alcos started to go, it was a sign of things to come, and the begiinig of the downhill slide that would take BC Rail from what it once was, to what it is now(gone)...the locomotives were just one small part of it.

The CRS 20 program encompassed 27 units, and was simply the equivalent of others GP9 rebuild programs...remanufacture what you have for secondary service...the facilities existed at the time, so it was cost effective...I would say they were largley a success, and none would be retired today, save for CN taking over...they are now "different" units in a huge fleet, not to mention one owned by a company who spends as little as possible on maintenance..so they will follow the natural course from that..."not worth fixing, retire"