Alco's Unmistakable 27

During the decade of the 1950s, American locomotive manufacturers introduced 28 different road-switcher models: Alco (11), Baldwin (7), EMD (6), Fairbanks-Morse (3) and GE (1); they came in four-axle, as well as six-axle configurations. Fairbanks with its "Trainmaster" had been the first to reach the 2400-hp plateau. However, it did not take EMD nor Alco long to regain their lead in the horsepower race, with the SD24 and RSD15 models respectively. In addition, Alco and GE had 2400/2500-hp four-axle demonstrators on the road before the decade drew to a close. Alco's five new 2400-horsepower RS27 sales ambassadors hit the road in December 1959, and GE's U25Bs demos closely followed.

Alco's RS27 (specification DL640) was designed to handle high-speed freights; it was not intended to be a general purpose locomotive. As such,it was powered by the 16-cylinder version of the 251B engine, rated at 2400 horsepower. The new model was built on the same foot-print as the RS-11; the cab was pushed forward on the frame too make room for the elongated engine block with its four additional cylinders. The locomotive sported a stubby nose and "picture window" windshield. The end result was distinctive, but would barely move the needle on an aesthetic scale. Beyond Alco's five-unit demonstrator set, only 22 other four-motor RS27s were produced; they went to the C&NW (#900-903), GB&W (#310) PRR (#2400-2415), Soo (#415 & 416). Additionally, Union Pacific opted to purchase four of the demonstrators after their tour had completed; they became UP #675-678. Alco Demonstrator #640-1 instead was rebuilt as a new Century 424 and delivered to PRR as #2415.

Photographer Don Kalkman captured the above scene at a sanction photo shoot at the Midway roundhouse on 29 April 2016.

Original Owners

Alco #640-1 to 5 at Decatur, IL

R.R. Wallin photo **

C&NW #903 at Council Bluffs, IA

Lou Schmitz photo **

GB&W #310 at Winoa, WI

Joe Stauber photo **

PRR #2407 at West Detroit, MI

R. Craig photo

SOO #415 at Minneapolis, MN

E. Deane Motis photo

UP #677 at Omaha, NE

F.H.Wolsford photo **

Second-Hand Owners

Alco Leasing #901

Al Gorney photo **

Conrail #2414 at West Brownsville, PA

Robert Farkas photo

Devco Railroad #214 at Moncton, NB

Wendell Lemon photo (Barrie MacLeod collection)

Minnesota Commercial #316 at Minneapolis, MN

R. Craig photo

Montreal Locomotive Works #676 at North Vancouver, BC

Kim Piersol photo colection

Peabody Coal #900 at Shawneetown, IL

A.J. Reinschmidt photo **

Penn Central #2411 at West Detroit, MI

R. Craig photo

Precision Engineering #900

Doug Hately at Toronto, Ont **

Notes and Reference sources:
  • Alco DL640-1 was rebuilt by Alco into Pennsylvania RR C424 #2415; it later became Penn Central and Conrail without being renumbered.
  • Chicago & North Western #900-903 were used as trade-ins on new Alco C424s.
  • #900 and 901 after trade-in became part of Alco's lease fleet; they were sold to Precision National, and #900 then to Peabody Coal (same number), while #901 was sold to Green Bay & Western to become #318
  • #902 and 903 also sold to GB&W and re# 317 & 316
  • GB&W #316-318 were sold later to Minnesota Commerical
  • PRR #2400-2414 conveyed to Penn Central at merger time and later became Conrail (same numbers)
  • Union Pacific #675-678 were ex-Alco Demonstrators DL640-2 to 5; #678 later sold to Erie Mining as a parts source. #675-677 sold to MLW and used in lease fleet. They were later sold to Devco Rwy.

** - Photo from R. Craig collection

Compiled by: R.Craig

New: 1 August 2019 (Revised: 2 February 2021)

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