This Month In Dieseldom

. . . April

Somebody's Large Digital Image Here
Revised: 1 April 2017 Data from: R. Craig
  Photograph by: Marty Bernard
American Locomotive Company ** For the most part, Alco's rare RS-3 "Hammerhead" roadswitcher was an eastern railroad phenomena. Western Maryland was the single-largest buyer with four units (#192-194 & 197); they were purchased in 1953-1954. A fifth unit was bought by the Pennsylvania RR (#8445) also in 1953. it was conveyed to the Penn Central (#5569) at time of the 1968 merger with NYC. Two years later, it donned the cornell red of the Lehigh Valley as #211 (2nd). Interestingly, the most unique of the first-generation breed was a lone six-axle RSD-5 delivered to the Chicago & North Western (#1688) in April of 1953. The Alco-built hammerhead got its nicknames from the raised short hood that was necessary to house simultaneously a steam boiler (for passenger service), along with dynamic-braking equipment. BTW, LV 211 now resides at the railroad museum in Rochester, NY and C&NW 1688 is stored operational in Ohio on the Cuyahooga Valley Scenic Railway.

** By the mid-1950s, locomotive design and construction were only one facet of Alco's business. The industrial giant diversified right after WWII to manufacture heat exchangers, oil production equipment, and nuclear reactors. In recognition of this shift in industrial strategy, Alco elected to change its corporate name to Alco Products Inc. in April 1955.

** SOO Line "Dolly Sisters" #415 and 416 just might have been the best known Alco's in all Dieseldom, during the 1960s and 70s. Officially, they were Alco model DL640XA roadswitchers rated at 2400-hp each. The two four-axle freight haulers were the most powerful locomotives on the SOO roster at the time. They were also the first factory-delivered power to sport the railroad's new red and white colors with black billboard lettering. The two Alcos employed rebuilt machinery from retired RS-3s: Main generators, auxiliary generators, eddy-current clutches, traction motors, and air compressors, along with various electrical equipment. Initially, the sisters were assigned to main-line time freights. But in later years, they handled transfer runs in the Twin cities area, which not coincidentally kept them within easy reach of Shoreham shop mechanics.

** Alco introducted its new "Century" line of locomotives in early 1963. The first of the highy touted series to see daylight was a four-axle, 2400-horsepower Century 424. It was built by Alco-susbsidiary MLW at the Montreal, Canada Plant rather than in Schenectady, New York. The locomotive was powered by a 251B prime mover and a model GT581 traction generator. CNR and CPR were the only Canadian railways to show an interest in purchasing the brand-new MLW high-horsepower roadswitcher. (In later years, British Columbia Rail acquired several via the second-hand locomotive market.) Total production of the Montreal-built freight hauler was 92 units, with the very first of the line going to CPR as their #8300 in April. The delivery of 50 additional CP C424s took place in 1965. CP re-numbered the 8300 to 4200; it carried that number until retirement in 1997. Alco in New York eventually built 98 Century 424s and another 91 C425s (2500 hp). The Alco-built Centuries featured the new 251C powerplant.

Baldwin Locomotive Works / Baldwin Lima Hamilton ** After a couple of false starts with the VO series engine, Baldwin was ready in April, 1939 to introduce its first standard line of locomotive switchers, the Model VO-660. Wearing a light blue livery with gold lettering, the first VO-660 (Baldwin Locomotive Works #299) made its debut. The new model made the Eddystone-builder a legitmate competitor in the burgeoning diesel locomotive switcher market. Between 1939 and 1946, Baldwin delivered 260 of the 660-hp, yard engines to the U.S. Military, railroads and private industry.

** Under contract to Westinghouse Electric, BLW designed and constructed the carbody shell for an experimental gas-turbine locomotive. The new rolling laboratory, which made its debut in April 1950, was powered by two 2,000-hp prime movers and featured a B-B-B-B wheel arrangement. Very little is known about the 4,000-hp Westinghouse locomotive and pictures are equally scarce. Deemed unsuccessful, the project was cancelled and the streamlined-looking passenger locomotive scrapped in 1953 or 1954.

** Because Lima never applied a model designation to their 1200-hp yard switcher (or to any diesel locomotive for that matter), railfans commonly referred to it as a LS-1200. Lima opted instead to use the specification number A-3170, and it built 69 of them. Wabash RR purchased ten of the new model, with the first units delivered in April 1950, as #401-403. The entire fleet was retired and scrapped prior to the N&W - NKP - WAB merger of 1964.

** Baldwin's light-roadswitcher was a moderately successful seller, with orders booked for a total of 73 units. Interestingly, only four units were purchased new for western rail operators, slightly less than 6% of unit sales. One pair of 1000-hp RS-12s (#101-102) went to Kaiser Bauxite's Southern California operations in April 1953, and a second pair of RS-12s (#32-33) went Northern California's McCloud River Railroad in April of 1954. On paper, it might appear that the Eddystone sales force seldom ventured west of the Mississippi River. Contrary to what the numbers might have implied, EMD and Alco had built too much of a loyal customer base by the early 1950s, and any prospects of BLW appreciably shrinking the gap was hopeless.

Electro-Motive Division ** The Streamline Era was at its zenith by 1956. The "swept-back" look had spread throughout the automotive, aviation and railroad industries. And no where was it more pronounced than at General Motors Corporation; the fortune 500 conglomerate promoted the advantages of streamling and industrial design as no other major company. At LaGrange, GMC engineers unveiled two Talgo-type Aerotrains, each powered by a single, 1200-hp turret-type locomotive. Advertising of the day claimed. "The Sleek new trains would save the railroad industry." Wrong! Performance of the ten-car trains was unacceptable, to many of the railroads that hosted them, due to an inferior ride quality (owed in part to high noise levels.) PRR and NYC eventually agreed to lease the two trains; however, their days in revenue service (Chicago to Cleveland on the NYC and Pittsburgh to Philadelphia on PRR) lasted only to the end of 1958. The two LWT-12 locomotives were able to avoid a scrapper's torch over the years, and now reside in the National Railway Museum in Green Bay and National Transportation Museum in St. Louis.

** When it comes to diesel locomotive spotting, you're not apt to mistake a F40C for any other loocomotive type. Introduced in early April of 1974, corrugated-metal side panels, HT Hi-AD Trucks, and a SDP40F nose made the EMD-built units distinctive. The F40Cs were also unique in that they housed a 500 kW alternator, rather than a steam-generating boiler. Rated at 3200 horsepower, a total of 15 F40Cs were produced exclusively for Chicago-area suburban commuter service. North Suburban Mass Transit District operated two of the six-axle units, while the other 13 locomotives were part of the Northwest Suburnban Mass Transit District. All 15 F40Cs became part of the Metra system in 1984. (See above photo)

** Late in April 1967, the Great Northern Railroad introduced its new Big Sky Blue corporate identity. The first locomotive to receive the new corporate colors was SD45 #407. The six-axle, V20-645 powered roadswitcher came from the factory originally in May 1966 attired in the railroad's traditional Omaha Orange and Pullman Green colors.

** By 1975, EMD had been the leading deisgner and builder of domestic diesel locomotives for nearly four decades, from compact 600-hp switchers to mamamoth 6600-hp double-diesels. However, the LaGrange, IlL.-based company was also exploring new ventures in locomotive technology, with the introduction of two new electric-powered locomotive test beds. The first to arrive was the 6000-hp GM6C in April, followed by the more powerful GM10B in 1976. EMD had visions of the new electrics someday replacing Conrail's (ex-PC / PRR) venerable GG-1s. However, the test program fell short of the builder's expectation and was cancelled.

Fairbanks-Morse & Company ** Fairbanks-Morse opened a new manufactuting facility in Beloit, WI, during 1948. It coincided with announced plans to built a new streamlined locomotive series known as the Consolidated Line, or "C" Liners. All models would share a common carbody design, (56'-6" in length), the same mechanical / electrical support equipment, a 1200-gallon fuel tank, and a 38D8-1/8 opposed-piston engine (rated at either 1600, 2000 or 2400 horsepower). The CPA 24-5 was the last of the C-liners announced and built; it featured an unusual B-A1A axle arrangement and a 12-cylinder, 2400-hp engine. Two demonstrators (#4801 & 4802) were released in April 1951 to help market the new model. CPA 24-5 production totalled 22 units, with purchasers including Long Island RR (4), New York Central (8) and New Haven (8 + 2 ex-demonstrators).

**Thirteen years is an usually long period for a major locomotive manufacturer to produce any one model. But that is exactly what Fairbanks Morse accomplished between 1950 and 1963 with the production of their 1600-hp roadswitcher. During that period, FM and licensee, Canadian Locomotive company, produced 281 copies of its H16-44. The first of the mid-range horsepower locomotives went to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway (MKT) in April 1950, with the last of the model being built in February 1963 for Mexico's Chichuahua Pacifico.

** By the early 1950s, railroad managers had their sights on more powerful road locomotives that could handle multiple-type assignments with equal effectiveness. Flexibility was the name of the game, and streamlined cab units were no longer the answer. Fairbanks Morse was the first manufacturer to respond. In April 1953, it produced the H24-66 Train Master - a six-axle roadswitcher that delivered 2400 horsepower to the rail. (The news sends Alco, Baldwin and EMD designers back to the drawing boards in search of powertrain combinations that will effectively compete with FM's bold strategy.) Demonstrators TM-1 and TM-2 are the first H24s to leave the Beloit, WI manufacturing plant. After touring the country for 12 months, the two sales ambassadors enter revenue service wearing the blue, white, and gray garb of the Wabash Railroad (# 550 & 551). In 1964, the ex- demonstrators were re-engined by Alco with 251B power plants rated at 2250-hp. They were also re-numbered to 598 & 599.

General Electric ** Early in 1950, General Electric marketers unveiled the "More Power to America" advertising campaign. The focal point of the nationwide promotional program was a special train that criss-crossed the U.S., showcasing the latest GE products and technologies. It was surely no coincidence that the rolling showroom was powered by the latest in locomotive technology from the Alco-GE catalog. The point position was held down by a 4500-horsepower locomotive tandem fresh from the erection bays at Schenectady, NY. Decked-out in a reddish orange color with silver lettering, the Alco's carried road numbers 8375A and 8375B. They were the first Alco PA-2/PB-2 passenger units built. Internally, the two-some featured a much improved 2250-hp, V16-244 prime mover, mated to a new GT 566D1 traction generator. When the 15-month tour was completed, the Alcos were deeded to the New York Central, as 4212 (PA-2) and 4304 (PB-2).

** General Electric's XP24 #751 (U25B test bed) was arguably one of the most significant locomotives in all dieseldom. Unveiled in April 1959, the 2400-hp roadswitcher was the first of 3500-3600 U-Boats (in four and six-axle configuration) built by the Erie, PA-locomotive manufacturer. The #751 and sister prototype #752 were powered by GE's newly developed FDL V16 engine. Sporting a rather simplistic blue and white attire, the demonstrator team rolled-up more than 61,000 miles while testing on U.S.railroads. The GE tandem, which returned permanently to the Erie Plant at the end of 1960, provided the impetus for GE to become eventually the world's leading locomotive producer. A position it has retained for more than three decades.

** In April 1973, General Electric introduced the last new model in its domestic U-Boat series - the U18B. Powered by a GE 7FDL8 prime mover, the 54-foot-long diesel locomotives were dubbed "Baby Boats" by many trackside observers. Seaboard Coast Line, which was the first railroad to add them to their fleet, owned 93 of the standard-weight U18Bs (#300-392) and a dozen light-weights (#250-261). The light-weight version rode on FB-2 trucks and had a 1200 gallon-fuel tank. Other owners of the standard U18B (1700-gallon fuel tanks) included Maine Central (10), Texas Utilities (2), Providence & Worcester (1), and National de Mexico (45).

Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) ** Alco introducted its new "Century" line of locomotives in early 1963. The first of the highy touted series to see daylight was a four-axle, 2400-horsepower Century 424. It was built by Alco-susbsidiary MLW at the Montreal, Canada Plant rather than in Schenectady, New York. The locomotive was powered by a 251B prime mover and a model GT581 traction generator. Canadian National and Canadian Pacific were the only railways to show an interest in acquiring the MLW high-horsepower roadswitcher. Total production of the Montreal-built freight hauler was 92 units, with the first of the line going to Canadian Pacific Railway as their #8300 in April. The delivery of 50 additional C424s took place in 1965. CP re-numbered the 8300 to 4200; it carried that number until retirement came in 1997.
Miscellaneous ** The steam locomotive and railroading have been the backdrop for many a Hollywood film. The diesel locomotive, in contrast, has been relegated to making only cameo appearances. Classic example, a pair of Southern Pacific "black widow"-painted F-units briefly appear at a desert railroad station in the opening scene of "Bad Day at Black Rock." Hollywood film-makers revised that practice slightly with the release in April 1973 of "The Runaway" - a TV thriller about a runaway ski train, owned by a ficticious Sierra Pacific railroad. Featuring modern day motive power, the main characters were Denver & Rio Grande Western #3011 (GP30), 3032 (GP35) and 3081 (GP40). The 3081 received a custom silver and orange attire.

** From the ashes of the eight-year-old NYC-PRR merger, Consolidated Rail Corporation was created. More commonly known as Conrail, it began operations on April 1, 1976. Of the railroad's nearly 25,000 miles of track, more than 25% were listed as "bad order." Contrastingly by April 1980, Conrail had turned the corner and reported its first profit. The railroad was clearly on the road to becoming a viable class one transportation company.

Attention: The hunt is on for new ideas for this section, please contact us with your suggestions and comments.


  • A Centennial Remembrance: The American Locomotive Company, by Richard T. Steinbreener
  • Dawn of the Diesel Age, by John F. Kirkland
  • Diesel Era magazine (many issues)
  • Diesels from Eddystone, by Gary W. and Stephen F. Dolzall
  • Erie-Builts, by David R. Sweetland
  • Fairbanks-Morse Locomotives, by Jim Boyd
  • Our GM Scrapbook, by Trains Magazine
  • PA4 Locomotive, by Norman E. Anderson & C.G. MacDermot
  • Railfan & Railroad magazine (many issues)
  • The Diesel Builders, Volumes 2 and 3, by John F. Kirkland
  • The Little Jewel, by Wallace W. Abbey
  • Turbines Westward, by Thomas R. Lee
  • U-Boats, by Greg McDonnell
  • Extra 2200 South (locomotive magazine - many issues)
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