American Locomotive Company

American Locomotive Company

Infobox Company
company_name=American Locomotive Company
location=Schenectady, New York
industry=rail transport
products=steam and diesel-electric locomotives
The American Locomotive Company, often shortened to ALCO or Alco (or less frequently ALCo), was a builder of railroad locomotives in the United States.

Early history

The company was created in 1901 from the merger of several smaller locomotive manufacturers:
*Brooks Locomotive Works in Dunkirk, NY
*Cooke Locomotive and Machine Works in Paterson, NJ
*Dickson Manufacturing Company in Scranton, PA
*Manchester Locomotive Works in Manchester, NH
*Pittsburgh Locomotive and Car Works in Pittsburgh, PA
*Rhode Island Locomotive Works in Providence, RI
*Richmond Locomotive Works in Richmond, VA
*Schenectady Locomotive Works in Schenectady, NY

The new company was headquartered in Schenectady and eventually closed all the other locomotive manufacturing plants, except for the main plants in Schenectady, NY and Montreal, Quebec.

In 1904, the Locomotive and Machine Company of Montreal, Canada, was acquired; this company was eventually renamed the Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) and continued to manufacture Alco designs after the parent company ceased production. The next year, 1905, Alco purchased Rogers Locomotive Works of Paterson, New Jersey, the second largest locomotive manufacturer in the US behind Baldwin Locomotive Works.

team locomotives

Alco was the second-largest steam locomotive builder in the United States (after Baldwin), producing over 75,000 locomotives. Among these were a large number of well-known locomotives. Railroads that favored Alco products included the Delaware and Hudson Railroad, the New Haven Railroad, the New York Central Railroad, the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific. Alco was known for its steam locomotives of which the 4-6-4 Hudson and the 4-8-4 Niagara built for the New York Central and the 4-6-6-4 (Challenger) built for the Union Pacific Railroad were fine examples. Alco built many of the biggest locomotives ever constructed, including Union Pacific's "Big Boy" (4-8-8-4).

Alco also built the first steam locomotive in North America to use roller bearings: Timken 1111, a 4-8-4 commissioned in 1930 by Timken Roller Bearing Company was used for 100,000 miles (161,000 km) on fifteen major United States railroads before it was purchased in 1933 by Northern Pacific Railroad.

During World War II, ALCO produced many 2-10-0 Decapods for the USSR. Many of these were undelivered at the end of the war, and 10 of these were sold to Finland in 1947. One, ALCO builder's no. # 75214, is preserved at the Finnish Railway Museum. ["Suomen Veturit", 1975, ISBN 91-7266-021-X]

Though the dual-service 4-8-4 steam locomotive had shown great promise, 1948 saw the last steam locomotives erected in Schenectady. These were the seven A-2a class 9400-series Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad 2-8-4 "Berkshires". Their tenders, however had to be subcontracted to Lima Locomotive Works, as Alco's tender shop had been closed, and the building converted to diesel locomotive manufacture cite book | last = Kirkland | first = John F. | title = The Diesel Builders volume 2: American Locomotive Company and Montreal Locomotive Works | year = 1989 | month = November | location = Glendale, California | publisher = Interurban Press | isbn = 0916374815 .]

Joseph Burroughs Ennis (1879-1955) was a senior vice president between 1917 and 1947 and was responsible for the design of many of the locomotives manufactured.

Alco automobiles

The company diversified into the automobile business in 1906, producing French Berliet designs under license. Production was located at ALCO's Rhode Island Locomotive Works in Providence, Rhode Island. Two years later, the Berliet license was abandoned, and the company began to produce its own designs instead. Alco cars won the Vanderbilt Cup in both 1909 and 1910 and also competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1911, but they had less success in sales, abandoning automobile manufacture in 1913. The Alco automobile story is chiefly notable for starting the automobile career of Walter P. Chrysler, the plant manager, who left for Buick in 1911 and subsequently founded the Chrysler automobile giant.

Diesel-electric locomotives

:"For a list of Alco diesel locomotive models, see List of ALCO diesel locomotives."

Although it was strongly committed to the steam locomotive, Alco produced the first commercially successful diesel-electric locomotive in 1924 in a consortium with General Electric (electrical equipment) and Ingersoll-Rand (diesel engine). This locomotive was sold to the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and subsequent locomotives were built for a number of railroads including the Long Island Rail Road and the Chicago and North Western Railway.

The company bought an engine manufacturer, McIntosh & Seymour Diesel Engine Company, in 1929 and henceforth produced its own diesel engines, although electrical equipment was always from GE. Alco was in the 1930s the pre-eminent diesel locomotive builder in the United States, but the General Motors Electro-Motive Division took over that position with aggressive marketing, a ready supply of development capital from its parent company, and the intervention of the war years. During that troubled time, Alco was allocated the construction of diesel switching locomotives, a handful of ALCO DL-109 dual-service engines and its proven steam designs, whereas EMD was allocated the construction of mainline road freight diesels (the production of straight passenger-service engines was prohibited by the War Production Board). This was because Alco's revolutionary RS-1 roadswitcher was selected by the U.S. Army for a vital task. The Kriegsmarine's capital ships, led by the Tirpitz, and the Luftwaffe were threatening Allied shipping to the Soviet Union at the port of Murmansk from bases in Norway. This was, at the time, the Soviet lifeline. Thanks to successes in Africa, the U.S. was able to rehabilitate the Trans-Iranian Railway and extend it to the USSR, and the power they chose for it was the RSD-1, a six-axle, six traction motor variant of the light Alco. Not only was the company prevented from selling them to mainline U.S. railroads, the thirteen RS-1s that had already been built were commandeered for Iranian duty and converted to RSD-1. This gave EMD a lead in the market that could not be overcome. Also a factor was that Alco's diesel locomotives were competing with its own steam locomotive products, while EMD had no such overlap. In 1940, Alco and GE entered into a partnership to build diesels under the name Alco-GE, an arrangement that lasted until 1953.

By 1948, Alco possessed 40% of the diesel locomotive market. PA and FA-type road units, as well as the ubiquitous S series (660 and 1000 horsepower) switchers and RS series (1000, 1500, and 1600 horsepower) road switchers represented Alco well in those years of motive power transition. Much of their success in this period can be tied to their pioneering RS locomotives, representing the first modern road-switcher, a configuration which has long outlasted Alco. General Electric was represented in the electrical gear of every locomotive produced by Alco. The complete conversion to diesels, unfortunately, did not mean that Alco was to maintain this production standing.

Nevertheless, the company held the number two position in the market until General Electric, dissatisfied with the results of its partnership with Alco, entered the domestic road diesel locomotive market itself in 1956. GE quickly took the number two position from Alco, and eventually eclipsed GM-EMD in overall production. Despite continual innovation in its designs (the first AC/DC transmission among others), Alco gradually succumbed to its competition, in which its former ally, General Electric, was becoming an important element. A new line of "Century" locomotives including the C628 (the first AC/DC transmission), the C430 and the C636, the first 3,600 horsepower (2.7 MW) locomotive, failed to keep the enterprise going. Third place in the market proved to be an impossible position; Alco products had neither the market position or reputation for reliability of GM-EMD's products nor the financing muscle and customer support of GE, and profits were not forthcoming. Alco gradually ceased locomotive production, shipping its last two locomotives, a pair of T-6 switchers to the Newburgh and South Shore Railroad (#1016 and #1017) in January 1969. Alco closed its Schenectady locomotive plant later that year, and sold its designs to the Montreal Locomotive Works in Canada.


Although its fling with automobiles was ultimately unsuccessful, Alco diversified into other areas with greater success. During the Second World War Alco built munitions for the war effort, in addition to locomotive production; this continued throughout the Korean War. After the Korean War, Alco entered the oil production equipment and nuclear powerplant markets, the latter also starting the company's involvement in the heat exchanger business.

In 1955, the company was renamed Alco Products, Inc. because locomotives were no longer its predominant product.

Purchase and division

The company was purchased in 1964 by the Worthington Corporation, which merged with the Studebaker corporation in 1967 to form Studebaker-Worthington, Inc. (SWI), Alco remaining a wholly owned subsidiary. Former divisions of Alco became semi-independent subsidiaries in 1968.

After the termination of locomotive production in 1969, the locomotive designs (but not the engine development rights) were transferred to the Montreal Locomotive Works, who continued their manufacture. The diesel engine business was sold to White Motor Corporation in 1970, who formed them into White Industrial Power. In 1977 White Industrial Power was sold to the British The General Electric Company plc (GEC) who renamed the unit Alco Power, Inc. The business was subsequently sold to the Fairbanks-Morse corporation, who continue to manufacture Alco-designed engines in addition to their own design.

The heat exchanger business continued as Alco Products, Inc. for a time. At some later point, some of the heat exchanger products were manufactured by the Alco Products Division of Smithco Engineering, Inc. in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Smithco). In January, 1983, certain assets of the Alco Products Division of Smithco, namely double-pipe and hairpin-type heat exchanger products sold under the "Alco Twin" name, mark and style were sold in an asset sale by Smithco to Bos-Hatten, Inc., a subsidiary of Nitram Energy, Inc. (Nitram). Following the sale of these assets Smithco remained in business, manufacturing other heat exchange products. In 1985, the assets acquired from Smithco were assigned by Bos-Hatten, Inc. to its parent, Nitram. Nitram manufactures "Alco Twin" double-pipe and hairpin-type heat exchangers through Nitram's unincorporated Alco Products Division.


After the closure of Alco's Schenectady works, locomotives to Alco designs continued to be manufactured in Canada by Montreal Locomotive Works, and in Australia by A. E. Goodwin. In addition, Alco-derived locomotives form the major chunk of diesel power on the Indian Railways. Many thousands of locomotives with Alco lineage are in regular mainline use everywhere in India and around 100 new locos are added every year.

Most of these locomotives are built by the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), located at Varanasi, India. The Diesel Loco Modernisation Works (DMW) at Patiala, India, do mid-life rebuilding and upgrading the power of these locomotives, typically the convert|2600|hp|MW|2 WDM-2 to convert|3100|hp|MW|2. "See also: Indian locomotives."A number of ALCo and MLW diesel-electric locomotives (models DL500C, DL532B, DL537, DL543, MX627 and MX636) are in daily use hauling freight trains of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) in Greece. The oldest of them (class A.201, DL532B) were delivered in 1962. In addition to a variety of standard gauge locomotives, the fleet includes 11 metric line ALCo locomotives, mainly used for departmental trains in the Peloponnese network. The MX627 and MX636 locomotives have been extensively rebuilt at Piraeus Central Factory of OSE. The remaining ALCo locomotives are also being rebuilt, starting with models DL532B and DL537.

Alco and MLW locomotives still work on many regional and tourist railroads across the United States and Canada, including the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad in Scranton, Pennsylvania and the Middeltown and Hummelstown Railroad in Middletown, PA. The M&H owns one of the last true ALCO switchers ever built, #1016. The 1016 is a T-6 type switcher engine. This and ALCO sister 151 (ex Western Maryland S-6) still see daily service in Middletown.

Some Alcos survive on Australian networks and in Pakistan. Another fleet of Alco Bombardier locomotives run in rugged terrain on the Sri Lanka railway network.

The Glenbrook Vintage Railway in the Franklin District, south of Auckland has a 2-4-4-2 articulated compound mallet, built by ALCO in 1912. Only four mallets with this wheel arrangement were ever built; the other three by Baldwin. This unique loco is currently out of service awaiting overhaul.


* [ A Brief History of Alco]
* [ "Steam Locomotive Builders"]
*cite book
last = Kirkland
first = John F.
title = The Diesel Builders volume 2: American Locomotive Company and Montreal Locomotive Works
year = 1989
month = November
location = Glendale, California
publisher = Interurban Press
isbn = 0916374815

ee also

* List of ALCO diesel locomotives

External links

* [ The Alco Racers] (
* [ Preserved locomotives by builder]

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