World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

American Locomotive Company


American Locomotive Company

American Locomotive Company
  • Manufacturing
  • Energy generation
Founded Schenectady, New York, United States (1901 (1901))
Defunct 1969 (1969)
Headquarters Schenectady, New York, United States
Footnotes / references

The American Locomotive Company, often shortened to ALCO, ALCo or Alco, designed, built and sold Schenectady Locomotive Engine Manufactory of Schenectady, New York with seven smaller locomotive manufacturers. The American Locomotive Automobile Company subsidiary designed and manufactured automobiles under the Alco brand from 1905-1913 and produced nuclear energy from 1954-1962. The company changed its name to Alco Products, Incorporated in 1955. In 1964 the Worthington Corporation acquired the company. The company became defunct in 1969.[1]


  • Foundation and early history 1
  • Steam locomotives 2
  • Alco automobiles 3
  • Diesel-electric locomotives 4
  • Diversification 5
  • Purchase and division 6
  • Epilogue 7
  • Popular culture 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Foundation and early history

The company was created in 1901 from the merger of seven smaller locomotive manufacturers with Schenectady Locomotive Engine Manufactory of Schenectady, New York:[1][2]

The newly formed company was headquartered in Schenectady, New York.[2] Samuel R. Callaway left the presidency of the New York Central Railroad to become president of Alco.[3] When Callaway died on June 1, 1904,[4] Albert J. Pitkin succeeded him as president of Alco.[5]

In 1904, the American Locomotive Company acquired control of the Locomotive and Machine Company of Montreal, Quebec, Canada; this company was eventually renamed the Montreal Locomotive Works. In 1905, Alco purchased Rogers Locomotive Works of Paterson, New Jersey, the second largest locomotive manufacturer in the U.S. behind Baldwin Locomotive Works.[2]

Eventually the American Locomotive Company operated manufacturing plants only in Schenectady and Montreal, having closed all the others.

After the American Locomotive Company ceased locomotive manufacturing in the United States in 1969, Montreal Locomotive Works continued to manufacture locomotives based on Alco designs.

Steam locomotives

Milwaukee Road 261, a 1944 American 4-8-4 steam locomotive

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 Railway, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, the New York Central Railroad, the Union Pacific Railroad 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 were fine examples. Alco built many of the biggest locomotives ever constructed, including Union Pacific's Big Boy (4-8-8-4).

American No 75214 Tr2 1319 at the Finnish Railway Museum

Other than the Delaware & Hudson's application of SKF roller bearings to the drivers, main and side rods of their own 4-6-2 locomotives in 1924 (the world's first), Alco built the first production 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 (160,000 km) on fifteen major United States railroads before it was purchased in 1933 by the Northern Pacific Railway. (The Northern Pacific renumbered the Four Aces to No. 2626 and ran it on the North Coast Limited, as well as its pool trains between Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, and excursions, through 1957.)

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 ten of these were sold to Finland in 1947. One, Alco builder's No. 75214, is preserved at the Finnish Railway Museum.[6]

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.[7]

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. An ALCO racing car won the Vanderbilt Cup in both 1909 and 1910 and competed in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, driven on all three occasions by Harry Grant. ALCO's automotive venture was unprofitable, and they abandoned automobile manufacture in 1913.[8] 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 Corporation in 1925.

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.

An Alco S-1 diesel switcher on the job at the MidContinent Railway Museum, North Freedom, WI.

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. The transition from steam to diesel was largely overseen by Perry T. Egbert, vice president in charge of diesel locomotive sales and later president of the company.[9] 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. ALCO ranked 34th among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.[10] 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.[7] 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 C630 (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.[7] 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 World War II, 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 power plant 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.


ALCO 18-251 engine used as a backup generator at a wastewater plant in Montreal.

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 2,600 horsepower (1.94 MW) WDM-2 to 3,100 horsepower (2.31 MW). See also: Indian locomotives.

Alco DL537 metre gauge locomotive of the Hellenic Railways Organisation at Corinth Old Railway Station, Greece.

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 State Railways (SEK) in 1962. In addition to a variety of standard gauge locomotives, the fleet includes 11 metre gauge 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.

The ALCO 251 diesel engine is still manufactured by Fairbanks-Morse of Beloit, Wisconsin, a company which also manufactured diesel locomotives. Additionally, ALCO diesel engines are used to power the NASA Crawler Transporter.[11]

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,the Catskill Mountain Railroad in Kingston and Phoenecia New York the Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad family of lines based in Lakeville, New York, and the Middletown 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. Two original Alco RS-2's that were delivered to the Nevada Northern Railway are still in operation.

ALCO-Cooke 2-8-0 #18, built in 1920, survives in passenger service on the Arcade & Attica Railroad in Arcade NY. It returned to service in May 2009 after a six-year overhaul to bring it into compliance with the FRA's new steam locomotive regulations.

Alco RSD-16 in Línea San Martín railway, Argentina.

Some Alcos survive on Australian networks and in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Another fleet of Alco Bombardier locomotives run in rugged terrain on the Sri Lanka railway network. Argentina also has a healthy fleet of Alcos DL540 running commuter and cargo trains.

The Glenbrook Vintage Railway in the Franklin District, south of Auckland, New Zealand, 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.

Preserved Alco Steam Locomotives

While regular production of steam locomotives by Alco ended in the 1950s, there are still plenty of Alco built steam engines that have been preserved all over North America. You can find them in places like the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, NV, the Orange Empire Railway Museum in California, and the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado. There are also several Alco built mainline engines that are operational, such as Union Pacific 844, Union Pacific 3985, Milwaukee Road 261, Soo Line 1003, Soo Line 2719, and what is probably the most famous Alco steam locomotive ever built, Union Pacific Big Boy 4014, which is being restored by the Union Pacific Railroad for excursion service.

In Portugal an ALCO 2-8-2 locomotive built 1945 (Construction number: 73480) is undergoing major restoration to be displayed at the National Railway Museum at Entroncamento.[12]

Popular culture

In February 2014, in the episode The Locomotive Manipulation, the TV series The Big Bang Theory takes place on a train pulled by what is explicitly described as an "Alcoa FA-4".

ALCO helped launch the career of a noted railroad artist, Howard Fogg. Hired in 1946 as ALCO’s new company artist, Howard began painting their locomotives in the livery of prospective customers, as well as taking photographs of them.

At an ALCO gala at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Lucius Beebe, a noted journalist with the New York Herald-Tribune, sought out Howard. Beebe was considering leaving New York to pursue writing and publication of railroad books. A long-term relationship was born, with Beebe buying a number of paintings over the years and commissioning new paintings for use in his books. In 1947, Beebe’s book, Mixed Train Daily, was the first of many to use a Fogg painting on the cover. He was used by many other railroad authors because of his skill at capturing action shots. With commissions from individuals, authors, publishers, railroads, and related industrial firms flourishing, in 1957 Howard ended his formal agreement with ALCO, although he continued to paint periodic commissions for them for a number of years.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "American Locomotive Company Records". Finding Aids. Syracuse, New York: Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Steam Locomotive Builders". December 8, 2009. Archived from the original on February 5, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Samuel R. Callaway Out; Resigns the Presidency of the New York Central". New York Times. May 18, 1901. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Samuel R. Callaway". Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago). June 2, 1904. p. 9. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  5. ^ "The President of the American Locomotive Company". The Railroad Men XVII (10): 380. July 1904. 
  6. ^ Suomen Veturit. 1975.  
  7. ^ a b c Kirkland, John F. (November 1989). The Diesel Builders volume 2: American Locomotive Company and Montreal Locomotive Works. Glendale, California:  
  8. ^ Kimes, Beverley Rae (Second Quarter 1973). Vorderman, Don, ed. "The Mighty ALCO – A History". Automobile Quarterly (New York, NY: Automobile Quarterly Inc.) 11 (2): 206–221.  
  9. ^ "ALCo vs EMD". UtahRails.Net. Retrieved January 25, 2013. 
  10. ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p.619
  11. ^ "FM/ALCO 251 F Product Page". Retrieved April 20, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Locomotivas a Vapor em Restauro". June 15, 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 
  • Steam Locomotive Builders
  • Kirkland, John F. (November 1989). The Diesel Builders volume 2: American Locomotive Company and Montreal Locomotive Works. Glendale, California:  

External links

  • The Alco Racers (
  • Preserved locomotives by builder
  • Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. NY-40, "American Locomotive Company, Foundry, 320 South Roberts Street, Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, NY", 1 photo, 2 data pages, 1 photo caption page
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.