The Alco C424 was the manufacturer's second B-B, four-axle road switcher in the series debuting in 1963 along with its sister model,
the C420. While sales were modest for the C424, it proved to be the
American Locomotive Company's (Alco) best selling Century design
offering comparable horsepower, was reliable, and could out pull
anything in its class (a
hallmark the builder was now quite well known for). While the less
powerful C420 design featured an exterior carbody more similar to late
Road Switcher (RS) series the C424 employed a setup that was first used
on the RS27 and which Centuries in general are now classically
remembered. Today, the ruggedness and reliability of these locomotives
continues to show through as numerous examples of the C424 not only
remained preserved but also are still used in freight service across the country.
Belt Railway of Chicago C424 #600 works the yard at Pullman Junction near the Windy City on a bright spring day in early April of 1966.
The Alco C424 (listed by the builder as its DL640A) began production in
1963 as a replacement for its RS27 line, which had stopped production a
year earlier and sold poorly at just 27 units. Very similar to the RS27
the C424 offered the same horsepower (2,400) and prime mover, Alco's 251B model.
The design also closely resembled the RS27 with a flush, long hood and
very short front, low hood (giving the unit a somewhat "stubby"
appearance). Alco did away with the notched corners on the C424's
carbody, instead giving the nose a simple rounded look and the trailing
long hood a raised edge for the number boards. Once again, Alco
returned to General Electric for internal components such as traction
motors and generators.
Fortunately the C424 sold better than its predecessor as a number of Class I railroads around the country picked up the model
such as the Pennsylvania, Reading, Wabash, Erie Lackawanna, Belt
Railway of Chicago, and Spokane, Portland & Seattle. Additionally,
smaller lines also purchased the design including Alco loyalists Green
Bay & Western and Erie Mining while the Toledo, Peoria & Western
also picked up a few units. Unfortunately, while Alco sold nearly 200
C424s, 99 were built by the Montreal Locomotive Works for the Canadian
Pacific, Canadian National, and Mexican line National de Mexico
purchased another 45.
While the C424 did not offer as much starting tractive effort as
its RS27 predecessor (just 54,100 pounds), it did offer more continuous
effort (47,000 pounds). In general, most of the roads that bought the
Alco C424 were returning customers, as the company
could simply no longer attract new buyers and interest (which was
mostly due to the fact that Alco still had a reputation for reliability
issues despite having mostly corrected this problem years before).
Production ended on the model in early 1967 and despite the slow sales numbers (in comparison to models
being produced by EMD who was selling thousands of GP35s and GP38s) the
lines that purchased the C424 were generally quite happy with the models.
Erie Lackawanna C424 #2407 rests outside the road's major shop complex at Hornell, New York on August 5, 1972. This unit was built for the EL in June of 1963 by Alco.
For instance, the Reading used theirs in regular freight service until
Conrail's creation in the spring of 1976 and the Green Bay & Western
and Belt Railway of Chicago both employed theirs for decades before
retirement or selling the units. Additionally, the Canadian Pacific was
still finding uses for their MLW M424s in the early 1990s. Today,
along with preserved C424s you can still find them being used in freight service
on short lines like the Apache Railway and
Livonia, Avon & Lakeville. Unfortunately, the future of those in service on the Arkansas & Missouri is in doubt as the railroad announced in July of 2013 it would be retiring much of its fleet by September after it had purchased three new SD70ACes from EMD.
Canadian Pacific C424 #4234 and a mate are at the yard in Sudbury, Ontario on the afternoon of September 24, 1989. Both units were products of the Montreal Locomotive Works, built for CP in December of 1965, but were classified as C424s and not M424s.
Interestingly, it should be noted that during the 1960s
General Electric was not selling considerably more locomotives than
Alco. Practically from the start of the diesel locomotive era in the
late 1930s through the early 1980s the Electro-Motive Division was a
juggernaut company producing a seemingly endless array of reliable and
proficient diesel models during this time, which left little room for
the competition. GE, particularly, because it did not have a
long-standing name in the business, like Alco, in some ways found selling locomotives even harder as its early Universal models
achieved part of their sales due to the fact that EMD was so backlogged
it could not keep up with demand (and so, railroads went elsewhere to
fill their power needs). To read more about other Century models please visit the Diesel Locomotives section of the site, which can be reached from the top of this page.