The Alco C628 was the builder's first in its line of six-axle, C-C road
switchers. Overall these behemoths were as powerful as they appeared,
which is perhaps ironically a significant reason why the American
Locomotive Company (Alco) did not sell more of its six-axle Century
line. Perhaps most unfortunate was that Alco missed the high
horsepower, six-axle market by just a few years as in the early 1970s
GM's Electro-Motive Division released its SD40 series which to this day
remains one of the most popular locomotive designs ever conceived. In
any event, the C628 would prove to be Alco's most successful six-axle
Century, selling nearly 200 units. Today, there are three C628's known
to exist although none are located within the United States; Delaware
& Hudson Railway #610 is located at the Yucatan Railroad Museum in
Mexico along with Ferrocaril del Pacifico #606. Additionally, Hammersly
Iron #2000 is preserved by the Pilbara Railway Historical Society of
Southern Pacific C628 #7108 runs light through Newhall Yard in San Jose, California as it heads towards the terminal at Lenzen Avenue during January of 1966. The Espee purchased 25 of these units less than a year earlier in the spring of 1965, originally numbered 4845-4869.
To counter GE’s new locomotive model, the Universal series, Alco debuted its Century series in the early 1960s. Once again, the Schenectady
manufacturer was scrambling to try and keep up with the competition,
which in the world of business is a very bad situation to find oneself
in. While GE's "U-Boats" were not that particularly successful either,
given that EMD was not only the most trusted builder at the time but also releasing models
that were simply far superior to everyone else, the one-time Alco ally
was selling more of them than the Centuries. The first of Alco's
six-axle, C-C models was the C628; a powerful, clean design that
unfortunately was much more successful with railfans (and still is) than
Just a month old when this photo was taken, Monon C628 #402 sits in Hammond, Indiana during the late winter of 1964. The "Hoosier Line" loved Alcos but these proved far too big and heavy for its property. They were sold to the Lehigh Valley just three years later.
The Century series also brought out a new numbering system by Alco,
replacing the straightforward symbols from before (“RS” for
road-switcher, “PA” for passenger and A-unit, etc.) with letters and
digits, something roughly similar to Baldwin’s numbering system. With
the C628, “C”, of course, stood for Century series, “6” was the axle
number, and the last two digits were the horsepower rating. The Alco
C628 debuted in late 1963 as a replacement for the builder's RSD-15
line. Using Alco's tried in proven 251C model prime mover
the C628 was rated at 2,750-2,800 horsepower and it, along with its
successors became legendary for their ability to pull serious tonnage.
Unfortunately, as powerful as they were railroads came to dislike them
since they caused significant wear to the track structure. This was
particularly true for the Monon, which only used their C628s for a few
years before selling the units. Ultimately, Alco sold fewer six-axle
Centuries than it probably could otherwise have.
This closeup view of Lehigh Valley C628 #625 was taken of the unit at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on August 5, 1974. The LV owned eight of these units, numbered 625-632.
Still, through the end of production in 1968 the C628 sold relatively
well for the Century line producing 186 units for several Class I
systems such as the Atlantic Coast Line (11), Louisville & Nashville
(15), Delaware & Hudson (18), Lehigh Valley (8), Monon (9), Norfolk
& Western (30), Pennsylvania (15), and Southern Pacific (25).
Additionally, Australian firm Hammersley Iron purchased five, Ferrocaril
del Pacifico picked up ten, and its Mexican counterpart National
Railway of Mexico purchased 32. Alco also built four demonstrators,
#628-1 to #628-4 all of which were picked up by the Southern Pacific.
Just as the builder would experience with its four axle Centuries most
of the buyers for its C-C designs would be railroads already loyal to
the company like the Lehigh Valley, D&H, and N&W as it could
attract little new interest after early reliability issues continued to
Strangely, even after GE entered the locomotive market itself and
competed directly against Alco the company continued to purchase
internal components from them. Perhaps most ironic was that components
like GE's model GT586A4 main generator could be found in both Century and Universal models.
In any event, the Alco C628 up to that time offered the most starting
(85,750 pounds) and continuous tractive effort (79,500 pounds) of any
locomotive in its class, which is a significant reason why some
railroads really liked them.
Delaware & Hudson C628 #609 leads a pair of U33Cs as all three six-axle diesels work hard pulling a freight through Afton, New York on the morning of August 14, 1970.
This was especially the case with the
Chicago & North Western, which purchased the N&W's 30 units in
1973 finding them quite useful
employed in heavy ore service along its lines in northern Wisconsin and
the UP of Michigan. They last about 14 years on the C&NW before
being retired in 1987. The carbody design of the C628 carried the standard Century look
of a long, flush hood and short nose ahead of the cab. The six-axle
Centuries were massive locomotives, with the C628 weighing 204 tons and
was more than 69-feet in length! 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.