The Alco C630 was the builder's second model
in its six-axle series. Capable of producing more horsepower than its
predecessor, the C630 sold well but not as well as the C628 with more
than 100 purchased between its Schenectady
and Montreal plants (the Montreal Locomotive Works took no orders for
the C628 design). Overall these six-axle behemoths were as powerful as
they appeared, which unfortunately is one reason the American Locomotive
Company (Alco) did not sell more of them as the high horsepower market
did not take off until the early 1970s. Still, some railroads were
beginning to realize the potential C-C setups offered and as such a
number of lines that moved heavy tonnage, like coal, purchased at least a
few C630s. Of all Alco six-axle Centuries, the C630 has been the best
preserved model with three units known to exist; Union Pacific #2907,
N&W #1135, and Reading #5308 (the latter of which is still
Reading C630 #5308 pulls an excursion through Hamburg, Pennsylvania on August 5, 1992. The big Alco is preserved and owned by the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society.
Alco C630 began production in 1965 which was a more powerful version of
the earlier C628 that had been in the company's catalog since 1963.
The new model could produce a respectable 3,000 horsepower using Alco's 251E prime mover.
By this point, most of Alco's orders came from loyal customers as it
became almost impossible for the manufacturer to either gain or earn back new customers with its troubled early prime movers.
Buyers of the C630 included Class I railroads Union Pacific, Southern
Pacific, Pennsylvania, Reading, Norfolk & Western, Atlantic Coast
Line, Louisville & Nashville, and the Chesapeake & Ohio.
Additionally, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, and the Pacific Great
Eastern purchased examples of the M630 and C630M. By the time
production had ended in 1969 133 Alco C630s, C630Ms, and M630s had been
The Alco C630, and the Century line in general, offered the most
tractive effort of any locomotive in its class, even eclipsing the
Electro-Motive Division and General Electric. As such, railroads showed
real interest in the designs as many began to understand the value of
six-axle setups and the traction they provided. For instance, the C630
could produce 85,850 pounds of starting effort and 79,500 continuous
making them ideal for heavy drag service hauling freight such as coal
and ore. Through the end Alco continued to rely on General Electric to
supply it with internal components for its locomotives despite the fact
that GE was now a competitor.
Seaboard Coast Line C630 #2211 rests at the RF&P's Bryan Park Shops in Richmond, Virginia on September 27, 1969. This big Century was built as Atlantic Coast Line #2011 in 1965.
At first railroads liked the six-axle Centuries very much considering
Alco no longer had significant reliability problems that plagued its
early designs. However, the longer railroads operated them the more
they noticed the significant wear the units produced on the track
structure. Weighing more than 200 tons (in comparison GE's U30C weighed
just 181.5 tons and EMD's SD35 180 tons both of which were in
production at around the same time) the Centuries were extremely heavy
beasts and could wreak havoc on right-of-way that was not laid with very
heavy rail with a solid support base (ties and ballast).
Another view of Reading C630 #5308 pulling an excursion near Hamburg, Pennsylvania on the evening of August 5, 1992.
In any event, while most companies that purchased the C630
operated main lines that could handle the weight they still found the
wear on their infrastructure far too excessive. As such, nearly all of
the C630s were retired by the
1980s. Interestingly, the M630s and M630Ws purchased by both Canadian
National, Canadian Pacific, and Pacific Great Eastern (later British
Columbia Railway) were well liked and most remained in regular freight
service through the early 1990s. 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.