The Alco RS11 began a new class of road switcher for the locomotive builder. The model was the first offered with a low, short nose and came equipped with the manufacturer's newest prime mover. Unfortunately, the RS11 could not capture the market from similar designs soon offered by the Electro-Motive Division. The model was designed to compete directly with the GP9 although EMD's GP18, GP20, and GP30 all entered production when the RS11 was still being cataloged by Alco. However, by the time the RS11 debuted EMD was so backlogged with orders for the GP9, along with the fact that railroads had become somewhat distrustful of Alco due to its problematic model 244 prime mover, that the model had no chance of seriously competing. Despite this, the RS11 proved to be the American Locomotive Company's (Alco) best selling late model Road Switcher (RS) design. Today, several examples of the model remain preserved.
Alco was seemingly always playing catchup mode with EMD in an attempt to remain competitive with the industry's leading locomotive manufacturer. Interestingly, Alco had pioneered the road switcher design with its original RS1 in 1941. However, by the time EMD released the GP9 in 1954 Alco had fallen far into second place in this market. In 1956 the Schenectady, New York builder released the RS11 model (listed by Alco as its DL701) to remain competitive against the GP9. In many ways, perhaps the RS11 best described Alco's losing battle against EMD, and very soon against General Electric as well.
Of course, releasing the model when it did, two years after the GP9 went on sale, Alco was already handicapped as EMD was so backlogged with orders for its latest road switcher (the earlier GP7 had been a huge success itself) that some railroads went elsewhere (such as to Fairbanks Morse and Alco). More importantly, however, the RS11 was actually a better locomotive than the GP9 in terms of what it offered: whereas the GP9 featured 1,750 horsepower the RS11 using Alco's new 251B prime mover could produce 1,800 horsepower; the RS11 offered a continuous tractive effort rating of 47,000 pounds compared to the GP9's 40,000 pounds; and finally the model could accelerate faster and (usually) spent less fuel than the GP9.
Despite these improvements, the RS11 really never offered serious competition for EMD at the time despite its best attempts at doing so. Alco's new 251B prime mover did, at least, give railroads more reason to trust the builder's reliability as it was not nearly as problematic as the earlier model 244. For the first time Alco began giving railroads the option to purchase road switchers with either low or high, short hoods (it was always an option before, but only via special request). Still, most continued to purchase them with high hoods although some, like the Delaware & Hudson and Southern Pacific did order a few with low hoods.
Beginning with the RSD7, Alco changed the appearance of its road switcher, making it truly a Schenectady product. The builder's RS1s, RS2s, RS3s, and their variants all featured cabs protruding well above both long and short hoods. However, Alco changed its design so as the hood (particularly the long hood) mounted flush with the top of the cab. While radiator housings, vents, and other minor various exterior elements could denote an EMD from Alco perhaps what truly set the latter apart was the notched corners it applied, usually housing number boards.
In the end, despite the Alco RS11's smaller sales volume it could be found on a number or railroads across the US from the N&W and Pennsylvania to the Northern Pacific and and Southern Pacific. Production of the Alco RS11 ended in May, 1964 with a total of 462 units produced in the US and Canada. Interestingly, no Canadian roads ultimately purchased the RS11 although the Montreal Locomotive Works did build 104 units for foreign lines including the Ferrocaril del Pacifico, National de Mexico, Secretarias Communicaciones de Obras Publicas, and Southern Peru Copper. For a total production roster of Alco RS11s please click here. Also, for technical data on the model please click here. Finally, for more information about the RS11 and all RS series designs please refer to the chart below.
|Model Type||Units Built||Date Built||Horsepower|
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