However, the builder stuck with the 241 for its experimental A-B-A set which was released in September of 1945. The cab units were known simply by their specification numbers, DL-203-1 for the two As and DL-203-2 for the single B. The locomotives were given road numbers as #1500A, #1500B, and #1500C although crews dubbed them as the Black Maria since it sported a nearly all-black livery with nearly matching lettering. It has often been stated that they resembled Alco's earlier DL-100 series built during the early 1940s. These cab models were built for passenger service featuring an A1A-A1A truck setup and powered with the 538T/539T prime movers. They appeared similar to Electro-Motive's early E series, the EA through E3. However, in this author's opinion, aside from the angle of the windshield the Black Maria actually more closely resembled EMD's F3 with a similar carbody, overall length (51 feet, 6 inches that was 23 feet shorter than the DL-100s), and four-axle truck arrangement.
The Black Maria tested extensively as a set, as well individually, on the Bangor & Aroostook, New Haven, New York Central, and Delaware & Hudson. During this time it was used in both freight and passenger service. In the end, Alco opted not to put the 241 engine into full-scale production believing that its later 244 was a more reliable prime mover. This also meant that the Maria set would be living on borrowed time. Just months after it began testing Alco released its new FA/B-1 freight model in December of 1945. This new cab design sported an entirely new, different look that was quite appealing yet completely distinctive from EMD and everyone else. As a prototype, and not a true demonstrator the Maria set was stored after the debut of the FA along with its 241 prime mover.
It sat at Alco's plant in Schenectady, New York for some time before finally being scrapped in September of 1947. By then the FA, and its passenger counterpart the PA, were in full production. Both models sold several hundred examples but this soon waned as the 244 engine experienced numerous mechanical troubles that had not been properly vetted. Naturally, this caused sales to stagnate and ultimately Alco's reputation as a locomotive builder was seriously harmed. The company would later release the much more reliable model 251 power plant during the mid-1950s but by then railroads had turned away from the builder in favor of Electro-Motive's popular GP7 and GP9 models (among others), which sold thousands. In hindsight one wonders if Alco should not have stuck with the 241 engine over the 244. In any event, the Black Maria is an interesting historical footnote in the development of first-generation diesel locomotives.
|Santa Fe Alco PA #58L and mate #67L sit on the service tracks at the terminal in Richmond, California after pulling the "Last Run Of An Alco PA" excursion from Stockton during March of 1968.|