Alco "RSC-2" Locomotives

The RSC2 was the Alco's six-axle version of its RS2 design. It's purpose, as with all of the builder's RSC models, was to provide more traction under a light road-switcher frame.  A number of railroads were pleased with the concept as the locomotives could work light branch lines. Interestingly, the American Locomotive Company (Alco) may have never developed a six-axle road switcher had it not been for the US Army, which requested such as a variant of RS1 model known as an RSD-1. During the time Alco cataloged the RSC2 many railroads still did not see a need for a six-axle locomotive and as such, few sold. 


Of note, after producing the RSD-1 for the Army Alco did not offer another six-axle Road Switcher model in its catalog until 1951. Interestingly, the RSC3 of the early 1950s was the final A1A-A1A design the builder offered to domestic railroads (its Montreal Locomotive Works branch did offer an RSC13 and RSC24 for Canadian lines through the late 1950s). Today, at least one RSC2 is preserved, Milwaukee Road #988 at the Mid-Continent Railroad Museum in North Freedom, Wisconsin (where members are attempting to restore the locomotive to operation).

Seaboard Air Line RSC2 #1513 and a few Geeps are ahead of a freight extra at Cary, North Carolina during the 1960s. Warren Calloway photo.

The Alco RSC2 began production alongside its sister model, the RS2, in 1946 using the same model 244 prime mover.  The A1A-A1A, RSC2 was different from the "D" designated models (i.e., the RDS1, RSD4, RSD12, etc.) in one way; the "C" referred to the three-axle trucks being an A1A design (or the center axle being unpowered) while the "D" designated that all axles were powered.  Railroads still had yet to embrace such a design in diesels and even market leader Electro-Motive had difficulty selling its SD7 and SD9.  Still, after the success Alco saw with the Army's interesting in the RSD-1 it decided to offer a similar version in the more powerful RS2.   At 1,500 horsepower the RSC2's one advantage was advertised as the distribution of its weight spread over a large area.

For more information about the RSC2 please click here.  The advantage with this setup meant that the already lightweight model (at just 117.5 tons) could more easily negotiate secondary and branch lines that were laid with lighter rail.  The model's other marketable trait was its added tractive effort.  While not as advantageous as a locomotive with six traction motors the A1A-A1A design, for instance, still allowed the RSC2 to achieve an initial tractive effort of 64,100 pound compared to the RS2's 57,800 pounds.  One railroad that found the model quite useful was the Milwaukee Road.   The Milwaukee was the first railroad to begin receiving its batch of RSC2s in November, 1946 wishing to test its usefulness and effectiveness on its own secondary lines, in this case its Valley Division in north-central Wisconsin (and headquartered in Wausau).

Seaboard Coast Line RSC2 #1100 (built as Seaboard Air Line #1502 in 1947) is seen here in Hamlet, North Carolina on January 24, 1974. Warren Calloway photo.

Interested in the maintenance savings and retire its fleet of steam locomotives but worried about weight restrictions the Milwaukee employed its first 18 RSC2s on the route and they proved to be quite adept in such a capacity. The railroad would go on to roster twenty-two RSC2s and in future years returned to Alco purchasing many of its six-axle Road Switcher models.   In later years the locomotives were replaced by Electro-Motive's SDL39, a special variant built only for the Milwaukee that was used in a similar fashion.  The Seaboard Air Line turned out to be the largest  buyer of the RSC2.  However, unlike the Milwaukee the SAL assigned theirs to various tasks.  The first thirty-one delivered between 1947 and 1949 (#1500-1530) were used in light branch work.  The rest, however, including #1531-1536 were all equipped with steam generators and used in passenger service.

Production Roster For Alco RSC2s

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Alco Demonstrator119011947
Milwaukee Road975-996221946-1949
Seaboard Air Line1500-1536371947-1950
Soo Line368-37141949
Union Pacific1180-1189101948

A pair of Seaboard Air Line RSC2's are seen here in Durham, North Carolina on August 25, 1960. The SAL purchased a large batch of this six-axle variant. Wiley Bryan photo/Warren Calloway collection.

Interestingly, after less than a decade of service the Seaboard re-trucked several to four axles after they began experiencing wheel slip issues.  Only eleven remained in service after 1965 and all were retired by the Seaboard Coast Line after 1974.  Mechanically, the RSC2 was all but identical to its four-axle cousin save for just a slight increase in length at 55 feet, 11 inches. To learn more about the RS2 please click here. The RSC2 was produced until 1950 but sold less than 100 units (whereas the RS2 sold over 400). Still, four Class I railroads purchased the RSC2 with the Seaboard Air Line owning the most, 37 (the Soo Line owned four units and the Union Pacific purchased another 10 with the rest purchased by foreign lines).   To read more about other Alco Road-Switcher (RS) models please visit the Diesel Locomotives section of the site, which can be reached from the top of this page.

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Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Researching Rights-Of-Way

A popular pastime for many is studying and/or exploring abandoned rights-of-way.  Today, there are tens of thousands of miles scattered throughout the country.  Many were pulled up in the 1970's and 1980's although others were removed long before that.  If you are researching active or abandoned corridors you might want to check out the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Historical Topographic Map Explorer.  It is an excellent resource with thousands of historic maps on file throughout the country.  Just type in a town or city and click on the timeline of maps at the bottom of the page!

Studying Diesels

You will be hard pressed at finding a better online resource regarding diesel locomotives than Craig Rutherford's  The website contains everything from historic (fallen flags) to contemporary (Class I's, regionals, short lines, and even some museums/tourist lines) rosters, locomotive production information, technical data, all notable models cataloged by the five major builders (American Locomotive, Electro-Motive, General Electric, Fairbanks-Morse, and Baldwin), and much more.  A highly recommended database!

Electro-Motive Database

In 1998 a gentleman by the name of Andre Kristopans put together a web page highlighting virtually every unit every out-shopped by General Motors' Electro-Motive Division.  Alas, in 2013 the site closed by thankfully Don Strack rescued the data and transferred it over to his site (another fine resource).  If you are researching anything EMD related please visit this page first.  The information includes original numbers, serials, and order numbers.