Alco "C-425" Locomotives

The Alco C425 was the builder's third four-axle road switcher and was essentially a slightly upgraded version of the C424.  As John Kirkland points out in his book, "The Diesel Builders: Volume Two," it appears this model was built specifically upon request from the Erie Lackawanna. 

By the mid-1960s Alco was withering as a competitive builder of diesel locomotives. General Electric had yet to hit its stride but had already entered the market with its own U25B, which already sold as well as anything Alco was cataloging. 

Additionally, leader Electro-Motive simply outclassed everyone else.  The writing was on the wall and sadly, Alco's Schenectady plant would be closed before the decade ended. 

Today, several examples of the C425 remain either preserved or still operating in freight service on short lines. 

A good place to catch them in action is New York; short lines which still operate these Alco's include the Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern Railroad; Livonia, Avon & Lakeville (also in New York; and the Western New York & Pennsylvania.

A rough Chicago & North Western C-425 takes a break between assignments at the shops in Huron, South Dakota on May 23, 1980. This was along the railroad's fabled "Alco Line" where all of the company's remaining Schenectady-builds spent their final days before retirement. Doug Kroll photo.

C-425 History And Background

The Alco C425 was a 2,500 horsepower unit that employed Alco's 251C prime mover. The model had only a two year production run from the fall of 1964 through December of 1966.

With GE's introduction of the U25B, Erie Lackawanna requested Alco bump up with the C424 by 100 mph.  Doing so would the EL to streamline maintenance among an order of U25B's it had placed since both models also carried the standardized components.

Alco complied and EL ordered a dozen.  What was essentially an upgraded C424 (DL640A) can be seen in Alco's specification for the model, DL640B. Unfortunately only 91 units were built for six different Class I railroads including:

  • Pennsylvania

  • Spokane, Portland & Seattle

  • Norfolk & Western

  • New Haven

  • Chicago & North Western

  • Erie Lackawanna

Interestingly, even as late as the mid-1960s Alco continued to use internal components from now-competitor GE (including the model 752 traction motor and GT598 main generator, the latter of which could also be found in the U25B).

In a scene probably dating to soon after its delivery in 1965, seen here is Pennsylvania C425 #2439. Location not listed. Author's collection.

It could be argued that the iconic builder was merely losing interest in attempting to remain competitive or that management was not in tune with what railroads were after. 

Whatever the case, even in Alco's last few years it made no real attempt to offer anything new and/or innovative to stay in the market against EMD and GE.

With a big wave from the fireman, Erie Lackawanna C425 #2452 hustles its westbound freight into Hammond, Indiana along the EL's short stretch of single-track on the morning of September 17, 1967. Roger Puta photo.

Perhaps it was only Alco's perception as a marginal locomotive builder with its troublesome early prime mover designs or maybe railroads simply did not like their models, choosing instead the simplicity and known reliability of those from the two other builders. 

In the end, Alco could find little success selling locomotives throughout the 1960s with fewer than a thousand units produced across the entire Century line.

Norfolk & Western C425 #1004, running the former Wabash, meets a pair of Illinois Terminal SW1200's somewhere in the Midwest in April, 1965. Roger Puta photo.

Overall, the C425, as with all of the Century series in general were well built, reliable, and rugged locomotives despite Alco's reputation.

The model featured phenomenal pulling power, an Alco trademark, and offered the most available tractive effort of any four-axle design it had cataloged up until that time;  64,200 pounds.

All of these factors resulted in many railroads using their C425s for several years before retirement, trade-in, or resale. Several were still in use through the late 1980s and you can still find C425s hauling freight on short lines like the Navajo Mine Railroad; Livonia, Avon & Lakeville; and New York & Lake Erie. 

Alco C425 Data Sheet

Entered Production10/13/1964 (Erie Lackawanna #2452-2454)
Years Produced10/13/1964-12/1966
Model SpecificationDL640B
Engine251C, V-16
Carbody StylingAlco
Length (Between Coupler Pulling Faces)59' 4"
Weight260,000 Lbs.
Dynamic BrakesOptional
Truck TypeSwing Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-B)
Truck Wheelbase9' 4"
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsGE 752 (4)
Traction GeneratorGT598
Steam Generator-
Gear Ratio74:18
Tractive Effort Rating64,200 Lbs.
Top Speed70 MPH

Alco C425 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Chicago & North Western401-40441966
Erie Lackawanna2451-2462121964
New Haven2550-2559101964-1965
Norfolk & Western1000-1017181964-1965
Spokane, Portland & Seattle310-317, 320-327161965-1966


  • Foster, Gerald. A Field Guide To Trains. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

  • Kirkland, John F. Diesel Builders, The:  Volume Two, American Locomotive Company And Montreal Locomotive Works. Glendale: Interurban Press, 1989.

  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. Diesel Spotter's Guide.  Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing Company, 1967.

  • Solomon, Brian. Alco Locomotives. Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2009.

Erie Lackawanna C425 #2452 and GP35 #2556 are southbound with the "Day Falls Turn" at Goundry Street in North Tonawanda, New York on the evening of July 23, 1973. Doug Kroll photo.

For a comprehensive look at the American Locomotive Company and all of the motive power types it built from steam, diesel, to electrics consider the book Alco Locomotives by Brian Solomon.

Covering more than 175 pages Mr. Solomon's book details the history of Alco from its esteemed 4-6-4 Hudsons and 4-6-6-4 Challengers to vaunted RS and PA series diesel locomotives. If you have any interest in Alco this book is a must have! 

Also consider Mike Schafer's Vintage Diesel Locomotives which looks at virtually all of the classic builders and models from Alco PAs to early EMD Geeps. If you’re interested in classic Alcos, or diesel locomotives in general, this book gives an excellent general history of both. 

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Wes Barris's is simply the best web resource in the study of steam locomotives. 

The amount of information found there is quite staggering; historical backgrounds of wheel arrangements, types used by virtually every railroad, preserved and operational examples, and even those used in other countries (North America and beyond). 

It is difficult to truly articulate just how much material can be found at this website.  It is a must visit!

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!