Alco "C-630" Locomotives

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; 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. 

Some roads, like the Reading, continued to stick with Alco despite the builder's inherent flaws by that time.  Of all Alco six-axle Centuries, the C630 has been the best preserved model with three units known to exist; Union Pacific #2907, Norfolk & Western #1135, and Reading #5308 (the latter of which is still operational).

Chesapeake & Ohio C630 #2101 at Wyoming Yard in Grand Rapids, Michigan during July of 1974. The C&O purchased a small batch of four of these big beasts, #2100-2103 in 1967. Plagued with reliability issues they were never liked by the railroad.

The 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 built.

For more information about the C630 please click here.  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.

Some railroads continued to support Alco until the end. The Reading was one such system. Seen here is C630 #5307 laying over with other power at Rutherford Yard near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 10, 1970. Roger Puta photo.

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).    

Canada's two largest carrier's utilized Montreal-builds extensively. Seen here is Canadian National C630M #2008 (built in January, 1968) and RS18 #3665 (a model never offered in the States) lead a long freight train somewhere along the Kingston Subdivision between Montreal and Toronto in October, 1980. Roger Puta photo.

Alco C630 Production Roster

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Atlantic Coast Line2011-201331965
Chesapeake & Ohio2100-210341967
Louisville & Nashville1425-143281966
Norfolk & Western1130-1139101966-1967
Southern Pacific7800-7814151966
Union Pacific2900-2909101966

C630M (Montreal Locomotive Works)

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
Canadian National2000-2043441967-1968
Canadian Pacific4500-450781968
Pacific Great Eastern701-70441969

Seaboard Coast Line C630 #2211 (ex-Atlantic Coast Line #2011) lays over at Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac's Bryan Park Terminal/Acca Yard in Richmond, Virginia on September 27, 1969. Roger Puta photo.

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.

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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.