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Alco "S-3" Locomotives

Last revised: June 22, 2023

By: Adam Burns

The S3 was the third model of switcher in its "S" line that the company produced. It was virtually identical to the previous S1 model that was built from 1940 through 1950 and its interesting that American Locomotive even elected to change the unit's name given their striking similarities.

The S3 design was not quite as successful as the S1, selling about half as many units. However, it was purchased by several Canadian lines through Alco's Montreal Locomotive Works located in Montreal, Quebec. 

The S1 was never offered in Canada while the S2 did witness several buyers, notably via Canadian National and Canadian Pacific.  This continued with the S3 as both Class I's acquired even more of that particular model.

Today, the S3 is perhaps the least preserved of the switcher series but several are extant.  At least three American-built examples are operational, Alexander Railroad #6 and #7 (of New York Central and Davenport, Rock Island & Western heritage) as well as Dardanelle & Russellville #18. In additional, several Canadian examples are preserved.

Photos

2305203842634723875298896789.jpgPennsylvania Railroad S3 #8880, which the railroad classed as AS-6, was photographed here at Canton, Ohio on June 26, 1964, following her repaint in preparation for the impending Penn Central merger. Fred Byerly photo. American-Rails.com collection.

Overview

The Alco S3 model rolled into production in February, 1950, which was about four months before the final S1 rolled out of the builder's Schenectady, New York plant.

The model deviated a bit from its earlier counterpart in that it was equipped with the more standard AAR trucks, while the S1 and S2 designs featured Alco's very own Blunt trucks (the manufacturer was one of the only major builders of diesel locomotives to design its own trucks).

Like the S1, the S3 was a standard four-axle design featuring traction motors from General Electric and air components (brakes and compressors) from Westinghouse. Both featured dynamic braking, weighed 105 tons, and carried a length of just over 44 feet.

However, the S3 also differed in some other ways as well. While both models offered a continuous tractive effort rating of around 46,000 pounds the S3 featured more starting effort, 59,700 pounds (compared to the S1's 57,500 pounds).

Additionally, the most noticeable difference, internally, was that the S3 included 660 horsepower whereas the S1 was slightly less powerful at just 600 horsepower.

Most likely the S3 sold fewer units than the S1 for a few reasons; first, railroads were probably looking for a more powerful switcher, which was already available in the S2; and second, aside from the S2, those that wanted the extra power had a second chance at doing so with the S4 (which replaced the S2).


Data Sheet and Specifications

Entered Production2/1950 (Ford Motor Company #6605)
Years Produced2/1950-11/20/1953
Model SpecificationE1530A
Engine539, 6-Cylinder In-Line
Horsepower660
RPM740
Carbody StylingAlco
Length (Between Coupler Pulling Faces)45' 5.75"
Width10'
Height Above Rail Head14' 6"
Weight210,000 Lbs.
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeGRS Rigid Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-A)
Truck Wheelbase8'
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsGE 731 (4)
Traction GeneratorGT553
Gear Ratio75:16
Tractive Effort Rating46,000 Lbs. at 5 MPH.
Top Speed60 MPH

During the course of production the S-3 switched from a short, to long-shank coupler so the locomotive could more easily negotiate curves while pulling a cut of cars.

The final short-shank variant appeared on La Salle Coke #4 (construction number 80986) on June 11, 1954.  In Canada the first switcher to feature a long-shank coupler was Canadian Pacific #6523 (construction number 80987) completed on January 17, 1955.

Production Rosters

Alco

Total Built = 127

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Completion Date
Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) 8 79534 2/1952
Ann Arbor 4-7 78400-78403 11/1950
Boston & Maine 1173, 1174 78318, 78319 9/1950
Boston & Maine 1175, 1176 78391, 78392 9/1950
Boston & Maine 1177 - 1179 79539-79541 2/1952 - 3/1952
Boston & Maine 1180 79767 3/1952
Boston & Maine 1181 - 1184 79770-79773 4/1952 - 5/1952
Boston & Maine 1185 - 1188 80051-80054 5/1952 - 6/1952
Brooks-Scanlon 101, 102 79538, 79774 2/1952, 5/1952
Champion Paper 2104 79535 1/1952
Chicago & North Western 1262, 1263 78529, 78530 6/1951
Chicago & North Western 1264, 1265 78781, 78782 7/1951
Chicago & North Western 1266, 1267 78783, 78784 8/1951
Davenport, Rock Island & Northwestern 1, 2 79532, 79533 12/1951, 1/1952
Davenport, Rock Island & Northwestern 3, 4 80056, 80057 8/1952
Davenport, Rock Island & Northwestern 5-7 80292-80294 9/1953, 10/1953, 11/1953
Davidson Chemical Division (W.R. Grace) 101 78786 8/1951
El Dorado & Wesson 18 80058 7/1952
Ford Motor Company 6605, 6606 77780, 77781 2/1950
Ford Motor Company 6607, 6608 77786, 77787 2/1950, 3/1950
Ford Motor Company 6609 - 6611 78396-78398 10/1950
Frederick Snare Corporation 7 79354 11/1951
General Portland Cement 1 78528 6/1951
Graysonia, Nashville & Ashdown Railroad 51 78785 8/1951
Greater Portland Public Development Corporation 661 78393 10/1950
Humble Oil 997 78399 11/1950
Louisville & Nashville 69 - 75 77479-77485 4/1953
Maine Central 961, 962 80290, 80291 3/1953
Mount Hood RR 50 78317 9/1950
New York Central 874 - 891 78141-78158 6/1950 - 8/1950
New York Central 892 - 899 78221-78228 8/1950
New York Central 900, 901 78229, 78230 9/1950
New York Central 902, 903 78315, 78316 9/1950
New York Central 904 - 906 78787-78789 9/1951
New York Central 907 - 911 78791-78795 9/1951 - 10/1951
New York Central 912 - 914 79351-79353 11/1951
New York Central 915, 916 79355, 79356 12/1951
Pennsylvania 8873, 8874 78404, 78405 11/1950
Pennsylvania 8875 - 8878 78506-78509 11/1950 - 12/1950
Pennsylvania 8879 - 8885 78511-78517 12/1950 - 3/1951
Solvay Processing Division (Allied Chemical) 2 79769 4/1952
Southern Pacific 1023 - 1032 78518-78527 3/1951 - 5/1951
Swift & Company 664 78790 9/1951
Texas & Northern 3, 4 79536, 79537 1/1952
Texas City Terminal 32 78510 11/1950
Texas Company (Texaco) 21, 22 79768, 80055 3/1952, 7/1952
Washington, Idaho & Montana 30 78395 10/1950
West Pittston & Exeter Railroad 6 78394 10/1950

Montreal Locomotive Works

Total Built = 163

Owner Road Number(s) Construction Number(s) Completion Date
Bathhurst Power & Paper 3 77281 12/1953
Canadian Arsenals 1 77280 11/1952
Canadian National 8450 - 8461 77757-77768 11/1951 - 3/1952
Canadian National 8462 - 8468 77283-77289 12/1952 - 3/1953
Canadian National 8469 - 8483 79129-79143 5/1953 - 11/1953
Canadian National 8484 - 8493 76433-76442 3/1954 - 6/1954
Canadian National 8494 - 8498 80981-80985 6/1954 - 8/1954
Canadian Pacific 6500 - 6505 77635-77640 4/1951 - 5/1951
Canadian Pacific 6506 - 6512 77769-77775 3/1952 - 5/1952
Canadian Pacific 6513 - 6517 79116-79120 6/1952 - 8/1952
Canadian Pacific 6518 - 6522 79164-79168 9/1953 - 10/1953
Canadian Pacific 6523 - 6526 80987-80990 1/1955
Canadian Pacific 6527 - 6535 81072-81080 2/1955 - 3/1955
Canadian Pacific 6536 81171 3/1955
Canadian Pacific 6537 - 6547 81193-81203 7/1955 - 8/1955
Canadian Pacific 6548 - 6557 81505-81514 4/1956 - 5/1956
Canadian Pacific 6558 - 6561 81545-81548 5/1956 - 6/1956
Canadian Pacific 6562 - 6571 81663-81672 2/1957 - 3/1957
Canadian Pacific 6572 - 6588 82158-82174 3/1957- 6/1957
Canadian Pacific 6589 - 6600 82175-82186 7/1957 - 9/1957
Essex Terminal 103 77282 12/1952
LaSalle Coke 4 80986 6/1954
National Harbours Board D2 - D4 77641-77643 5/1951
National Harbours Board 5 - 9 77752-77756 11/1951
Price Brothers 106* 77634 9/1950

* First S-3 built by the Montreal Locomotive Works.  It wore "Canadian Pacific #7004" as a demonstrator.

Sources

  • 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.

575899s2847ydncjiooiwyr71489128.jpgClassic car aficionados will surely enjoy this scene of Ford Motor Company S3 #6610 switches a carload of new Mustangs (among a wide range of other cool models!) at its River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan circa 1965.

Reception

In the end the Alco S3 sold just 292 units. Interestingly, though, a wide range of railroads and industries purchased the model like the Pennsylvania, Chicago & North Western, Southern Pacific, Ann Arbor, New York Central, and others.

The Montreal Locomotive Works built S3s for Bathhurst Power & Paper, Canadian Arsenals, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Essex Terminal, LaSalle Coke, and National Harbours Board.

The MLW demonstrator was purchased by the Price Brothers (it was later picked up by CP). Overall, MLW constructed 163 S3's with CP and CN buying the majority of these (140). 


SteamLocomotive.com

Wes Barris's SteamLocomotive.com is simply the best web resource on the study of steam locomotives. 

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

It is quite staggering and a must visit!