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Alco "RS11" Locomotives

Last revised: August 1, 2023

By: Adam Burns

The RS11 began a new class of road switcher for Alco. The model was the first offered with a low, short hood and came equipped with the manufacturer's newest prime mover.

Unfortunately, it could not recapture the market from Electro-Motive.  By the time the RS11 debuted EMD was so backlogged with orders for the GP9, along with the fact that railroads had become somewhat distrustful of Alco due to its problematic prime movers, the model had little chance to offer strong competition.  

Despite these issues the RS11 proved became Alco's best-selling late model Road Switcher (RS) design.  It could be found in service far and wide, from the Great Northern and Missouri Pacific to New Haven and Chicago & North Western.  Today, several examples remain preserved.

Photos

50011301748192j3773yi9928751uw817361.jpgAn American Locomotive photo featuring new Delaware & Hudson RS11 #5001 at the company's plant in Schenectady, New York circa 1960. Warren Calloway collection.

Overview

Alco was seemingly always racing to catch EMD in an attempt to remain competitive with the industry's leading locomotive manufacturer.   Ironically, it had pioneered the road switcher design with its initial RS1 in 1941.

However, by the time EMD released the GP9 in 1954 Alco had fallen far behind in the market as the General Motors company was simply offering far superior products that were more rugged, reliable, and efficient.  In 1956 the Schenectady builder released the RS11 model, listed by Alco as its DL701. 

In many ways, perhaps the RS11 best described Alco's losing battle against EMD, and very soon against General Electric as well.  Of course, releasing the model when it did nearly two years after the GP9 went on sale Alco was once again trying to catch up. 

923985176241247615728969827.jpgMaine Central RS11's #802 (ex-Portland Terminal #1082) and #801 at Rockport, Maine in the summer of 1964. American-Rails.com collection.

Some of its sales for the RS11 was the result of EMD being so backlogged with orders for the GP9 that some railroads went elsewhere to fill their locomotive shortage. 

Interestingly, Alco's product in this case was actually a better locomotive than the GP9 in terms of specifications:

  • Whereas the GP9 featured 1,750 horsepower the RS11, using Alco's new model 251B engine, could produce 1,800 horsepower.

  • It offered a continuous tractive effort rating of 47,000 pounds compared to the GP9's 40,000 pounds.

  • Finally, the model could accelerate faster while spending less fuel than the GP9 thanks to its 12-cylinder prime mover (EMD's 567C used 16 cylinders).  This last feature was a trademark of Alco engineering but unfortunately was not a considerable sales advantage in those days.
829623872375287926030979084.jpgPennsylvania RS11 #7624 (built as #8624) at Trenton, New Jersey, circa 1967. Fred Byerly photo. American-Rails.com collection.

Despite these improvements the RS11 really never offered serious competition for EMD, despite Alco's best attempts.  The new 251B prime mover did, at least, give railroads more reason to trust the builder's reliability as the engine was not nearly as trouble-prone as the earlier model 244.

For the first time Alco began giving railroads the option to purchase road switchers with either low or high, short hoods (it was always an option before, but only via special request). Still, most continued to purchase them with high hoods although some like the Delaware & Hudson and Southern Pacific did order a few with low hoods.

Beginning with the RSD7, Alco changed the appearance of its road switcher, making it truly a Schenectady product. The builder's RS1s, RS2s, RS3s, and their variants all featured cabs protruding well above both long and short hoods.

However, Alco changed its design so as the hood (particularly the long hood) mounted flush with the top of the cab.

While radiator housings, vents, and other minor various exterior elements could denote an EMD from Alco perhaps what truly set the latter apart was the notched corners housing number boards.  This very small, yet classy touch makes for an easy spotting feature of Alco locomotives. 

Data Sheet and Specifications

Alco Class404-DL-240
Entered Production2/1956 (Demos: To Southern Pacific)
Years Produced2/1956-6/1961
Model SpecificationDL701
Engine251B, V-12
Horsepower1,800
RPM1,000
Carbody StylingAlco
Length (Between Coupler Pulling Faces)56' 11.75"
Weight240,000 Lbs.
Dynamic BrakesOptional
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeSwing Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-B)
Truck Wheelbase9' 4"
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsGE 752 (4)
Traction GeneratorGT581
Steam GeneratorOptional
Gear Ratio74:18 (65 MPH), 65:18 (75 MPH)
Tractive Effort Rating46,500 Lbs. at 12 MPH
Top Speed75 MPH

Production Rosters

Alco

Total Built = 356 (Including Export)

Owner Road Number(s) Serial Number(s) Date Built
Alco (Demonstrator) 701 (became Southern Pacific #5720) 81456 2/1956
Alco (Demonstrator) 701A, 701B (became Southern Pacific #5721-5122) 81457, 81458 2/1956
Carolina & North Western 11 81464 3/1956
Delaware & Hudson 5000-5002 83504-83506 3/1960
Delaware & Hudson 5003-5005 83534-83536 3/1960
Delaware & Hudson 5006-5011 83685-83690 4/1961 - 5/1961
Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific 3600-3608 81934-81942 8/1956 - 9/1956
Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific 3609-3614 82026-82031 9/1956
Erie Mining 300, 301 81914, 81915 6/1956
Erie Mining 302, 303 81918, 81919 6/1956
Erie Mining 304, 305 81929, 81930 8/1956
Erie Mining 306, 307 81932, 81933 8/1956
Erie Mining 308-310 82036-82038 10/1956
Erie Mining 311, 312 82041, 82042 10/1956
Erie Mining 313, 314 82050, 82051 11/1956
Green Bay & Western 309 81931 8/1956
Lehigh Valley 400-403 83537-83540 3/1960
Maine Central 801 81916 6/1956
Missouri Pacific 4601-4612 83492-83503 10/1959 - 11/1959
Monongahela Connecting 700 82370 7/1957
New Haven 1400-1413 81781-81794 5/1956
New Haven 1414 81913 6/1956
New York Central 8000-8008* 82361-82369 6/1957 - 7/1957
Nickel Plate Road 558-562 81459-81463 2/1956 - 3/1956
Nickel Plate Road 563-567 82832-82836 3/1958
Nickel Plate Road 568-572 82863-82867 3/1958
Nickel Plate Road 573-575 83541-83543 5/1960
Nickel Plate Road 576, 577 83580, 83581 5/1960
Nickel Plate Road 850-863 83014-83027 1/1959 - 2/1959
Nickel Plate Road 864 83394 2/1959
Norfolk & Western 308-318 81465-81475 3/1956 - 4/1956
Norfolk & Western 319-324 81775-81780 4/1956
Norfolk & Western 325-333 82057-82065 1/1957
Norfolk & Western 334-340 82323-82329 1/1957-2/1957
Norfolk & Western 341-343 82340-82342 6/1957
Norfolk & Western 344 82358 6/1957
Norfolk & Western 345-350 82372-82377 11/1957
Norfolk & Western 351-364 82628-82641 11/1957 - 12/1957
Norfolk & Western 365-376 82956-82967 11/1958 - 12/1958
Norfolk & Western 377-380 83010-83013 1/1959
Norfolk & Western 381-392 83395-83406 2/1959 - 3/1959
Norfolk & Western 393-400 83435-83442 5/1959 - 6/1959
Norfolk & Western 401-406 83691-83696 5/1961 - 6/1961
Northern Pacific 900, 901 82830, 82831 1/1958
Northern Pacific 902, 903 82881, 82882 6/1958
Northern Pacific 904, 905 82948, 82949 7/1958
Northern Pacific 906-911 82950-82955 7/1958
Northern Pacific 912-917 83582-83587 6/1960
Pennsylvania Railroad 8617-8625 81920-81928 8/1956
Pennsylvania Railroad 8626-8633 82330-82337 2/1957
Pennsylvania Railroad 8634, 8635 82338, 82339 5/1957
Pennsylvania Railroad 8636-8639 82642-82645 11/1957
Pennsylvania Railroad 8640, 8641 82646, 82647 11/1957
Pennsylvania Railroad 8642-8644 82817-82819 11/1957
Pennsylvania Railroad 8645-8647 82820-82822 11/1957
Pennsylvania Railroad 8648 82823 11/1957
Pennsylvania Railroad 8649-8654 82824-82829 12/1957
Portland Terminal (Maine) 1082 81917 6/1956
Seaboard Air Line 100-106 83588-83594 6/1960
Seaboard Air Line 107-109 83681-83683 6/1960
Southern Pacific 5723-5729 82043-82049 11/1956
Southern Pacific 5845-5856 83407-83418 4/1959 - 5/1959
Southern Pacific 5857-5859 83432-83434 5/1959
Southern Pacific 5860-5866 83445-83451 8/1959
Southern Pacific 5867-5871 83487-83491 8/1959 - 9/1959
Toledo, Peoria & Western 400, 401 83008, 83009 11/1958
Toledo, Peoria & Western 402 83444 6/1959

* Alco constructed six additional RS11's for the New York Central, road numbers 8009-8011 (construction numbers 83504-83506) and 8012-8014 (construction numbers 83534-83536), between March 24-31, 1960.

As John Kirkland points out in his book, "The Diesel Builders: Volume Two," after delivery it was determined an Authority For Execution (AFE) was never completed and New York Central rejected the locomotives.

The units were returned to Alco and stored; they were eventually acquired by the Delaware & Hudson between January 31-February 17, 1961 and given road numbers 5000-5005.

Export

Owner Road Number(s) Construction Numbers Completion Dates
Ferrocarril del Pacifico (Mexico) 1501 82371 11/1957
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 7200-7204 82052-82056 12/1956
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 7205-7217 82868-82880 4/1958 - 5/1958
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 7218 83684 4/1961
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 7219-7253 84414-84448 6/1963 - 12/1963
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 7254-7293 84449-84488 1/1964 - 4/1964
Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Obras Públicas (S.C.O.P.)/Mexico 7123-1 thru 7123-3 82032-82034 10/1956
Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Obras Públicas (S.C.O.P.)/Mexico 7123-4 82035 10/1956
Southern Peru Copper Mine (Peru) 3, 4 82039, 82040 10/1956
Southern Peru Copper Mine (Peru) 5, 6 82359, 82360 6/1957
Southern Peru Copper Mine (Peru) 8 83443 6/1959

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.

Missouri Pacific "RS11" #952 is seen here in St. Louis, circa 1970. This unit was built as #4609 and later wore #72. It had already been reengined with an EMD prime mover by this date and listed as a "GP16." American-Rails.com collection.

In the end, despite the Alco RS11's smaller sales volume it could be found on a number or railroads across the US from the Norfolk & Western and Pennsylvania to the Northern Pacific and Southern Pacific.

Production of the Alco RS11 ended in May of 1964 with a total of 462 units produced in the US and Canada. Several foreign lines picked up examples of the locomotive including the Ferrocaril del Pacifico, National de Mexico, Secretarias Communicaciones de Obras Publicas, and Southern Peru Copper. 

Unfortunately, the rest of Alco's road-switcher series cataloged at the time would not see sales reach numbers anywhere near the RS11.  

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