Alco RS32

Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

The Alco RS32 was one of the final models of the RS series built, and few were constructed making it about as successful as the earlier RS27, which sold just 27 units. It is somewhat puzzling that the American Locomotive Company (Alco) decided to release so many models in such a short time span in the late 1950s and early 1960s although perhaps they were trying whatever means necessary to grasp back a respectable share of the market. The RS32 was a bit less powerful than the previous RS27 but featured an upgraded prime mover, one that would be used in the later Century series as well. The model could almost be classed as a variant with so few units sold and just two railroads ultimately purchasing it. Today, at least two example sof the RS32 remains preserved.

The Alco RS32 entered production in 1961 and was built through 1962, just a year before Alco began production on their new Century series of road switcher. Using a B-B truck design (two axles per truck) the model produced 2,000 horsepower using the builder's upgraded 251 prime mover, the 251C. In the end, only 35 Alco RS32s were ever built for two railroads, the Southern Pacific (which purchased ten, numbered 7300-7309 and New York Central that picked up 25, numbered 8020-8044). Both railroads were somewhat loyal Alco customers, regularly purchasing or at testing virtually every diesel model the builder would release (the SP, for example, even had Alco build extremely high horsepower Century models).

An interesting feature of the RS32 was that Alco reverted back to an earlier design with the model, as it looked quite similar to the RS11 and RSD12 which both sported a low but elongated short hood. When Alco released the RS27 that model featured a carbody design very similar to what the Century series would employ, a flush cab and long hood with a very short, low front hood/nose. Along with being less powerful than the RS27, the RS32 also sported less tractive effort (66,000 pounds starting and 35,000 pounds continuous) although all other dimensions and components from General Electric and Westinghouse, remained the same.

The purpose behind the development of the RS32 was quite likely to compete with EMD's GP20, which entered production that same year and offered a similar horsepower rating. The purpose behind the GP20, and ultimately the RS32 as well, was to give railroads a unit that could offer plenty of power yet was small enough to be used in a wide range of applications, from switching duties to main line freight service. Of course, by the 1960s railroads were beginning to see the practicality of six-axle units yet still were not fully embracing them.  For technical information related to the RS32 please click here.  

Production Roster Of RS32s

Owner Road Number(s) Quantity Date Built
New York Central8020-8044251961-1962
Southern Pacific7300-7309101962

Listed above is a complete production roster of the RS32 model, which as already mentioned was purchased by only to the New York Central and Southern Pacific.  Interestingly, in comparison, despite the GP20 being a relatively unsuccessful model for Electro-Motive it still sold many more examples than Alco's competing design by more than seven-fold (260 GP20s to just 35 RS32s). Today, as mentioned before, you can still see at least two active in service; one is at the Fillmore & Western, originally built for the Southern Pacific as #7309, and another is operating on the Delaware-Lackawanna in freight service as #211 (originally SP #7302).   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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