Alco "RS-32" Locomotives

The Alco RS32 was one of the final models in the RS series.  By the time it was cataloged the company was losing its foothold in the market; few RS32's sold and General Electric had made its debut with the U25B.   In the end, only 27 units sold to just the New York Central and Southern Pacific.  It is somewhat puzzling that the American Locomotive Company (Alco) decided to release so many models in such a short time span.  This occurred throughout the 1950s and 1960s with variants like the RS-27, RS-36, RSD-15, RS-11, and others.  Perhaps the manufacturer was attempting whatever means necessary to regain market share.  Unfortunately, the era of custom builds had ended with steam and off-the-shelf diesels were now the future.  In some respects, Alco appeared to understand and recognize these shifting winds but it could simply not let go of its iron horse heritage.

From a operational standpoint the RS32 was a bit less powerful than the previous RS27.  It did, however, feature an upgraded prime mover, the 251 used in the later Century series. 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.

Arkansas & Missouri's only RS32, #42 (built as New York Central #8031), is paired with C420 mate #54 ahead of a freight at Springfield, Missouri. Warren Calloway photo.

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.

This classic scene depicts the Southern Pacific's San Jose Roundhouse during February of 1966 where RS32 #7302, C628 #4845, and F7 #6245 layover between assignments. Drew Jacksich photo.

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.  

Seen here is Chrome Crankshaft RS32 #4002 at Green Bay, Wisconsin during 1979. This locomotive was built as Southern Pacific #7302 (pictured above). Doug Kroll photo.

Production Roster Of RS32s

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

Unlike many Class Is, C&NW continued to operate Alco's well into the 1980s on its fabled "Alco Line" in Minnesota and South Dakota. Seen here is RS32 #4240, a former New York Central unit, moving over the turntable at Winona, Minnesota on May 22, 1980. Doug Kroll photo.

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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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.