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Alco "RS-1" Locomotives

Last revised: December 11, 2023

By: Adam Burns

The American Locomotive Company (Alco) could seemingly never outdo the Electro-Motive Division for dominance in the early diesel locomotive market.

Despite this, the company would develop one of the most important layouts for how all future diesel locomotives would be built; the RS1, which pioneered the original road-switcher design.

Not only would EMD go on to use the carbody style in its later General Purpose (GP) series but also the offset cab layout is still used today by General Electric and successor Electro-Motive Diesel.  

The RS1 was in production longer than any other model at the time, remaining in Alco's catalog for nearly 20 years. Today, you can still find a handful of these rugged workhorses preserved at various museums around the country - some of which are even still operational.

Photos

6729923872683999867t1gh168190781.jpgIt's the early Penn Central era as a former Pennsylvania RS-1 lays over in Bristol, Pennsylvania along the Northeast Corridor during the spring of 1968. Photographer unknown. American-Rails.com collection.

The RS1 was released by the builder in early 1941; it was the first in a long line of Road Switcher models that ended in 1963 with the RS36.   It is also recognized as the first, true road-switcher ever cataloged by a locomotive manufacturer.  Alco's history with its early, cataloged diesel switchers dated all of the way back to its demonstrator HH300 models (High Hood) of the early 1930s.

87132958612657298627298387.jpgPennsylvania RS1 #9919 at Meadows Yard in Kearny, New Jersey, circa 1967. Fred Byerly photo. American-Rails.com collection.

However, the company's history with diesel locomotive technology goes back even further to a testbed switcher outshopped in July, 1925 in conjunction with General Electric and Ingersoll-Rand.  In his book, "The Diesel Builders, Volume Two: American Locomotive Company and Montreal Locomotive Works," author John Kirkland notes this 300 horsepower, 60-ton unit was completed as Alco order S1484, construction number 65979.

The early "HH" series models were essentially prototypes themselves, built in conjunction with Westinghouse and McIntosh & Seymore, and sold to a handful of railroads.  Interestingly, as Kirkland points out, Alco never actually cataloged these switchers as "High Hood," designs.  This was yet another term later coined by railfans.

901093472362554236426562986380709.jpgSt. Louis-San Francisco Railway RS-1 #105, sub-lettered for subsidiary Alabama, Tennessee & Northern, is seen here in Springfield, Missouri, circa 1965. Mac Owen photo. American-Rails.com collection.

The RS1, a design requested at the behest of Rock Island's chief operating officer, J.D. Farrington for use in passenger service along its lightly populated branch lines in the Midwest.  In addition to passenger assignments consisting of only one or two cars, railroads soon found the RS1 could handle both light freight duties and switching assignments.

The RS1 was given slight design features from famed industrial designer Otto Kuhler.  Most noteworthy is that they were the first to employ raised cabs for better visibility, so commonly employed in today's locomotives.  Designed by Westinghouse as the "visibility cab", they were normally wider and taller than the engine hood providing crews with better visibility featuring an arched roof line.

Spokane, Portland & Seattle RS1 #54 at Portland, Oregon; August, 1965. Fred Byerly photo. American-Rails.com collection.

As such, it featured a long hood to house the 539T power plant, a McIntosh & Seymore with a cab was placed offset on the frame.  This setup gave the locomotive a short hood at one end, used to house a steam generator for passenger service.

Data Sheet and Specifications

1941-1942

Alco Class404-DL-240
Entered Production3/14/1941
Years Produced3/1941-6/1942
Model SpecificationE1640
Engine539T, 6-Cylinder In-Line, Turbocharged
Engine BuilderAlco/McIntosh & Seymour
Horsepower1,000
Carbody StylingAlco
Length (Between Coupler Faces)55' 11 ¾"
Height (Top of Rail to Top of Cab)14' 6"
Width10' 0"
Weight240,000 Lbs
Dynamic BrakesYes
Air Brake Schedule14EL
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeSwing Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-B)
Wheelbase9' 4"
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsGE 731 (4)
Traction GeneratorGT533
Gear Ratio75:16
Tractive Effort Rating (Starting)72,000 Lbs (at 30% adhesion)
Tractive Effort Rating34,000 Lbs at 8 MPH
Top Speed60 MPH

Post World War II

Alco Class404-DL-240
Entered Production3/14/1941
Years Produced1945-11/1957
Model SpecificationE1641/A
Engine539T, 6-Cylinder In-Line, Turbocharged
Engine BuilderAlco/McIntosh & Seymour
Horsepower1,000
Carbody StylingAlco
Length (Between Coupler Faces)55' 11 ¾"
Height (Top of Rail to Top of Cab)14' 6"
Width10' 0"
Weight240,000 Lbs
Dynamic BrakesYes (Optional)
Air Brake Schedule14EL
TrucksB-B
Truck TypeSwing Bolster, Drop-Side Equalizer (AAR Type-B)
Wheelbase9' 4"
Wheel Size40"
Traction MotorsGE 731D (4)
Traction GeneratorGT553A
Gear Ratio75:16
Tractive Effort Rating (Starting)72,000 Lbs (at 30% adhesion)
Tractive Effort Rating (Continuous)34,000 Lbs at 8 MPH
Top Speed60 MPH

Prior to the start of World War II there were thirteen RS1's produced for five different railroads.  Please refer to the table below.  These locomotives were later requisitioned by the U.S. Army for use on the Trans-Iranian Railway to supply Russia with war materiel during the conflict.  

The locomotives were based out of the Port of Bandar Shahpur on the Persian Gulf, running 685 miles largely through an arid, desert environment before entering elevations of 7,000 feet.  

The Army had Alco retrofit the units with tapered cabs and change the roof line to meet tunnel clearances.  In addition, the B-B, four-axle trucks were swapped out for C-C, six-axle trucks (all-powered).  These were essentially the first "RSD-1" models.

New locomotives were later built for the original railroads (paid by the U.S. government) to replace those requisitioned, in April and May of 1943 (1946 for the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad).

Production Rosters

Pre-War Production Board (WPB) Units

These RS1s were completed before the War Production Board (WPB) took control of manufacturing throughout the nation and imposed restrictions on new diesels produced.  This went into effect on April 4, 1942.

Total Built = 13

Railroad Road Number Construction Number Date Built Date Rebuilt (Army) U.S. War Department Number Replacement Construction Number (RR) Date Rebuilt For Railroads New Road Number
Rock Island748694243/194111/19428005708165/1943742
Rock Island749694253/194112/19428006708175/1943743
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay901694263/19411/19438010708104/1943904
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay902694273/19411/19438011708114/1943904
Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad600694284/194112/194280087520310/1946602
Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad601695664/19411/194380097520410/1946603
Milwaukee Road1678695676/194111/19428002708144/19431676
Milwaukee Road1679695686/194111/19428003708154/19431677
Rock Island746695698/194112/19428007708185/1943744
Rock Island747695708/194111/19428004708195/1943745
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay903698006/19421/19438012708214/1943906
New York, Susquehanna & Western231699926/194211/19428000708124/1943231
New York, Susquehanna & Western233699936/194211/19428001708134/1943233

The six-axle version came in either a C-C or A1A-A1A truck setup.  The standard RS1 came in a B-B truck setup (four axles) and could produce 34,000 pounds of tractive effort with a top speed of 60 mph (although it rarely ever reached such speeds). It was quite short at just 54 feet, 11 inches and also featured a very low profile. 

Overall, the model weighed just 120 tons and featured electrical and other components from both General Electric and Westinghouse. With the Rock Island's original request it was one of the initial railroads to receive the model when the first batches were completed in March of 1941, delivered to:

  • Tennessee Coal & Iron
  • Milwaukee Road
  • New York, Susquehanna & Western
  • Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay Railroad

Post World War II

Total Built = 340

Owner Road Number(s) Construction Number(s) Completion Date
Akron, Canton & Youngstown D-2 74323 10/1945
Alabama, Tennessee & Northern 101, 102 71435, 73096 11/1944, 12/1944
Alabama, Tennessee & Northern 103, 104 73326, 73327 3/1945
Alabama, Tennessee & Northern 105, 106 73758, 74321 6/1945, 10/1945
Alabama, Tennessee & Northern 107-109 75110-75112 5/1946 - 6/1946
Alabama, Tennessee & Northern 110, 111 75480, 75481 8/1947
Alaska Railroad 1000, 1001 71319, 71320 5/1944
Alton Railroad 50 74322 10/1945
Alton Railroad 51-53 74494-74496 11/1945
Alton Railroad 54-58 74677-74681 11/1945
Alton Railroad 59 74823 12/1945
Ann Arbor 20, 21 78374, 78375 11/1950
Santa Fe 2385-2387 75391-75393 6/1947 - 7/1947
Santa Fe 2388 75482 8/1947
Santa Fe 2394, 2395 78115, 77838 8/1950, 12/1949
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay 904, 905 70810, 70811 4/1943
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay 906 70821 4/1943
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay 907, 908 70809, 70822 11/1943
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay 909 72812 6/1944
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay 910, 911 73332, 73333 4/1945
Atlanta & St. Andrews Bay 912, 913 75559, 77848 10/1947, 2/1950
Atlantic & East Carolina 500 79047 4/1951
Bamberger Railroad 570 70820 5/1943
Central Railroad of New Jersey 1200-1204 78095-78099 6/1950
Central Railroad of New Jersey 1205 79234 9/1951
Chesapeake & Ohio 5114, 5115 80851, 80852 9/1953
Chicago & Eastern Illinois 115-118 73328-73331 4/1945
Chicago & North Western 1066 79589 9/1953
Chicago & North Western 1067, 1068 79590, 79591 8/1953
Chicago & North Western 1069 80850 9/1953
Chicago & North Western 1080 72816 8/1944
Chicago & North Western 1081 (1st) 72921 9/1944
Chicago & Western Indiana 252, 253 76799, 76800 7/1949
Chicago & Western Indiana 254-257 77172-77175 10/1949 - 11/1949
Chicago & Western Indiana 258, 259 77836, 77837 12/1949
Chicago & Western Indiana 260-263 77849-77852 2/1950
Milwaukee Road 961-963 77469-77471 3/1950
Milwaukee Road 1676, 1677 70814, 70815 4/1943
Rock Island 735-739 71312-71316 1/1944 - 2/1944
Rock Island 740, 741 70823, 70824 11/1943
Rock Island 742-745 70816-70819 5/1943
Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (Soo Line) 100, 101 73753, 73760 5/1945, 6/1945
Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (Soo Line) 102 75215 12/1946
Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (Soo Line) 103-105 75217-75219 1-2/1947
Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic (Soo Line) 106, 107 75389, 78376 5/1947, 1/1951
DuPont 105-108 79050-79053 6-7/1951
Gaylord Container 302, 303 75842, 75843 5/1948
GE-Atomic Energy Commission 39-3729, 39-3730 75844, 76206 6/1948
GE-Atomic Energy Commission 39-3731, 39-3732 76210, 76211 10/1948
Genesee & Wyoming 25, 30 79580, 81345 1/1952, 5/1955
Grand Trunk Western 1950, 1951 82355, 82356 11/1957
Great Northern 182, 183 72922, 72923 9/1944
Great Northern 184, 185 72924, 71433 11/1944, 10/1944
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1102 71438 11/1944
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1103, 1104 73094, 73095 12/1944
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1105-1107 73335-73337 4/1945
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1108, 1109 73573, 73574 5/1945
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1110 73752 5/1945
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1111, 1112 74910, 74911 1/1946, 4/1946
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1113 75216 1/1947
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1114, 1115 75220, 75221 2/1947
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1116, 1117 75223, 75224 3/1947
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1120 76219 12/1948
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1121, 1122 76624, 76625 1/1949
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1123-1125 76629-76631 3/1949 - 4/1949
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1126, 1127 76796, 76798 4/1949, 5/1949
Illinois Terminal 750-752 75839-75841 5/1948
Illinois Terminal 754 77855 3/1950
Illinois Terminal 755, 756 77069, 77070 3/1950
Kansas City Southern 1110-1113 70825-70828 11/1943 - 12/1943
Lake Erie, Franklin & Clarion 20, 21 76797, 78241 4/1949, 8/1950
Lake Superior & Ishpeming 1001-1003 79576-79578 11/1951 - 12/1951
Long Island Railroad 461, 462 76220, 76622 12/1948, 1/1949
Long Island Railroad 463-465 76626-76628 2/1949 - 3/1949
Long Island Railroad 466-469 77475-77478 4/1950
Midland Continental Railroad 401, 402 74912, 79579 4/1946, 12/1951
Minneapolis & St. Louis 244 71317 2/1944
Minneapolis & St. Louis 744, 944 71434, 71436 7/1944, 9/1944
Minneapolis & St. Louis 1044, 1144 73093, 79097 10/1944, 11/1944
Minneapolis & St. Louis 645, 745 73334, 73759 6/1945, 7/1945
Minneapolis & St. Louis 845, 945 74317, 74318 8/1945, 9/1945
Minneapolis &a St. Louis 146, 246 74821, 74822 1/1946, 2/1946
Minneapolis & St. Louis 346, 446 74824, 74909 3/1946, 4/1946
Minneapolis & St. Louis 546, 646 75113, 75114 5/1946, 6/1946
Minneapolis & St. Louis 746, 846 75115, 75116 7/1946, 8/1946
Minneapolis & St. Louis 946, 1046 75117, 75118 9/1946, 10/1946
Minneapolis & St. Louis 547 75390 5/1947
Minneapolis & St. Louis 948, 1048 76207, 76208 9/1948, 10/1948
Minneapolis & St. Louis 1148 76209 11/1948
Minneapolis & St. Louis 849, 949 77842, 77843 8/1949, 9/1949
Minneapolis & St. Louis 1049, 1149 77844, 77845 10/1949, 11/1949
Minneapolis & St. Louis 1249 77846 12/1959
Minneapolis & St. Louis 950, 1050 78243, 78244 9/1950, 10/1950
Minneapolis & St. Louis 1150, 1250 78245, 78373 11/1950, 12/1950
Minneapolis & St. Louis 751 79235 7/1951
Minneapolis & St. Louis 851, 951 79346, 79347 8/1951, 9/1951
Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste Marie (Soo Line) 350, 351 80853, 80854 12/1954
Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste Marie (Soo Line) 352, 353 80978, 80979 12/1954
New York Central 8100 75825 2/1948
New York Central 8101-8105 75680-75684 1/1948 - 2/1948
New York Central 8106-8108 75826-75828 2/1948 - 3/1948
New York Central 8109-8111 77986-77988 4/1950
New York Central 8112, 8113 78090, 78091 5/1950
New Haven 0660-0669 75829-75838 3/1948 - 4/1948
New Haven 0670, 0671 76212, 76213 11/1948
New York, Susquehanna & Western 230 71437 11/1944
New York, Susquehanna & Western 231, 233 (2nd) 70812, 70813 4/1943
New York, Susquehanna & Western 232-236 (Evens) 73098-73100 1/1945
New York, Susquehanna & Western 238, 240 73568, 73569 4/1945
New York, Susquehanna & Western 242, 244 73754, 73755 5/1945
New York, Susquehanna & Western 246-252 (Evens) 75555-75558 9/1947 - 10/1947
New York, Susquehanna & Western 254, 256 79584, 79585 6/1953
Northern Pacific 155 73761 6/1945
Northern Pacific 156 74316 10/1945
Northern Pacific 157, 158 73765, 73766 8/1945
Oregon Electric Railway 52-54 73570-73572 4/1945 - 5/1945
Oregon Electric Railway 55 73756 6/1945
Pennsylvania Railroad 5619, 5620 78106, 78107 6/1950
Pennsylvania Railroad 5621-5624 78110-78113 6/1950 - 7/1950
Pennsylvania Railroad 5625-5628 78100-78103 6/1950
Pennsylvania Railroad 5629 78114 8/1950
Pennsylvania Railroad 5630, 5631 78116, 78117 8/1950
Pennsylvania Railroad 5632-5636 78159-78163 8/1950
Pennsylvania Railroad 5637, 5638 78104, 78105 6/1950
Pennsylvania Railroad 5639, 5640 78108, 78109 6/1950
Pennsylvania Railroad 5906 76214 12/1948
Pennsylvania Railroad 8485, 8486 79582, 79583 5/1952
Pennsylvania Railroad 8857, 8858 78377, 79046 4/1951
Rutland Railway 400, 401 79349, 79350 10/1951
Rutland Railway 402-405 79572-79575 10/1951 - 11/1951
Spokane International 200-205 77166-77171 9/1949 - 10/1949
Spokane International 206-208 77839-77841 12/1949
Spokane International 209-211 79586-79588 7/1953 - 8/1953
Spokane, Portland & Seattle 50, 51 73757, 73762 6/1945, 7/1945
Tennessee Coal & Iron 602, 603 75203, 75204 10/1946
Tennessee Coal & Iron 604 75484 9/1947
U.S. Navy 6 72817 9/1944
Washington Terminal 40 71318 3/1944
Washington Terminal 41-43 72813-72815 6/1944 - 7/1944
Washington Terminal 44, 45 73763, 73764 7/1945, 8/1945
Washington Terminal 46, 47 74314, 74315 9/1945
Washington Terminal 48, 49 74319, 74320 10/1945
Washington Terminal 50-54 75560-75564 11/1947 - 12/1947
Washington Terminal 55 75679 12/1947
Washington Terminal 56-59 76215-76218 12/1948
Washington Terminal 60-62 77472-77474 3/1950
Washington Terminal 63, 64 79048, 79049 5/1951
Wisconsin Central (Soo Line) 2360, 2361 77853, 77854 2/1950, 3/1950
Wisconsin Central (Soo Line) 2362 78242 8/1950
Wisconsin Central (Soo Line) 2363, 2364 79054, 79055 8/1951
Wisconsin Central (Soo Line) 2365-2367 79231-79233 9/1951
Wisconsin Central (Soo Line) 2368 79581 3/1952

Export

Total Built = 116

Owner Road Number(s) Construction Number(s) Completion Date
Arabian-American Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) A11x50, A11x51 75222, 75488 2/1947, 9/1947
Arabian-American Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) 1002 76623 1/1949
Arabian-American Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) 1003, 1004 77071, 77072 3/1950
Arabian-American Oil Company (Saudi Arabia) 1005 79348 10/1951
Central Railway of Brazil 3100-3119 71413-71432 4/1945 - 10/1945
Central Railway of Brazil 3120-3133 73703-73716 10/1945 - 1/1946
Central Railway of Brazil 3134, 3135 75924, 75925 7/1948
Central Railway of Brazil 3136, 3137 75930, 75931 8/1948, 9/1948
São Paulo Railway (Brazil) 504-507 75926-75929 8/1948
São Paulo Railway (Brazil) 508, 509 75932, 75933 9/1948
Estrada de Ferro Santos-Jundiaí (Brazil) 510, 511 81346, 82018 4/1956, 12/1956
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5606, 5607 77847, 77073 2/1950, 3/1950
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5608, 5609 77989, 77990 4/1950
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5610-5618 78033-78041 4/1950 - 5/1950
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5619 (1st) 78042 5/1950
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5620, 5621 (1st) 78088, 78089 5/1950
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5619-5621 (2nd) [MLW] 76430-76432 4/1954
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5622-5624 (1st) 78092-78094 5/1950
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5622-5624 (2nd) 81347-81349 10/1956
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5625-5631 82011-82017 10/1956 - 11/1956
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5632-5638 82019-82025 12/1956 - 1/1957
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5639-5643 82343-82347 1/1957 - 2/1957
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5644-5650 82348-82354 7/1957 - 8/1957
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5651 82357 5/1958
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5652-5656 82923-82927 12/1958
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5657-5662 83619-83624 12/1959 - 1/1960
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexico) 5663 (Final RS1 built) 83680 3/1960

39469823582375286890347097.jpgKansas City Southern RS1 #1113 carries out switching work in Kansas City, circa 1967. American-Rails.com collection.

Despite only modest sales numbers the RS1 could be found on railroads across the country from the Pennsylvania and New York Central to the Milwaukee Road and Northern Pacific.

While most RS1s were used in light branch line work some were also utilized in other applications, such as switching passenger cars at passenger terminals.  

The later RS2 and RS3 sold thousands to several railroads and private industries, offering just the right blend of size and power.   Unfortunately, later models could not replicate the same success and throughout the 1950s Alco lost ground to EMD. 

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.
  • Rail Heritage Publications. Early Diesel-Electric and Electric Locomotives. Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation, 1983.
  • Schafer, Mike. Vintage Diesel Locomotives. Osceola: MBI Publishing, 1998.
  • Solomon, Brian. Alco Locomotives. Minneapolis: Voyageur Press, 2009.

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