Wednesday, October 27, 2010

ALCO-GE "1600"

Here we'll show the cover of an ALCO-GE sales brochure originally printed February 1950 and reprinted August 1950; both dates appear on the rear.

As we can see, the model being advertised is the ALCO-GE 1600. No model number for this locomotive is used anywhere in this brochure.

The locomotive in the airbrushed view on the front cover is an Alton & Southern locomotive, which normally would be classed by railfans as an "RS-2" considering that its fuel tank is mounted underneath its cab, its battery box is under the frame, and the locomotive was built rated 1500 HP. However, according to ALCO-GE sales literature and operating manuals this properly was a "1500" and the cover illustration is clearly being reused from an earlier edition.

While most of the illustrations in this brochure show the belt-driven auxiliary generator and exciter commonly associated with the 1500, the illustration shown by the heading "Main Generator" shows end-mounted auxiliaries. Further, the speed-tractive effort curve in the brochure gives a continuous rating of 52,500 lbs, commonly associated with the 1600 or "RS-3."

Of course, all that the curve really assures is that it's accurate as of 8/50 and not that any of the illustrations inside would match. With careful analysis, then, it's pretty safe to say that the previous cutoff of model numbers, RS-2 vs. RS-3 correlates with the change in fuel tank location, change in main generator model, change in mounting style of aux. generator and exciter, and change in rated continuous tractive effort. The increase in rating of the engine to 1600 HP happened briefly before all these other items were altered.

All that aside, the illustration is still impressive!


  1. It's a very beautiful illustration!
    As to the change of horsepower (1500 --> 1600) coming before the model change (RS2 --> RS3), the old Kalmbach Publishing "Diesel Spotter's Guide" (at least from the second edition of the early 1970s on) reported that a few 1950-built RS-2 were rated at 1600 hp. Kirkland's Alco book gives more details.

    Alco, Baldwin and Fairbanks-Morse all raised the rating of their 1500 hp cab and roadswitcher models to 1600 about the same time: I don't have exact dates (though, come to think of it, I have Kirkland's books on all three builders: I will try to check and post another comment if I get anything interesting), but perhaps Alco thought that it would be a competitive disadvantage if they didn't raise the horsepower IMMEDIATELY, even though they were only a few months away from introducing revised designs (RS-2 and FA/FB-2).
    (You are doing the railfan community a very great service by documenting everything from original sources: the railfan literature often has dubious scholarship. Kirkland was an industry insider, and evidently had a collection of original documents rivaling yours: I don't think he is infallible by any means, but I guess I tend to think of his books as sort of half-way between original source and railfan literature. )

  2. I've looked at the Kirkland books.
    (1) Alco raised the horsepower of its 12-244 models (RS and FA/B) from 1500 to 1600 in March 1950, marking the change with a "C" suffix on the specification number (so, e.g., the 1600 hp RS-2 was an E-1661C and the immediately preceding 1500 hp RS-2 was E-1661B). The switch to RS-3 production came two months later, in May. (The FA/FB-1 stayed in production a bit longer: FA/FB-2 didn't replace the 1600 hp -1 models until, I think, September. I don't know what sort of documentation Kirkland was working from-- internal Alco stuff, I assume-- but he gives exact dates and identities for the last and first units of succeeding types.

    (2) F-M seems to have built its last 1500 hp 8-cylinderr models in 1949; their first 1600 hp was in April 1950: Alco didn't beat them by much! Baldwin was a bit slower: production of 1600 hp types didn't start until about October. (Kirkland's books give complete production lists, with dates, for F-M and BLW.) Apparently all three "minority" builders thought keeping up in the horsepower race was the only way to succeed: EMD ("We're #1 so we don't have to try as hard," to paraphrase the old Avis ads...) was happy to keep the F-7 and GP-7 at the same power rating as the F-3.

    (3) Also in 1950 (maybe end of 1949 in some cases?), EMD, F-M, Baldwin and Lima all raised the hp of their big switchers (only switcher model in F-M's case) from 1000 to 1200. Given the general picture of the various builders trying to match each other in power rating on comparable models, I'm sure(*) that Alco would have loved to have been able to offer a 1200 hp version of the S-4! They were at a disadvantage, here, though: alone of the five builders, Alco used radically different engine designs for its switchers and road/rs designs, and the engineering budget wouldn't stretch to do serious upgrade r. and d. on both engines: so only the 244 got up-rated. (Despite which the S-4 sold reasonably well!)

    And thanks again for making images and other information from your collection available on the WWWeb!


    (*) "I'm sure" is what linguists call an epistemic marker: it notifies that the statement is being made on the basis of inference, not actual observation or reliable testimony...

  3. Very good stuff, Allen! Glad you like our site. I should add that Baldwin actually uprated its diesel engines twice. As one example, the 608SC engine was rated 1500 brake horsepower until early 1950 when it actual power was increased to 1625 brake horsepower; published horsepower remained 1500 and this marked Baldwin's change from the old "advertised by brake HP" convention to the newer "advertised by HP for traction" convention. Later, in June 1951, the new 608A which replaced the earlier model was rated 1750 BHP and had an advertised HP for traction rating of 1600 HP. That's all on our offline for now loco site but I plan to add that stuff to this site soon as possible. And thanks again for your additional information! You, like us, like to go to the REAL sources and not the RAILFAN sources.