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Schenectady Railroad History - American Locomotive Company (ALCO) 150th Anniversary Covers

These covers were issued at Schenectady City Hall on January 1, 2001. Some may still be for sale at the City Clerk's office. The cover images are presented at their original and enlarged sizes (a little over 60K and 130K, respectively).

Jump to:
Central Pacific Railroad "Jupiter" 4-4-0
New York Central & Hudson River Railroad No. 6000
New York Central Hudson 4-6-4, Class J-3a
Delaware & Hudson Challenger 4-6-6-4, Class J
New York Central Niagara 4-8-4, Class S1b
New York Central PA-2

The American Locomotive Company: A Brief History

1831: The English built "DeWitt Clinton" pulled the first passenger train from Albany to Schenectady

1837: First US built steam locomotive built by Rogers Locomotive Works in Paterson, NJ, an ALCO predecessor.

1848: The Schenectady Locomotive Engine Manufactory, financed locally, was built where Ramada Inn now stands (North Jay St.).

1849: The first Schenectady built locomotive, "Lightning" delivered to Utica and Schenectady Railroad.

1851: The business reorganized and The Schenectady Locomotive Works was formed with John Ellis as Business Agent.

1869: The "Jupiter," built for the Central Pacific Railroad participated in joining the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory, Utah.

1901: The Schenectady Locomotive Works merged with seven other builders to form American Locomotive Company.

1906: First ALCO automobile built at the Rhode Island plant in Providence, under license from Automobiles Berliet of France.

1913: ALCO closed its automobile manufacturing as unprofitable.

1924: ALCO built the first successful diesel electric locomotive, 300 HP, for the Central Railroad of New Jersey.

1928: ALCO produced the first diesel electric passenger locomotive for the New York Central.

1930: ALCO designed and built the tunnel shields for digging the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels under the Hudson River.

1935: ALCO built the "Hiawatha," the first streamlined locomotive produced in America for the Milwaukee Railroad.

1939: ALCO introduced its first diesel electric road locomotive.

1940-45: As a major supplier of heavy machinery, during World War II, ALCO produced: 4,488 steam and diesel electric locomotives, 7,362 army tanks, 3,314 M-7 tank destroyers, 2574 gun carriages, 2,300,000 shells, 410,010 fragmentation bombs. Employment went from 5,950 in 1941 to over 15,000 in 1945.

1941: ALCO built the largest locomotive in the world, the Union Pacific "Big Boy". Repeat order was received in 1944.

1948: ALCO produced its 75,000th 1ocomotive.

1950: Thousands of M-47 and M-48 tanks and aircraft engine containers were built for the Korean Police Action Effort.

1955: American Locomotive Company changed its name to ALCO Products to emphasize non-locomotive products.

1957: ALCO built the first production nuclear reactor to operate in the US for the Army at Fort Belvoir.

1963: With three nuclear power plants operational, ALCO sold its nuclear contracts and terminated its involvement in the nuclear field.

1964: ALCO Products, Inc. became a wholly owned subsidary of Worthington Corporation, later Studebaker-Worthington, Inc.

1969: ALCO Products, Inc. terminated domestic locomotive production, selling the locomotive design to the Montreal Locomotive Works.


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Built by Schenectady Locomotive Works, Schenectady, New York
September, 1868

Shipped around Cape Horn to San Francisco.
Placed in service March 20, 1869.
Represented the West at Golden Spike Ceremony
Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, May 10, 1869

The Schenectady Locomotive Works built four wood burning locomotives for the Central Pacific (CP) Railroad in September 1868. They were named Jupiter, Storm, Whirlwind and Leviathan. As with all CP locomotives built until 1870, they were dismantled from their frames, loaded onto a ship, and taken around Cape Horn to San Francisco, California.

At San Francisco, the locomotives were loaded onto a barge and towed up the Sacramento River to Sacramento where the CP's headquarters were located. Here they were reassembled and commissioned into service. Jupiter was commissioned on March 20, 1869.

Less than two months later the Jupiter pulled Central Pacific President Leland Stanford's special train to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, to meet Union Pacific Railroad dignitaries for the Golden Spike ceremony marking the joining of the rails from the East and the West. The ceremony took place on May 10, 1869. It had been eight months since Jupiter had rolled out of the shop in Schenectady.

Jupiter continued service as a CP passenger locomotive. In 1885 the Central Pacific Railroad reorganized and became the Southern Pacific Railroad. In 1891 all Southern Pacific locomotive names were replaced by numbers and Jupiter became 1195.

Other changes followed. The railroad converted 1195 to coal in 1893 and the smoke stack changed to a straight style. Later that year it was sold to the Gila Valley, Globe & Northern Railroad in Arizona, and renumbered "1". In 1906, despite efforts to save the once-proud Jupiter, the Globe Railroad sold the historic locomotive to the scrappers. This brought the railroad a fee of 1,000.

In 1975 the U.S. Park Service hired O'Connor Engineering Laboratories to construct exact working replicas of Jupiter and the Union Pacific's locomotive No. 119. The new locomotives were delivered to the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory Summit, UT in 1979. There, every summer, visitors can see and hear these two machines, once again face to face, with "half a world behind each back."

Ref: R. R. Dowty, The Rebirth of the Jupiter and the 119, 1994


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Built by American Locomotive Company and General Electric Company Schenectady, New York

Bi-polar motors: 600 volts DC, 3rd rail pickup
Tractive Force-lbs: 4,870 cont., 15,200 one hr.
Horse Power: 792 cont., 1695 one hr.
Engine Weight: 113 tons
47 were built as classes S-1, S-2 and S-3

Shortly after 1900 the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad (later to become the New York Central Railroad) initiated the country's first major main line electrification, the Grand Central Terminal project. For this they needed an electric locomotive capable of high speed service with the heaviest passenger trains, such as the 20th Century Limited - far exceeding the speed and power of any electric locomotive previously built. To meet this need, Alco and General Electric teamed up to produce the New York Central's "S" class locomotives for service between Grand Central Terminal and Harmon, NY, where the transfer was made to steam power.

The prototype, No. 6000, was built in 1904. Upon completion, it was operated on a test track between Schenectady and Hoffmans, near Amsterdam. In one demonstration, reported in Electrical World, No. 6000, pulling seven cars, developed a "striking lead" over a steam locomotive powered express train within a running distance of two miles. In one design change made early in its life the single axle leading trucks were replaced with two axle trucks, thus changing the wheel arrangement from 1-D-1 to 2-D-2. Note: For electric and Diesel locomotives the wheel arrangement designations are numbers for the quantity of unpowered axles, and letters for the quantity of powered axles, e.g., D=4 powered axles.

Additional orders by the New York Central brought the total for the class (S-1, S-2 and S-3) up to 47 by 1909.

This locomotive also was the prototype for model engines produced by Lionel and other model train makers of that era. Production of models of these locomotives continued until about 1930.

Number 6000 was renumbered several times by the railroad during its lifetime, ending up as No. 100. It remained in active service until 1965. The locomotive is owned by a local historical organization and is stored in the Capital District. It has been located outdoors for a number of years and is in a significantly deteriorated condition.


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Built by American Locomotive Company, Schenectady, New York

Cylinders: 22-1/2 in. X 29 in.
Tractive Force: 55,500 lbs
Boiler Pressure: 275 psi
Driver Diameter: 79 inches
Engine Weight: 365,500 lbs
50 of this class were built (10 streamlined)

No other railroad in North America had more 4-6-4 Hudsons than the New York Central - 275 in all. Second was the Canadian Pacific with 65. A total of 487 Hudsons were built for North American service. The U.S., Canada and Mexico all had Hudsons.

In the mid-1920s the New York Central's fast passenger trains were pulled by K-3 class Pacifics (4-6-2s) .They could handle a nine car train, but trains were growing longer and heavier. The New York Central was envisioning trains of up to 14 cars. The problem was put to Paul Kiefer, Chief Engineer of Motive Power. The result was that in 1926 the railroad ordered a 4-6-4 from the American Locomotive Company (Alco) in Schenectady, NY. This locomotive, number 5200, was completed on February 27, 1927. The four wheel trailing truck supported a larger firebox for increased grate area and steaming capacity. Larger cylinders and a higher boiler pressure than the K-3s resulted in a tractive force increase of over a third. The railroad gave the new locomotive the classification J-1 and the name Hudson for the river beside which it ran on its way north from New York City.

The New York Central gets credit for the first 4-6-4 built, however, credit for the first 4-6-4 designed usually goes to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul which made plans for a 4-6-4 in 1925. Bankruptcy got in the way and they were delayed until 1930.

After testing 5200, the New York Central ordered 59 more J-1s, calling them the J-1b class. Showing how fast Alco could build locomotives, the J-1bs were delivered between September 1927 and January 1928, almost 10 a month. By the end of 1931 the New York Central System had 225 Hudsons, only 10 of which were built by other than Alco (Lima Locomotive Works built these for New York Central subsidiary Boston & Albany).

The New York Central ordered 50 more Hudsons in 1936, with delivery in 1937 and 1938. These were the J-3a class, sometimes called "Super Hudsons." The last ten of this group were streamlined by well known industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss. These locomotives were primarily used on such famous New York Central trains as the 20th Century Limited.


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Built by American Locomotive Company, Schenectady, New York
1940, 1942, 1946

Cylinders (4): 20-1/2 in. X 32 in.
Tractive Force: 95,800 lbs
Boiler Pressure: 285 psi
Driver Diameter: 69 inches
Engine Weight: 604,500 lbs
40 of this class were built

In 1940 the Delaware & Hudson took delivery of 20 4-6-6-4 Challenger locomotives from the American Locomotive Company of Schenectady, NY. These huge locomotives were articulated, which means that the frame was hinged so that they could "bend" when going around curves. The need for these locomotives was brought about by a change in top management of the railroad in 1938 coupled with an increase in "bridge traffic" across the railroad. These changes necessitated a look at means of speeding up the flow of that traffic. The outbreak of World War II, and the U.S. involvement even before our official entry into the War was responsible for some of the increased volume of freight. The traffic grew even more after the first Challengers were delivered.

The 4-6-6-4s could not only maintain higher speeds than the D&H freight mainstay, the 2-8-0 Consolidation, but also reduced the requirements for pusher service on ruling grades. Probably the success of similar locomotives on western roads had some bearing on the choice for new motive power. Only four years earlier in 1936 the first 4-6-6-4 Challengers had been built by Alco as part of an order of 15 for the Union Pacific Railroad. The UP went on to own 105 locomotives of this type. A total of 252 Challengers were built for all railroads.

Increased war traffic and the success of the Challengers prompted the D&H to buy 15 more in 1942. Even after the war the railroad bought five more Challengers in 1946, bringing their total fleet to 40. Also in 1946 the first diesel-electric road switcher locomotives appeared on the D&H. This marked the beginning of the end for the road's steam power. The last run by any D&H steam locomotive was on July 21, 1953 and the last of the Challengers went to the scrapper in August of that same year. The age of steam on the D&H had ended.


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Built by American Locomotive Company, Schenectady, New York

Cylinders: 25-1/2 in. X 32 in.
Tractive Force: 61,500 lbs
Boiler Pressure: 275 psi
Driver Diameter: 79 inches
Engine Weight: 471,000 lbs
25 of this class were built

World War II stretched the U. S. railroads to the limit and the New York Central was no exception. Near the end of the war they were given permission by the War Production Board to buy a new 4-8-4 locomotive which met their restriction of "no new passenger power." Number 6000, Class S-1a, was delivered by the American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, NY in March 1945. The locomotive class was named "Niagara." Although 6000 was delivered with 75 in. diameter drivers it was designed to also accept 79 in. drivers, with which it was soon fitted. Twenty-six additional locomotives were ordered with delivery starting in October 1945, after the war was over. The last of these, number 5500, class S-2a, was the same as the others with one major exception, it utilized the Franklin system of steam distribution with poppet valves. This system promised greater efficiency in the admission and exhausting of steam from the cylinders.

Upon delivery the New York Central started using the Niagaras where they really needed them, on main line long-distance passenger runs. With 46 tons of coal in the tender these locomotives could make the run from Harmon, NY (where they took over from electric powered trains from Grand Central Terminal in New York City) to Chicago with only one stop for coal. Water was picked up on the fly from track pans situated at strategic locations along the whole route.

In 1926 the Northern Pacific Railroad had taken delivery from Alco of the first steam locomotive with a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement. The eight drivers transmitted enough power to pull passenger trains without doubleheading (two locomotives pulling the train), while the four trailing wheels supported the large firebox needed to generate the required steam. This wheel arrangement was originally called "Northern Pacific", but was soon shortened to "Northern". Over 1100 locomotives were built with the 4-8-4 wheel arrangement. There were at least eight other names for Northerns that were used by other roads. Only the National Railways of Mexico also used Niagara.

Dieselization of the New York Central soon caught up with Niagaras and pushed them into freight service and eventually retirement. The last Niagara run was made in 1956.


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Built by American Locomotive Company and General Electric Company Schenectady, New York

Diesel engine: Model 244 16 cylinders
Wheel arrangement: A1A-A1A
Wheel diameter: 40 inches
Locomotive weight: 318,680 pounds
Maximum speed 100 miles per hour

The PA series of Diesel-electric passenger locomotives made by Alco-GE occupies a unique niche in the minds of many railroad locomotive enthusiasts. It may have been their striking appearance with a long massive nose. They looked nothing like the locomotives of their main competitor, General Motors' Electro Motive Division.

They weren't even called PAs (or PBs for booster units) by Alco-GE when the first was delivered to the Santa Fe in June of 1946. Alco-GE and the purchasers were using the specification numbers DL304 and DL305 for cab and booster units respectively. It wasn't until 1952 that Alco-GE started using the PA and PB model designations. They then went back in 1953 and retroactively gave already manufactured locomotives the PA-1, PB-1, PA-2 or PB-2 designation, depending on what specification had been used for manufacture.

Models PA-1 and PB-1 each had one Model 244, 16 cylinder, 2,000 HP Diesel engine. In 1950 engine improvements enabled Alco-GE to raise the horsepower to 2,250. Locomotives with these engines were called Models PA-2 and PB-2.

The New York Central bought their first PA-1s and PB-1s in 1948. They made other small orders over the years, including some for their subsidiary railroad, the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie (P&LE). These were lettered New York Central System. PA-2s and PB-2s were first purchased in 1950. No. 4208, shown on the envelope, was the first of an order for four locomotives. PA-2 No. 4214 for the P&LE was the last Central order for these locomotives. In all, the New York Central had 15 PAs and 5 PBs. The last were retired from service in 1965.

Total Alco-GE production for this model locomotive was 297, consisting of 250 PAs and 47 PBs.

New York Central PAs were not the only PAs to operate in the Capital District. In 1967 the Delaware & Hudson bought four PA-1s for use on their passenger trains the Laurentian and Montreal Limited. With the advent of Amtrak, the PAs eventually powered the Adirondack, Amtrak's train to Montreal. This continued until 1977 when they were replaced by all Amtrak equipment.

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