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Growing With Schenectady - American Locomotive Company

The story of a century of locomotive building in Schenectady

[This booklet commemorating the 1948 centennial of the American Locomotive Company is in the Schenectady Collection [Schdy R 621.13 A512] of the Schenectady County Public Library. The 1972 reprint contains an introduction and some additional information at the end.]


[Freedom Train 1948 and Lightning 1848 - 1x | 4x]

[Title Page] "The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future"

Copyright 1948, American Locomotive Co., Schenectady, New York

Introduction to the 1972 reprint

It was 1848...

The California gold rush was on.

The first railroad train out of Chicago on what is now the route of the Chicago and North Western Railway started westward.

The Associated Press was founded.

In Washington, on the Fourth of July, the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid amidst elaborate ceremonies.

Eight years before steam power had assumed international importance when, on July 4, 1840, the first Cunarder, the Paddle Steamship Britannia, sailed from Liverpool for Boston.

At Schenectady things were happening, too.

[Early Photo of Schenectady Locomotive Works - 1x | 4x]

In 1847, Platt Potter and John Ellis had joined other progressive citizens in investigating the possibility of establishing at Schenectady a manufacturing works that would build locomotives - Iron Horses for what was to become the greatest railroad transportation system in the world.

[William Norris 1802-1867 - 1x | 4x]

As the year drew to a close, Mr. Potter and Mr. Ellis invited three young Philadelphians to visit Schenectady. These were the Norris Brothers, who were already building a great reputation by their craftsmanship in locomotive manufacturing.

Things were too busy in Philadelphia for the three brothers to make the long and tedious journey to Schenectady. Only one made the trip.

The meeting with Mr. Potter and Mr. Ellis was, in the main, successful. On December 6, 1847, from Philadelphia the Norris Brothers posted a letter to Platt Potter which read as follows:

[Original Norris letter to Platt Potter - 4x]

"Dear Sir:

"Upon the report of our brother just returned from Schenectady, where he had a short conversation with you and afterward with Messrs. Ellis & Davis upon the subject of the Locomotive Engine Works to be established in Schenectady. We avail ourselves immediately of conferring with you upon points necessary to carry out the views in relation thereto, that arrangements may be made to progress in the establishing of said works, provided that the necessary means by Loan for a period of ten years can be had for the Capital we shall require to put the works in operation in the early part of the coming Spring. The necessary Capital required will be $50,000 to purchase the ground, erect buildings and necessary tools and machinery that will enable us to proceed at once with the manufacture of locomotives, tenders and railroad machinery. The amount you speak of that can be raised is $30,000. We certainly could with this amount commence, but not with any advantage to the present prosperity of the works, particularly if the lot of ground owned by the Mohawk Railroad Co. has to be purchased at a high price. This lot is the best and most advantageous in its location for the works.

"Therefore will you do us the favour to inform us if the sum of $50,000 can be raised by subscription to be invested in said works at an interest of seven per cent per annum payable every six months.

"We would thank you to inform us the prices the Mohawk Railroad Co. will sell the lot of ground for, including the building now on it and also that square owned in part by the Yale's Estate, what it could be purchased for, what is its size in feet in length and breadth.

"We are very Respectfully Your Obt. Servts., Norris & Brothers"

[Original Sketch of Layout of Works in 1848 - 1x | 4x]

Less than a month later Messrs. Potter and Ellis called a group of prominent Schenectadians to a fund-raising meeting that was held in the hall next to the courthouse on Union Street.

One citizen who doubted the wisdom of a locomotive enterprise argued, "Once the railroads entering Schenectady are all supplied with locomotives, what will you do with your locomotives after you have built them?"

The prospects for a locomotive factory at Schenectady were becoming apparent twenty years or so before the Norris Brothers were invited to make the historic trip of 1847. Difficulty experienced in the economic transportation of his own products and the products of the country led George W. Featherstonhaugh of Duanesburgh to advocate a steam railroad that would connect the Hudson River at Albany with the navigable Mohawk at Schenectady. His acquaintance with George Stephenson and with the condition of railroading in England no doubt quickened his mind. Ten years were spent in an attempt to educate the public mind for the experiment and it was not until December, 1825, that Mr. Featherstonhaugh was determined to apply for a charter. This was granted on April 17, 1826.

[The DeWitt Clinton pulled first train into Schenectady in 1831 - 1x | 4x]

Construction of the railroad began on July 29, 1830, and one year later the road was completed from Engine hill (near the top of Crane Street hill) in Schenectady to Lydius street in the western suburb of Albany. Formal opening of the road was on August 13, 1831, when the historic De Witt Clinton drew the first train to Schenectady where a banquet was held.

The Mohawk and Hudson railroad justified the vision of its promoter, Mr. Featherstonhaugh, and made the Mohawk Valley the center of early railroad construction in New York State. In 1832 the Saratoga and Schenectady railroad was completed, the Schenectady terminus being at what is now Water and Railroad Streets. This road became part of the Delaware and Hudson system in 1877.

By 1836 the Utica and Schenectady railroad was completed and 1843 saw the Troy and Schenectady railroad in operation. These railroad facilities, plus others built after the Schenectady Locomotive Works was founded, still play an important part in the city's industrial development.

[Certificate of Stock owned by Walter McQueen - 1x | 4x]

The works having been underwritten by subscription, a second meeting was called for the Givens Hotel on January 15, 1848, and five men were elected trustees to manage the affairs of the new company: D. D. Campbell, John Ellis, Simon C. Groot, Platt Potter and J. C. Wright.

Things were moving swiftly now. Two of the Norris Brothers arrived two days later to make final arrangements. No time was wasted, because on January 20, 1848, the Articles of Agreement were entered into.

[First Paragraph of Articles of Agreement which founded company - 4x]

Edward and Septimus Norris, together with their inventor-brother, William, had estimated that $50,000 capital would be necessary. The stockholders, or loanholders as they were known a century ago, had subscribed $40,000. Of this $22,000 was for buildings; an additional $17,000 was for tools, and the sum of $1,000 for land. (Today the American Locomotive Company property at Schenectady is valued at $20,700,000.

The Norrises contribution amounted to $10,576 in tools and machinery. They agreed to pay interest on investment to the stockholders and to pay back all capital within eight years and thus acquire whole ownership of the Works.

At the beginning the plant was named the Schenectady Locomotive Engine Manufactory. Occasionally in advertisements it was referred to as the Norris Locomotive Works.

First president of the company was Daniel D. Campbell, who also became a trustee. Simon C. Groot was named Secretary and Trustee, while John Ellis was chosen as Business Agent and Trustee.

The triangular plot of land south of the Dry Dock on the Erie Canal and east of Fonda Street (now known as North Jay Street) was acquired by the works from Union College for $1,000 and orders were placed for building materials and machinery.

[Brick for Works Cost $700 in 1848 - 1x | 4x]

On March 26, 1848, Schenectady was observing its 50th anniversary of the city charter. As Alco observed its 100th anniversary in 1948, the more than 100,000 people of Schenectady were celebrating the city's Sesquicentennial.

[Schenectady in the Nineteenth Century - 1x | 4x]

It was a little more than a year after the first meetings that founded the works, before the first locomotive produced by the new company - the famous "Lightning" locomotive - rolled out of the shops with most of the town's 6,000 population on hand to bid it Godspeed.

The "Lightning" was a good engine. It weighed about 15 tons, had 84-inch drivers. Although rated to haul nine cars at from nine to 15 miles an hour, it is recorded that she once pulled an eight-car train at 80 miles an hour. There is no record of the Lightning's selling price, but the next locomotives built at Schenectady sold for an average of $7,500.

Delivered to the Utica and Schenectady Railroad in 1849, the "Lightning" was intended to develop high speeds and eventually revolutionize railway locomotion.

Unfortunately the "Lightning" was ahead of her time. She was too powerful for existing roadbeds. Due to light rails and lack of boiler capacity to produce the desired amount of tractive power she was pronounced a failure. She was retired to keep her from pounding the tracks to pieces. Regretfully there is no record of what became of this historic locomotive. It is assumed that she was reduced to scrap during the Civil War.

Trouble was brewing for Schenectady's new industry after a year under the management of Edward Norris and his brothers. Locomotive orders did not materialize. The company's affairs finally turned out so badly that the Norrises decided to abandon the project and the Works was idle for a year. The crowning blow came in February, 1851, when personal property was sold by the sheriff for taxes.

But Schenectady was not to lose its locomotive industry. On May 26, 1851, a new company, known as the Schenectady Locomotive Works, was formed and the properties were bought for about half of their original cost by those who invested in the original project. This was the company that was to prosper and become the cornerstone of the American Locomotive Company in 1901.

The reorganized company selected the same slate of officers, including Mr. Campbell as president, Mr. Groot as Secretary and Mr. Ellis as Business Agent.

From the record list the shareholders by blocks of stock of the reorganized company were as follows:

Name                    No. of Shares     Value

D. D. Campbell               312         $15,600
John Ellis                   450          22,500
Henry Fuller                 144           7,200
Simon C. Groot                93           4,650
Sebastian Bradt               30           1,500
Jno. J. Walker                30           1,500
Peter Hood                    15             750
W. Cunningham                  9             450
J. H. Boyd                    15             750
Platt Potter                  16             800
John Ellis                    56           2,800
Simon C. Groot                30           1,500
                            ----        --------
                            1200         $60,000

[Tioga locomotive built by Norris Brothers in 19th Century - 1x | 4x]

On June 1, 1851, the reorganized company received its first order from the Canandaigua and Corning Railroad Company. The order was for a "Great Western" type locomotive that had such interesting specifications as these: diameter of boiler, 46 inches; length of boiler, 12 feet; firebox, 58 inches deep and 53 1/2" by 49"; cylinders (inside), 16" by 22"; drivers, 5 1/2 feet and six-foot track gauge. The "Great Western" was completed on November 26, 1851.

Another order followed shortly. This was from the Michigan Southern Railroad Company for four locomotives to be named "Hugh White," "Governor Marcy," "Mishawakie" and "Terre Coupee." These were completed in 1851, boosting plant production for the year to five locomotives.

[The Governor Marcy, Built in 1851 - 1x | 4x]

Although he had had no previous experience in building locomotives, a lack shared by his associates, John Ellis assumed the lead at the revived locomotive works. Ellis was a cautious and talented Scotsman with an unusual ability to select capable assistants. One of these was an ingenious master mechanic, Walter McQueen, who was appointed chief engineer at the works in 1852. He later became mechanical engineer and also served as a vice president until his death in 1893.

[John Ellis 1795-1864 - 1x | 4x]

(Note: Alexander M. Hamilton, Alco's present Vice President in charge of foreign sales, is a grand-nephew of Mr. McQueen.)

[Walter McQueen 1817-1893 - 1x | 4x]

During his forty-one years at the works, Mr. McQueen gained a reputation as an outstanding designer and builder of locomotives. For many years, in fact, the Schenectady-built locomotives were known as the "McQueen Engine."

Business conditions were good at the plant at the end of 1852. Employment was provided for 250 workers and the management was going forward with plans to accelerate production so that a locomotive could be turned out every eight days. The average price for a Schenectady locomotive that year was $7,500.

Prosperity carried into 1853 with new orders coming in rapidly. New machinery was installed to increase production and, during the year, the company's products were setting speed records, notably on a great excursion to Niagara Falls.

By 1854 the goal of building a locomotive in eight days was achieved, then bettered. The following year thirty-seven $10,000 locomotives were completed. Things continued to go well in 1855 and 1856, but in 1857 a far-reaching and general business panic crippled the nation's economy.

During the 1857-58 slump John Ellis' associates asked him to name a price at which he would sell his stock. They, in turn, would name a price at which they would sell theirs. Their selling price was so high they felt certain Mr. Ellis would be compelled to sell. But Mr. Ellis had anticipated them. He made arrangements for a loan from the Mohawk Bank and astonished them by accepting their terms.

In 1858 only two locomotives were built and the following year the Works was closed down for part of the year and only four locomotives were completed.

In 1860, Schenectady was a compact little city of some 9,500 population.

[Mid-Century View of Union College - 1x | 4x]

Then came the Civil War, the long, costly struggle between the states. John Ellis owned the lion's share of the company. With eight co-trustees, he formed a new company in July, 1861. Again the corporate name was Schenectady Locomotive Works with a capitalization of $130,000 consisting of 2,600 shares at $50 each. John Ellis owned 1,175 shares; D. D. Campbell, 691; Walter McQueen, 210; and a few others owned small amounts to round out the 2,600 share total.

Officers of the twice-reorganized company were headed by President Ellis and included Simon C. Groot, secretary; and Charles Thompson, treasurer.

John Ellis made a bold move. He began construction of a large number of locomotives without any orders on the books.

Within a few months the Federal government bought all locomotives on hand. The plant operated at peak capacity during the war and, like many other heavy industries, functioned under close government supervision. High prices continued to prevail and the Civil War is said by many to have been the real beginning of the "Big Shop," as the Works are still called by many oldsters living in Schenectady.

[Federal Army Commandeered Locomotives for Civil War - 4x]

Civil War records tell of a sentimental happening near the Fairfax County Courthouse, Virginia, one day in 1862. A "McQueen" locomotive chugged into view and stopped outside a military area where the 134th Regiment from Schenectady was camped on the eve of an important battle. The men from Schenectady swarmed about the locomotive from home. Tearfully they patted it, as the horseman does his favorite steed. This was to be a repeated incident in World Wars I and II as war material from Alco crossed the paths of Schenectady's fighting men on global battlefields.

Eighty-four locomotives were completed at the Works during the war period from 1861 to 1863, all of these for Government use.

[Artist's Concept of Works in 1864 - 1x | 4x]

Death came, in 1864, to John Ellis, ending a brilliant career in locomotive manufacturing. He left the Works in the hands of his four sons. His twenty-year-old ambition to build railroad cars as well as locomotives was never realized.

[John C. Ellis 1836-1884 - 1x | 4x]

John C. Ellis succeeded his father as President, serving until 1878. After the Civil War the company prospered and by 1865 more than 500 men were employed.

Down through the years, the Schenectady plant benefited from the cultural and scientific development of the community. Union College, one of the oldest colleges in the country, was founded in 1795. Many Union College graduates in the past century have made a career at the locomotive plant. Research experts and physicists at the college have made rich contributions to the problems of locomotion. In appreciation for this, the Schenectady plant has often worked with the college. The gift of a Physics Laboratory was made just a few years ago. An Alco scholarship provides higher education periodically for either an employee or the son of an employee.

Disaster befell the plant of Schenectady Locomotive Works on June 26, 1866. A roaring, destructive fire broke out near the north end of the building known as the second machine shop. It raged southward and consumed most of the Main Building. But the Works rose again. An enlarged Main Building was constructed, the Blacksmith Shop was rebuilt and a new Boiler Shop and Roundhouse were constructed.

[Internal Revenue License of 1865 - 4x]

[Vanderbilt Orders New Locomotive - 4x]

[McQueen-American Type (4-4-0) at Works in 1868 - 1x | 4x]

Three years later the "Big Shop" again suffered crippling damage, when, in the spring of 1869, the waters of the Mohawk River exceeded flood stage and overflowed. The plant was inundated.

But in May that year the historic locomotive "Jupiter" was completed and its first assignment was to take Ex-Governor Stanford and his party from Sacramento to a point where the rails of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads meet. Schenectady's historic records state that this locomotive was the first to pass over the rails of these two famous roads.

Expanded activity was the rule of the few years ahead. Employment mounted to 800 persons with 98 locomotives being produced in 1872 and 108 locomotives the following year.

Other advances were being made in Schenectady, too. In 1872 a water supply, taken from the Mohawk River, was introduced by private enterprise. This was purchased by the city in 1885, the pumping station being at the foot of Ferry Street.

A sewer system was constructed in 1885. A year later electric lights were introduced and in 1886 a horse railroad was constructed from the Mohawk Bridge to Brandywine Avenue.

The boom years gave way to another business slump. The depression of 1874 was serious and only nine locomotives were constructed. Poor production in the two following years was followed by a long shutdown in 1876.

[Schenectady Depot in 1875 - 1x | 4x]

In '76, however, a new and sleek locomotive, named simply Number 266, was completed at the Works and her performance was to startle railroad experts the world over. She made a run of 81 miles in 82 minutes - a sustained operation that was just a shade under a mile a minute.

Six years before his death in 1884, John C. Ellis passed the Presidency of the Works along to the next in line, Charles G. Ellis. That was in 1878. With Charles Ellis in command, business continued to improve considerably and by July, 1880, the plant was operating at the highest capacity level in its history. More than 1,000 men were required to keep production high. To keep pace with this expansion a new Forge Shop was built that year.

[Charles G. Ellis 1842-1897 - 1x | 4x]

Management problems developed in 1882. Walter McQueen, the skillful master mechanic and brilliant designer of locomotives, had been a vice president and a minority stockholder since 1876. McQueen joined State Senator Charles Stanford and several other Schenectadians to form a rival locomotive company. They acquired eight acres of land and two large buildings were built. But Senator Stanford died suddenly and the buildings were never equipped.

The McQueen "locomotive works" were eventually acquired by the Edison Company and this was the inception of what today is the General Electric Company.

Mr. McQueen and the Ellis family patched up their differences and the eminent designer returned to the "Big Shop" in April, 1882.

The government census of 1880 gave Schenectady a population of 13,655. By now the Works was Schenectady's principal industry and annual production soared to 175 locomotives.

That same year a new and outstanding personality came upon the scene. Albert J. Pitkin, whose family was to become an important part of the fabric of Schenectady, took over the position of Chief Draftsman. Mr. Pitkin was well known for his work at the Baldwin Locomotive Works and also at the Rhode Island Locomotive Works. He was to be influential in having the company produce heavier and heavier locomotives. He was the advocate of large boilers and increased grate areas. Pitkin introduced the cross-compound engine and was the chief designer of the 4-4-0 type. The cross-compound used one high pressure and one low pressure cylinder, thus using the steam twice and resulting in great economies in the use of both coal and water.

[Albert J. Pitkin 1854-1905 - 1x | 4x]

Except during the depression years the output of the company climbed steadily to a high of 417 locomotives in 1900, when the average weight of a road locomotive was more than four times that of the original "Lightning." The severest depression fluctuation came in 1894 when only 56 locomotives were built.

[1888 View of the "Big Shop" - 1x | 4x]

Between 1886 and 1890 a new Schenectady was born. As mentioned above, in December, 1886, the Edison Machine Works established itself in Schenectady, bringing several hundred newcomers with it. Three years later the local works became the Edison General Electric Company and, in 1892, became the largest plant of the General Electric Company.

General Electric and the locomotive works were Schenectady's two biggest employers. The city was able, even before 1900, to proclaim that "Schenectady Lights and Hauls the World."

[The Commodore Vanderbilt Was Indeed Ornate - 1x | 4x]

During the 1890s foreign locomotive business was coming to Schenectady. By 1893 the plant labor force exceeded 1,800 men, and, during the next five years, locomotive demands were so great that the plant was practically rebuilt and materially enlarged.

[Construction Work Under Way on March 31, 1894 - 1x | 4x]

The heavy American type locomotives (the 4-4-0 type designed by Mr. Pitkin) produced during the close of the 19th Century were highly regarded throughout the world and remarkable achievement records were written by locomotives of the 870, 880 and 890 classes.

Meanwhile the Ellis family continued to rule the locomotive company that was keeping pace with the growth of Schenectady. Edward Ellis, third son of John Ellis, Senior, assumed the Presidency in 1891 on the death of his brother Charles. Edward remained as president until 1897. At his death that year the fourth son, William D. Ellis, became president and remained in office until the Schenectady Locomotive Works was merged with seven other locomotive plants in different cities of the United States to become the American Locomotive Company.

In passing it is interesting to note that during more than a half-century the "Big Shop" was guided by the Ellises, the father, John Ellis, and his four sons.

[Schenectady Locomotive Works in 1899 - 1x | 4x]

June 24, 1901, is a historic day in the annals of locomotive manufacturing. For on that date the Schenectady Locomotive Works became the backbone of today's American Locomotive Company. The "Big Shop" was merged with seven other companies located at Dunkirk, N. Y.; Allegheny and Scranton, Pa.; Providence, R. I.; Richmond, Va.; Manchester, N. H. and Paterson, N. J.

Eventually, American Locomotive Company was to be expanded still further by the addition of plants at Auburn, N. Y.; Chicago Heights, Ill.; Latrobe, Pa.; Beaumont, Texas; and Montreal, Canada. It was in the Montreal plant that today's chairman of the board, Duncan W. Fraser, and today's president, Robert B. McColl, started their Alco careers. A great many shop men similarly have worked their way up to top offices in the manufacture and sales of locomotives.

Technical progress up to 1935 was expressed largely in increased boiler pressures. For example, from 1905 to 1920 boiler pressure remained standard at about 200 pounds per square inch. By 1935, 300 pounds pressure was not uncommon.

Immediately after the merger in 1901, the Schenectady plant expanded to what is known as the "West Side," beyond the Erie Canal to the Mohawk River. This section was part of the early Schenectady settlement. The land was willed by Hans Janse Enkluys to a Church organization about 1864, for the benefit of the poor and was known as "Poor Pasture."

The first building constructed on the expanded site was the Blacksmith Shop in 1901. This was closely followed by the Boiler, Tank and Truck Shop and the Foundry.

Other big shops have been built since this early expansion, including the Hammer Shop, Drop Forging Shop, Foundry Annex, Cylinder Shop, Superheater Shop, (converted to the Diesel Test Laboratory); Frame Shop, Axle Shop, Laboratory and Office Building, Pattern and Carpenter Shop, West Side Paint Shop and four large buildings constructed by the government in 1942 for war production and now used for the manufacture of diesel-electric locomotives.

Many changes have been made in the Old Plant site on the East side. In 1903 the five-story building on Nott Street was constructed for the Material Department and Drawing Room. In 1908 this was doubled in size by an addition to the south. A new Erecting Shop was completed in 1905. Today the Schenectady plant consists of 47 large and 110 smaller buildings on an area of 112 acres, which is about ten times the acreage of the original plant constructed in 1848.

[Alco's 50,000th Locomotive Still in Daily Service on Erie - 1x | 4x]

The amalgamation resulted in Mr. Pitkin, who was general manager of the Schenectady Locomotive Works, becoming vice president of Alco. Then, in 1904, with the death of Samuel R. Callaway, the first president of American Locomotive, Mr. Pitkin was elected president and served until his death on November 16, 1905.

[Dock Street, now Erie Boulevard, looking away from Works about 1900 - 1x | 4x]

From 1901 when John F. Deems became manager to the present time the following have been Alco managers at Schenectady:

Jas. McNaughton, 1903-1908, later vice president
William L. Reid, 1908-1910, later general works manager
John R. Magarvey, 1910-1925
Robert B. McColl, 1925-1931, now president
Robert P. Allison, 1931-1940
William L. Lentz, 1940-1945, now vice president
John J. Smith, 1945-present

The growth of the Schenectady plant continued under its new corporate banner. In 1907 it set another production record by building 942 locomotives with a working force of 6,200. Locomotives then cost approximately $20,000. The technical development of the steam locomotive now rapidly moved toward its all-time peak in the refinement of the Mallet type of articulated locomotives.

[Brisk Activity on Erie Canal Bridge at State Street (About 1890) - 1x | 4x]

During this period of steam locomotive development there came to the fore a man whose outstanding reputation in the industry has persisted unassailed. Sometime along the span of his fifty years with Alco, Dr. Joseph Burroughs Ennis attained the professional zenith in the locomotive industry - recognition by his friends, associates and colleagues in science as the outstanding designer of locomotive power. He contributed with equal brilliance to the newer challenges in railroad locomotion, whether steam, diesel, gas turbine or laboratory unknowns.

At the outset of the 20th century railroads were demanding larger and more powerful locomotives to haul freight and passengers in large trains with greater speeds. These demands were supplied by many new technical advances in locomotive design, including automatic stokers, superheaters, Walschaert valve motion, feedwater heaters, power-operated reverse gear, multiple throttle, cross-compound air pumps and booster engine on trailing truck.

[Samuel Rodger Callaway 1850-1904 - 1x | 4x]

[Portion of Book Dedicated to Mr. Callaway - 4x]

Major improvements near the plant affected the Works, too. In 1907 the New York Central and Delaware and Hudson Railroad tracks were elevated. And in 1917 Schenectady lost a major landmark. The old Erie Canal was abandoned. It was filled in to become what is now Erie Boulevard, a wide well-lighted street that traverses the city from the General Electric Company to the Alco plant at Nott Street. This major improvement was completed in 1924.

[First Alco Mallet for B & O - 1x | 4x]

[Railroad crossing at Erie Blvd. and Center St. at turn of century - 1x | 4x]

Under the Alco standard, many major locomotive developments took place at Schenectady prior to World War II. Some of these were:

1904 - First Mallet Compound locomotive produced in America - built for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Wheel arrangement 0-6-6-0.

1910 - Pacific type locomotive, the 50,000th locomotive built by Alco and its predecessors. Delivered to the Erie Railroad and still operating in commuter service out of Jersey City. Wheel arrangement 4-6-2.

1916 - Mohawk type fast freight locomotive, built for New York Central. Wheel arrangement 4-8-2.

1924 - Nation's first diesel-electric locomotive.

1927 - Hudson type passenger locomotive. The 5200 class, built for New York Central Railroad. Wheel arrangement 4-6-4.

1929 - First diesel-electric passenger locomotive.

1935 - First streamlined locomotive produced in America, built for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. Named the "Hiawatha." Has a sustained speed of 100 miles an hour with a top speed of 120 MPH. Wheel arrangement 4-4-2.

1941 - Largest locomotive in the world - a simple Mallet Locomotive. "Big Boy" type for the Union Pacific Railroad, weighing with tender more than 1,200,000 pounds in working order. Wheel arrangement 4-8-8-4. The "Big Boy" type has sixteen 68 inch drive wheels, achieves 7000 horsepower and is capable of hauling a mile-long freight train at a mile a minute.

[First Streamlined Locomotive, The Hiawatha (1935) - 1x | 4x]

[Scene at Locomotive Club - 1905 - 1x | 4x]

[Works in early 20th Century showing Canal running through plant - 1x | 4x]

As noted above, Alco pioneered in the diesel-electric field. As far back as 1904, Alco and GE were experimenting in the field of electric locomotives. A straight electric locomotive was built that year. Electric locomotives were built at Schenectady for many railroads, including units for the New York Central electrified route from Harmon to New York. Many of these locomotives are still in operation between these two points as millions of rail travelers know. But electrification was an expensive proposition and the eyes of experts were turning to mobile electric power with diesel engines.

[Nation's First Diesel-Electric Locomotive, Alco - 1924 - 1x | 4x]

Despite the trend to diesel-electrics and because of government needs in World War II, the all-time annual production peak in steam locomotives was not reached until 1944, when 1,354 were built. All told, as the end of steam locomotive production came to Schenectady in 1948, the American Locomotive Company and its component plants built more than 75,000 steam locomotives alone.

The trend to diesel-electrics was evident as far back as 1924 when pioneering men at Alco produced the first successful diesel-electric locomotive for railroad use. It was a 300 hp switcher equipped with Ingersoll-Rand diesel engine and General Electric equipment. It was shipped in late 1924 and still sees daily service at the Bronx Terminal of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. This is the nation's first diesel-electric locomotive, a distinguished pioneer from Schenectady.

Great advances in the development of the diesel-electric locomotive, important to the present growth of Alco, were made during the period from 1925 to 1931. It is no coincidence that the plant manager at Schenectady during this period was Robert B. McColl, now president of American Locomotive. He was a driving force behind diesel-electric developments and also introduced many new economies and efficiencies to the operation of the plant during his managership at Schenectady. It is an interesting coincidence that Mr. McColl, in 1948, observes his fiftieth anniversary in the locomotive industry while the Schenectady plant celebrates its Centennial.

Alco recognized the need for superior diesel engine equipment and to this end the McIntosh and Seymour plant at Auburn, N. Y., was purchased in 1929. The far-sightedness of W. C. Dickerman, then Alco president, was singularly responsible for this important addition to the company.

[World's Largest Locomotive - a 4-8-8-4 for Union Pacific - 1x | 4x]

[First Diesel-Electric Passenger Locomotive, Built in 1929 - 1x | 4x]

Alco continued its line of straight locomotive development and in 1929 built the first diesel-electric passenger locomotive, a revolutionary unit for the New York Central Railroad.

Other diesel-electric locomotive types were to follow. In 1931 the first Alco-GE 300 hp diesel-electric, using a diesel engine of Alco design, was delivered to the Jay Street Terminal Railroad at Brooklyn. This unit is still in daily service. The same year the first Alco-GE 600 hp diesel-electric locomotive, also using an Alco diesel engine, was built for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. After 17 years this locomotive is still turning in a daily performance.

In the early 1930s diesel switcher production was considerably expanded and by 1935 comprised 20 per cent of Alco's locomotive production.

As these pages are written, about 80 per cent of all diesel-electric switching locomotives in service on U. S. railroads were built by Alco at Schenectady.

Back in 1935, Alco and GE engineers undertook the development of a 4-cycle engine with enough horsepower so that one engine per locomotive unit would be sufficient. This engine development was interrupted by World War II when the government directed that the company limit its diesel engine activities to power for switching locomotives, submarines and mine sweepers. It was carried out successfully, however, after the war and the 4-cycle, 12 cylinder, V-type, 1,500 hp turbo-supercharged engine for freight service and the 4-cycle, 16 cylinder, V-type, 2,000 hp engine for passenger service were produced in 1945 and 1946.

[Alco Steam Locomotive Goes to War at Cherbourg in 1944 - 1x | 4x]

Then came Pearl Harbor!

This was Alco's third major war. As mentioned previously the "Big Shop" produced 84 locomotives for Uncle Sam during the Civil War. During World War I, 1916-1919, Alco built hundreds of locomotives for the Allied Nations. It has always done well in national emergencies. But in World War II, Alco outdid itself.

The company had never made tanks, but it was the first in America to produce an M-3 "General Grant" tank satisfactory to the United States Army. It went on to build M-4s, the hard-hitting "General Sherman" tank, and had produced approximately 6,000 tanks when it was asked to reconvert to badly-needed steam locomotives. During World War II, Alco produced 1,086 steam locomotives and 157 diesel-electric locomotives for the War Department.

In the midst of World War II transition, Alco was directed to build M-36 tanks, or "Sluggers" as the tank men were to call them in battling the Tiger tanks of the Nazis back through France. The last of Alco's "Sluggers" were delivered in December, 1944, the month the Battle of the Bulge began. Alco had preserved its record for being on time.

Alco was on time at the battle of El Alamein, the turning point in Rommel's drive through North Africa. At El Alamein a secret weapon made its appearance. Although this weapon was in daily production and ran around Schenectady streets to the Testing Grounds and Shipping Depot, no information regarding it leaked out. This was a mobile carrier for a 105 mm cannon, called the M-7. This was the famed tank destroyer which took part in the rout of Rommel's tanks. All the M-7s which burst suddenly on the Nazis at El Alamein - 1,000 of them - were built by Alco workers at Schenectady. Alco was the exclusive manufacturer of this weapon and built a total of 3,314 of the M-7s.

Alco was also on time in the kind of war story most satisfying to railroad men. The story was told in "Casey Jones Goes to War," by Amy Porter, in Collier's magazine, May 20, 1944:

The Trans-Iranian railroad gave America's soldier railroaders one of the hottest, coldest, toughest jobs they ever had to do. In the critical days of late 1942, Russia called for more supplies. Nazi submarines were crippling the Murmansk convoy route. The Mediterranean was closed to Allied shipping, and although generous supplies were being brought around the tip of Africa and landed at Persian Gulf ports, only a feeble trickle gotthrough to Russia. The inadequately powered Trans-Iranian Railway was the bottleneck.

This 650-mile road bisects a 150-mile stretch of desert before it struggles to heights of more than 7,000 feet in the Elburz Mountains. Temperatures range from 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert to 40 below in the mountains... There are 225 tunnels, thousands of bridges.

British steam locomotives and even America's 2-8-0's were not powerful enough to negotiate this tortuous road and haul much freight. It took most of their power to carry the coal and water on which they ran. Something had to be done.

At this point American Locomotive Company representatives were called to Washington... Could P. T. Egbert of Alco, Washington wanted to know, get some diesel-electrics over to Iran quick? Mr. Egbert could. And could Alco, by the way, convert the diesel axle arrangement somehow so the Iran road could bear their 120-ton weight? They could.

In the first week of December, twenty-nine diesels with six axles instead of the standard four were delivered at the Persian Gulf-along with a newly recruited American Locomotive shop battalion, eight hundred strong, to play nursemaid to the thousand-horsepower giants. The M.R.S. (Military Railway Service) took over operation of the road, and shipments increased until in May, 1943, Russian requirements in munitions and supplies were exceeded by 18 per cent...

Now a great fleet of diesels and a grand division of M.R.S. troops have the Iran situation well in hand.

[Alco tanks parade at State St. and Erie Blvd. - 1x | 4x]

[An Alco M-7 in Action Somewhere in Italy - 1x | 4x]

Here also should go a testimonial to Alco employees who produced more than a billion dollars' worth of war materials and to Alco itself which risked millions of dollars of its own capital often without waiting for contract formalities, and was one of the lowest-cost producers of munitions with a wartime profit of 2.5 per cent.

[Lowering 1,500 hp diesel engine into chassis - 1x | 4x]

[Modern 4,500 hp diesel-electric in night scene at New Haven - 1x | 4x]

[End of steam production in June, 1945 - 1x | 4x]

Another accomplishment in Alco's brilliant war record was construction of 150 Scotch Marine Boilers by mass production methods for the British Supply Mission and the U. S. Navy. By using these mass production methods on the first order of 90 boilers, three were completed 5 days ahead of contract time and the last was completed 9 months ahead of schedule. Marine engine forgings were also made for British ocean-going vessels. The Schenectady plant also made forgings for General Electric and turret rollers that were precision machined for U. S. battleships.

Forgings for Navy torpedoes were also produced at Schenectady as were large calibre gun barrels for the War Department.

At war's end Schenectady was represented at the final phase of the Pacific operations. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur stood on the foredeck of the Battleship Missouri as the Japs signed surrender terms. Above MacArthur were the menacing and mammoth 16 inch guns and these guns maneuvered on turret rollers made at the Schenectady plant.

Turning to the long, problem-laden march back to peace-time production and commerce, the American Locomotive Company faced the enormous problems of plant reconversion, plant expansion, material shortages, rising costs, maximum employment and, of course, stiff competition for business in an economic market. To solve these problems more than $20,000,000 in company funds were appropriated to effect the conversion to the manufacture of diesel-electric locomotives.

That this uphill fight was won is best indicated by the fact that in 1941 approximately 75 per cent of locomotive production was for steam locomotives and only 25 per cent for diesel-electrics. This ratio was reversed in 1947 as the railroads, their equipment depleted by a war transportation record that shattered all conception of what could be done with rolling stock, wanted diesel-electric locomotive replacements as fast as they could get them. The end of steam locomotive production came quietly but not unexpectedly in this, the Centennial year of the Schenectady plant. Today all Alco locomotive production is for diesel-electrics.

[1,500 hp road switcher for the Monon - 1x | 4x]

[Striking aerial view of American Locomotive Company plant at Schenectady illustrates vastness of 112 acre installation - 1x | 4x]

The Schenectady workers at Alco can be justly proud of their craftsmanship which won for the company many other firsts in the diesel-electric field. Alco was first to offer American railroads a complete line of diesel-electric locomotives for all requirements. It was the first locomotive manufacturer to produce its own diesel engine. It was the first to develop and put into service the turbo-supercharged diesel locomotive. It was the first to develop traction motors specially for use in diesel-electric locomotives. It was the first to make a complete system survey on diesel locomotive operation. It was the first to establish factory instruction of railroad personnel in operation and maintenance of diesel locomotives.

By 1941, 62 per cent of the company's orders were for diesel locomotives and traditional resistance to introduction of a radically different type of motive power was rapidly diminishing. World War II interrupted this technological trend, however, and the American Locomotive Company was called on to produce, as we have seen, steam locomotives for the government and great quantities of combat weapons.

The railroads have fully recognized diesel-electric economies. The best steam locomotive spends 10 to 20 per cent of its time in the round-house; the diesel, less than 4 per cent. The diesel offers all-around advantages in greater availability, flexibility and capacity.

Brake maintenance is reduced by the fact that traction motors provide their own braking power when run in reverse. Car maintenance is reduced because the diesel delivers smoother pulling power. The continuous flow of energy turning the drive wheels contrasts with the hammer-like thrusts of a steam locomotive's drivers. This results in a saving in the upkeep of roadbeds, for, as one observer remarked, "This Alco diesel doesn't pound, puff or jerk, but just goes like the wind."

Complete dieselization of most United States railroads is now enerally expected and a few railroads have already completed their dieselization programs. Others have them well under way. It is estimated that there are 35,000 steam locomotives on American railroads today. It will probably take about 20,000 diesel-electrics to replace them during the next ten years.

It was a sad day for many fifty year veterans of the steam era when the end of steam locomotive production came in June, 1948.

Some find it a source of sentimental regret. Others are excited by its reflection of industrial progress. But none will miss the significance of the fact that Alco - in the same year that it celebrates one hundred years of locomotive building at Schenectady - has made a one hundred per cent conversion from steam to diesel-electric locomotives.

[Diesel Engine Assembly Line - 1x | 4x]

So, in 1948, we literally find Alco in a brand new business - the manufacture of diesel-electric locomotives. Even with its fast start interrupted by a major war, Alco has emerged as one of the Big Two in the industry, a close second to the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors. With Government blessing, General Motors made great strides building road dieselelectrics during the war while the Government commissioned Alco to build combat weapons and vitally-needed steam locomotives for the war effort. In spite of this, Alco is doing 40 per cent of the nation's diesel-electric business as this is written.

[Alco's 75,000th Locomotive, a 6,000 hp passenger diesel-electric, built in 1946 - 1x | 4x]

The diesel-electric business offers new possibilities for expansion. Renewal parts for these locomotives will become an important factor in the company's business in the future. Already a vast and new renewal parts department is expanding as rapidly as warehouses and increased staffs are available. Thus, renewal parts appears to be a balance wheel for the company's future - if and when the locomotive business reaches a saturation point in years to come.

Renewal parts activities can become another important and stabilizing function along with the company's Railway Steel Spring Division and the Alco Products Division whose products are made at plants in other parts of the country.

The history of Alco's Schenectady plant has always been the history of its workers and of the community. Locomotive manufacturing is in the blood of many Schenectady families. Father-son teamwork and even third generation locomotive builders are common in the Schenectady plant. A recent survey showed that Alco workers are deeply interested in the future prospects of their company and in its competitive position.

With the cooperation of labor, Alco seeks to assure its production workers the largest possible share of the price of every locomotive. Indeed, as a man working for his share in every locomotive built, he is a man working for himself in cooperation with others. He has an incentive to produce more. A fair share for labor is the basis on which Alco builds locomotives.

Thanks to the American industrial genius which comprises the labor-management-shareholder team at Alco, the company has post-war diesel-electrics already in service on more than 40 major railroad systems.

As a further testimony to keeping its industrial growth parallel to the progress of the community and to integrate administrative and production activities in the dieselization of American railroads, Alco, in its Centennial year here, is moving its general offices from New York to Schenectady. Truly Alco and Schenectady are partners in progress, as they have been for a hundred years.

Alco expects to continue this partnership.

Schenectady, N. Y.
September, 1948

[New York Central night scene by Howard Fogg - 1x | 4x]

[Page of presidential photographs - 1x | 4x]

Presidents of American Locomotive Company

SAMUEL R. CALLAWAY - President 1901-1904

ALBERT J. PITKIN - President 1904-1905

WALDO H. MARSHALL - President 1906-1916

ROBERT B. McCOLL - President 1945-Present

DUNCAN W. FRASER - President 1940-1945, Chairman of Board 1945-Present

ANDREW FLETCHER - President 1917-1925

FREDERICK FITZPATRICK - President 1926-1927

WILLIAM H. WOODIN - President 1925-1926, 1927-1929

WILLIAM C. DICKERMAN - President 1929-1940

Pictorial Heritage of Alco Diesel Locomotives from the 1972 reprint

Milestones of Alco

[This section is from the 1972 reprint]

1904 - Alco built the first mallet compound locomotive produced in America.

1910 - The 50,000th locomotive built by Alco and its predecessor companies rolled from Schenectady shops - a Pacific-type unit for the Erie Railroad.

1929 - First diesel-electric passenger locomotive in America.

1935 - The "Hiawatha" - American railroading's streamlined locomotive, built for Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific - had sustained speed of 100 mph and top speed of 120.

1941 - World's largest locomotive, the `Big Boy" - built for the Union Pacific. Weighing more than 1.2 million pounds, these locomotives had 16 huge drive wheels, and the unit developed 7,000 horsepower - enough to haul a mile-long freight train at a mile a minute.

1944 - Steam age reached a peak when 1,354 locomotives were built in the United States.

1948 - Alco had built more than 75,000 steamers.

1955 - Alco diversification created a new name - ALCO Products, Inc.

1959 - Nation's second leading builder for domestic service.

1968 - Alco doors closed by Studebaker-Worthington.

[PARTNERS IN PROGRESS logo] City of Schenectady seal and American Locomotive

Some Buyers of New Alco Road Diesels

[Inside back cover with list and company logos]

Alton & Southern
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe
Boston & Maine
Carolina & Northwestern
Chicago Great Western
Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific
Chicago & Northwestern
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific
Delaware & Hudson
Denver & Rio Grande Western
Detroit & Mackinac
Elgin, Joliet & Eastern
Erie Railroad
Great Northern
Green Bay & Western
Gulf, Mobile & Ohio
Kansas City Southern
Lehigh & New England
Lehigh Valley
Maine Central
Missouri Pacific
Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie
New York Central
New York, Chicago & St. Louis
New York, New Haven & Hartford
Oliver Iron Mining Co.
Pennsylvania Railroad
Reading Company
Seaboard Air Line
Southern Pacific
Southern Railway
St. Louis-San Francisco
Spokane, Portland & Seattle
Texas Pacific-Missouri Pacific Terminal R. R. of New Orleans
Texas & Pacific
Toledo, Peoria & Western
Union Pacific
Union Railroad
Wabash Railroad
Western Maryland
Youngstown & Northern

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