Alco PA-1 Diesels


 

Alco PA-1 Diesels

Santa Fe Railroad’s “Grand Canyon”

On September of 1946, in an elaborate ceremony at the Alco plant at Schenectady, New York, a shiny new diesel passenger locomotive was revealed to the world. It was the first production-run version of the PA-1. (The P for passenger, the A for a cab unit, and the 1 for the first model) Gleaming in the beautiful red-silver-yellow Santa Fe warbonnet paint, it was quite a sight. It was soon joined by another cab unit and a booster. Over the next few days, a very elaborate PR campaign was launched with a news broadcast from the cab of PA#51 and even a desert scene was created around the locomotive to highlight the type of terrain the new diesel would encounter under the Santa Fe flag. This flush of post-war optimism began an era that Alco hoped would bring a huge surge of locomotive orders and prosperity to the old company.PA Technical Data(Numbers may vary depending on source)P&LE Alco PA-1 at Stoops Ferry

  Model: PA-1/PB-1

Horsepower: 2000
Engine: Alco 244
16 cylinders
Produced: 1946-50
Units sold: 170 (PA-1)
40 (PB-1)

ALCO PA-2 # 855

Total built: 297
A units: 250
B units: 47 Model: PA-2/PB-2 PA-3/PB-3

Horsepower: 2250
Engine: Alco 244
 16 cylinders
Produced: (Model 2) 1950-1952
(Model 3) 1952-1953)
Units sold: 31(PA-2) 2(PB-2)
49 (PA-3) 5(PB-3)

Maximum Speed: 102 m.p.h./standard
gear ratio of 64:23. 80 m.p.h. at ratio of 64:19,
92 m.p.h. at 62:21, 104 m.p.h. at 60:23, and
117 m.p.h. at 58:25.

 

Technical Features:

1. The PA was 65 feet long, 14 feet high, and almost 11 feet wide. The trucks over 15 feet long and arranged in the A-1-A configuration. The center wheel on both trucks was unpowered and distributed the weight of the locomotive more evenly on the track. This also provided a smoother ride.
2. The very powerful 244 engine with 16 cylinders generated 2000 horsepower. The
EMD equivalent to the PA, the E unit, required 2 engines to develop the same horsepower.
3. The engine was also fuel-injected and turbocharged.
4. The very sophisticated Amplidyne generator excitation system was used to provide precise control of the output of the main generator. This allowed, for the first time in a locomotive, the use of circuit breakers instead of fuses. This feature was much appreciated by train crews.
5. Dynamic braking was an optional installment.
6. Of the PA-1s 306,000lb weight, about 204,000lbs was carried on the
driving wheels.
7. Each A unit could carry over 1200 gallons of fuel oil and 1000 gallons of fuel for the
steam boiler(for heating passenger cars) and 300 gallons for engine cooling. In addition, 230 gallons of oil was carried for the lubrication of engine parts.
8. Sand was also carried to be used to reduce wheel slippage on difficult or slippery track.
9. Most of the components of the PA were fully compatible with the
Alco FA locomotive.

PA Historical Analysis:

The PA, unfortunately, did not live up to the expectations of Alco. Production only lasted 7 years and the total number of units built, including boosters, was only 297. This compared poorly with the 1300 E units sold by EMD. Most PAs lived out the average life span of a diesel cab unit of 15 years. Many were regeared and used for freight service late in their careers. Santa Fe used some of its PAs for more than 20 years. Most PAs were gone by the late sixties.

Possible reasons for poor PA sales:
1. EMD market dominance. GM was a powerhouse in diesel construction and held 90% of the market in some years. The best Alco could do was hit 40% on occasion.
2. EMD usually beat Alco in the race to develop new diesel models. The E unit first appeared in 1937 and proved itself a reliable locomotive. The first PA was not ready until 1946.
4. The PA suffered some early technical problems with the Amplidyne system that took some time to work out.
5. For an unknown reason, the PA required more maintenance than an E unit. This is surprising since the PA had only 1 engine instead of the 2 EMD put in the E.
6. The 244 engine was rushed into service by Alco and had more problems as a result.
7. During
World War II, the war production board restricted locomotive construction and assigned certain types of locomotives to be built by certain builders. Alco was forced to concentrate on both diesel and steam switchers and was not allowed to build cab units.
8. Diesels built by different companies required different types of spare parts. Therefore, it was cheaper for many railroads to stick with one diesel builder. (EMD usually)

A Railfan Perspective:

From the viewpoint of the railfan, the Alco PA will always be considered one of the best looking, if not the best, diesel locomotive. That long nose accounts for much of the allure of the PA. It was in stark contrast to the short, bulldog nose of the E unit. The carbody was also well proportioned and graceful.


Many different paint schemes adorned the PA. Some of the best included the colors of the Santa Fe, Delaware and Hudson, Rio Grande, Erie-Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley,Nickel Plate, New York Central, Southern Pacific, and Wabash. The warbonnet of the Santa Fe, of course, was widely considered the greatest and seemed to bring out the best in the PA.

Denver & Rio Grande Western Alco PA-1 Diesels

Denver & Rio Grande Western Alco PA-1 Diesels
Denver & Rio Grande Western Alco PA-1 Diesels

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About dummidumbwit

"I live in a trailer at the edge of town!" Neil Young=Revolution Blues
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2 Responses to Alco PA-1 Diesels

  1. That’s a very nice locomotive. Thanks heaps for the specs and all the pics, I really enjoyed the read.

  2. John Bacon says:

    What happened to the PRR PA’s? The Southern Pacific PA’s? Southerns had them too and that picture of the D&H SUCK!

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