Alco PA Locomotives - Love 'em or Hate 'em?

13404 views
110 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 216 posts
Alco PA Locomotives - Love 'em or Hate 'em?
Posted by Shock Control on Saturday, March 9, 2019 10:26 AM

I have read some things online claiming that the Alco PA is the most beautiful diesel locomotive ever.

Personally, I find them ugly.  They look to me like a Bizarro World E7, or like the hellspawn of Satan and an E7.  Or like an E7 that took steroids and showed up at a monster truck rally. 

On the positive side, I do like the top curve over the driver's side window.

What sayest thou?

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,120 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, March 9, 2019 10:54 AM

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder!

  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 216 posts
Posted by Shock Control on Saturday, March 9, 2019 10:59 AM

BaltACD

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder!

Well, maybe that explains why I don't like Alco PAs.  I am a wine connoisseur, and EMD E and F units pair much better with a nice Cabernet.

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • From: Vancouver Island, BC
  • 21,960 posts
Posted by selector on Saturday, March 9, 2019 11:40 AM

I find myself coming around eventually with pretty much any unit.  I was cold on the N&W Class J 4-8-4 at first, but came around and find it quite an attractive locomotive.  No idea why that should be.  Same with the C-Liner...eewwww!  Now I quite fancy them.  I was also averse, like you, to the PA at first, but now they seem to fit into the stable quite nicely.

  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 216 posts
Posted by Shock Control on Saturday, March 9, 2019 11:55 AM

selector

I find myself coming around eventually with pretty much any unit.  I was cold on the N&W Class J 4-8-4 at first, but came around and find it quite an attractive locomotive.  No idea why that should be.  Same with the C-Liner...eewwww!  Now I quite fancy them.  I was also averse, like you, to the PA at first, but now they seem to fit into the stable quite nicely.

Nicely put.  Maybe I need to try to appreciate the Alco PA on its own terms, rather than thinking about it in relation to E and F units.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,120 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, March 9, 2019 12:17 PM

When you talk about ugly - this comes to mind

 

Closely followed by 

 

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 2,500 posts
Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, March 9, 2019 12:32 PM

I believe that it's important to take it all in context.  I enjoy the streamlined diesels from all of the manufacturers, be they EMD E and F units, Alco PA and FA units, and DL 109s, FM Erie builts and C-Liners, Baldwin Centipedes and Baby Faces,  or even the more exotic stuff like the big-blow gas turbines. There were a few other oddballs that I cannot immediately recall, that fit with this group as well.

I think that learning the difference between the various offerings were a big part of my becoming a rail fan. 

That said, I'm glad that my next door neighbor does not have one sitting out in his back yard rusting away.

  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 216 posts
Posted by Shock Control on Saturday, March 9, 2019 12:38 PM

BaltACD

When you talk about ugly - this comes to mind...Closely followed by...

 

Could you please share the names and manufacturers of those two?  I'm not familiar.  The bottom one looks like a Euro train.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,120 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, March 9, 2019 1:17 PM

Shock Control
 
BaltACD

When you talk about ugly - this comes to mind...Closely followed by... 

Could you please share the names and manufacturers of those two?  I'm not familiar.  The bottom one looks like a Euro train.

GM&O 1900 was constructed by Ingalls Shipbuilding of Mobile, AL - their only attempt at building a locomotive.  I believe the GM&O did operate it for 20 or 30 years.

The SCL engine was built by GE as their BQ23-7.  This was an attempt to build a locomotive that could hold a full crew at the time cabooses were being eliminated but two man crew agreements had yet to be negotiated.

  • Member since
    September 2010
  • From: Parma Heights Ohio
  • 3,299 posts
Posted by Penny Trains on Saturday, March 9, 2019 7:26 PM

I prefer the FPA-4:

No "eyebrows" on the cab sides.  Wink

Big Smile  I'm Cuckoo For Choo Choo Stuffs!  Big Smile

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • 666 posts
Posted by tdmidget on Saturday, March 9, 2019 10:27 PM

BaltACD

 

 
Shock Control
 
BaltACD

When you talk about ugly - this comes to mind...Closely followed by... 

Could you please share the names and manufacturers of those two?  I'm not familiar.  The bottom one looks like a Euro train.

 

GM&O 1900 was constructed by Ingalls Shipbuilding of Mobile, AL - their only attempt at building a locomotive.  I believe the GM&O did operate it for 20 or 30 years.

The SCL engine was built by GE as their BQ23-7.  This was an attempt to build a locomotive that could hold a full crew at the time cabooses were being eliminated but two man crew agreements had yet to be negotiated.

 

[quote user="BaltACD"

Ingalls was and is located in Pascagoula MS.

 

  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: Atlanta
  • 11,636 posts
Posted by oltmannd on Sunday, March 10, 2019 1:26 PM

I'd give the PA and edge over an E-8.

https://flic.kr/p/dp3ci3

 

-Don (Random stuff, mostly about trains - what else? http://blerfblog.blogspot.com/

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 3,698 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, March 10, 2019 2:05 PM

No doubt about it, the ALCO PA and the D&H "Blue Warbonnet" color scheme were made for each other.  Honestly, I prefer the "Blue Warbonnet" over the Santa Fe's more famous red one.

It looked great on the Baldwin "Sharks" too.

That Cuyahoga Valley FPA's a looker as well.

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Guelph, Ontario
  • 3,905 posts
Posted by Ulrich on Sunday, March 10, 2019 3:59 PM

I like the PAs but prefer the FAs which are shorter and overall look more balanced. Hey.. its a locomotive.. of course I love it. 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,120 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, March 10, 2019 4:45 PM

[quote user="tdmidget"] 

BaltACD
 
Shock Control 
BaltACD

When you talk about ugly - this comes to mind...Closely followed by... 

Could you please share the names and manufacturers of those two?  I'm not familiar.  The bottom one looks like a Euro train. 

GM&O 1900 was constructed by Ingalls Shipbuilding of Mobile, AL - their only attempt at building a locomotive.  I believe the GM&O did operate it for 20 or 30 years.

The SCL engine was built by GE as their BQ23-7.  This was an attempt to build a locomotive that could hold a full crew at the time cabooses were being eliminated but two man crew agreements had yet to be negotiated. 

BaltACD

Ingalls was and is located in Pascagoula MS.

Pascagoula is only a good stone's throw from Mobile on CSX's NO&M Sub.

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: South Central,Ks
  • 6,468 posts
Posted by samfp1943 on Sunday, March 10, 2019 5:58 PM

BaltACD
Shock Control
BaltACD

When you talk about ugly - this comes to mind...Closely followed by... 

Shock Control asked: "Could you please share the names and manufacturers of those two?  I'm not familiar.  The bottom one looks like a Euro train."

GM&O 1900 was constructed by Ingalls Shipbuilding of Mobile, AL - their only attempt at building a locomotive.  I believe the GM&O did operate it for 20 or 30 years.

The SCL engine was built by GE as their BQ23-7.  This was an attempt to build a locomotive that could hold a full crew at the time cabooses were being eliminated but two man crew agreements had yet to be negotiated.

Early on: The GM&O's #1900 was a personal favorite of mine. It was operated at one point, between the GM&O shops at Jackson,Tn., and Corinth, Ms. 

AS Balt noted: (it was a product after WWII, of the Ingall's Shipbuilding of Pascagoula,Ms). They had envisioned it and it's siblings as a family of railroad engines.

They were to include, 1-S thru 4-S, the only one built was the 4-S.  As built, it utilized as a power plant a marine-style engine, bySuperior Diesel& Compressors, @1650 hp with 1500 available hp. It was a speculative style build, and once operational, it was campaigned about the industry.  Unfortunately, it languished for some time, until it was sold at a bargain price to the GM&O( around about #140K(?).

  They(GM&O) used if for some time inthe Moblie,Al area. At one point, it was rolled over; repaired, and earned a reputation for being a very tough engine(?). In the late 1950's and ealy 60's it was based out of the jackson,Tn. area, Often was used in the yard and area of Corinth, Ms. In late1960's it was traded to EMD for new power, the rumor was it was offered for sale to Ill RR Museum, but when they were unable to raise the money, it was scrapped in Chicago(?).

Ingalls 4-S.jpg

The General Electric BQ23-7 was produced during the time that the Railroad Cabooses were fading into history(1978/79). The 'Q" was meant to designate it as "Quarters"; a cab, that could hold a 'full crew'. It was basicly, a GE B23-7 locomotive with room, and seating for an entire train crew(?). There were less than a sozen of these built for the SAL.

Curiously, they were delivered on Bloomberg trucks from trade-ins to GE. At about their delivery dates, the Unions and Railroads had negotiated the two-man rules to replace the full crews, that had been required with the use of the cabooses(?). So the BQ23-7's began to see their windows covered over and they were relegated to 'non-leader' status by the then owner railroad Family Lines>(CSX). All were gone in the early 1960's.

see linked photo of a BQ23-7 from Ril Pictures.net @ http://www.railpictures.net/photo/390331/?id=390331&showexif=1

and here is a Rail Pictures.net of a BQ23-7 designated as a "B" unit (no crew occupied) @

When I was modeling, there was a model of the GM "AeroTrain': Basicly, it was a single unit locomotive, with one engine (GM designated as an A or AA unit). The various "Zephyrs" carried that designation; as well, as the MoPac Delta Eagle.

The AreoTrain was a stylized engine and a train of cars. (The 'cars' were simply, re-worked city bus bodies,widened and strengthened fit rail use(?). {see last linked photo NYC AeroTrain)

see linked here, photos from Railfan.net,  a PRR Aerotrain @ http://www.northeast.railfan.net/images/prr1000a.jpg

Note also, there was a RI version as well ! @ http://www.northeast.railfan.net/images/tr_ri1.jpg

and  also a NYC (photo): Linked @

http://www.northeast.railfan.net/images/tr_nyc1001.jpg

 

 

 

 

 


 

  • Member since
    June 2009
  • From: Dallas, TX
  • 4,486 posts
Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, March 10, 2019 7:51 PM

Alco PA's = looks like someone tried to sculpt an F7 but gave up halfway there.

Alco PA Engine sound = sounds like it needs a tune-up and is about to fall apart.

  • Member since
    September 2010
  • From: Parma Heights Ohio
  • 3,299 posts
Posted by Penny Trains on Sunday, March 10, 2019 8:04 PM

samfp1943
The General Electric BQ23-7 was produced during the time that the Railroad Cabooses were fading into history(1978/79). The 'Q" was meant to designate it as "Quarters"; a cab

Hence the nick-name- "Q-Boats".  Although I doubt the Germans had anything similar on their attack subs!  Wink

Big Smile  I'm Cuckoo For Choo Choo Stuffs!  Big Smile

  • Member since
    December 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 9,653 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Sunday, March 10, 2019 8:43 PM

About the N&W J.  Imagine seeing both the SOU RR PA-4 and a J sitting side by side in Bristol,  Happened every evening and if #45 on time about 1730.A very good sight to see.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 10,512 posts
Posted by Overmod on Sunday, March 10, 2019 9:20 PM

Penny Trains
Hence the nick-name- "Q-Boats"

I remembered this:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b283111;view=1up;seq=7

I always called them "Q ships" but that gets rid of the pun.

  • Member since
    September 2013
  • 5,539 posts
Posted by Miningman on Sunday, March 10, 2019 9:24 PM

Overmod--Link not available or restricted

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 3,698 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, March 10, 2019 9:33 PM

Not to worry, here's a quick tutorial on Q-ships, for those who've never heard of them.  A good sea-story.

www.navymuseum.co.nz/q-ships/  

  • Member since
    March 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 11,798 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, March 11, 2019 7:10 AM

There were three versions of the Alco flatnose: FA, PA and DL-500 (World Locomotive).  Also, the flatnose was simpler to fabricate than the compound curves of the bulldog nose.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 3,905 posts
Posted by M636C on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 12:22 AM

CMStPnP

Alco PA's = looks like someone tried to sculpt an F7 but gave up halfway there.

Alco PA Engine sound = sounds like it needs a tune-up and is about to fall apart.

 

I'm not sure that the PA-1 sound was unimpressive. I've never heard a PA-1 or anything else with a 16-244, but I have heard a 12-244 in notch 8, coupled to two units with 12-251s. The 244 was significantly louder and had a distinctive "snarl" like some high performance automobiles. There aren't many locomotives with 244s still running so I don't imagine many people have heard them. The four D&H locomotives were fitted with 12-251 engines (just like the ones the 12-244 was drowning out....) so they don't count.

McCall in his "Early Diesel Daze" describes the sound of 51LAB starting on Raton Pass after stalling on trials when all three units transitioned together. He mentions a distinctive snarl from the 16-244s, which I assume he had heard in person (if not on Raton Pass that day).

For whatever reason (perhaps extra damping from the full water jackets around the cylinders) the 251 has a different sound to the 244.

A 16-251 rated at 3600HP at notch 8 on a load box literally causes the ground to shake and will hurt your ears if unprotected, but I think based on the 12-244s I've heard that the 16-244 would not have been unimpressive.

Of course, the 567As in E-7s were impossibly loud. I recall the Peoria Rocket sweeping through Blue Island at speed behind three relatively decrepit looking red Rock Island E-7s. I had been concerned about commuters wandering across the tracks but someone clinically deaf would have known to get out of the way...

The PA-1 might not have been that loud but I think they would have sounded good if in good repair.

Peter

  • Member since
    May 2012
  • 3,977 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 2:16 PM

M636C
The four D&H locomotives were fitted with 12-251 engines

That didn't happen until they were rebuilt for Adirondack service around 1973.  While working the Laurentian and Montreal Limited on D&H's own account into 1971 three of them had 16-244s the entire time, one had a borrowed 12-244 (from an RS3) for some of the time.

To lose the eybrow from a PA, try a PA3.

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 3,905 posts
Posted by M636C on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 6:25 PM

rcdrye

 

 
M636C
The four D&H locomotives were fitted with 12-251 engines

 

That didn't happen until they were rebuilt for Adirondack service around 1973.  While working the Laurentian and Montreal Limited on D&H's own account into 1971 three of them had 16-244s the entire time, one had a borrowed 12-244 (from an RS3) for some of the time.

To lose the eybrow from a PA, try a PA3.

 

I was aware of the D&H operating the PA-1s in original condition but that was more than 46 years ago. My point was that most people discussing the sound of a PA-1 would not have experience dating back that far. I expect that most people who have heard a PA-1 might have heard the four D&H units after refitting with the 12-251s, maybe operating in Mexico or Doyle McCormack's restored unit.
 
It is generally agreed now that no PA-3s were ever built.
 
The locomotives mostly identified as PA-3s were in fact late production PA-2s, and a number of these were built for Southern and I think Missouri Pacific.
 
Peter

 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 18,120 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 7:13 PM

Don't think I was ever around a operating PA.  I was around a number of FA's that the B&O had as a kid - didn't really like the sound of them - at idle they always sounded like they stumbling around and ready to die - reving them up to load they sounded better but not much.  I have no idea if the B&O FA's had 244 or 251 prime movers.

The EMD 567 in all its varients sounded like smooth power from idle to the 8th notch.  Mostly a function of being two-strokes and having a power stroke every time the piston came to the top of its stroke, versus every other time in four-strokes.

  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 3,905 posts
Posted by M636C on Thursday, March 14, 2019 6:45 AM

BaltACD

Don't think I was ever around a operating PA.  I was around a number of FA's that the B&O had as a kid - didn't really like the sound of them - at idle they always sounded like they stumbling around and ready to die - reving them up to load they sounded better but not much.  I have no idea if the B&O FA's had 244 or 251 prime movers.

The EMD 567 in all its varients sounded like smooth power from idle to the 8th notch.  Mostly a function of being two-strokes and having a power stroke every time the piston came to the top of its stroke, versus every other time in four-strokes.

 
All the FAs and FBs built new for service in the USA had 244 engines.
 
Only the Canadian FPA-4 and FPB-4 were built with 251 engines although some earlier FAs may have been rebuilt with 251 engines in Canada at least.
 
As four strokes, the 244 had half the number of power strokes for a given engine speed compared to a 567, for example. Added to this was erratic operation of the Woodward electro-mechanical governor when the oil level was allowed to fall below that recommended, which gave a pulsing variable idle speed. so they rarely sounded smooth except under throttle.
 
My comments were based on hearing a 244 for the first time in many years on a fast passenger train on the Bethungra Spiral, (like the Tehachapi Loop) so I got to hear it as it passed twice... The sound was sharper, a distinct "snarl" compared to the two 251 engined units with it. If it had had an EMD blower engine unit with it I might not have heard it at all.
 
Another sound variation that I didn't expect was the sound of the GE HDL in an AC6000 compared to an FDL in a Dash 8. The HDL had a "hollow" resonant sound lacking in the FDL although the distinctive GE "chug" was there in both. I found that I could tell an AC6000 from the sound before it actually appeared which surprised me. I don't think the GEVO 16 had that distinctive sound either.
 
Peter
  • Member since
    August 2007
  • 1 posts
Posted by Express Messenger on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 4:35 AM

The Alco PA sound was something I still recall today. It reminds one of the old 426 Hemi built by Chyrsler during the muscle car era. Like the PA engine, it didn't need a tune up either. For a comparison though, while both seemed like they were about to shut off between each cycle the engine took, only when the throttle/gas pedal was applied did they "come alive," and there they proved to be the classic engine. Yes, the sound of the PA is the sound of a classic diesel. As for the looks, I'll take it anyday over the E8/E9's . . . but then again, it's the sound of that diesel engine I'll always remember.  

  • Member since
    January 2018
  • 5 posts
Posted by pennaneal on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 8:19 AM

isn"t it all relative to what you get to see these days?. i've been watching Del.Lack operate 4-6 old, dirty Alcos for a while. They work and i still look forward to seeing them, especially when they break out a "new" engine, you haven't seen before. the other day they had a something + Adirondack hooked up. 6 engines pulling about 75 cars.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy