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MetroRail 600.jpg
An ALCO FA-2 of the Long Island Rail Road in May 1976
Type and origin
Power typeDiesel-electric
BuilderPartnership of American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and General Electric (GE); Montreal Locomotive Works
ModelFA-1, FB-1, FA-2, FB-2, FPA-2, FPB-2, FCA-3, FPA-4, FPB-4
Build dateJanuary 1946 – May 1959
Total produced1,401
 • AARB-B, A1A-A1A (FCA-3 only)
 • UICBo′Bo′
Gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
LengthFA-1: 51 ft 6 in (15.70 m)
FB-1: 50 ft 2 in (15.29 m)
FA-2, FPA-2, FPA-4: 53 ft 6 in (16.31 m)
FB-2, FPB-2, FPB-4: 52 ft 8 in (16.05 m)
Loco weightFA-1/FB-1, FA-2/FB-2, FPA-2/FPB-2: 243,000 lb (110,000 kg)
FPA-4/FPB-4: 255,000 lb (115,666.1 kilograms)
Fuel capacity1,200 US gal (4,500 l; 1,000 imp gal)
Prime moverFA-1/FB-1, FA-2/FB-2, FPA-2/FPB-2: ALCO 244
FPA-4/FPB-4: ALCO 251
Engine typeV-12 Four-stroke diesel
Displacement8,016 cu in (131.36 L)
GeneratorDC generator
Traction motorsDC traction motors GE 726 on GM&O initial order then GE 752
Cylinder size9 in × 10.5 in (229 mm × 267 mm)
Loco brakeIndependent air. Optional: Dynamic
Train brakesAir
Performance figures
Maximum speed65–75 mph (105–121 km/h)
Power outputEarly FA-1/FB-1: 1,500 hp (1,100 kW)
Late FA-1/FB-1 & all FA-2/FB-2/FPA-2/FPB-2: 1,600 hp (1,200 kW)
FPA-4/FPB-4: 1,800 hp (1,300 kW)
Tractive effortFA-1/FB-1, FA-2/FB-2, FPA-2/FPB-2: 60,875 lbf (270.79 kN)
FPA-4/FPB-4: 63,750 lbf (283.57 kN)
LocaleNorth America, Brazil, Pakistan, México
DispositionMany preserved, some under restoration, rest scrapped.

The ALCO FA was a family of B-B diesel locomotives designed to haul freight trains. The locomotives were built by a partnership of ALCO and General Electric in Schenectady, New York, between January 1946 and May 1959. Designed by General Electric's Ray Patten (along with their ALCO PA cousins), they were of a cab unit design; both cab-equipped lead (A unit) FA and cabless booster (B unit) FB models were built. A dual passenger-freight version, the FPA/FPB, was also offered. It was equipped with a steam generator for heating passenger cars.

ALCO's designation of F marks these locomotives as being geared primarily for freight use, whereas the P designation of the PA sets indicates that they were geared for higher speeds and passenger use. However, beyond this their design was largely similar - aside from the PA/PB's both being larger A1A-A1A types with an even more striking nose - and many railroads used FA and PA locomotives for both freight and passenger service.

Several examples of FAs and FBs have been preserved. While most are now in the care of railroad museums, a few remain in operational status on such lines as the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Grand Canyon Railway and the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Service history[edit]

A MLW FPA-4 of the Canadian National Railway in September 1965

Three different models were offered. The FA-1/FB-1, which featured a 1,500 horsepower (1,100 kW) rating, was built from January 1946 to October 1950, with a 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) version produced between March and August 1950 (many early models were subsequently upgraded to 1,600 hp). The 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) FA-2/FB-2 (along with the FPA-2/FPB-2 variants) was built between October 1950 and June 1956. Finally, the 1,800 hp (1,300 kW) FPA-4/FPB-4, powered by the 251 V-12 engine, was built between October 1958 and May 1959 by ALCO's Canadian subsidiary, Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW).[citation needed]

The FAs, as well as their cousins, the ALCO PAs, were born as a result of ALCO's development of a new diesel engine design, the Model 244. In early 1944, development started on the new design, and by November 1945, the first engines were beginning to undergo tests. This unusually short testing sequence was brought about by the decision of ALCO's senior management that the engine and an associated line of road locomotives had to be introduced no later than the end of 1946.

In preparation for this deadline, by January 1946, the first four locomotives with the 244 engines had been built. Two FA-1s and an FB-1 were painted in ALCO Demonstrator colors and were released for road tests for a month and a half on the Delaware and Hudson Railway.

A strike at ALCO delayed production beyond the first four units and the three demonstrator units began working on the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad in mid February 1946. The demonstrators were returned to Schenectady when the remainder of the order began delivery in May 1946.

The GM&O order was completed in April 1947 for a total of 80 units. Before the end of this production run, ALCO upgraded the generators and traction motors in the locomotives, with the first of these models entering service in February 1947 for the New York Central.

In 1950, the Montreal Locomotive Works, an affiliate of ALCO, began production of FAs as well. In the Fall of 1950, an upgraded model, the FA-2, was launched. This model featured an uprated Model 244 engine, with an output of 1600 horsepower. Additionally, the carbody was lengthened, making possible the addition of a steam generator in the A unit to allow for use in passenger service. Models equipped as such were designated the FPA-2/FPB-2.[1]

The first FA-2s were delivered in October 1950 to the Baltimore and Ohio and the Erie.[2] By this time, however, the cab unit had fallen out of favor due to the greater versatility of road switchers, and US production of the FA line ended in 1956, with Canadian production ending in 1959.[1]

From the 1970s until 1999, the MTA Long Island Rail Road used 20 FA units converted into "power packs". The traction motors were removed, and original prime movers replaced with 600 horsepower (450 kW) engines/generators solely for supplying HEP. The engineer's control stand was left intact, allowing the engines to be used in push-pull service with other locomotives, which usually lacked HEP. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, the railroad began retiring the ALCOs in favor of new bi-level cab cars and locomotives with HEP installed.

Original production[edit]

Units produced by ALCO and the Montreal Locomotive Works (1946–1956)[edit]

Almost 800 FA units were built by ALCO and MLW, with just over 15% of them sold to New York Central Railroad, and another 5% each to Union Pacific Railroad, Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad and Missouri Pacific Railroad. About half as many FB units were produced and sold in similar ratios.

FA-1 (cab) and FB-1 (cabless booster) units
Railroad Quantity FA-1 Quantity FB-1 Road numbers FA-1 Road numbers FB-1 Notes
Canadian National Railways 8 9400–9407 Built by MLW
Canadian Pacific Railway 8 4 4000–4007 4400–4403 Built in USA for operations in Vermont
20 20 4008–4027 4404–4423 Built by MLW
Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad 16 8 145–160 145B–152B Re-engined by EMD
Erie Railroad 22 22 725A,D–735A,D 725B,C–735B,C
Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil 12 3201–3212 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Irish gauge
Great Northern Railway 8 5 276A,B, 310A,C, 440A,D, 442A,D 310B, 440B,C, 442B,C 440A,B,C,D and 442A,B,C,D to Spokane, Portland & Seattle
Green Bay and Western Railroad 2 503 (1st), 507 503 renumbered 506
Green Bay and Western (Kewanee, Green Bay and Western) 3 501, 502, 503 (2nd)
Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad 55 33 700–754 B1–B33 700,B1,701 were Alco Demonstrators 1500-1502, also purchased Alco static test unit 702 the 3rd FA-1 built
Lehigh and New England Railroad 10 3 701–710 751–753 to Louisville and Nashville 332–341 (A) 327–329 (B) on L&NE abandonment
Lehigh Valley Railroad 10 10 530–548 (even) 531–549 (odd)
Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railway ("Soo Line") 14 205A,B–211A,B
Soo Line (Wisconsin Central Railway) 8 2220A,B–2223A,B
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad 18 326A,C–334A,C 331A replaced by FA-2; renumbered 82A,C–90A,C
Missouri Pacific Railroad 30 15 301–330 301B–310B, 321B–325B
New York Central Railroad 44 23 1000–1043 3300–3322
New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad 30 15 0400–0429 0450–0464
Pennsylvania Railroad 8 8 9600–9607 9600B–9607B
Reading Company 6 6 300A–305A 300B–305B
St. Louis-San Francisco Railway 32 16 5200–5231 5300–5315 Most where rebuilt with EMD567 prime movers
Secretaria de Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) (Mexico) 5 23031–23034, 23039
Seaboard Air Line Railroad 3 3 4200–4202 4300–4302
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway 14 8 850A-1,2–860A-1,2, (even) 866A-1,2 856B-1,2–860B-1,2 (even), 866B-1,2 FA's renumbered to 850–867 and FB's to 200–211
Tennessee Central Railway 5 1 801–805 801B
Union Pacific Railroad 44 44 1500A–1523A, 1542A–1543A, 1626–1643 1524B–1541B, 1618B,C–1642B,C (even) 1500A–1523A renumbered 1600A–1623A; 1524B–1541B renumbered 1600B,C–1616B,C (even)
Wabash Railroad 10 5 1200,A–1204,A 1200B–1204B
Totals 445 249
FA-2 (cab) and FB-2 (cabless booster) units
Railroad Quantity FA-2 Quantity FB-2 Road numbers FA-2 Road numbers FB-2 Notes
American Locomotive Company 2 2 1603A,D 1603B,C 1603A,B,C,D sold to Chicago and North Western 4103A,B-4104A,B
Ann Arbor Railroad 14 50,A–56,A 4 units to Wabash Railroad in 1964, remainder traded to EMD on GP35s
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad 28 16 801,A–807,A; 819,A- 837,A (odd) 801X–807X; 819X-837X (odd), 817AX, 837AX
Canadian National Railways 25 15 9408–9456 (even) 9409–9437 (odd) Built by MLW
Canadian Pacific Railway 20 6 4042–4051, 4084–4093 4465–4470 Built by MLW
Consolidated Railways of Cuba 12 1600–1605, 1650–1655
Erie Railroad 8 8 736A,D–739A,D 736B,C–739B,C
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México 18 24 6507A–6522A, 6519A (2nd), 6534A 6507B–6522B, 6519B (2nd), 6528B-6534B
Great Northern Railway 2 2 278-279A 278-279B [3]
Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad 4 B34–B37
Louisville and Nashville Railroad 39 14 300–321, 353–369 200–211, 330–331
Lehigh Valley Railroad 6 2 580–588,592 (even) 581,585 (odd)
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad 1 331A (2nd)
Missouri Pacific Railroad 43 34 331–360, 374-386 331B–335B, 345B–356B, 370B–386B
New York Central Railroad 80 50 1044–1123 3323–3372
New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad 5 0465–0469
Pennsylvania Railroad 24 12 9608A–9631A 9608B–9630B (even)
Secretaria de Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) (Mexico) 6 7121-8–7121-13
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway 2 2 868A-1,2 868B-1,2 FA's to 868–869 FB's to 212–213
Western Maryland Railway 4 301–304
Totals 334 194
FCA-3 (cab) and FCB-3 (cabless booster) units
Railroad Quantity FCA-3 Quantity FCB-3 Road numbers FCA-3 Road numbers FCB-3 Notes
Pakistan Railways 23 0 DE2001-2023 Alco exported 14 in 1951 and 9 in 1953

Units produced by ALCO and the Montreal Locomotive Works (1950–1959)[edit]

ALCO and MLW built 152 of the various FP models with the largest quantity, 38% of the total production, sold to Canadian National Railway.

FPA-2 (cab) and FPB-2 (cabless booster) units
Railroad Quantity FPA-2 Quantity FPB-2 Road numbers FPA-2 Road numbers FPB-2 Notes
Baltimore and Ohio 10 5 809,A-817,A (odd) 809X-817X (odd)
Canadian National Railways 6 6 6706–6711 6806–6811 2 A and 2 B units rebuilt to 2 FPA4M and 2 FPB4M in 1955, Built by MLW. Two FPA-2 rebuilt as FPB-2U were 6758 and 6759. 6758 previously numbered as 6755 and delivered new as FPA-2 6711. 6759 previously 6751 and delivered new as FPA-2 6707. FPB-2U transferred to VIA Rail. Retired by VIA in 1987, 6758 is still used by New York and Lake Erie Railroad.
Canadian Pacific Railway 7 2 4082–4083, 4094–4098 4463–4464 Built by MLW
Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México 18 10 6500–6501, 6502A–6506A, 6523A–6533A 6502B–6506B, 6523B–6527B built by Alco and MLW
Ferrocarril del Pacifico 4 901–904 Built by Alco
Great Northern Railway 2 277A,B
Lehigh Valley Railroad 2 2 590, 594 583, 587 594 and 583 were used to field test the new 12V-251 engines in 1954-55
Louisville and Nashville Railroad 5 350–352, 383–384
Missouri Pacific Railroad 19 6 361–373, 387–392 387B–392B
Totals 73 33
FPA-4 (cab) and FPB-4 (cabless booster) units
Railroad Quantity FPA-4 Quantity FPB-4 Road numbers FPA-4 Road numbers FPB-4 Notes
Canadian National Railways 34 12 6760–6793 6860–6871 Built by MLW. All transferred to VIA Rail. Few MLW FPA-4 units sold privately to US.

Surviving examples[edit]

A pair of MLW FPA-4s on the Napa Valley Wine Train

Some 20 units of various designations exist today in a preserved state.[4] Several excursion railways own operating examples which are in regular service, including MLW units received from Via Rail Canada.

Locomotives not sold to tourist railroads have been sold to museums and other owners.

ALCO "World Locomotive"[edit]

Alco built 23 A1A-A1A trucked FCA-3s for Pakistan Railways in 1951 and 1953. These were the equivalent of an FPA-2 riding on A1A trucks. ALCO's "World Locomotive", the DL500 (introduced in 1953), originated as a newly designed demonstrator based on the FA-2. The first 25 DL500s used the model 244 engine rated at 1,600 horsepower (1,200 kW). Later DL500s were like the FPA-4 and utilize the ALCO model 251B diesel engine as the prime mover and are rated at 1,800 horsepower (1,300 kW). All DL500s were built with C-C trucks, but B-B or paired A-1-A trucks were offered as an option. The only locale within the Americas where ALCO-built cab units, such as All America Latina Logistica (ALL), still see daily usage in freight duty is Argentina. A total of 369 DL500 locomotives were built by ALCO, AE Goodwin, and MLW between May 1953 and December 1967.


Variants of the ALCO "World Locomotive" saw service in Australia where it was built under license by AE Goodwin. A two cab design, the second cab being flat fronted, went into service on the standard gauge Department of Railways New South Wales as the 44 class No.s 4401 - 44100 (100 in class),[6] and both a single cab and double cab design went into service on the 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) broad gauge South Australian Railways as the 930 class[7]

Europe, Asia and Latin America[edit]

Similar DL500 locomotives were also used in Greece, Pakistan, Peru, and Spain.[citation needed]


In india the DL500 were introduced as the Indian locomotive class WDM-1 in 1957.[8][9] They were in service till early 1990s.

See also[edit]


  • "ALCO 244 and 251 Diesel Engines". Pacific Southwest Railway Museum. Archived from the original on April 12, 2006. Retrieved March 9, 2006.
  • Pinkepank, Jerry A. (1973). The Second Diesel Spotter's Guide. Kalmbach Publishing Co., Milwaukee, WI. ISBN 978-0-89024-026-7.
  • "The Alco FA: A Working Gal". Exotic Diesel Locomotives. Retrieved March 7, 2006.
    • Steinbrenner, Richard (2003) The American Locomotive Company A Centennial Remembrance. Chapter IX The Diesel Takes Over, Chapter X The Diesel Boom, Chapter XI Past the Peak and Diversification.

Extra 2200 South Issue No. 33 March April 1972 Alco FA-FB Tally by Jim Claflin and Ken L. Douglas pages 26–27 was used extensively to update the rosters.


  1. ^ a b Steinbrenner, Richard T (2003). The American Locomotive Company: A Centennial Remembrance. On Track Publishers. ISBN 0-911122-07-9.
  2. ^ "Erie Railroad". The Diesel Shop. December 10, 2006. Retrieved January 31, 2010.
  3. ^ "Great Northern Empire - then and Now".
  4. ^ "Preserved Diesels".
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 8, 2017. Retrieved March 27, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "NSWRTM – 4490". Archived from the original on August 29, 2007. Retrieved July 22, 2007.
  7. ^ "National Railway Museum – Port Adelaide – 930 class". Archived from the original on March 24, 2007. Retrieved July 22, 2007.
  8. ^ "Vadakkus". Archived from the original on September 26, 2013.
  9. ^ "IRFCA".

External links[edit]