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Alco FA Diesel Locomotive
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. They were of a cab unit design, and 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.

Externally, the FA and FB models looked very similar to the ALCO PA models produced in the same period. Both the FA and PA models were styled by GE's Ray Patten. They shared many of the same characteristics both aesthetically and mechanically. It was the locomotive's mechanical qualities (the ALCO 244 V-12 prime mover) and newer locomotive models from both General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) and General Electric (the partnership with ALCO was dissolved in 1953) that ultimately led to the retirement of the FA/FB locomotive model from revenue service. Several examples of FAs and FBs have been preserved in railroad museums, a few of them in operational status on such lines as the Grand Canyon Railway and the Napa Valley Wine Train. 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, and many railroads used FA and PA locomotives for both freight and passenger.

Service history
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 delivery of the first three ex-demonstrator units, to the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad, began in mid February 1946. The remainder of the order began delivery in May 1946 and continued until 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 upgraded 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 passenger service. Models equipped as such were designated the FPA-2/FPB-2. The first FA-2s were delivered in October 1950 to the Baltimore and Ohio and the Erie. By this time, however, the cab unit had fallen out of favor due to the greater versatility of road switchers, and U S production of the FA line ended in 1956, with Canadian production ending in 1959. The MTA Long Island Rail Road purchased 20 units and removed the traction motors from the units. The LIRR used them to supply AC HEP (head end power) to the cars of the train. Also the engines were used as a cab when another engine was pushing on the east end of the train. By the late 1990s and early 2000s the railroad began retiring the Alcos for new double deck cab cars.


Three different models were offered. The FA-1/FB-1, which featured a 1,500 horsepower rating, was built from January 1946 to October 1950 with a 1,600 hp version produced between March and August 1950 (many early models were subsequently upgraded to 1,600 hp). The 1,600 hp FA-2/FB-2 (along with the FPA-2/FPB-2 variants) was built between October 1950 and June 1956. The 1,800 hp 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).

Externally, the FA-1/FB-1 could be distinguished from the FA-2/FB-2 (FPA-2/FPB-2) by the position of the radiator shutters – the FA-1/FB-1's shutters were at the far end of the carbody, whereas on the FA-2/FB-2 they were further forward, the design having been modified to allow the installation of a steam generator behind the radiator. The FPA-4/FPB-4 were visually different due to the additional radiator space that was positioned below the shutters. These Canadian variants were intended and used for high-speed passenger service, and remained in use into the 1990s on Via Rail Canada.

The FA had the same distinctive styling as its larger cousin, the ALCO PA, with a long, straight nose tipped by a headlight in a square, slotted grille and raked windshields. Only the first 36 GM&O FA-1s had the distinctive trim pieces found behind the cab windows of the PA. As with the PA, the overall design owed much to the Fairbanks-Morse Erie-built design, which had been constructed by ALCO's sales partner General Electric (GE) at their Erie, Pennsylvania, plant. GE's industrial designer Ray Patten styled the FA and FB, and many believe it likely that he took drawings of the Erie-built as a starting point, lengthening and squaring the nose and giving it a more aggressive look. The majority of FA components were compatible with the PA.

As with the PA, the model 244 diesel prime mover proved to be the undoing of the FA, and the locomotives failed to capture a marketplace dominated by General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD). The later 251-series engine, a vastly improved prime mover, was not available in time for ALCO to recover the loss of reputation caused by the unreliability of the 244, which was a key factor in the dissolution of the partnership with GE. By the time the ALCO 251 engine was accepted into widespread use, General Electric had launched their own entries into the diesel-electric locomotive market, notably the U25B. General Electric eventually supplanted ALCO as a manufacturer of locomotives, leading to ALCO's exit from the locomotive market in 1969.

Original production
Units produced by ALCO and the Montreal Locomotive Works (1946–1956)

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
Canadian National Railways
Quantity FA-1: 8
Road numbers FA-1: 9400–9407
Notes: Built by MLW.

Canadian Pacific Railway
Quantity FA-1: 8
Quantity FB-1: 4
Road numbers FA-1: 4000–4007
Road numbers FB-1: 4400–4403
Notes: Built in USA for operations in Vermont.
Quantity FA-1: 20
Quantity FB-1: 20
Road numbers FA-1: 4008–4027
Road numbers FB-1: 4404–4423
Notes: Built by MLW.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 16
Quantity FB-1: 8
Road numbers FA-1: 145–160
Road numbers FB-1: 145B–152B
Notes: Re-powered by EMD.

Erie Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 22
Quantity FB-1: 22
Road numbers FA-1: 725A,D–735A,D
Road numbers FB-1: 725B,C–735B,C

Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil
Quantity FA-1: 12
Road numbers FA-1: 3201–3212
Notes: 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in) Irish gauge.

Great Northern Railway
Quantity FA-1: 8
Quantity FB-1: 5
Road numbers FA-1: 276A,B, 310A,C, 440A,D, 442A,D
Road numbers FB-1: 310B, 440B,C, 442B,C
Notes: 440A,B,C,D and 442A,B,C,D to Spokane, Portland & Seattle.

Green Bay and Western Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 2
Road numbers FA-1: 503 (1st), 507
Notes: 503 renumbered 506.

Green Bay and Western (Kewanee, Green Bay and Western)
Quantity FA-1: 3
Road numbers FA-1: 501, 502, 503 (2nd)

Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 55
Quantity FB-1: 33
Road numbers FA-1: 700–754
Road numbers FB-1: B1–B33
Notes: 700,B1,702 were Alco Demonstrators 1500-1502, also purchased Alco static test unit 1601 the 3rd FA-1 built.

Lehigh and New England Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 10
Quantity FB-1: 3
Road numbers FA-1: 701–710
Road numbers FB-1: 751–753
Notes: To Louisville and Nashville 332–341 (A) 327–329 (B) on L&NE abandonment.

Lehigh Valley Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 10
Quantity FB-1: 10
Road numbers FA-1: 530–548 (even)
Road numbers FB-1: 531–549 (odd)

Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railway (Soo Line)
Quantity FA-1: 14
Road numbers FA-1: 205A,B–211A,B

Soo Line (Wisconsin Central Railway)
Quantity FA-1: 8
Road numbers FA-1: 2220A,B–2223A,B

Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 18
Road numbers FA-1: 326A,C–334A,C
Notes: 331A replaced by FA-2; renumbered 82A,C–90A,C.

Missouri Pacific Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 30
Quantity FB-1: 15
Road numbers FA-1: 301–330
Road numbers FB-1: 301B–310B, 321B–325B

New York Central Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 44
Quantity FB-1: 23
Road numbers FA-1: 1000–1043
Road numbers FB-1: 3300–3322

New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 30
Quantity FB-1: 15
Road numbers FA-1: 0400–0429
Road numbers FB-1: 0450–0464

Pennsylvania Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 8
Quantity FB-1: 8
Road numbers FA-1: 9600–9607
Road numbers FB-1: 9600B–9607B

Reading Company
Quantity FA-1: 6
Quantity FB-1: 6
Road numbers FA-1: 300A–305A
Road numbers FB-1: 300B–305B

St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco)
Quantity FA-1: 32
Quantity FB-1: 16
Road numbers FA-1: 5200–5231
Road numbers FB-1: 5300–5315
Notes: Most where rebuilt with EMD567 prime movers.

Secretaria de Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) (Mexico)
Quantity FA-1: 5
Road numbers FA-1: 23031–23034, 23039

Seaboard Air Line Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 3
Quantity FB-1: 3
Road numbers FA-1: 4200–4202
Road numbers FB-1: 4300–4302

Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway
Quantity FA-1: 14
Quantity FB-1: 8
Road numbers FA-1: 850A-1,2–860A-1,2, (even) 866A-1,2
Road numbers FB-1: 856B-1,2–860B-1,2 (even), 866B-1,2
Notes: FA's renumbered to 850–867 and FB's to 200–211.

Tennessee Central Railway
Quantity FA-1: 5
Quantity FB-1: 1
Road numbers FA-1: 801–805
Road numbers FB-1: 801B

Union Pacific Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 44
Quantity FB-1: 44
Road numbers FA-1: 1500A–1523A, 1542A–1543A, 1626–1643
Road numbers FB-1: 1524B–1541B, 1618B,C–1642B,C (even)
Notes: 1500A–1523A renumbered 1600A–1623A; 1524B–1541B renumbered 1600B,C–1616B,C (even).

Wabash Railroad
Quantity FA-1: 10
Quantity FB-1: 5
Road numbers FA-1: 1200,A–1204,A
Road numbers FB-1: 1200B–1204B
Total Quantity FA-1: 445, Total Quantity FB-1: 249

FA-2 (cab) and FB-2 (cabless booster) Units
American Locomotive Company - Eastern Demonstrator Set
Quantity FA-2: 2
Quantity FB-2: 2
Road numbers FA-2: 1603A,D
Road numbers FB-2: 1603B,C
Notes: 1603A,B,C,D sold to Chicago and North Western 4103A,B-4104A,B.

Ann Arbor Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 14
Road numbers FA-2: 50,A–56,A
Notes: 4 units to Wabash Railroad in 1964, remainder traded to EMD on GP35's.

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 28
Quantity FB-2: 16
Road numbers FA-2: 801,A–807,A; 819,A- 837,A (odd)
Road numbers FB-2: 801X–807X; 819X-837X (odd), 817AX, 837AX

Canadian National Railways
Quantity FA-2: 25
Quantity FB-2: 15
Road numbers FA-2: 9408–9456 (even)
Road numbers FB-2: 9409–9437 (odd)
Notes: Built by MLW.

Canadian Pacific Railway
Quantity FA-2: 20
Quantity FB-2: 6
Road numbers FA-2: 4042–4051, 4084–4093
Road numbers FB-2: 4465–4470
Notes: Built by MLW.

Consolidated Railways of Cuba
Quantity FA-2: 12
Road numbers FA-2: 1600–1605, 1650–1655

Erie Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 8
Quantity FB-2: 8
Road numbers FA-2: 736A,D–739A,D
Road numbers FB-2: 736B,C–739B,C

Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México
Quantity FA-2: 18
Quantity FB-2: 24
Road numbers FA-2: 6507A–6522A, 6519A (2nd), 6534A
Road numbers FB-2: 6507B–6522B, 6519B (2nd), 6528B-6534B

Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 4
Road numbers FA-2: B34–B37

Louisville and Nashville Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 39
Quantity FB-2: 14
Road numbers FA-2: 300–321, 353–369
Road numbers FB-2: 200–211, 330–331

Lehigh Valley Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 6
Quantity FB-2: 2
Road numbers FA-2: 580–588,592 (even)
Road numbers FB-2: 581,585 (odd)

Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 1
Road numbers FA-2: 331A (2nd)

Missouri Pacific Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 43
Quantity FB-2: 34
Road numbers FA-2: 331–360, 374-386
Road numbers FB-2: 331B–335B, 345B–356B, 370B–386B

New York Central Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 80
Quantity FB-2: 50
Road numbers FA-2: 1044–1123
Road numbers FB-2: 3323–3372

New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
Quantity FB-2: 5
Road numbers FB-2: 0465–0469

Pennsylvania Railroad
Quantity FA-2: 24
Quantity FB-2: 12
Road numbers FA-2: 9608A–9631A
Road numbers FB-2: 9608B–9630B (even)
Secretaria de Comunicaciones de Obras Publicas (SCOP) (Mexico)
Quantity FA-2: 6
Road numbers FA-2: 7121-8–7121-13

Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway
Quantity FA-2: 2
Quantity FB-2: 2
Road numbers FA-2: 868A-1,2
Road numbers FB-2: 868B-1,2
Notes: FA's to 868–869 FB's to 212–213.

Western Maryland Railway
Quantity FA-2: 4
Road numbers FA-2: 301–304
Total Quantity FA-2: 334, Total Quantity FB-2: 194

FCA-3 (cab) and FCB-3 (cabless booster) Units
Quantity FCA-3:  Quantity FCB-3:  Road numbers FCA-3:  Road numbers FCB-3:  Notes:
Pakistan Railways
Quantity FCA-3: 23
Quantity FCB-3: 0
Road numbers FCA-3: DE2001-2023
Notes: Alco exported 14 in 1951 and 9 in 1953.

Units produced by ALCO and the Montreal Locomotive Works (1950–1959)
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
Alco Demonstrator - Western set
Quantity FPA-2: 2
Quantity FPB-2: 2
Road numbers FPA-2: 1602A,D
Road numbers FPB-2: 1602B,C
Notes: sold to Great Northern 278A,B; 279A,B.

Baltimore and Ohio
Quantity FPA-2: 10
Quantity FPB-2: 5
Road numbers FPA-2: 809,A-817,A (odd)
Road numbers FPB-2: 809X-817X (odd)

Canadian National Railways
Quantity FPA-2: 6
Quantity FPB-2: 6
Road numbers FPA-2: 6706–6711
Road numbers FPB-2: 6806–6811
Notes: 2 A and 2 B units rebuilt to 2 FPA4M and 2 FPB4M in 1955, Built by MLW.

Canadian Pacific Railway
Quantity FPA-2: 7
Quantity FPB-2: 2
Road numbers FPA-2: 4082–4083, 4094–4098
Road numbers FPB-2: 4463–4464
Notes: Built by MLW.

Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México
Quantity FPA-2: 18
Quantity FPB-2: 10
Road numbers FPA-2: 6500–6501, 6502A–6506A, 6523A–6533A
Road numbers FPB-2: 6502B–6506B, 6523B–6527B
Notes: Built by Alco and MLW.

Ferrocarril del Pacifico
Quantity FPA-2: 4
Road numbers FPA-2: 901–904
Notes: Built by Alco.
Great Northern Railway
Quantity FPA-2: 2
Road numbers FPA-2: 277A,B
Notes: also purchased Alco 1602A-D.

Lehigh Valley Railroad
Quantity FPA-2: 2
Quantity FPB-2: 2
Road numbers FPA-2: 590, 594
Road numbers FPB-2: 583, 587
Notes: 594 and 583 were used to field test the new 12V-251 engines in 1954-55.
Louisville and Nashville Railroad
Quantity FPA-2: 5
Road numbers FPA-2: 350–352, 383–384

Missouri Pacific Railroad
Quantity FPA-2: 19
Quantity FPB-2: 6
Road numbers FPA-2: 361–373, 387–392
Road numbers FPB-2: 387B–392B
Total Quantity FPA-2: 73, Total Quantity FPB-2: 33

FPA-4 (cab) and FPB-4 (cabless booster) Units
Canadian National Railways
Quantity FPA-4: 34
Quantity FPB-4: 12
Road numbers FPA-4:  6760–6793
Road numbers FPB-4: 6860–6871
Notes: Built by MLW.

Surviving examples
Some 20 units of various designations exist today in a preserved state, all save one of which are owned by railway museums or historical societies. -SEPTA owns one FA-1, but it has no motor and is used as a cab car. -The Illinois Railway Museum owns a former Louisville & Nashville FA-1, which was rebuilt into a cab car by the Long Island Railroad -The Western Maryland Railway Historical Society owns former Western Maryland FA-2 No. 302. -The Railroad Museum of New England owns former New York, New Haven, & Hartford FA-1 No. 0301.

Several excursion railways own operating examples which are in regular service, including MLW units received from Via Rail Canada -The Grand Canyon Railway owns 2 FP4A's, and at least two FB-1s -The Napa Valley Wine Train owns 4 FP4A's. -The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Peninsula, Ohio, owns four FPA-4s, of which three are in operation as of 2008. -Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway No. 866 is undergoing restoration by a private owner in Portland, Oregon. -The Monticello Railway Museum has restored CN 6789, an MLW FPA-4 into operating conditions, and uses it on museum trains. It has been repainted into the green/yellow scheme that CN used early on.

ALCO "World Locomotive"
Alco built the 23 A1A-A1A trucked FCA-3's 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 DL500's used the model 244 engine rated at 1,600 horsepower. Later DL500's 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 DL500's 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) No. 8414, still see daily usage in freight duty is Argentina. A total of 369 DL500 locomotives were built by ALCO, A. E. 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 A.E. Goodwin Ltd. A two cab design went into service on the standard gauge New South Wales Government Railways as the 44 class, 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.

Similar DL500 locomotives were also used in Greece, India, Pakistan, Peru, and Spain.

Popular culture
A February 2014 episode of the TV series The Big Bang Theory, "The Locomotive Manipulation", takes place on a train pulled by what is explicitly described as an "Alco FPA-4".

Type and origin
Power type: Diesel-electric
Builder: Partnership of American Locomotive Company (ALCO) and General Electric (GE); Montreal Locomotive Works
Model: FA-1, FB-1, FA-2, FB-2, FPA-2, FPB-2, FCA-3, FPA-4, FPB-4
Build date: January 1946 – May 1959
Total produced: 1,401

AAR wheel arrangement: B-B, A1A-A1A (FCA-3 only)
UIC class: Bo′Bo′
Gauge: 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in standard gauge
Length: 53 ft 1 in
Locomotive weight: FA-1/FB-1, FA-2/FB-2, FPA-2/FPB-2: 243,000 lbs, FPA-4/FPB-4: 255,000 lbs
Fuel capacity: 1,200 US gal
Prime mover: FA-1/FB-1, FA-2/FB-2, FPA-2/FPB-2: ALCO 244, PA-4/FPB-4: ALCO 251
Engine type: V-12 Four-stroke diesel
Aspiration: Turbocharger
Displacement: 8,016 cu in
Generator: DC generator
Traction motors: DC traction motors GE 726 on GM&O initial order then GE 752
Cylinders: 12
Cylinder size: 9 in × 10.5 in
Transmission: Electric
Locomotive brake: Independent air. Optional: Dynamic
Train brakes: Air

Performance figures
Maximum speed: 65 mph
Power output: Early FA-1/FB-1: 1,500 hp
Late FA-1/FB-1 & all FA-2/FB-2/FPA-2/FPB-2: 1,600 hp
FPA-4/FPB-4: 1,800 hp
Tractive effort: FA-1/FB-1, FA-2/FB-2, FPA-2/FPB-2: 60,875 lbf
FPA-4/FPB-4: 63,750 lbf

Locale: U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan

See also:

Alco PA

Alco Diesel Locomotives

Diesel Locomotives

American Locomotive Company