The RS-11 was Alco's answer to the hugely popular Electro-Motive Geep. Alco had, after all, invented the road switcher: a multipurpose engine with great visibility fore and aft, capable of anything from slow-speed switching to full-throttle mainline hauling. And in the late 1940s and early '50s, Alco's pioneering RS-1 and RS-3 had sold well. But Alco's 1600 hp model 244 motor had acquired a reputation for unreliability, and the Electro-Motive GP7 and GP9, copying the road switcher concept, became the runaway best-sellers of first-generation diesels.
One wonders today if Alco's problem was really its motor or EMD's commanding sales lead. Back in World War II, EMD had been the only company permitted to manufacture road diesels, and shop crews nationwide had learned to service the EMD 567 prime mover. Perhaps a lack of familiarity led to lesser-quality maintenance of Alco motors; as evidence, Alco fans today point to the New Haven, an all-Alco railroad that got great service from its Alco fleet while others complained.
In any case, the RS-11 addressed the reliability issue with a new Model 251 V-12 motor, offering 50 more horsepower than the contemporary GP9. At least a dozen Class 1 railroads in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico bought the new engine after it was introduced in 1956. Some used it in passenger service with an optional train heat boiler. Later a low-nose version with better forward visibility was offered. But while the RS-11 was a good locomotive, the race had already been lost. Sales numbered in the hundreds while Geeps sold by the thousands. Some RS-11 orders were simply fallout from EMD's success - when they couldn't make Geeps fast enough, Alco got the overflow orders.
Alco soldiered on for another decade, introducing its Century series of locomotives, but the RS-11 turned out to be the last Alco diesel that sold in significant numbers. In 1969 Alco shuttered its Schenectady locomotive plant and sold its designs to its Canadian cousin, the Montreal Locomotive Works. After many changes in corporate ownership, Alco designs are still alive today in India, where a large number of diesels are powered by descendants of the Alco 251 diesel motor.
New for 2009, the RailKing Scale RS-11 can offer stiff competition for the Geeps and F-units on your railroad - or, like the prototype, you can mix them together in lashups, thanks to Proto-Sound 2.0 technology. Our RS-11 features the distinctive notched-nose look of its prototype, remote Proto-CouplersT front and rear, the authentic chant of an Alco prime mover, and Proto-Speed Control for tremendous pulling power at any speed from a crawl to full throttle.
Did You Know
Experienced engineers loved the road switcher cab because, unlike the new streamliners, it felt like home to them. The crew in a Geep or RS-11 running long hood forward sat near the back of the engine, looking out over the power plant with a lot of machinery between them and any potential collision - just like a steam engine. Even running short hood forward, the engineer's view was out past the engine's nose, similar to a steamer.