• Alco C-430's vs. 4 axles GE's

  • Discussion of products from the American Locomotive Company. A web site with current Alco 251 information can be found here: Fairbanks-Morse/Alco 251.
Discussion of products from the American Locomotive Company. A web site with current Alco 251 information can be found here: Fairbanks-Morse/Alco 251.

Moderator: Alcoman

  by trainwayne1
After recently re-reading an old Vintage Rails (March/April 1999) article by Ed King about the traction problems of the 4 axle GE B-30's and B-36's on the ACL/Family Lines, I wondered if anyone on here would have knowledge of how the C-430's faired, traction wise, in comparison. The writer said that on flat or light grades, the GE's were fine, but on any kind of heavier grades they were terrible, and that was multiplied on wet rail. The only 430's I ever saw personally were on the NYS&W in the mid 80's, and they seemed fine with the stack trains running through my hometown of Butler, NJ on the way up a 7 mile grade. I know the Alcos had unique trucks....did that make big difference?
  by Allen Hazen
The New York Central ran comparison tests of GE U30B, Alco C430, and some off-brand thing called a GP40, using (i.i.r.c.) hoppers full of ballast as test trains, on some hilly branch line in I think upstate New York. Tests and outcome are described in a C430 article (by Steve McMillan, if I haven't confused names in memory) in "Diesel Era" magazine, description repeated in the "Alco 4 Axle Century Models" (or some such title) book put out by the publishers of "Diesel Era." (Sorry not to have more precise bibliographical data: I've just moved house, can probably find things in a few days if nobody else writes in with the details....)

From memory: In an initial trial, the C430 didn't seem particularly distinguished, and Alco spent a couple (?) of months fine-tuning the wheelslip control system. When the tests were repeated afte this, the U30B managed to climb the hill with the heaviest load, but the Alco was significantly faster with a slightly lighter train, suggesting perhaps that just above stalling speed it was a bit more successful at turning horsepower into tractive effort. (The GP40 also did quite well on these tests: its shoddy, off-brand, traction motors apparently didn't affect its short-term ability to lug too badly, though on a longer hill its motors might have fried faster than the 752s on the U30B and C430. Grin!)

... In principle, the Alco-designed "Hi-Ad" trucks used under the C430 ***COULD*** have been used on GE locomotives (after all, they were designed to fit the same center plate on an Alco locomotive's underbody as the Commonwealth truck used on most 4-axle GE U-series). I don't know who owned the patents for the truck design, but I would think (hey, a little money is better than none at all!) they would have been willing to license it to GE after Alco went out of business: neither GE nor any of the railroads buying U18/23/30/33/36B locomotives seem to have thought the Hi-Ad was ENOUGH better to make this worth while. (That's a HINT to model railroaders with a taste for "alternative history" prototypes!)
  by trainwayne1
Thanks for the info Allen.....One thing I forgot to mention was that the SCL's U-33B's and U-36B's were delivered with Blomberg trucks from traded in F and FP7's. Although they were 3600 HP they were rated on a 1% grade for the same tonnage (2050 tons) as a C-430 or a GP-30,35, or GP-40. I remember reading that the ex NYC C-430's were used by the PC out of Mingo Jct. along with a mix of just about any other kind of Alco in ore service, and they performed pretty well.
  by Super Seis
FYI, GE & ALCO had the SAME wheelslip equipment, although GE might have used a SSBV. 430 had high speed (81:22) gearing-as perhaps did the U30.

  by Allen Hazen
There's a nice short history of GE's wheelslip control in the U-series era in the "files" section of Will Davis's "Locomotive Enthusiasts" site:

There seems to have been almost continuous improvement, and it sounds as if much of it was proprietary: even if Alco and GE used the same equipment (plausible for electronic stuff, and GE seems to have been phasing out the air-operated SSBV by the time the U30B came along) there may have been different settings possible. EMD apparently introduced their IDAC wheelslip control about a year after introducing their 645-engined series (so: maybe about the same time the U30B was introduced), and (though it pains me, as a GE fan, to have to admit this (Grin!)) it seems to have been superior to what GE was using at the time: GE subsequently went to more IDAC-like technology. (So: a late-production U30B would probably have been noticeably better in this department than New York Central's 1967 units.)