• Psychology/aesthetics question regards the C-628

  • 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 Allen Hazen
Why does the C-628 look so long?

The November 2005 (65th anniversary) issue of "Trains" reprinted a broadside view of a D&H C-628 that originally appeared in an "all diesel issue" in the 1960s, with text emphasizing how big the unit would have seemed to contemporary observers. And, in fact, the C-628 has long seemed to me to LOOK longer than most other units.

Part of the story is that it IS long: over two feet longer than a (1967 series) GE six-motor unit, almost four feet longer than an SD40/SD45. And the length of the long hood is in keeping: distance from rear cab wall to end of long hood is maybe 20" more on a C-628 than on a U30C (rough estimate based on measuring HO scale drawings).

But this isn't the whole story. The GE C-boats have a higher deck than the Alco Centuries, so the distance from walkway to hood top is actually slightly less in the GE unit: in terms of shape, this should partially compensate for the Century's hood-length when it comes to visual impression of LOOONNNNG!

At a guess, part of the impression is due to the UNINTERRUPTEDNESS of the C-628's expanse of long hood. After all, the C-630 and C-636 are the same length, but they don't LOOK as long: the big aftercooler box stops the eye as it sweeps along the hood. EMDs have all those prominent roof-top fans to interrupt the sweep. And the radiator compartment on a U30C, separated from the rest of the long hood by a visible increase in width, breaks the hood into two visual blocks.

So why does a C-628 look so long? Partially visual illusion. Also, of course, it (& other six-motor Centuries) IS longer than almost any other single-engine unit built before the 1980s (exception: EMD units built on the SDP45 frame).

  by N. Todd
But couldn't the C636s make sharper curves than the U-boats and SD40/5?

  by Allen Hazen
N. Todd--
I don't know. Since the units overall length and length between truck centers are both greater than those of the contemporary GE and EMD units, I would be surprised if their behavior on curves was really better. (Stated minimum radii for curves are extremes: curves to be taken only at low speed. Maybe there was some difference in the Alco design -- ?? sideplay on axles ?? that made the Centuries better at taking sharp corners on yard trackage, maybe the Alco spec. writers were just more optimistic. I don't know, would be happy to hear from anyone who does.)

The trucks used on the M-series (the so-called "Dofasco" truck) has a very short wheelbase. I believe this was intended to allow better performance on curved -- and generally bad -- track. There was input from CN's technical people in the design, and CN had inherited a lot of badly engineered trackage from its predecessor lines.

  by trainiac
Several feet longer than SD40 + no end 'porches' + smooth roofline + very short nose = a long-looking locomotive!

I recall reading somewhere that part of the goal of the Century series was to un-cram things a bit under the hood. Certainly possible in the C-628! In fact, most (all?) had a substantial section of empty space under the hood behind the cab, which was designed for an optional steam generator.

  by N. Todd
Uhkay... I don't know much about radii, but here's what I have concerning the three competitiors:
SD45 U36C C636
single 23° 21° 21°
multiple 30° 21° 25°
bolsters 40' 40'11 41'10*
wheelbase 53'7 54'6 55'1 7/16

*Center axles: 41'11 11/16"
SD45 bolster centered on axle, C636 11/32" inward from center axle

Note the C-636's odd dimensions- just about everything (not literally) is in 8ths, 16ths, and 32nds of an inch: inner–inner axles: 27'11 7/16; coupler pulling faces – outer axle: 7'2 9/32", certainly they were not built that precise back then but still very odd.

  by Typewriters
You might note that on the Century 628, the dynamic brake resistors and blower are located in that space behind the cab, if ordered. The intake is located only on the left side (assuming short hood lead) so that, from the right, you would not know whether or not the unit had dynamic braking.

Yes -- there was an exception, in which some very late units built for NdeM used the same type of rooftop dynamic brake grid/blower setup used on the four-axle Centuries, in order to allow fitting of both dynamic brake and steam generator. (These also had the late C-430/C-630/C-636 style cab front if I recall correctly.)

-Will Davis

  by EDM5970
Having been under the hood on both RS-11s and C-420s, there is a bit more room on the latter. The RS-11 had quite a bit of equipment packed into a not terribly large space. IIRC, the only Century designed for a steam generator behind the cab was the 628. There isn't room there on a 420; the LIRR and Monon 420s had high short hoods to house the boilers.

Quite simple, actually, the Alco C-628's were designed as a "modern" replacement for existing passenger units, of the era, and a very large room was included, directly behind the electrical cabinet/firewall, for placement of a steam generator/boiler, for train heat, which was never utilized. The railroads weren't keen on the idea of spending money on passenger service, which washed most roads books with gallons of red ink. The C-628's were not utilized as passenger units, and the experiment ended, with that particular model line. Regards :-D

  by tgibson

My Alco Century Roster shows that C628's CH-P 904 and NdeM 8322-31 were equipped with steam generators (no FCP examples are listed, but more info welcomed). So there were a few.


The later C630 and C636 didn't have room for a steam generator, and I assume that Alco thought that C628 would fill that roll if anyone wanted it.

Take care,

  by Typewriters
Thanks, Tom! My memory isn't faulty after all. -Will Davis

  by Tadman
How was the C628 as a locomotive? I know N&W used them for a while hauling coal, then sold them to CNW and they hauled ore with them - must have been a half decent locomotive at least. Also, anybody know what happened to the fleet of 628's after the retire/replace by SD50's?

  by Alcoman
The C&NW was very quick to scrap locomotives or trade them in to EMD.
I tried to save a NYC RS-32 once . It was already at the scrapper(Pielet Bros.) by the time I found out they were trading them in.

  by N. Todd
From what I recall, they sat up in Michigan for a few years until they were sold in bulk to a scrap dealer in 1991. All met the torch, no survivors.
Well, almost 1991. I find it surprising that they lasted that long anyway. Too bad one of them wasn't saved.
Two or three went to NRE at Dixmoor or Mt. Vernon.
The vast majority, as stated above were sold to Pielet... however the resulting cash was used to help finance the purchase of new GE C40-8Ws, IIRC.
One was cut up for parts by an unknown metal company around 1984; two or three were t/i to EMD two years later and were scrapped by St. Louis Auto Shredding...