Kevin’s Komment’s 06/02/2023

Alaska Railroad RF-1

It seems that one of the topics that creep up during discussions about RS-1s is, “Which end is the front end?” Urban legend has that the RS-1 was first produced when steam was king of the rails (1941). Hence, to match the steam locos, the long hood was the front end. And, the legend continues when pics show the RS-1s leading trains equally with long or short hood forward. “Railroads later began switching the front end to the short hood for the better visibility.” It turns out that the legend is partially true – Yes, the designated “front-end” of a RS-1 is the long hood. However, because the units were switchers with equal travel capabilities in either direction, there was no need for the railroads to turn the engines. Hence, the RS-1 units traveled 50% of the time with the long hood forward, and 50% of the time with the short hood forward.

This pic caught my eye – It didn’t look like any diesel-electric I recognized. The caption listed it as Alaska Railroad (ARR) #1072, an RF-1, pic taken in 1971. At first, searching for ARR RF-1 didn’t provide much info other than there were at least three other of these RF-1 units

This shot of one of the units gives us a clue as to the RF-1’s origins. Note that the above photo shows two axle trucks, and this photo shows 3 axle trucks!

A further note states that #1072 started life as an RS-1! Now my interest is peaked. I don’t know a lot about ALCO RS-1’s, but the club has a few RS units we use on our layouts. So I was up for diving into RS-1 history: The RS-1 was a 4-axle diesel-electric built by ALCO-GE from 1941 to 1953. ALCO continued building RS-1s through 1960, while GE had created their EMD division and after 1953 they went off to other diesel-electric projects. Here’s a typical RS-1

The RS-1 was one of the first hooded units where the cab extended above and beyond the sides of the hoods to increase visibility.  The RS-1 design of hooded locomotives with better visibility set the standard for modern diesel-electrics built by all the major manufacturer’s.  Classified as a road switcher (RS), the RS-1 could travel easily in either direction with near equal visibility in each direction.  The RS-1 had a 19 year production life with a lot of units still in service in the ‘70’s.  Quite a few are still used on short lines and on scenic railways.  Even though ALCO disbanded in 1969, replacement parts continued to be produced by third party manufacturers.  Here’s Pennsylvania RS-1 #9919 at Meadows Yard in Kearny, New Jersey, circa 1967. Fred Byerly photo. American-Rails.com collection.

This RS-1 locomotive was built by ALCO in May 1943, with Builders No. 70817 (Phase II RS-1). The original owner was the CRI&P (Rock Island) Railroad with a Road Number of #743. The pic is taken at the Oklahoma Railway Museum where #743 currently resides.

Still drifting from the original topic (RF-1s), a recent clinic that Monty presented to the club discussed the Multiple Unit (MU) connections of diesel-electrics. Part of his clinic discussed how early first generation diesels did not necessarily have compatible MU connections. Remembering Monty’s presentation, I started wondering whether the RS-1s easily MU’d and if so, was the first unit typically long hood forward, or short hood forward? This turned out to be an interesting question! RS-1s could be set up to MU with other RS-1s. When a railroad purchased a RS-1, part of the manufacturing options were whether to have an MU hookup, and whether to have it on both ends. The PRR ordered around 27 RS-1s across I believe 3 different orders. I believe 8 of them did not have MU capabilities, only 2 of them could MU from either end, and the rest were set up to only MU at the short hood end (back end). Here we see a couple of PRR RS-1s MU’d at the short hood ends (front end forward for both directions!).

Here we see a couple of PRR RS-1s MU’d at the short hood ends (front end forward for both directions!).

Trying to get a little closer to topic, I checked out the Alaska RR RS-1s and found this pic of #1001 and #1000 MU’d like the typical PRR units – back to back. The caption read, “Pictured is ARR RS-1 numbers 1001 and 1000. Photographer Ken Reuben writes, ‘I rode the ARR in April 1945 from Whittier to Anchorage. We were on a three day pass and due back on a Saturday. There was no train to Whittier on Saturdays, but a special was coming down with girls for a dance. Unfortunately, F.D.R. died the day before and the dance was cancelled. So we were AWOL, didn’t get back till Monday.’ Whittier, Alaska, 1944-45.”

Going further into the history of the RS-1s, the first 13 units were built in 1941. Five railroads had put in orders for those units, but before they could be delivered, the army requisitioned them for the war effort. The thirteen units were immediately sent back to manufacturing for a significant modification. The 2 axle trucks were replaced with 3 axle trucks where all 3 axles were powered (a C-C truck arrangement in lieu of the B-B). Hence, the RSD-1 was created. Here’s USA/TC RSD-1 #8015 at Stockton in California in 1948 (Photo: H.L. Goldsmith)

The RSD-1 accomplished two improvements:  1) more tractive effort, and 2) less weight per axle (for use on lighter rails).  At the same time, the 1,000 HP was spread over 6 motors/axles in lieu of 4, so speed and acceleration decreased.  Here’s a pic of former US Army ALCO RSD-1, now owned by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.  Note, as Monty brought up in his clinic, the middle axle is slightly offset to one side to make room for the center axle moto

It turns out that there were two major versions of modified RS-1s: The RSD-1s with the C-C truck arrangement (above), and the RSC-1s where 3 axles trucks were added for better weight distribution, but the center axle was not powered (A1A- A1A truck arrangement). So, on the RSC-1s, speed and tractive effort were more like the RS-1s. Here’s a pic of ARR #1041, an ALCO RSC-1, at the Anchorage engine house 1956.

Getting back to the RF-1s, this is where the plot thickens!  So, the army requisitioned the first (13) RS-1s and turned them into RSD-1s.  They continued to requisition more RSD-1s, sending them all over the world during WWII.  When the war ended, the army began selling off the RSD-1s.  Most remained overseas, but the ones in the US and ones returned to the US were sold to railroads like…Alaska RR.  ARR ended up rostering RS-1s, RSC-1s, and quite a few RSD-1s – some of these purchased from the army.  Here’s a row of ARR RSD-1s led by #1018, built in 1943 as USA #8048.  Pic by Bud Law.

But, Alaska can be a cold place to work. In an effort to protect their crews – especially the maintenance crews, ARR designed a cab style body to fit over the RSD-1 chassis – and the RF-1 was born. Now, this pic starts to make sense!

The new cab style body allowed the maintenance crews to work on the power unit from inside the cab.  But, how come #1072 has 2 axle trucks (a B-B arrangement)?  Weren’t these RSD-1s with a C-C truck arrangement?  Later, ARR changed out the RSD-1 3-axle trucks for a modern roller bearing 2 axle trucks.  (ARR rail was all 90 to 120 lb rail – so plenty heavy enough for the 4 axle weight distribution.)  So…Alaska #1072, an RF-1, started life as a RS-1, built in 1943.  The army requisitioned it and had it modified to an RSD-1 – US Army #8052.  Alaska RR purchased it from the army in 1950 and it became ARR RSD-1 #1023.  They then modified it by shrouding it to an RF-1 and renumbered it #1072.  Later, the trucks were changed out – modern 2-axle roller bearing trucks.  Pic taken in 1971.  #1072 remained in service until it was scrapped in 1973.

ARR RF-1 #1050 had slightly different shrouding.  Looking at #1072 (above) – The Puget Sound Bridge Co. version of the RF-1s had protruding number boards on the nose and a headlight casing flush with the top of the nose.  Plus it had portholes along the side of the body.  This pic of #1050 (modified by International Car) has the number boards above the cab windshield, the headlight is towards the middle of the nose, and there’s no portholes down the sides.  #1050 was never updated with the 2-axle roller bearing trucks – it was the only RF-1 that did not get the new trucks.  Also, the pic of the body being lifted above the chassis was likely #1050 when it was first being shrouded.  #1050 started as Army #8040.  One caption states that the Puget Sound version (like #1072) is a little like a tinplate toy representation of an EMD F7.  International Railway Car & Equipment Manufacturing Co version (photo: Mac’s Foto Service).

#1074 is like #1072 (a Puget Sound Bridge & Dredging Co version).

Here’s another pic of #1074 RF1:  This unit started life as US Army RSD-1 #8036.  Then, it became ARR RSD-1 #1024 when acquired it in 1950.  It was retired 1966-67 and scrapped in 1973.  This photo is of a northbound passenger train at the Anchorage Depot in 1951.  Like the RS-1s, I believe steam generators could be put in the short hood (or the nose in this case) for passenger service.  Another interesting question resides around MU’ing the RF-1s.  If we assume they’re like the RS-1s – that’s what they originated as – then the long end is the front end.  And, it seems that most RS-1s only had MU capability on the back end – the short hood end.  Yet, this pic shows an A and B unit MU’ed at what would be the long hood end (front end…or is it now the back end because it’s an RF-1?).  Either way, the RS-1s ran pretty equally front or back end forward, so the change to short hood forward shouldn’t be a problem for operation.  And I’m sure changing the MU plug to the front end (…or – back end (??)…) also wasn’t a problem.  Note also that this photo reveals that there were RF-1A and RF-1B units.  #1050 also had a B unit – as a pair, they were #1050A and #1050B.  I assume this is #1074A & #1074B.  (For info – most of the A units were shrouded by Puget Sound and International Car.  The B units were all shrouded in the ARR shops.)

And, the last RF-1 I found pics of: ARR #1070. This unit started life as an RS-1, then US Army RSD-1 #8047. Bought by ARR in 1949 it became ARR RSD1 #1022. Conversion to an RF-1 #1070 (by Puget Sound) occurred sometime between 1949 & 1953. And, it got it’s 2-axle roller bearing trucks sometime later. It was scrapped in 1973. This is a 1971 pic at the Anchorage Yard, by Joseph Testagrose.

So an unusual loco pic ended up leading me through the history of one of the most influential diesel-electrics.  The RS-1s ended up leading to the production of RS-2s and RS-3s.  And, I believe there were more RS-2s and 3s sold than RS-1s.  But the 19 year production span of the RS-1s had them still being built after the RS-2 and 3 lines were shut down.  And they continued to thrive after ALCO closed their doors.  When I first saw the pic of the RF-1, I would have never thought it was a dressed up RS-1!

Thx,

Kevin

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