The American Locomotive Company was more successful in the transition from steam to Diesel than either Baldwin or Lima, but it ultimately failed to survive competition with the General Motors juggernaut. The Alco PA passenger locomotive that is shown in the Howard Fogg painting on the cover of this brochure is a good example of why it failed.
Introduced in 1946 (which is presumably the date of this brochure), the PA’s squarish lines clearly distinguished it from the GM E-series locomotives, and its throaty sounds led Trains magazine editor rail historian George Hilton to title it an “honorary steam locomotive.” Yet its performance proved to be inferior to that of GM locomotives such as the E7, which came out in 1945.
Santa Fe, whose paint scheme (originally designed by GM stylist Leland Knickerbocker) is shown in Alco’s brochure, bought 28 PAs and 16 PB units–the second-largest fleet of them after Southern Pacific. Initially, Santa Fe used the Alcos to pull the Chief, but frequent breakdowns led it to relegate them to less time-sensitive secondary trains such as the Grand Canyon. It rarely if ever risked the extra-fare-paying clientele who rode the Super Chief and El Capitan to Alco engines.
Similarly, when Burlington and Western Pacific bought GM locomotives to pull the California Zephyr, Rio Grande went with PAs instead. But it, too, soon transferred the Alco locomotives to secondary trains such as the Yampa Valley Mail while it used GM F units for the California Zephyr in its later years.