Alco's RS-27 was both rare and long-lived. Only 27 units were built between December 1959 and October 1962, but two are still running today. On the Minnesota Commercial Railway, where they've been hauling freight for nearly three decades, they uphold the reputation of Alcos as "honorary steam locomotives," belching thick black smoke on acceleration until their turbochargers spool up.
The RS-27 was a transition model for Alco, between the RS-11, which had been its answer to EMD's hugely popular Geeps, and the Century Series, which would prove to be Alco's last stand in the locomotive business. The RS-27 previewed many features of the Century Series, including the low short hood that would become the look of second-generation diesels industry-wide. Power was supplied by a 2400 hp V-16 version of Alco's 251 motor, which offered greatly improved reliability over the earlier, much-maligned model 244.
In January 1960, five demo RS-27s embarked on a tour of 22 railroads. While they performed well, especially in fast freight trials on the New York Central, the railroad industry was in a slump and only one engine was sold that first year. Unfortunately for Alco, 1960 also marked the re-entry of General Electric into the diesel business, with its revolutionary U25B, and the following year EMD answered the challenge with its strong-selling GP30.
In the end, only the Pennsylvania, Soo Line, Chicago & North Western and Green Bay & Western would purchase RS-27s new, with the Union Pacific picking up four of the demonstrators. The largest fleet, Pennsy's 15 RS-27s, would last through Penn Central and Conrail ownership until Conrail retired virtually all of its inherited Alcos in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, RS-27s from other roads would go on to second and third owners.
Pair up one of Alco's final, valiant attempts to stay competitive, with this non-powered RailKing Scale RS-27 with one of our powered units for a realistic lash-up.