The Century series was Alco's last stand. Like Baldwin's Shark-nose diesels a decade before, the Century lineup, introduced in 1963, was a final attempt by one of America's big three steam builders to stay relevant in the diesel market. Just three years earlier, former Alco partner General Electric had inaugurated the second generation of diesel power with its innovative U25B, and would soon usurp Alco as the number two firm in the locomotive business - a business dominated by an auto maker. With its back against the wall, Alco resorted to sheer muscle to try to win new orders.
In the early 1960s, the generation of engines that had dieselized America was beginning to wear out. As manufacturers marketed second generation replacement power, one of their key selling points was "unit reduction" - replacement of lower-power first generation units with a smaller number of new, higher-power units. When it introduced the Century series with the C-628 ("Century series, 6-axle, 2800 hp"), Alco's salesmen could rightfully boast they were selling "the most powerful single engine diesel locomotive ever built in the United States."
In an attempt to address dependability issues that had dogged earlier Alco diesels, Alco's designers incorporated numerous reliablity improvements into the Century series - including pressurized air circulation in the engine room to keep out dirt (an idea pioneered on GE's U-boats) and a claimed 8 years between major engine overhauls. Alco's salesmen boasted the C-series would cut operating costs by a whopping 44% versus a 10-year-old engine.
In 1965, when they upped the ante with the 3000 hp C-630, Alco still offered a more powerful locomotive than either of its rivals, GE and EMD. The C-630 gained 200 extra horsepower not with a larger engine, but with an advanced traction alternator supplied by its rival GE. Visually, the key difference from the earlier C-628 was a pronounced hump in the C-630's roof, housing an aftercooler radiator that enhanced performance.
Unfortunately, however, in less than a year the C-630 had serious competition: EMD's 3000 hp SD40 and GE's equally powerful U30C. It didn't help that the C-630 was a beast, 4' longer and 30 tons heavier than the SD40, and thus much tougher on track. EMD's offer turned into a best-seller, with over 1200 units sold, while the U-30C sold a respectable 600 engines - and Alco's salemen moved just 133 units in the U.S. and Canada. Four years after the C-630 debuted, Alco shuttered its Schenectady locomotive plant and sold its designs to its Canadian cousin, the Montreal Locomotive Works. But after many changes in corporate ownership, Alco designs are still alive today in India, where a large number of diesels are driven by descendants of the same Alco 251 diesel motor that powered the Century series.
Bring the brute strength of the C-630 to your layout with this first-ever RailKing Scale model. Listen to the chant of an Alco prime mover, haul heavy tonnage like the prototype at speeds from a crawl to full throttle, and even double- or triple-head with any combination of M.T.H. diesels - all thanks to Proto-Sound 3.0.