The American Locomotive Company, one of the nation's premier steam locomotive builders, joined forces with Schenectady, New York neighbor General Electric to build the first standardized diesel-electric locomotives in the 1920s. But when the diesel revolution began in earnest after World War II, dependability problems with Alco's model 244 prime mover doomed the company to forever playing second fiddle to industry leader EMD.
The brawny good looks of Alco's FA and PA cab units, however, have endeared them to railfans and modelers for more than half a century. Many would argue that Alco's FA-1 and successor FA-2 diesels were both handsomer and more powerful looking than their major competitors, EMD's F3 and F7 "covered wagons." A signature feature of Alco cab units was the striking ribbed grille surrounding the headlight.
While Alco FA's were sold primarily as freight haulers, they did have room for a passenger-service steam generator at the rear of the engine compartment. Compared with the FA-1, the FA-2 was slightly longer to accommodate a larger steam generator and just a bit more powerful, developing 1600 hp. Alco built FA-2s and cabless FB-2 boosters from 1950 through 1956.
Did You Know? The FA was Alco's response to the overwhelming success of General Motors' F-3 diesel. Though similar in appearance, the F-3 was still the best selling diesel of all time with over 1800 manufactured between 1945 and 1949.