RDG Co. ALCO RS-3, Class RS-1, #485

Reading #485 quietly waits her turn for restoration at Leesport yard, April 2003. (photo courtesy Mike Shirk)

Background & History

Locomotive #485 arrived on the Reading in June, 1952, one of 33 ALCO 1600hp RS-3’s purchased during a diesel-buying spree. (Reading bought more of this model than any other road switcher, making its type truly representative of an era on the Reading). It and its siblings were the first “road-switcher” diesel locomotives purchased by the Reading. #485 was initially assigned to Rutherford (Harrisburg) Yard, where it and eleven others replaced ten class N-1sd and I-9sc steam locomotives. It cost the Reading a whopping $164,557.

All Reading RS-3’s were early production units, and are what are commonly called “phase I” units. All were delivered in Pullman green paint; units Nos. 445, 449 and 494 were eventually repainted into yellow and green. Some units, including #485, were delivered with dynamic brakes for freight service, while others came equipped with steam boilers for coach heating.

During the first years of operation, these locomotives were operated only in groups of like units. They were found almost anywhere on the Reading except the Shamokin Division (including passenger service as mentioned above). In later years, they were mixed with almost any locomotives on the roster. One particular job that used almost exclusively RS-3’s for many years were the brutally heavy iron ore trains operating over the Wilmington & Northern Division from Bethlehem Steel’s Grace Mine at Joanna, PA. Although many railroads had mixed results with the ALCO RS-3, the Reading seemed to find it a true workhorse, and a versatile one at that.

In July 1973, #485 was retired from the Reading roster, and sold to United Railway Supply Co. of Montreal. It served for a time on the Roberval & Saguenay RR as #30, then was leased to Domtar Packaging (a huge Canadian paper company). It served as Domtar #68 in cold and remote Red Rock, Ontario, from 1978 to 1987. Eventually its owner, Andrew Merrilees Ltd. of Toronto, retired the unit.

After some confusion and turmoil involving a Canadian historical group which also wanted #485, we were finally able to acquire it in 1993. On October 28, 1996, a volunteer went to Stouffville, Ontario, to examine the locomotive and over the next year, an additional trip was made along with hundreds of phone calls to arrange contract repairs and inspections of the locomotive. Finally it was moved 30 miles to CN’s Macmillan Yard, where additional repairs were made. It arrived at Reading on October 28, 1997, exactly one year after its initial inspection.*

Unfortunately our latest acquistion is not in great mechanical shape, due to its lengthy service in the brutal paper mill environment. The service log from that time describes indignities like a collision with a CN switcher and a total freeze-up of the cooling system. Although it ran when removed from service, its stack was left uncovered, causing rain and snow damage to at least several cylinders and the turbocharger. The unit is complete however, the practical course might be a change-out of both prime mover and main generator. With time, money and your support, it can be returned to service. If you’d like to help make this possible, please consider a donation to help offset the costs of restoration.

Archival Photos

Sister #463 caught idling at Darby Creek, PA, March 1958. (photo courtesy David Nyce, Gary Stuebben Collection)

ALCO RS-3 Specifications (as-built):
Builder: American Locomotive Co., (ALCO), Schenectady, NY Engine model: 244
Date built: June 1952 Type: 4-stroke diesel
Builder’s #: 79944 Aspiration: Turbocharger
Horsepower: 1600 Cylinders: 12 (Vee)
Top speed: 65 m.p.h. Bore x Stroke: 9" x 10.5"
Weight: 248,500 lbs. Displacement: 8,016 c.i. (567 per cylinder)
Tractive effort: 62,125 lbs. Idle Speed: 350 r.p.m.
Length: 56' 0" Max. speed: 1000 r.p.m.
Fuel: 800 gallons Transmission: DC generator, DC traction motors
Lube oil: 200 gallons Brake system: 24-RL
Water: 250 gallons Braking: Air and dynamic
*(info courtesy Reading Diesels, Volume I, The First Generation by Dale Woodland) (last updated: 4/03)