RDG Co. ALCO C424, Class RSA-14, #5204

#5204 poses with GP35 #3640 at Lessport Yard, April 2003. (photo courtesy Mike Shirk)

Background & History

Century 424 #5204 is an example of the four-axle ALCO road switchers used by the Reading. It was one of ten locomotives built for the Reading by ALCO in 1963. These were some of the earliest of the C424’s built, and exhibit an early style carbody and straight-sided fuel tank. These were the second group of Reading locomotives painted in the “imitation gold and green” scheme. The units used rebuilt components from Reading model FA-1 locomotives that had been traded in to ALCO.

Reading’s C424’s were mostly used for main line trains, and usually mixed with other makes and models of locomotives. These units continued in service until stored at Reading in the spring of 1975.

With the takeover of operations by Conrail in 1976, all former Reading ALCO locomotives were returned to service. Number 5204 was renumbered 2493 and worked for Conrail, generally in Ohio. By 1979, Conrail retired its ALCO locomotives (click here for the disposition of these units).* In 1980, the 5204 got a new lease on life being completely rebuilt by General Electric at Hornell, NY, in 1980 (still retaining its 16-cylinder engine, rated for 2400hp) and emerging as Green Bay & Western Railroad #322 (Two other ex-Reading units were rebuilt at that time for the Delaware and Hudson–one is now on the Livonia Avon & Lakeville Railroad in NY State, the other was scrapped). Incidentally, dynamic brakes were removed from 5204 during rebuilding, but we happen to have a replacement set.

In 1993, Wisconsin Central Ltd. took over the all-ALCO GB&W. The WC declared the ALCOs un-needed and retired them. Signet Leasing & Financial (#5204’s owner), put the unit up for sale at North Fond du Lac, WI, where we inspected it in 1994. We purchased the unit almost immediately, through the generous donations and loans of Society members and other supporters. The unit was used with ALCO C630 #5308 on an excursion shortly after its arrival in Reading.

In 1995, the unit was briefly moved to the Winchester & Western’s New Jersey Division at Bridgeton, NJ, where it received new front wheels and had its front traction motors and gear cases repaired (see below photos). The engine is currently in good mechanical condition and has been used on subsequent excursions. Still in its modified GB&W scheme, the 5204 will eventually be repainted back to its original Reading yellow/green.


1. Look, Ma! No wheels! The locomotive is on W&W’s neat transfer table for truck work. The locomotive is rolled over the transfer table and jacked up enough to clear the truck. Then a movable section of track is rolled sideways out from under the locomotive, with the truck sitting on it.

2. The truck can then be rolled along a parallel track, providing plenty of space to work. Here, the truck has been rolled back alongside the locomotive and one end hoisted in the air to remove the traction motors. One of the two traction motors from this truck sits in the foreground.

3. Another view of the truck. The circle (which appears an oval) in the middle is the center bearing, where the truck pivots underneath the locomotive.

4. Job completed!

Archival Photos

Sister #5209 in Allentown Yard, May 1975. (photo courtesy Gary Stuebben)

ALCO C424 Specifications (as-built):
Builder: American Locomotive Co.,(ALCO), Schenectady, NY Engine model: 16-251E
Date built: October, 1963 Type: 4-stroke diesel
Builder’s #: 84773 Aspiration: Turbocharger
Horsepower: 2400 Cylinders: 16 (Vee)
Top speed: 70 m.p.h. Bore x Stroke: 9 x 10.5"
Weight: 258,650 lbs. Displacement: 10,688 c.i.
Tractive effort: 64,662 lbs. Idle Speed: 400 r.p.m.
Length: 59' 4" Max. speed: 1025 r.p.m.
Fuel: 2,000 gallons Transmission: DC generator, DC traction motors
Lube oil: 250 gallons Brake system: 26-L
Water: 320 gallons Braking: Air and dynamic
(info courtesy Josh Musser, Reading Railroad Page) (last updated: 4/03)