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Nostalgia & History > WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine


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Date: 09/16/20 09:20
WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: santafe199

No, I’m not talking about 100 years at Argentine! Although I imagine the thought of seeing this great railfan mecca evolve over a 100 year span would be appealing to just about every railfan on the planet. In late 1968 the father & son “Team Gibson” found and photographed an Alco Century C-636 Demo set at Santa Fe’s hallowed Argentine Diesel Shops complex. From Art’s negatives it appears that only the 636-1 was in a position for a few clear shots. And it was well-covered by their cameras.

Art tells me there were a great many times over the years where he & Bill would be out shooting together. The arrangement was that Art would handle the black & white and Bill would handle the color slides. Any such material used in future slide shows could be credited as a “Gibson photo”. I was fortunate to have seen a precious few of those father/son shows before Bill passed in March 1983. And these slide shows were legendary. They were something an area railfan did NOT want to miss! I’ve affectionately used the term Team Gibson for all such collaborations.

1. & 2. Two angles of ALCO 636-1 sitting in consist with its siblings buried behind the sanding tower apparatus.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/16/20 11:39 by santafe199.






Date: 09/16/20 09:21
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: santafe199

3. Close-up of the 636-1’s cab and lead truck.

4. A rear-quarter shot of the 636-1 gives us a sneak-peek at a Red & Silver U-28-CG sitting there in the dark background.
4 original B/W negatives by “Son” William A. -Art- Gibson (WAG) Jr.






Date: 09/16/20 09:23
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: santafe199

Right now is a real good time for my traditional “just one more”:

5. Alco Century 636-1 Demo in its resplendent 1968 color scheme.
Original Kodachrome slide by “Pop” William A. -Bill- Gibson (WAG) Sr.
(All photos taken December 29, 1968 at Argentine, KS)

Thanks for looking back 52 years!
Lance Garrels (santafe199)
Art Gibson (wag216)





count-down to norman ah bates
blast-off 9-18!




Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/20/20 12:54 by santafe199.




Date: 09/16/20 10:02
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: ironmtn

Outstanding!! Both the B&W and the color -- hard to decide which I like better. These locomotives were not successful in the marketplace, but for we railfans, they were handsome brutes and oh-so-interesting. Right down to those studly, and probably over-engineered trucks. And that demo paint scheme was just plain beautiful. And yup, on reflection, seeing it in color, well.....

I did not know that Santa Fe had looked at the C636 demo units, much less that they made a command performance at Argentine. A Century at Argentine, indeed. Wow.

Thanks, guys, as always. This one is really special.

MC
Muskegon, Michigan



Date: 09/16/20 11:11
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: wabash2800

I've always liked the lines of the Century Series locos.

Victor A. Baird
http://www.erstwhilepublications.com



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/16/20 11:53 by wabash2800.



Date: 09/16/20 11:17
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: gcm

Bright, crisp BW shots !
Oh yeah - great subject matter.
Thanks to the Gibsons and Lance for the scans and info.
Gary



Date: 09/16/20 11:49
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: refarkas

An "A+" set. Both the color image  and the black and white images are historic treasures.
Bob



Date: 09/16/20 15:21
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: skinem

Very nice. Would have been neat to see 'em in blue and yellow. 



Date: 09/16/20 18:07
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: mp51w

If I was a Santa Fe official, I would buy those engines on looks alone!  Ha!



Date: 09/16/20 18:54
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: santafe199

skinem Wrote: > ... Would have been neat to see 'em in blue and yellow ... 

Funny you should mention............ I just got off the horn with Art, who gave me a very interesting tale! And he stressed that this was a 2nd or 3rd hand RR story and could NOT guarantee its accuracy. So you readers venturing beyond this point... Caveat Emptor!!!

Apparently the C-636's traction motor housings had a problem with water and/or moisture retention. Water/moisture would gather in there and short the motors out. Also as the story goes, Santa Fe was very close to purchasing 50 of the C-636s until this problem made itself known. They were having trouble getting the big Alcos across the road (Argentine ~ L. A.) without frequent traction motor failures. Nobody knew how to fix it, so the order was cancelled and the 3 Demos were shipped off to the SP&S, where they lived a productive life. Turns out some talented SP&S mechanical man figured out that if a small hole was drilled at the bottom of the traction motor housings, the water had an "avenue of escape" and the motors quit shorting out.

Again, Art says this story was handed down through a sort of RR grapevine, and part(s) of it my not be totally accurate. But just think: What would an Alco C-636 have looked like in either of SFe's freight schemes... I'm thinking the pre-'72 bookend scheme would have made a C-636 look even more imposing...

Lance/199



Date: 09/16/20 19:43
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: cr7998

Lance - There must be some truth to the story about the water shorting out the traction motors on these big Alco's.  I heard something similar from a mechanical engineer who worked for the N&W and who was also a bit of a railfan.  He said it was a design defect that allowed rainwater to get into the traction motors, something that Alco should have fixed before the demonstrators left the plant.  It's hearsay, but from someone who knew a great deal about locomotives.  

Steve Salamon
Valley City, OH



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/16/20 19:45 by cr7998.



Date: 09/16/20 19:53
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: bluesman

Just outstanding photos! Thanks for posting.
So sad the ALCO failed to get those units working well before the demo trips. Had they worked well there is a chance ALCO may have sold some more and survived a few more years.



Date: 09/16/20 20:32
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: skinem

santafe199 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> skinem Wrote: > ... Would have been neat to see
> 'em in blue and yellow ... 
>
> Funny you should mention............ I just got
> off the horn with Art, who gave me a very
> interesting tale! And he stressed that this was a
> 2nd or 3rd hand RR story and could NOT guarantee
> its accuracy. So you readers venturing beyond this
> point... Caveat Emptor!!!
>
> Apparently the C-636's traction motor housings had
> a problem with water and/or moisture retention.
> Water/moisture would gather in there and short
> the motors out. Also as the story goes, Santa Fe
> was very close to purchasing 50 of the C-636s
> until this problem made itself known. They were
> having trouble getting the big Alcos across the
> road (Argentine ~ L. A.) without frequent
> traction motor failures. Nobody knew how to fix
> it, so the order was cancelled and the 3 Demos
> were shipped off to the SP&S, where they lived
> a productive life. Turns out some talented
> SP&S mechanical man figured out that if a small
> hole was drilled at the bottom of the traction
> motor housings, the water had an "avenue of
> escape" and the motors quit shorting out.
>
> Again, Art says this story was handed down through
> a sort of RR grapevine, and part(s) of it my not
> be totally accurate. But just think: What would
> an Alco C-636 have looked like in either of SFe's
> freight schemes... I'm thinking the pre-'72
> bookend scheme would have made a C-636 look even
> more imposing...
>
> Lance/199
 Another intersting tale on TO. Either would have been great, but I kind of lean towards the yellow bonnet version.



Date: 09/16/20 20:50
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: monaddave

santafe199 Wrote:
<< But just think: What would an Alco C-636 have looked like in either of SFe's freight schemes... <<

And then a rebuild program as Santa Fe was famous for, and then... oh never mind. Thanks for relaying Art's story!
Dave in Lake County... Montana



Date: 09/16/20 21:09
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: ExSPCondr

cr7998 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Lance - There must be some truth to the story
> about the water shorting out the traction motors
> on these big Alco's.  I heard something similar
> from a mechanical engineer who worked for the N&W
> and who was also a bit of a railfan.  He said it
> was a design defect that allowed rainwater to get
> into the traction motors, something that Alco
> should have fixed before the demonstrators left
> the plant.  It's hearsay, but from someone who
> knew a great deal about locomotives.  
>
> Steve Salamon
> Valley City, OH

We should stop and think about this story for a minute before we repeat it!  GE made the electrical systems for ALCo, including the traction motors, and the housing is part of the traction motor, it holds the field windings.

If the C-630 and C-636s had trouble with water in their traction motors, GE's U series that had the exact same traction motors would have had the same problem.

The SP's 15 C-630s all had to go back to ALCo to have steel caps put on their aluminum pistons, and that soured the SP on ALCo, they never bought another one.



Date: 09/16/20 22:48
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: Evan_Werkema

santafe199 Wrote:

> Apparently the C-636's traction motor housings had
> a problem with water and/or moisture retention.
> Water/moisture would gather in there and short
> the motors out. Also as the story goes, Santa Fe
> was very close to purchasing 50 of the C-636s
> until this problem made itself known. They were
> having trouble getting the big Alcos across the
> road (Argentine ~ L. A.) without frequent
> traction motor failures.

McMillan's Route of the Warbonnets has photos and an extended caption about the C-636 demonstrators' tour of the Santa Fe.  There were just four test runs with the units over Santa Fe rails in December 1968 and January 1969, and three of them ended in road failures.  After the fourth failure, Santa Fe repaired the demos at Barstow and turned them over to SP at Los Angeles.  Given that record, it's hard to believe Santa Fe was seriously contemplating an order for 50 units, especially since they hadn't bought an Alco since the RSD-15's nearly a decade earlier (the pair of C-424's on half-owned subsidiary TP&W don't count).

> Nobody knew how to fix
> it, so the order was cancelled and the 3 Demos
> were shipped off to the SP&S, where they lived
> a productive life.

The demos eventually toured the SP&S and did generate orders from that Alco-friendly road, but the demos themselves never graced the SP&S roster.  Their next owner after Alco was Morrison-Knudsen:

https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?11,779163

All three eventually went to the Cartier in Quebec and became some of the last C-636's in regular service.  Two of them subsequently went to the Western New York & Pennsylvania, but suffered freeze damage in 2007 and were reportedly cut up around 2015.



Date: 09/17/20 08:52
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: santafe199

Thanks guys, for all of the comments & various corrections to the story. This is why Art stressed the idea that his story details may not be totally accurate. And this also showcases why TO is such a great railfan website...

Evan_Werkema Wrote: > ... Route of the Warbonnets has photos and an extended caption about the C-636 demonstrators' tour of the Santa Fe ...
I had completely forgotten about the C-636 material in Route of the Warbonnets. I was probably still in Montana the last time I had the book open for anything other than a quick browse...

Lance



Date: 09/17/20 09:39
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: wag216

Many Thanks to all who Loved the Alcos. wag216 (some times my 84 years old  brain does not  even remember who I am- lol,lol)



Date: 09/17/20 10:06
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: SilverPeakRail

I agree with the poster who noted that the GE 752 Traction Motor was common to GE and Alco locomotives, and quite dependable.  If there was a shorting of the motors due to a moisture issue, I suspect it may be traced to the configuration of the traction motor vent ducts or blowers, which are probably unique to this model.  Another possibility is that GE did something different in the field winding insulation system to save money and it may have bit them.  I have had first hand experience with traction motor builders who substituted insulating materials to save cost and it resulted in grounds after a very short service life.  That would definitely a foolish move on a demonstrator you want to to use to sell more, but then there was the piston issue in the otherwise reliable 251 engines on those units.



Date: 09/17/20 11:32
Re: WAG Wednesday: a Century at Argentine
Author: wabash2800

IMO, I think what makes the Century Series look great is the same for the Alco PA. There are the size and detail features that assert brute power. But at the same time, there are enough curves to exhibit beauty. Automobile manufacturers take note. Wedges on wheels and all straight lines are not beauty, IMO. They had something when they made classic muscle cars in the 60s.

Victor A. Baird
http://www.erstwhilepublications.com



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/17/20 14:54 by wabash2800.



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