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ALCO S-2 - NASA No. 1


No. 1 at the museum in 1997. Photo by G Gerard.

Interesting facts

The S-2 (the "S" stands for "switcher") was the American Locomotive Company's most successful diesel-electric locomotive: between 1940 and 1950, 1,505 were built, 1,465 at ALCO's works in Schenectady and 40 at its subsidiary the Montreal Locomotive Works in Canada.

No. 1 was the first locomotive placed in service by the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it was employed to move spacecraft components and chemical fuels on the Space Center property.

Built in 1965, NASA's two 2,750 ton crawler vehicles, used to move rockets between the Vehicle Assembly Building and launch pads at Cape Canaveral, are also powered by two ALCO 2750 hp V16 diesel engines. When built, the crawlers were the world’s largest self-powered land vehicles.


Above, NASA No. 1 in the museum yard in 2005. Photo by Virgil Fitzpatrick.


No. 1 was one of 23 S-2 units built for the U.S. Department of Defense by ALCO in 1943. It was originally numbered 7102, and worked at the Richmond Quartermaster Depot in Virginia. In the late 1970s, it was one of three U.S. Army S-2s transferred to the NASA Railroad.

In 1963, the Florida East Coast Railway built a 7½ mile connection from its mainline just north of Titusville, FL to join NASA track at a junction called Wilson’s Corners. The 38 mile NASA Railroad was also built by the FEC in 1963. East of Wilson Corners, the line divides, with a 9 mile branch south to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building and the Kennedy Space Center Industrial Area, and another 9 mile branch goes east to the NASA launch pads and an interchange with U.S. Air Force track. The primary traffic on the NASA Railroad consists of solid rocket booster segment cars, each car delivering a 32 foot long, 12 foot diameter, 150 ton quarter segment of the two booster rockets used on the space shuttle.


No. 1 at the museum in 2007. Photo by Eric Kreszl.

The Florida East Coast initially provided track maintenance, crews and locomotive power for arriving and departing traffic but, because of its hazardous operational nature, NASA bought the line in June 1983 and proceeded to upgrade it. That year, NASA also bought three EMD SW-1500 switchers built in 1968 and 1970 from the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway to replace its aging S-2s. No. 1 was then donated to the Museum. The locomotive is operational and is occasionally used to position Museum rail equipment and can sometimes be seen giving Cab Rides on the property on weekends.

The S-2 was the 1000 hp outgrowth of a series of prototype and production end-cab switchers built by ALCO during the 1930s (the S-1 was the 660 hp version). Sinking the 539 engine into an opening in the center of the underframe allowed reduction of the hood height by 2 foot 3 inches, improving crew visibility and bringing the design into line with its main competitors built by EMD and Baldwin. The radiator assembly was also relocated to the front of the hood, and the generator was reversed to keep short piping runs to the radiator assembly. The new design had excellent low speed performance under heavy loads, and proved highly competitive in the market in the 1950s.


Status: On Display, Restored, Operational.
Acquisition Date: 1983.
Built: ALCO 1943.
Serial: 70220.
Weight: 229,700 pounds.
Length: 44 feet 5 inches.
Height to Top Engine Hood: 12 feet 1 inch.
Height to Top of Cab: 14 feet 5 inches.
Horsepower: 1000.
Engine: 6L 4-cycle Model 539T.
Main Generator: GE-GT553
Auxiliary Generator: GE SMG139.
Traction Motors: Four GE 731.
Trucks: Two 4-Wheel.
Truck Wheelbase: 8 feet.
Wheel Diameter: 40 inches.
Configuration: B-B.
Air Brake as Built: Westinghouse 14EL.
Compressor: Westinghouse 3CD.
Starting Tractive Effort: 69,000 @ 30%.
Continuous Tractive Effort: 29,200 lbs @ 6 mph.
Top Speed: 60 mph.

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