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Alco: RS-3

Written by Conductor

Reading Alco RS-3 #494 was one of three units painted into the yellow-and-green scheme. 

During their initial years of service on the Reading, the RS-3s only operated in matched sets, though from 1956 until the end of their careeers they could be seen MU'd with any other type of Reading locomotive.  However, the Joanna Turn, Bethlehem Branch ore extras, and Bridgeport-Port Reading extras were only assigned "pure" sets of RS-3s.  In later years, the RS-3s could also be seen on the Shamokin Division, working the various mine turns and branch jobs in the region.

Reading RS-3 #449 was the only unit to receive the 1970s "Reading Green" paint scheme.Three of the Reading's RS-3s, #445, 449 and 494, were repainted in the 1960s yellow-and-green paint scheme.  Later on in 1972, #449 was painted in the "Reading Green" scheme, making it the only RS-3 (and only first generation road locomotive) to have worn all the Reading's paint schemes.  #445 and #449 were often seen powering the Joanna Turn iron ore train on the Wilmington & Northern branch between the Grace Mine at Joanna and the Bethlehem Steel facilities in Bethlehem.  The RS-3s were eventually replaced by GP40-2s on this job.  Toward the end of their service, RS-3s were also used in yard service at various locations on the system.  In addition, with the end of locomotive-hauled passenger trains, the passenger RS-3s were released to freight service as well.  The RS-3s were incredibly versatile and performed a broad range of service during their time on the Reading, and roughly half the fleet went on to serve other owners after being retired by the railroad.

MODELING NOTES:  Inclusion of several RS-3s would be appropriate for any Reading layout, as this was a very numerous class of locomotive that eventually operated all over the system.  The preceding text describes operational patterns and assignments throughout their service, so bear that in mind when planning your operations.  With regard to the locomotives themselves, there are a few details that will really make your RS-3s stand out.  First, note the marker lights on the long hood.  Also, take note of the location of the radio antennas and the air horns from the photos.  Pay attention to the orientation of the stack as well - intially, the units were delivered with an air-cooled turbocharger, which had the stack mounted lengthwise (i.e. parallel to the long hood).  The Reading changed to a water-cooled turbo in 1954, and moved the stacks to a crosswise (perpendicular to the hood) orientation at the time.  Finally, note the headlights.  Most units' twin headlights were oriented horizontally; however, a few were mounted vertically, and at least one unit had a single headlight!  It's always best to work from prototype photographs when placing details of this sort.  Nevertheless, the RS-3s are the quintessential Reading first-generation diesel, and you can't go wrong including several on your roster!

Today's Image

Did You Know?

January 1, 1955
The Reading begins Trailer-on-Flatcar (TOFC) service between Philadelphia and Chicago in cooperation with the WM, P&WV, and NKP (the "Alphabet Route").


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