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Alco: RS-3

Written by Conductor

Reading Alco RS-3 #461 awaits its next assignment at the Bethlehem Engine Terminal

The Alco RS-3 road switcher locomotive was the first type of diesel road switcher locomotive acquired by the Reading.  Assigned the Reading class RS-1 and numbering a total of 67 units, they were the most numerous class of locomotive on the railroad, and could be found performing a variety of duties all over the system.  Many consider the RS-3s to be the "definitive" first-generation Reading diesel.  The first group of Reading RS-3s were numbered 500-509 and were delivered in April, 1951, and entered freight service on the New York Branch between Bridgeport and points in New Jersey.  In July of August of that year, locomotives #510-524 arrived and were used in the same territory.

Late in its career, Reading RS-3 #486 rests in the yard at Pottsville, PA.  Photo courtesy Kim Piersol.

The initial success of this first group led the Reading to order additional in 1952.  RS-3s #496-499 entered service during May, 1952, and were used on crossline freight between Rutherford and Allentown/Bethlehem, occasionally venturing west to Hagerstown, MD.  At the same time, units #460-475 were delivered.  These locomotives were intended for passenger service out of Philadelphia, and were equipped with steam generators.  During the summer of 1952, locomotives #484-495 arrived at Rutherford, replacing N-1 Mallet and I-9 Consolidation steam locomotives operating there, accelerating the demise of steam on the Reading.  The final ten units, #444-450 and #481-483, arrived in October and August 1953, respectively.  These units replaced remaining I-9 and I-10 Consolidation steam locomotives.

Reading Alco RS-3 #486 seen at Sinking Spring, PA, shoving eastbound on the Lebanon Valley Branch.  Photo courtesy Kim Piersol.

Late in its career, Reading Alco RS-3 #486 rests at Pottsville, PA.  Photo courtey Kim Piersol.

The Reading's Alco RS-3s initially operated all over the Reading and Philadelphia Divisions, but did not venture north to the coal regions.  The versatility of the "road switcher" type of locomotive, as opposed to a cab unit such as an EMD F-unit, was proven by the great variety of assignments for these locomotives in their early years:

Abrams:  Yard drill, Philadelphia area branch jobs (Chester Valley, Plymouth), and mainline service to Bound Brook/Port Reading.
Bethlehem Branch:  Local, mainline, and iron ore extra service.
Reading:  Reading & Columbia / Wilmington & Northern through trains, Joanna Turn ore train, yard service.
Rutherford:  Lebanon Valley & Gettysburg branch locals, crossline and mainline freight service.
Philadelphia:  Run-through service on B&O trains to Jersey City.

Passenger service was most frequently the Main Line and North Penn trains to Reading, Pottsville and Bethlehem.

Reading RS-3 #514 in Allentown Yard coupled to a Lehigh Valley northeastern caboose.

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Did You Know?

June 20-23, 1972
The Reading is devastated by Hurricane Agnes; washouts and damage across the system require significant effort to repair, and also hasten the abandonment of marginal branches.


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