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Alco: Century 430

Written by Conductor

Brand new Reading Alco Century 430 locomotives 5211 and 5212, from the Reading Company 1966 Annual ReportArriving on the property during the summer of 1966, the Reading's two Alco Century 430 locomotives, #5211 and #5212, were the smallest (in quantity) class of second generation diesel locomotives on the railroad.  As 3000 horsepower, 4-axle units, they were a sort of intermediate step between the 2400 HP 4-axle Century 424 locomotives 5201 through 5210, and the 3000 HP 6-axle Century 630s in the 5300 series.

These locomotives were given the rare distinction of being "christened" by the Reading.  As can be seen in the photo at left, #5211 was christened the "Catawissa II," while sister unit #5212 was dubbed the "Old Ironsides II."  In Reading history, the Catawissa was a locomotive that was originally in service on the Little Schuylkill railroad, the early precursor of the Philadelphia & Reading, while Old Ironsides was the first locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, and the first locomotive to operate on the Reading.

These locomotives were used in mainline freight service, primarily on the Allentown-Rutherford crossline and the Bethlehem Branch.  Unfortunately, they were plagued with mechanical problems during their time in service on the  Reading - their reliability clearly did not measure up to their smaller counterparts the C424s or their C630 big brethren.  Although the early "publicity" photos showed them hauling freight as a pair, in actual practice they were paired with other units.  Eventually their recurring mechanical issues and the downturn in traffic in the 1970s sealed their fate, and they were stored out of service (with many of the other Alco units) at Reading in 1975.

MODELING NOTES:  The Reading's two C430s rode on the same AAR-B trucks as the smaller C424s.  All other production C430s used Alco's Hi-Ad truck design; be mindful of this when selecting a commercial model.  Note the single sand filler on the short hood, which is common to the C630s, but different than the C424s, which had two.  Finally, if you're going to model one of these units in HO, note that the Microscale 1960s Reading Diesels decal set includes the lettering for the nameplates below the Reading diamond.  In early 2013, Bowser announced the release of these locomotives in ready-to-run models painted and lettered for the Reading units.

A view of Reading C430 #5211 at Sinking Spring, PA.  Photo courtesy of Kim Piersol. A View of Reading C430 #5212.

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Did You Know?

April, 1957
The famous green "READING LINES" bridge over Shepps Dam on the Reading Belt Line (near Carpenter Steel) enters service.


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