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The RS-11 was Alco’s answer to the hugely popular Electro-Motive Geep. Alco had, after all, invented the road switcher: a multipurpose engine with great visibility fore and aft, capable of anything from slow-speed switching to full-throttle mainline hauling. And in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, Alco’s pioneering RS-1 and RS-3 had sold well. But Alco’s 1600 hp model 244 motor had acquired a reputation for unreliability, and the Electro-Motive GP7 and GP9, copying the road switcher concept, became the runaway best-sellers of first-generation diesels.
One wonders today if Alco’s problem was really its motor or EMD’s commanding sales lead. Back in World War II, EMD had been the only company permitted to manufacture road diesels, and shop crews nationwide had learned to service the EMD 567 prime mover. Perhaps a lack of familiarity led to lesser-quality maintenance of Alco motors; as evidence, Alco fans today point to the New Haven, an all-Alco railroad that got great service from its Alco fleet while others complained.