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First Look Review
HO scale
ALCO S-2 Locomotive
ALCO S-2 Locomotive
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

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At the end of 2013 Atlas Model Railroad Co., Inc. released a brand new model in HO, the ALCO S-2 Locomotive, part of their top–of–the–line Master Line series. This review is of an Atlas Master™ Silver Series version of the iconic switcher ("Shunter" to our UK friends). The Silver selection features the high detail of the Gold Series but without a DDC decoder and sound, yet DCC Ready. (The Master™ Series Gold features electronic Dual-Mode® Decoder (e-DMD) that allows your locomotive to run in DCC or traditional DC, plus a QSI® Quantum System™.)

This sample S-2 is item 10 001 899, Rio Grande No.111.
    Built by the American Locomotive Company (Alco) the low-hood S-2 was introduced in 1940 to replace Alco’s earlier high-hood switchers. The 1000 horsepower S-2 was a turbocharged version of the S-1. There were 1,502 S-2s sold to North American Railroads. The versatility of the S-2s was evidenced by their service on class 1 shortline and industrial railroads. Atlas’ version is back in service, with new tooling, as well as a sound-equipped version for modeler enjoyment. - Atlas

For a more comprehensive history, please see The Alco S2 at the end of this review.

Master™ Silver Series S-2 Locomotive
Atlas securely packs this model in a telescoping lid-tray carton. The lid has a clear sheet viewing window to display the model. Inside, the model is secured in a three-piece plastic cradle which is different from previous rigs I have encountered; the third piece is a hard plastic base to which the locomotive is secured by two screws. Each end is buttressed by foam blocks. Thus it can not shift about and scuff. It is also unlikely to topple out of the cradle if one handles it clumsily. The screws secure the loco by the battery box/fuel tank.

This model is striking even in the box. The styrene shell is sharply molded and detailed with molded-on/in hood access doors with hinge and latch detailing, radiator cooling grilles, rivet detail and such.

Atlas made this model a cast metal chassis frame (for weight) and an injection molded body shell, detailed with plastic and metal parts, with plastic frames on metal trucks and wheels. It is further equipped with AccuMate® knuckle couplers. Inside the body are the motor, dual flywheel drive shafts and electrical suite.

Detail Features
What does this model offer the discriminating modeler?
    * NMRA 8-Pin Socket for DCC
    * Redesigned & retooled hood, cab & chassis
    * The first plastic HO-scale model of an S-2 Locomotive to include accurate body panel details
    * Option for horizontal or vertical radiator shutters
    * Fine scale handrails
    * Separately-applied grab irons, coupler cut levers, air hoses, piping, etc.
    * Redesigned truck frames with separately applied detail
    * Directional LED lighting (includes cab rear headlight)
    * Die-cast chassis for improved pulling performance
    * Chassis retooled for optional DCC/sound
    * 5-pole skewed armature motor for reliable operation
    * Dual-flywheels for maximum performance at all speeds
    * Factory-equipped with AccuMate knuckle couplers

This model has no a crewman in the cab to liven it up. Unfortunately you can see wiring in the cab.

Detail molded onto the the styrene shell is sharply defined: hood access doors with hinge and latch detailing; rivet detail.

Enhancing the visual authenticity of this 'yard goat' (switching locomotive) are many individual applied detail pieces:
    Air Line
    Coupler Cut Levers
    Exhaust Stack
    Foot Steps
    Fuel Filler Neck
    Grab Irons
    Handrails And Stanchions
    Lift Rings
    Number Boards
    Piping (L & R)
    Poling Pockets
    Roof Walk

The blunt trucks have the brake cylinders molded to the sideframes. They look respectable but not as good as if they were separately molded and individually applied.

Some D&RGW S2s had firecracker antennas atop the cab. See Click here for additional images for this review at the end of this review for photos of D&RGW S2s - including D&RGW 111 in 1965. That photo shows an interesting detail item - glass lenses reflectors along the sill; Atlas included these but only by painting them on. (I wondered what those were?) It would not be difficult to improve these with careful drops of clear glue over the circles.

I measured the model and it scales out to the prototype of 41 1/2 feet (pilot to pilot). It weighs 9.7 ounces so it should be able to haul some (scale) tonnage.

Livery and documentation
Denver & Rio Grande Western was fairly reserved with their switcher livery. Work-a-day black was the overall color. Yet they did splash it up with yellow lettering, numbering, and safety stripes. D&RGW S2s were numbered 101-119. This model is D&RGW 111 with "speed lettering". The paint is smooth and opaque and does not obscure detail. The alphanumerics and striping are sharply printed. What little data stenciling there is is legible: WARNING AUTOMATIC SHUTTERS KEEP CLEAR. Atlas simulated the reflective lenses along the sill with red circles.

Atlas has released nine new road names:
    Alaska Railroad (Black/Yellow)
    Canadian National (Black/Yellow)
    Central Vermont (Black/Yellow)
    Grand Trunk Western (Black/Yellow)
    Lehigh Valley (Cornell Red/Black)
    Milwaukee Road (Orange/Gray/Red)
    Rio Grande (Black/Grande Gold)
    Seaboard Coast Line (Black/Yellow)
    Union Pacific (Yellow/Gray/Red)
    Undecorated (horizontal shutters)
    Undecorated (vertical shutters)

Some road names have three road numbers, some have two, some only one. That is no doubt a reflection of the size of a particular railroad's S2 stable.

Atlas includes two pieces of paper: Parts diagram; warranty information. The parts sheet shows and identifies the parts of the model in exploded line art format.

Into service
Atlas' Master ALCO S2 is a striking model. It features exceptional paint and printing plus sharply molded detail. Dozens of individual applied detail pieces enhances the fine molded detail. Atlas tooled two hood styles to more accurately represent a particular railroad's S2.

I do not have anything significant to criticize except for the ugly wires visible in the undetailed cab interior. They are very visible through all of the clear glazing.

In the late 1940s, approximately 80% of yard diesels were Alcos. Prototypical transition-era modelers should have at least one S2 on their rails. Whether your layout size is restrictive or gigantic, one of more of these S2 switchers should find a great deal of use for model railroaders. I recommend this model.

The Alco S2
First, I ain't no etymologist. Yet I like to get my words right. I want to know if American Locomotive Company is most correctly called "ALCO", "Alco" or "ALCo"? I have researched a bit and while I can not state which one it is, I will state which one it is not: "ALCo". "ALCo" seems to be a product of digital neologism. I have examined Alco/ALCO and railroad manuals, publications and company advertisements and I have only found both "ALCO" and "Alco". In their manuals the only use of "Alco" I have found is a stylized Alco in ALCO's logo. Otherwise, they spelled out "American Locomotive Company" in the text. I have found that in most of their advertisements ALCO spelled it "ALCO" in the headlines as a corporate identity, yet "Alco" in the text. Thus, since ALCO called themselves Alco, that is why I write it that way.

I you can provide further evidence pro or con, I am OKAy with it and want to hear from you.
    The Alco S2 was the second model of switcher the company produced although it was constructed at the same time as the earlier S1. One of the significant differences between the two models was the increased horsepower of the S2, which was a 40% increase over the previous design. The model had a ten year production run and railroads apparently liked the increased power as the S2 went on to being Alco's best selling small switcher. While the large Class I systems tended to purchase the most S2s numerous smaller lines and industries also found the locomotive quite useful. Today, the S2 is one of the most preserved Alco models in existence and can be found throughout the country many of which are still operational. Additionally, a handful of these locomotives still find a place on shortline rosters who find the units easy to maintain, rugged, with a knack to pull just about anything.

    Like its S1 sister, the Alco S2 was first produced in 1940 featuring an end-cab design using McIntosh & Seymore's 539 diesel engine. However, unlike the S1 the S2 was more powerful and came equipped with a 1,000 horsepower rating. With this increased power the S2 was more suitable for a wide range of duties from yard and switching services to freight operations (normally on branch and secondary lines). The adept little switcher and its ability to seriously pull (an Alco trademark with all of its diesels) made it a favorite amongst industries as well because it could lug around heavy cuts of cars while also being able to negotiate the sharp curves and tight clearances found in these settings.

    The Alco S2, like the S1, was born out of the company's long history (even by 1940) of studying and developing small diesel locomotives that dated back to 1918. Their first true diesel line came with the HH (High Hood) series that began in 1931. These switchers were developed in conjunction with McIntosh & Seymore and Westinghouse, the former providing the prime mover and the latter air components and a revolutionary cab design (the "Visibility Cab") that enabled crews maximum visibility. With the help of famed industrial designer Otto Kuhler, Alco gave the High Hood models (which included the HH300, HH600, HH660, HH900, and HH1000) a clean look with beveled edges to the hood and cab.

    When Alco released the S series in 1940 it carried over many of the Kuhler design recommendations. As mentioned above the builder also carried over the McIntosh & Seymour prime mover and also continued to work with General Electric (which provided traction motors and generators) and Westinghouse (which provided air components such as brakes and compressors). Easily the most popular design of the S series the S2 sold more than 1,500 units to various Class Is, shortlines, and industries by the time production had ended in June, 1950. Of note, the company's Montreal Locomotive Works branch also sold a number of S2s. Several Canadian lines including the Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, Alma & Janquiere, Ontario Northland as well as industry Aluminum Company of Canada all purchased the MLW version of the S2.

    In total, MLW built 114 examples of the model for these companies. The S2 was also the last in the S series to be equipped with Alco's Blunt trucks, as all future designs used the more standard AAR type 1 or type 2 trucks. The S2 also offered some serious tractive effort, another reason it sold very well. For weighing only about 115 tons the locomotive could produce 69,000 pounds of starting tractive effort and around 30,000 pounds continuous. The S2 was the same length as the S1 and one of the few noticeable differences was the size of the radiator grill, which was smaller on the S1, as well as the smoke stack (the S2 featured a flared stack at its bottom while the S1's stack was more conical). These were not all of the slight design differences of the two but some of the more noticeable.

    For a comprehensive look at the American Locomotive Company and all of the motive power types it built from steam, diesel, to electrics consider the book
    Alco Locomotives by Brian Solomon. Covering more than 175 pages Mr. Solomon's book details the history of Alco from its esteemed 4-6-4 Hudsons and 4-6-6-4 Challengers to vaunted RS and PA series diesel locomotives. If you have any interest in Alco this book is a must have! Also consider Mike Schafer's Vintage Diesel Locomotives which looks at virtually all of the classic builders and models from Alco PAs to early EMD Geeps. To read more about other Alco switchers please visit the Diesel Locomotives section of the site, which can be reached from the top of this page.*

Please tell retailers and vendors that you saw this model here - on RailRoad Modeling.

* American-Rails.com. The Alco S2. [Web.] n.d.

Click here for additional images for this review.

Highs: Exceptional paint and printing plus sharply molded detail. Dozens of individual applied detail pieces and directional LED lighting.
Lows: No cab detail.
Verdict: Whether your layout size is restrictive or gigantic, one of more of these S2 switchers should find a great deal of use for model railroaders.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 10 001 899
  Related Link: ALCO S2 Manual
  PUBLISHED: Oct 14, 2015
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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