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Schenectady Electrical Handbook
The American Locomotive Company: Schenectady Works

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[This information is from pp. 67-72 of the Schenectady Electrical Handbook by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. (Schenectady, NY: General Electric Press, 1904). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy Schdy R 621.3 A51s.]

Prior to 1901 this Works was known as the Schenectady Locomotive Works, and as such was incorporated in 1851. It was built in 1848 by citizens of Schenectady, and equipped by the Norris Brothers, of Philadelphia, who were among the pioneer locomotive builders of this country. The Works ever since it was started has contributed to the development of the American locomotive and has built engines of all styles for both the domestic and foreign trade. The total number of engines built by this shop now amounts to 7800. In the sixties, this shop was widely known as the home of the McQueen engine. The name was taken from Mr. McQueen, who was superintendent of the Works from 1851 to 1876. For many years the plant was commonly known as the Ellis Locomotive Works, being owned and managed by different memhers of the Ellis family from 1863 to 1901. In 1901 the Works was purchased by the American Locomotive Company and has become the largest of the nine plants operated by this company which have a capacity of 3000 engines a year; 750 of these being produced at Schenectady.

[Painting: American Locomotive Company, Schenectady Works: original size (41K) | 4x enlarged (135K)]

The idea is often expressed by people who are not familiar with railroad work that the locomotive is a finished product both in design and size and that it is not capable of much further development. It is true that long experience has established certain limitations in locomotive work, but the styles of locomotives are continually changing and each year brings new developments both in size and in style.

There are now 33 well defined classes of locomotives, all of which are subject to endless change in size, weight and detail which are made to suit the specified requirements of the various railroads. In addition to the modification of details, locomotive designers are confronted with demands for higher economy, higher speed, and greater working capacity than have yet been obtained and are considering the use of electric power to meet these demands where the traffic conditions will warrant its use. Visitors at the St. Louis Fair will find the product of this company well represented by 13 engines of different classes and those who can stop at Schenectady will be interested in the construction of the electrical locomotives which are being built for the New York Central Railroad after designs prepared by engineers of the General Electric Company and the American Locomotive Company.

The following general description may be of service to those who can visit the Works and look over in detail the methods which are used in producing the modern locomotive. The Works covers 62 acres, and employs 5000 men when running full. It is divided in two parts: The old part east of the canal contains the Offices, Storeroom, Frame Shop, Cylinder Shop, Wheel Shop, General Machine Shops, Erecting and Finishing Shops. A11 the finishing and assembling of the locomotives will be found in this part of the Works. The new part of the Works west of the canal contains the Foundry, Boiler Shop, Forge Shop, Blacksmith Shop, Drop Forge Shop and the Tank Shop, in which buildings the rough material is received and made ready for finishing and assembling in the Machine and Erecting Shops. The Works in its present condition is capable of turning out 700 engines a year, but when improvements now under way have been completed, the capacity will be 1000 engines a year.

Many interesting features will be found here by the student of shop design and management and it may be of special interest to electrical engineers to note the method of group driving of tools by motors, which has been found very satisfactory. Within the last few years. all the shop engines have been replaced by motors which are driven from central stations; there being two such stations in the Works, one for the new portion west of the canal located in Building No. 23, and one for the old portion of the Works located in Building No. 75. These two stations have an aggregate of 3000 Kw. in electrical generators, so connected to the switchboards at the two stations that any circuit in any part of the Works can be connected with any generator. In making improvements in the Works, the electric motor drive has been found very convenient in eliminating all trouble of building new engine foundations and running steam pipes; and further, as the tools are moved from one building to another, or rearranged in the same building, the motor driving a particular group of tools has been moved with them, thus doing away with costly foundations and expensive lines of pipe.

[Engraving: Four Cylinder Articulated Compound Locomotive — "Largest Locomotive in the World Built by American Locomotive Company — B & O 2400"]

Visitors at the American Locomotive Company's Schenectady Works will be especially interested in the methods of making forged engine frames and in the boiler work; the forge work being done in Buildings Nos. 21 and 22, and the boiler work in Building No. 23. Another very interesting part of this work is that done on the flanging machines, examples of which can always been seen in Shop No. 23. In Building No. 25, tanks, tender frames and trucks are built and the tender is sent complete from this building ready for the Erecting Shop. In Building No. 3, rod work and general machine work will be found. In Building No. 4, cylinders are finished complete from the rough castings ready for the Erecting Shop. In Building No. 11, frames are finished complete from the rough forgings and made ready for assembling. The engines are assembled in Building No. 7 and finished in Building No. 30. The drafting room will be found in Building No. 28 on the upper floors, the lower part of the building being used as a storeroom.

Engineers visiting Schenectady will be welcomed at this Works and given every opportunity to see in detail the work of producing and assembling locomotives.

[Engraving: Four Cylinder Balanced Compound Locomotive — N.Y.C. & H.R. 3000]

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See Also: Railroads updated March 30, 2015

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