Santa Fe Diesel-Electric Switcher #2381
ATSF 2381 and other ALCO S-2's spent many years here in San Diego working for the Santa Fe Railway. Duties included the transfer haul from the San Diego yard down to National City and, in the late 1940's, when a helper was needed to push freight trains west (north) up to the Miramar summit, an S-2 would be put on the rear of the train and cut off at top of the hill, where Miramar Road now crosses over the San Diego Northern tracks.
One of the more popular switching locomotives in North America was the ALCO-GE Model S-2 (specification E1540). 2502 of these thousand horsepower units were built from the production period of April, 1940 through December, 1949. Based on earlier 660HP and 1000HP switchers built by ALCO, the S-2 was similar in many respects to the "High Hood" predecessors, but included improved electrical gear and engine cooling. For trucks, ALCO switchers used a fabricated "Blount" design, which was designed for use in yard switching. The truck was quite flexible and operated well, but it was not suitable for the higher speeds needed for local freights and became difficult to maintain due to its complexity and large number of parts. No other builder used such a truck. When production of the S-2 ended in 1949, the replacement S-4 switcher was quite similar to the S-2, but used a truck design that was more suitable for higher speeds.
The Santa Fe owned 70 S-2 switchers. The class was based on the first road number, 2322, and the number series series ran from 2322 to 2391, a total of 70 units. ALCO-GE built the S-2's in Schenectady, New York, and the AT&SF units were purchased from August, 1942 through December, 1949. The S-2 was powered by a 1000HP Model 539T engine. This model had 6 cylinders, and was turbocharged. Each locomotive weight 230,400-lbs. and had 57,600-lbs. of starting tractive effort. The gear ratio was 75:16 and all the electrical gear was provided by General Electric. All of the Western Transcontinental railways had S-2 switchers, including those that ran into California, the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific and Western Pacific.
No. 2381 was acquired in the very last batch of S-2s to be purchased by the Santa Fe in 1949, and was among the very last of the model built. 2381 was ALCO-GE serial 77928, which was shipped on Dec. 13, 1949 on order S-3123-3 and sales order S.O. 20370. The locomotive was built with engine block 5537, and it would be interesting to learn if that block was still in this locomotive.
All of the Santa Fe's ALCO switchers were assigned to the Western sections of the country, and were staples for years in the yards all around California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, Barstow, Bakersfield, Fresno and Richmond. The San Diego locomotives were on long term assignment, but would rotate out to San Bernardino for shopping. Usually five or six were stationed in San Diego, but they were not the only models assigned, a GE 44-tonner, RS1s and even EMC 600HP switchers were long term residents. For over 20 years, the S-2s could be seen all over Southern California.
As switching needs declined, with a need for higher horsepower units to move the longer and heavier cars then coming on the scene, the 1000HP switchers were replaced. Some moved east to run out their last days, others were retired in California. A majority of Santa Fe S-2s were sold for scrap or used as trade in credits on new locomotives. This mostly occurred in the 1970s. No. 2381 was retired June 8, 1977 and placed in storage. The unit was later donated to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, which in turn donated it PSRM.
Some other Santa Fe S-2s were sold for further use; 13 were sold to the Lone Star Steel Co. for use on the Texas & Northern Ry. at Lone Star, Tex. It is believed these units have all now been retired. Another went to Arkansas Short Line, El Dorado & Wesson, and four went to the Goodpasture Grain Co. in Texas. One was sold to the Central California Traction Co., and No. 2356 to the Parr-Richmond Terminal Co., a scrap-yard railway in Richmond, Calif. No. 2387 was sold to the National Metals & Steel Co. on Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor, and hauled loads of scrap metal around the vast yard where ships, streetcars, steam locomotives and other metal bearing vehicles were cut up. It is believed that most of these units have been retired, except for the Goodpasture Grain locomotives.
This page last updated 09/29/2008
Page and photos by Randy Houk