New power silences San Francisco Bay Alco

RELATED TOPICS: CALIFORNIA | DIESEL PRESERVATION
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1
Knoxville Locomotive Works SE10B No. 30 is new power for San Francisco Belt Railway.
Doug Wooton
3
Alco No. 23 loads cars with "dirty dirt" at the SFBR yard.
Davis Strench
5
No. 25's engine will be removed, and the unit placed on display.
Kyle Stockman
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Bay Railroad is in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime motive power change. As it happened with State Belt Railroad steam locomotives they were built to replace, the San Francisco Belt’s Alco S2s Nos. 23 and 25 are about to be sidelined by a modern 1,050-hp Tier 4 locomotive from Knoxville Locomotive Works.

Like neighboring Bay Area short line Richmond Pacific Railroad, the San Francisco Belt’s new locomotive, No. 30. has largely been funded through a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The terms of the funding agreement mandates that an older locomotive replaced by Tier 4 technology, be retired and scrapped. Unlike Richmond Pacific’s final two SW1200s Nos. 49 and 68, which met the scrappers torch in November 2018, Belt No. 25 will only have its prime mover removed, and the unit will then be placed in static display next to the railroad in South San Francisco. No. 23 will be retained for use as backup power.

Nos. 23 and 25 were built new for the State Belt Railroad in 1944 and 1945 respectively, and have been serving the same rails around San Francisco ever since. Through several ownership changes and rationalizing nearly all of its original trackage through abandonment and sale these Alco sisters have soldiered on for 75 years. Overall, both engines are operating in the same condition as when they arrived, with neither unit ever being equipped with ditch lights. The black and yellow livery adopted by the State Belt many years ago is still used on the locomotives by the San Francisco Belt today.

San Francisco Belt operations are a far cry from the Belt Railway days of street running and car ferries with a diverse customer base along the San Francisco waterfront. But No. 23 and its new companion, Knoxville Locomotive Works SE10B No. 30, will still be kept busy. The primary business of the San Francisco Belt today is loading “dirty dirt” construction debris in unit trains of hoppers and gondolas owned and leased by its sister company Waste Solutions Group. Once or twice a week this unit train will be interchanged to the Union Pacific and transported to the dumping location in Utah.

Despite these significant changes, San Francisco Bay Railroad will still be a place to find Alco power in a modern era of big high horsepower, clean burning locomotives, albeit on a much smaller, less predictable scale. Their continued service is a testament to Alco’s early diesel technology and the men and women who over the years who have kept them in good operating condition. As the saying goes, “they can’t scrap the memories”
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