Jun 26 2010

Then & Now: The American Locomotive Company Plant in Providence, Rhode Island

The American Locomotive Company, often shortened to Alco, was created in 1901 with the merger of eight locomotive manufacturers including the Rhode Island Locomotive Works located in Providence as seen in this photo. In the early 1900s, all the company's locomotive manufacturing was moved to Schenectady, New York and all the other plants were closed. Alco, now based in Schenectady, became the second largest steam locomotive builder in the US and went on to build the famous "Big Boy" locomotives, the largest successful engine ever created.


Then: The company diversified into the automobile field in 1906 with production located in their Providence plant. It is here where the "Black Beast" and over 1,100 cars and trucks were built. But, as reported in the August 22, 1913 issue of the New York Times, American Locomotive Company decided to quit automobile and truck manufacturing and close down the Providence plant. At that time, American Locomotive was the third largest car manufacturer in the US. The Providence plant was then taken over in 1918 by US Rubber which ran the plant until the mid-1970s.


Now: Seeking all information about Alco, I was curious to find out more about the birthplace of the "Black Beast". According to this 2006 Master Development Plan and the leasing brochure, the Alco and US Rubber buildings were to be "revitalized" into a 22-acre mixed used community including office, retail and residential space. The project was later described in this 2008 New York Times article. Last Tuesday, returning from a trip from Boston, I could not resist paying homage to Alco's Providence plant. It was pretty exciting to see the large "American Locomotive Works" sign on the restored buildings.


Even more exciting, the original Alco plant (on the right) is still standing and has been beautifully restored as office space.


Another restored building features a huge sign with the Alco train logo on its roof.


A closer look.


Reflecting the poor economy, the project has been scaled back as evidenced by this advertising sign in front of an empty unrestored building.

Rhode Island "Art in Ruins" created this website page providing historical photos and updates on the American Locomotive Works project. Strange but true, the website notes that "general files, technical manuals and ALCO designs are located in George Arent(s) Research Library in Syracuse University. The very same George Arents was a driver in the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup Race.


Jun 28 2010 Ronald E. Ridolph 3:24 PM

Hi Howard:

  I have two (2) items of interest for you:

  #1./  In my license plate collection, I have a Connecticut Vanity Plate from the 50’s ALCO and

  #2./  At the Catskill Mountain Railroad, we just took delivery of a 1946 ALCO S-1 Locomotive (600 HP)  number 407 which was a Long Island RR purchase then went to Staten Island SIRTOA and now in service in Mount Tremper.  She is as beauty and the guys live her !!!  you can see it via the website or google engine 407l…

  Best For Now /// Cordially,  Ron Ridolph


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