Railroads & Locomotives Locomotives The end is near for short line’s center-cab diesels

The end is near for short line’s center-cab diesels

By Chris Guss | June 11, 2023

Small diesels have kept the tiny Arcade & Attica rolling

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General Electric locomotives at Arcade & Attica

Two small, orange and black diesel locomotives roll past a flooded field
Two Arcade & Attica engineers have their northbound train well in hand as they pass by a flooded farm field just north of Arcade, N.Y. Chris Guss

Tucked away in far western New York State a little southeast of Buffalo is the tiny Arcade & Attica Railroad. Known by the public as a tourist operation and by railfans as a hauler of freight with small center-cab General Electric locomotives rolling through beautiful countryside. Beginning later this year, the railroad will add bigger power to its roster for the first time in the form of an Alco road switcher locomotive.

Center-cab locomotives have been around since the beginning of dieselization, with builders big and small in the early years trying to lure both common carriers who needed smaller power for branch lines and other light-duty tasks, to industrial customers with specialized designs to meet their specific motive power needs.

Arcade & Attica purchased its first General Electric 44-ton locomotive new in the early 1940s to replace steam and has been operating a succession of center-cab models ever since. Multiple unit capabilities are rare on this type of locomotive, so Arcade & Attica will regularly double-head their heavier trains with an engineer operating each locomotive separately on the approximately 15-mile journey from its interchange with Buffalo & Pittsburgh in Arcade to its sole remaining customer at the end of the line in North Java.

The railroad has recently purchased former Western New York & Pennsylvania Alco RS-3M No. 406, which will be more than adequate to handle freight duties by itself. This will bring an end to over 80 years of center-cab operations on the line and the last place to see regular double-headed diesel freight service in the United States.

While its first center-cab locomotive was purchased new, it’s retired and on display in downtown Arcade.  Arcade & Attica’s current stable of active center cabs includes second-hand General Electric 65-ton locomotive No. 112 which was built in 1945 for the U.S. Navy and General Electric 80-ton locomotive No. 113 built in 1959 for Consolidated Edison. The Alco RS-3M acquired by the railroad was originally built for Delaware & Hudson in 1952.

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