Watercolor… Reading Railroad ALCO RS3’s through the Rockhill Quarry. In my early teens… Maynard & I routinely hiked the Reading Railroad’s (RDG) Bethlehem Branch north, to reach the upper rim, overlooking the granite quarry in East Rockhill Township. There were many enticing clusters of massive rock formation and small caves up there, well worth our exploration. Eagles, hawks and vultures patrolled the sky and ore drags to Bethlehem Steel, often led by five or six locomotive lash ups of smoky RS3 ALCO’s, working hard against the grade… were quite common down below. In those days we never ventured into the actual quarry area… it was a pretty busy place, although on occasion we did skirt the site by following the rail bed. A lot of the Reading’s road ballast came out of that cut… including the stone for the Quakertown Traction Company’s Trolley Barn and both the Reading’s Quakertown Passenger & Freight Stations. Years of tons of rock, built the surrounding communities, before major operations at the quarry ceased in the early 1980’s. CONRAIL & SEPTA ran the line until 1981. The quarry is full of water now… but the rail and an old, steam era, Reading Railroad water tower is still there. Currently, the East Penn Railroad (EPRY) operates over the branch and there is activity by the quarry owners toward a resumption of work.
American Locomotive Company (ALCO), with General Electric (GE), and their combined diesel electric locomotive technologies, were game changers for railroads. ALCO’s Road Switcher (RS) RS1, originally introduced in 1941 was followed by the RS2 in 1946 and the RS3 in 1950… unfortunately, total sales never managed to beat the eventual success of General Motors, Electro Motive Division (EMD), GP7 competitor, once EMD got back into the game. Although ALCO produced variants of the RS series up through the RS36, last produced in 1963 and numerous other, legendary locomotives… in 1968… ALCO closed its doors and sold its designs to the Montreal Locomotive Works (MLW) of Canada… which was subsequently acquired by Bombardier in 1975. GE has gone on to dominate locomotive manufacturing in the United States.