Aug 06 2013

In Search of Alcos #13: The 3 & 1/2 Ton Alco Truck at the Hayes Antique Truck Museum

Hayes Antique Truck Museum of Woodland, California has reported a 3 & 1/2 ton Alco truck in its collection.


Howard Kroplick

From Hayes Antique Truck Museum website (2001)

1910 Alco

By Don Hayes

The featured truck in this issue is a 1910, three and a half-ton, cab-over-engine Alco. The truck, in an unrestored state, had been on display for years in the museum because of its unique construction and history. Don Hays, seeing, that the chance of restoring the Alco was very slim, sold it to Al Garcia early in 2000. Garcia made the restoration a project with the intention of having it on display at the ATHS National Convention in Reno this past June. The cab was constructed using photographs as a blueprint. After many sleepless nights the restoration job was completed. The restoration turned out beautifully and is worthy of a special award.

The American Locomotive Co. of Providence, Rhode Island built a range of heavily constructed cabover-engine trucks under the Alco name from 1909 to 1913. Alco is famous for the first transcontinental shipment of freight by truck. By the time the museum obtained this chassis, the original Alco 471 cu. in. 4-cylinder engine had been lost, along with the cab and body. Attempts to locate the original engine have so far been unsuccessful.

American Locomotive Company built over 50,000 steam locomotives starting in 1835. The same rugged durability was designed into their first truck in 1909. Their reputation for heavy-duty hard-working, reliable trucks made them very popular and by 1912 the company had sold over 1,000 trucks.

A cabover design was universal on Alco trucks, which ranged from 2 to 6 tons. Maximum speed ranged from 17 mph for the lighter trucks to 8 mph for the heaviest. Alco trucks were doino, the work of five horses and could carry 3 tons per load. One customer claimed he replaced 20 horses with one Alco truck. Their rugged reliability proved the truck's worth and its potential to many people.

Alco made history in 1912 when a crew of 5 men made a first-ever attempt at a transcontinental delivery by motor truck. On June 20, they set out in a 3 1/2 ton model with 3 tons of Parrott brand olive silk soap consigned to Carlson Currier Company in Petaluma, California. The route began in New York, and continued through Albany, Buffalo, Chicago, Omaha, Salt Lake City, Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco and finally to Petaluma, California. In each city the company made much fanfare of the truck's railroad pedigree and enthusiastic crowds came out to cheer on the truck and its crew.

However, there were no existing roads, and the crew fought one obstacle after another just to get across the country, digging out of mud-holes, reinforcing bridges and clearing rocks. In the Sierra Nevada, the crew blazed its own trail over the mountains. Finally after 4,145 miles, the famous truck and its cargo arrived in good condition, setting, a precedent with a remarkable achievement. Average speed on the trip was a fraction over 10 mph with 412 hours actually on the road and 776 hours total.

Garcia is still looking for an Alco engine to complete the project. The truck is currently on display at the museum. Garcia is the museum's curator and serves on the board of directors.



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