The American Locomotive Company, also known as ALCO, was formed in 1901 from the merger of eight smaller locomotive manufacturers, including Schenectady Locomotive Works. After the 1901 merger, ALCO chose Schenectady, New York, as its headquarters, and the former Schenectady Locomotive Works became one of ALCO’s main manufacturing facilities. The Schenectady plant was originally built on a 112 acre plot on Erie Boulevard between Nott Street and Freeman’s Bridge, but the plant was reduced to roughly 60 acres after the facility was modernized in the 1950s. With over 75,000 individual locomotives to its credit, ALCO was one of the largest manufacturers of steam engines in the United States. During its most active years, the plant had the capacity to produce over 1,000 locomotives per year, and it employed over 5,000 workers.
During the 1900s, ALCO began to diversify its business model in order to focus on non-rail products, such as oil production, nuclear production equipment, heat exchangers and munitions. In 1955, ALCO was renamed Alco Products, Inc., because locomotives were no longer its predominant product. In 1964, Alco Products was purchased by Worthington Company, and the plant remained in operation until it was sold to General Electric in 1969.
Prior to the late 1970s, dozens of asbestos-containing materials were utilized in the construction and maintenance of the ALCO facility. Asbestos-containing block insulation, pipe covering, packing materials, gaskets and insulating cement were used extensively throughout ALCO’s manufacturing facility. Laborers who applied and removed asbestos-containing materials are at risk for developing mesothelioma or lung cancer.
ALCO’s Schenectady plant utilized steam heat in order to heat the buildings throughout its manufacturing facility. Asbestos insulation lined steam pipes, boilers, pumps, gaskets, turbine generators, and other equipment throughout ALCO’s Schenectady plant. Due to wear and tear, contractors and maintenance personnel removed and applied asbestos-containing materials. When workers handled asbestos-containing insulation, asbestos dust and fibers were released into the air and into the breathing zone of anyone in the vicinity.
Tradesmen, such as pipefitters, steam fitters, and electricians, were exposed to asbestos during installation and maintenance of the heat system and steam stations. The steam stations transferred heat to different buidlings throughtout ALCO’s manufacturing facility. Pipes, valves, condensers and strainers within the steam stations and steam system were covered with asbestos-containing materials. Insulating cement, such as 7M cement, was applied to pumps, valves and other equipment throughout the facility. During maintenance and repair procedures on the steam system workers removed worn pipe covering and/or block insulation; scraped insulating cement and gaskets; and pulled packing material from pumps and valves. In order to assemble a new valve, pipe fitters welded new valves to the existing valves and repacked the asbestos packing material within the valves. Asbestos-containing pipe covering, such as Johns Manville, was reapplied to the pipes and tie-ins. Removing, cutting, manipulating and applying asbestos-containing materials emitted clouds of asbestos-containing dust and fibers into the air. Most workers were completely unaware of the dangers of exposure to asbestos and performed their work without masks or protective gear.
Inhaling dust and particles from the application, removal and maintenance of asbestos materials placed workers at risk of developing serious health problems, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. Even those not who were not in direct contact with asbestos materials remain at risk for the development of asbestos-related diseases. If you or a loved one were once employed as a laborer at American Locomotive Company and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.