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Perry Egbert Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 18 Jan 2013

Biographical History

Perry T. Egbert was an American engineer specializing in internal combustion engines, particularly diesel engines. Most of his career was spent at the American Locomotive Company (ALCo), America's pre-eminent manufacturer of steam and diesel locomotives for more than forty years.

Egbert received a degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University in 1915 and, after a stint in the military during World War I, taught experimental engineering at his alma mater in 1919 and 1920. In 1921 he became ALCo's technical representative in East Asia, including efforts to provide diesel engines for the Peking Suiyuan Railway. Following the acquisition of the firm of McIntosh and Seymour in 1929 he was placed in charge of ALCo's diesel engine development program. He became manager of railroad diesel sales in 1934 and vice president in charge of diesel locomotive sales in 1944. After World War II, he led ALCo's shift from steam to diesel locomotive production. He became president of the company in 1952.

[Portions of this biographical sketch adapted from "Alco versus EMD," UtahRails.Net,]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Perry Egbert Papers consists of correspondence, memorabilia, printed material, subject files, technical data and writings, and spans more than thirty years of his career with the American Locomotive Company (ALCo). Almost all of the collection relates directly to ALCo's production and sales of diesel engines, but there is also material relating to ALCo's competitor Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC), which later became the Electro-Motive Division of General Electric (EMD), and subsidiary companies Montreal Locomotive Works and McIntosh and Seymour. Rail lines mentioned in the collection include Chicago and Western, Delaware Lackawanna & Western (DL&W), Los Angeles & Salt Lake (LA&SL), Lehigh Valley, Wabash, Burmeister & Wayne, Peking Suiyuan (China), and others.

Correspondence covers Egbert's early years as East Asian representative up through his time as vice president in charge of diesel locomotive sales. The period from 1920 to 1925 includes extensive material related to ALCo's involvement with the Peking Suiyuan Railway -- telegrams (some of them in code), reports on meetings, correspondence with various Chinese banking and government officials, etc. -- and to the rail industry in China in general. Other topics include reports from the field, investigations of various engine part failures, cost comparisons, labor negotiations, discussion of new designs, and more.

Memorabilia includes two cartoons (one featuring Egbert by name), various railroad-related social club ephemera, business cards, a patent agreement between Egbert and ALCo, and a souvenir / public relations booklet from ALCo competitor Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC) about the company. Also included here is a folder of photographs, the subjects of which include ALCo meetings, railyards, equipment, a clay model of engine and an artist's rendering of the interior of a locomotive cab.

Printed material consists of material both by ALCo and other companies or organizations. ALCo material includes more than twenty years of annual reports and a few semi-annual and quarterly reports; a year's worth of ALCo's newsletter Genuine Parts Pointers ; a large-format souvenir booklet entitled American Locomotive Went to War , with text and photographs illustrating the company's contribution to the American war effort. Printed material from other sources includes thirteen scholarly/technical papers on various aspects of diesel engineering, catalogs and advertising material from several companies in related industries (e.g., gauges, lubricants, etc.), and a large-format souvenir booklet entitled "Souvenir of an Accomplishment," with text and photos detailing the work of "the American railroader in Iran" and how his work has supported "our valorous ally, the Soviet Union." The booklet is signed and inscribed to Egbert.

Subject files run the gamut from cost estimates and comparisons to financial and operating statements, from organizational charts to engine production schedules, from employee background histories to reports on the performance of specific engines in the field. Also included here are two folders of material on the Montreal Locomotive Works, a subsidiary of ALCo located in Canada, and a carbon typescript of a paper or memorandum on "Internationalization of Chinese railroads." Wherever possible, Egbert's original folder, item or binder titles were retained, though the accuracy of these titles is occasionally questionable.

Technical data comprises statistics, failure reports, technical documentation, manufacturing standards and other types of technical data. Wherever possible, Egbert's original folder, item or binder titles were retained, though the accuracy of these titles is occasionally questionable. Also included in this series are nearly 70 technical drawings, blueprints for various engine parts such as driving boxes, rods, valves and cylinders. A full list of these drawings is on file and is also provided in the box.

Writings consist of memoranda, speeches and reports by Egbert. These include an address given to the Cincinnati Railway Club, two memoranda on diesel locomotive development, and a letter to the editor of the Peking Evening World regarding rumors about ALCo and the Peking Suiyuan Railway.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. All other series are arranged alphabetically by title or topic.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

One item, a large map of the railroads of New York State dated 1883, has been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging.

See also the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) Records.

Subject Headings


Egbert, Perry T.

Corporate Bodies

American Locomotive Company.
Elvin Mechanical Stoker Co.
Mitsui Bussan Kabushiki Kaisha.
Montreal Locomotive Works Ltd.
Peking Suiyuan Railway.


Business enterprises -- New York (State)
Diesel locomotives -- Design and construction.
Diesel locomotives -- History.
Diesel locomotives -- Maintenance and repair -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Diesel locomotives -- United States.
Diesel motor.
Locomotive industry -- Management.
Locomotive industry -- United States.
Locomotive works -- United States.
Locomotives -- Design and construction.
Locomotives -- Maintenance and repair -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Railroads -- China.
Railroads -- United States.


New York (State) -- Business and industry.

Genres and Forms

Annual reports.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Financial records.
Manuals (instructional materials)
Maps (documents)
Personnel records.
Speeches (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Perry Egbert Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ron Amberger, 2012.

Table of Contents



Printed material

Subject files

Technical data