Kevin’s comments for April 19, 2024

Prototypes that I love but should really never model!

I celebrated a birthday a few days ago.  My kids are adults, and they & my wife decided a while back that it was usually best to consult me directly prior to buying gifts.  After all, I’ve collected through the years the most typical hand tools a guy would ever use, and probably about all the hobby hand tools I’ll ever need. My model railroad equipment and model structures collection is pretty full.  (I mean, pretty overfull!)  So, a few weeks ago, an upcoming birthday meant I began thinking through a list of a few items friends and family might consider giving me, assuming they would consult me again this year.

Drifting to a similar topic, several decades ago, when I was just beginning to mature as a modeler, I had this fantasy wish list. – As a modeler, you tend to have a list of “cool” prototypes that you’d love to own and/or model, but they just don’t fit your (fill in the blank) era, theme, railroad, layout, operational scheme, amount of storage space, or budget.  Regardless, sometimes you grab one of these “wish list” items at the flea market because it was heavily discounted, only to have it sit in the box for a few years. Several decades may pass before you understand that there “ain’t no way” you’ll ever get it out of the box and on the layout.  Then, you sell it at the next flea market for half the price you bought it for, because you’ve got to suck in the next modeler that sees a really good deal, even though they’ll never get it out of the box.

So today’s study is about those prototypes that I really love but should never own.

I believe the top prototype that almost every modeler drools over, but few can really use on their layout, is the Union Pacific Big Boy.  The UP Class 4884 (4-8-8-4’s) consisted of 25 locomotives built by ALCO in 1941 and 1944.  The crews found these machines to be not only powerful but also extremely reliable.  It was found that a Big Boy could consume 11 tons of coal and 12,000 gallons of water per hour operating at full throttle, producing 6,290 drawbar horsepower at 41.4 mph.  They were designed to haul 3,600 tons up the 1.14% ruling grade on the UP’s Utah Division.  Here’s # 4000, the first of the Big Boys.

Similar locomotives on the list are the following:

UP Challenger.  The Class CSA and Class 4664 (4-6-6-4) Challengers were built from 1936 to 1944 by ALCO.  105 Challengers were built for UP.  All of them lasted through the end of the steam era, but they had a short useful life; they were essentially replaced by the Big Boys.

Allegheny, C&O Allegheny Class, & Virginian Blue Ridge Class. Lima built 60 Alleghenies (2-6-6-6) for the C&O and 8 for the Virginian Railway between 1941 and 1948. The Alleghenies were designed to pull coal over the Allegheny Mountains (or Blue Ridge Mountains for the Virginians). While the Big Boy had two more driver axles, hence greater start-up traction, the Alleghenies had greater horsepower once up to speed. These were some of the most powerful steamers ever built.

There is still one more articulated locomotive that sits high on the drool list: the SP 4-8-8-2 cab-forward.  Baldwin built 20 of the Class AC-12 oil burners.  The AC-12’s were the last of 256 articulated cab-forwards built for the SP.  These were designed for a similar purpose as the articulated locos above: to pull heavy trains up the Sierra Nevada grades, often times through Donner Pass.  With the cab in front, it protected the operating crew from the smoke, heat, and soot while in tunnels and snow sheds.  Of course it had to be an oil burner because the cab was on the opposite side of the boiler as the tender.  This picture shows SP #4162 next to a tiny 19th-century 4-2-4—another possible fantasy list item.

Now, I’m not saying that you’d necessarily find that little 4-2-4 loco on a lot of modelers’ wish lists; however, when looking at the pictures, most of us would say, “Yeah, I might enjoy having one of those. It’s kind of useless, but fun to look at!” SP #1 was named “C. P. Huntington.” The Huntington was built by Mason Machine Works in 1863. It was bought by the Central Pacific and shipped to San Francisco to aid in the western construction of the transcontinental railroad. It was named after the third president of the Southern Pacific Company, the parent company of the SP. When the SP absorbed the CP, the Huntington remained number 1 on the roster and performed light service in northern California. When it became completely obsolete, they stored it for a period of time. Renumbered 1001, it was brought out of storage and used as a weed burner in 1901. Unfortunately, it didn’t even work well as a weed burner and was put back in storage around 1910. But SP held on to it and would occasionally bring it out for ceremonies, often times running under it’s own steam. It now sits as a static display in the California State Railroad Museum. (See, something like that just keeps hanging around…for decades…centuries…)

When it comes to that list of locomotives that most modelers would like to have, but the loco just doesn’t belong on their layout, the GG1 has to be near the top. GE and PRR’s Altoona shops joined forces to build 139 GG1’s between 1934 and 1943. These nearly 80’ electric locos were two mirrored 40’ engines, including the cab and controls. Since these were built during the prime steamer years, they were often classified under the Whyte notation as 4-6-0+0-6-4, or two 4-6-0’s back to back. Since under the PRR, a 4-6-0 was classified as a G, it starts to become obvious why these were classified GG1’s. A ball joint in the center connected the two 40’ frames and engines, with the body resting on the two frames. The body was streamlined with metal plates like the shrouding of a streamlined steamer. The GG1’s were noted for pulling decent-sized passenger trains at a consistent 100 mph and having a service life of 50 years.

I don’t know of any modeler that doesn’t enjoy the geared locos.  While quite a few modelers intentionally model so as to include a geared locomotive fleet, it’s hard to prototype model geared locomotives outside of logging or some mining railroads – which restrict other aspects of the hobby.  But I, like many others, own way too many geared locos that will never get a chance to be involved in an operating session on my future railroad!

Top of my list is the Climaxes.  What more needs to be said!

Of course, there’s the ever-loved Shays.

And my second favorite Heislers.

If you like geared locos, here’s a Johnston 16 driver-wheeled, geared steamer built in 1910 for the Glenham Sawmilling Co.  I think if I saw a model of this, I would buy it in an instant!  The pistons are vertical, like a Shay, but since the drive shaft runs down the middle of the axles, you see the vertical pistons inside the extended cab.  The 8 axles are divided into 4 separate trucks with universals on the drive shaft between each truck.  I’m guessing now that I think the Whyte notation would be 0-4-4-4-4-0G (the end G stands for geared loco).  Maybe a better notation would be 2-2+2-2+2-2+2-2!  At least 16 of these geared locos were built between 1910 and 1937 (off their patent, which was issued in 1909).  Was it planned to build 16 of these 16-wheeled locos?  The average life of one of these was 23 years, but none were preserved.  Unfortunately, I’d have a difficult time putting them on my layout, even if I built a logging railroad.  These were built and operated in New Zealand.

Now, when it comes to just plain cool diesel electrics, my fantasy wish list is limited because I like to model vintage-era steamers.  So, modern era modelers might be able to squeeze some nice locos on their layout that I can’t come close to justifying, like these two!  The EMD F40PH (left) and MPI MPXpress-series MP36PH-3S (right) locomotives are coupled together by Metra to pull a commuter train through the Chicago metropolitan area.  Just for info, Metra services more rail passengers than any other commuter service other than the NY City commuter rails—approximately 31,894,900 in 2023.

Most modelers love a good trestle.  And most of us can squeeze a small trestle—or maybe a couple of small bents—on our railroad.  But our love is for something the size of this.  This wood trestle is the Goat Canyon Trestle in San Diego County, California.  At a length of 597–750 feet, it is the world’s largest all-wood trestle (I think that’s currently existing).  Goat Canyon Trestle was built in 1933 as part of the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway after one of the many tunnels through the Carrizo Gorge collapsed.

Check out this bridge: stone abutments with wooden arches. This was a civil war bridge for the Aquia Creek and Fredericksburg Railroad in Potomac Creek, VA. It’s one of those bridges that makes you want to model it, except for the wrong era and being too big.

Another spectacular RR bridge, but it’s in Wales!!!

I’d love to have this station in one of my major cities. This is Union Pacific’s station in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I believe it was built in the 1880’s.

Of course, we all have a bit of an itch for Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.

…Uhm…Yeah! – This is Toledo Station, Naples, Italy. (Just try to model it!)

I want a Silver Flyer on my railroad!  The Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad was in the process of rebuilding a Santa Fe 4-6-4 for scenic trips.  This was their temporary solution to running some passengers out of Abilene, KS.

Like the bus above, this vehicle wouldn’t likely be specifically on anyone’s wish list, but when you see a picture of it, it just might make the list. Judging by the two faces in the cab, I don’t think this is a US railroad. I also can’t make out the brand of the truck. A version of this truck would look good next to a run-down geared or narrow gauge locomotive on a Depression-era logging railroad, or such. Unless you’re modeling a short line, that’s short on cash.

If you’re really into small gas-powered switchers, this one should catch your eye. I don’t have any info on it, but look at the single-drive axle with the two freight car trucks on either end. It looks to me like they mounted an old tractor motor on the front. There’s a good-sized tank on the back, but you still need that gas can sitting on the front walkway. (Maybe the tank is compressed air.) The motor power is transferred to the drive axle with a chain just on the outside of the center wheel. I zoomed in on the photo, and it looks like that center drive wheel has an inflated rubber tire—like a decent-sized truck wheel. The frugal innovation of this vehicle alone would catch most modelers’ eyes. And, I guess you could throw this on a small spur for shuffling freight cars—so not necessarily sitting in a box for a couple decades.

Modeling the modern era?  Need an interesting inspection vehicle?  This is one of Transnet Freight Rail’s new Luxrailer Inspection Trolleys, K9525020, passing through Lions River Station in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands, South Africa.

Personally, I think reusing an old B&O Crab loco for an inspection vehicle sounds sort of believable. This loco built for the B&O in 1837 remained in service long enough for this photo to be taken.

Several of the old B&O Camels remained in service as inspection vehicles. This one might be a bit too large for that service.

I’m not sure if Oneida is the same as Western RR. I believe this is an inspection vehicle—no info, but definitely an eye-catcher.

…And…Mini cab-forward inspection or switcher?

It’s written on the side; it has a pilot and an oil-burning headlamp on the front. This might be the Valley RR in Virginia, founded in 1866 and later taken over by the B&O.

That’s at least part of my fantasy wish list.  There’s also quite a few industries and commercial structures I’d like to model, but I can’t justify them on the future layout.  And of course, those who know me accept that most of these are locomotives!  “Dream, but don’t buy,” says my wife!



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