Advice on diesels

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by jr switch, Oct 27, 2006.

  1. jr switch

    jr switch Member

    All of this started because I just wanted an HO steam engine sitting on a shelf to look at due to they are intricate and great detail---Now, I have three steam engines, a fourth on it's way and a diesel switcher, along with two ovals of track in my workroom so that i can run them----I keep going thru the walthers catalog and the historic rail catalog---Seems to be 4, maybe 5 main manufacturers or builders of the diesels, GM's, GT's,---can some of you give me a lesson on the typical ones in use today, the heaviest, the most powerful, the most common--Starting to get interested in the diesels and know nothing at all about them-------John R
  2. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    Ok. It's a huge task, but I'll answer your questions.

    Major Manufacturers (North America)

    EMD (General Motors duvested itself of this business in 2004)

    General Electric

    ALCo (was a major player until it's untimely death in 1969-early 70's)
    MLW, montreal locomotive works, a close canadian partner of ALCo, lasted into the early 1990's. They peoneered the "Wide cab", standard today.

    Motive Power industries, the only true American locomotive builder since EMD moved it's plant to Canada :cry: They make the newest, most cutting edge diesels, and unfortunately, not in enough quantity to warrant a model of ANYof their locomotives. :(


    Typical ones:

    Mainline SD70 series SD40's GP40's MP15's in the yard. Some GP7's ans GP9's still floating about 50 years after the last ones were made! :eek:

    ES44Ac's (th "0GEVO"s for GE evelution series) Dash9's and some Dash 8's

    C420's are the only ones I can think that run in any quantity 30 years after the plant closed.

    mostly candaian locomotives, and not modeled often. Could somebody fill this in?

    =======The Most....=======

    Powerful? It's the EMD SD90MAC or. The GE AC6000

    Also the EMD DD40AX is by far the LARGEST! :eek:

    The most common is by far the SD40-2, although, I'm seeing more SD70's then '40's these days :(

    Before the SD40 debuted, the F units were the most numerous. EMD made the FT's (1939) F2's (1946) F3's (1946) F7's (1949) F9's (1954)

    There you go, enjoy! :)
  3. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Most of the Western class 1 railroads have gone almost completely over to modern 6 axle power for mainline trains, with the 4 axle equipment relagated to locals. BN and SF both tended to rebuild engines repeatedly, and get full use out of their motive power. U.P. has historically been much quicker to jettison old equipment and buy new. BNSF has traded off their cab units, f45s, fp45s, & fp40s, but to my knowledge are still running most of the rest of their equipment including gp7s & 9s, up through gp30s (repowered to gp35 specs), gp35s, 39s, 40s, 40xs 50s, & 60s. In the sd class locomotives they have sold off a few sd45s, but I think still have quite a few on the roster (they may be locomotives the SF repowered to sd40-2 specs) they still have sd40s, sd40-2s, as well as the newer stuff. For some reason the SF was a lot quicker to dispose of old GE power than they were to get rid of EMD power.

    UP on the other hand has disposed of most of the older power as fast as they can buy new power units. There is a caveat however. U.P. is frequently power short, and have to lease power which is often rebuilt units that they have sold off and then end up leasing back! I can't comment on East Coast roads. In So Cal all I see are BNSF & UP and whatever pool power they have on lease.

    For modeling purposes, the large 6 axle power units need a larger radius curve to look right, but will usually negotiate a 22 inch radius or even 18. Also because of less complication in the valve gear, the diesels are easier to tune up to optimum performance. I've also found them more reliable on most curves than steam engines.
  4. jr switch

    jr switch Member

    Thank you----

    Miles, and Russ-----thanks guys, that is the info I was looking for----I'm learning that the diesels are as cool and as interesting as the steam. Unfortunately, they took out the rail line that was right across the lake from our home and so I don't see much unless I get a little farther north toward Chicago. Been wanting to get at least two diesels and now I have an idea on what is what----thanks again----John R
  5. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Hi jr Switch,

    I was in a similar position as you a month ago, though the situation was reversed-- I am a modern-era diesel modeler and I was looking for my first steam engine. :D

    First I determined I wanted an NYC or Pennsy steamer (that's the region I model).. Then I determined I needed something that can go around 18" curves... Then I looked at the available models and asked lotsa questions on this board. Lotsa guys answered my questions about the performance and quality of various brands and models (Spectrums, MDCs, Proto 2000 Heritages, Athearn Genesises, BLIs, etc.). I ended up buying an NYC J1e Hudson 4-6-4 from BLI with DCC and sound for $129 and I cannot be happier.

    Anyway, I think you can do the same... Decide what road name you want, then think of an era (modern, as within the past 20 years I assume), then think of the operating constraints (heavy-haul road loco vs. switcher vs. high-speed passenger loco vs. operating radius, etc.) and we can make some suggestions for you. So get back to us and let us know! :thumb:
  6. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    As far as east coast stuff goes, i think SW1001s, GP38/40-2s, GP15-1s, and such are the common locomotives. i rarely seen anything else. AEM-7 electric locomotives are commmon on Amtrak's North East Corridor.

    new GE 6 axle wide cabs are the common mainline locomotives. going alittle farther south to baltimore and DC i spotted more EMD 6 axles like the SD70 and SD40-2s.
  7. alexander

    alexander Member

    Inst the GP38-2 common on locals and switching jobs, and even the occaisinal mainline assingment
  8. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Yep! The most common hood units in terms of numbers built would be the GP9 and the GP38-2. They were so ubiquitous, it seemed almost every railroad in the U.S. had some of these at one time or another.

    They are what I call "goldilocks" locomotives... Not too big, not too small, but juuuuuuust right! :D
  9. jr switch

    jr switch Member

    Thanks all

    I appreciate the response and input---You guys have answered my questions. I'll probabely end up with Santa Fe, sort of a favorite of mine. I recently tried out an Athearn SD45T-2, fantastic looking engine, and it did a lot of growling when started and made a fair amount of noise while running and then all the growling when brought to a stop. Is this normal for these? My switcher is pretty noisy also, but its very old and I bought it used, so I don't know it's history. My steam engines are all pretty quiet. Are the diesels designed to make noise, or is it just a characteristic of their drivelines or drive systems? It sounded sort of cool, but alarming. Can some of you reccomend good sites for buying rolling stock, nice trucks, metal wheels, good detail, or a source for the kits with the metal wheels and couplers? Funds are a little tight right now, but it seems that the kits are not to expensive. And again, thanks, all of you for being helpful--------John R
  10. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    Hi Jr Switch,

    The Athearns all tend to have a sort of growl, yes. Some brands do offer relatively quiet mechanisms though, such as Atlas and Kato.

    If you don't want to go to the trouble of tuning that Athearn yourself to get rid of the growl, you can also buy a Proto Power West pre-tuned mechanism for it.

    I hope you enjoy your diesel locos as much as I enjoyed mine! :thumb:
  11. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    It sounds like something was wrong with the Sd45t-2. Athearn used to use a nylon motor mount and sometimes it would come loose and allow the motor to vibrate against the body. Athearn in the past has also had occasional problems with casting flash on the gears. I don't know if any of these problems affect the newer models like the Sd45t-2. Have you considered running older first generation diesels? Bachmann has come out with an inexpensive Emd Ft model. You could run Ft's with steam & they wouldn't be out of place.
  12. MilesWestern

    MilesWestern Active Member

    That's not a growl! it sounds just like a diesel locomotive in minirature! :D :rolleyes:
  13. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    Almost all my locomotives are Athearns, 15 of them. 7 are Bachmann's, 3 are P2K, 2 are model power. 1 of the Bachmann's is almost thirty years old and still running. It's a German made GP40 that I bought in Germany in 1977, for $17 new. It still runs very quiet. My newest aquisition is a P2K E6 in KCS passenger colors. It has a Kato motor and drive mechanism and runs so quietly, I can't hear the motor running when it passes by the front of the layout, only a foot away.
  14. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    I once made a list of all diesel types with over 1000 made. From msot common to least: GP9, SD40-2, F7, C44-9W, GP7, AC4400CW, GP38-2, F3, SD70M, S2, RS3, GP35, SD45, SD40, GP40, C30-7, GP40-2, SD70MAC, SW1200, NW2, C40-9W.
  15. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    you mean the most numerous at any point in time? from what i've heard, many of those ( such as the NW2) are virtually nin existent today.
  16. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    The ones with the most built, yes. Many of those are practically gone.

    The major diesel manufacturers:

    EMD (Electro-Motive Division of General Motors, now Electro-Motive Diesel) and its Canadian associate, General Motors Diesel: Builder of the first road freight diesel to see large-scale production (the FT, during World War II), EMD quickly became the dominant builder. In the late 50s, they had 80% of the market. This was sustained for a long time by the reliability and long service lives of EMD products compared to all competitors. Now, GE sells more new engines, but EMD's historical total production is still much greater.

    GE (General Electric): In the very early days, collaborated with Alco on boxcab diesels. Continued to supply Alco with components while building industrial switchers and export units. Struck out into the domestic mainline market with the prototype XP24 in 1959. The first production units of this model, now termed the U25B, were sold in 1961. GE increased in market share until, in 1983, it finally sold more engines than EMD. Since then, GE has always been on top.

    Alco (American Locomotive Company), MLW (Montreal Locomotive Works) and Bombardier: Alco was consistently #2 in the transition era. Since they were an established steam builder and EMD wasn't, War Production Board restrictions and self-competition got them off to a slow start and prevented them from ever being #1. GE took the #2 position in the 60s, and there wasn't much room for a #3. Alco shut down in 1969. For a long time MLW had been builidng Alco designs in Canada, and now built their own developments from Alco designs. MLW built its last engine in 1977, but Bombardier continued development and production until 1984.

    Fairbanks-Morse and CLC (Canadian Locomotive Company): The other major builders sold boxcabs, switchers, streamliners and/or passenger engines before WWII. FM, a builder of diesel engines for marine and stationary power generation applications, broke into locomotive building after the war. Unlike all other diesel builders, they used opposed-piston engines (half the pistons go up, half down). These engines served well in other applications, and they allowed FM to build more powerful locomotives for their size than their competitors could at the time. However, they were difficult to maintain, and the electrical systems weren't very good, either. FM stopped building locomotives in 1963. Throughout its short career, CLC licensed FM designs in Canada.

    Baldwin and BLH (Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton): Baldwin was a major steam builder. They built diesels in the early days, and sold decent quantities of their switchers. As they built mainline engines in the postwar era, some things became clear. Baldwin engines were powerful, but achieved this through brute-force engineering. Their prime movers were notoriously unreliable, and their electrical systems were nothing to write home about. They stopped building in 1956.

    Lima and Lima-Hamilton: A significant steam builder, Lima made very few diesels. None were sold west of the Mississippi, in fact. They were absorbed by Baldwin in 1951, forming BLH, which produced only Baldwin designs.

    Morrison-Knudsen, now Motive Power Industries: A general heavy engineering company, M-K got into the locomotive rebuilding business in the early 70s. Most of their work was rebuilds on EMD locomotives. In 1991, M-K built its first engines from the ground up: F40PH-2Cs, virtual clones of the EMD model of the same name. In 1997, it changed its name to MPI.

    This lists builders that made engines for railroads, and does not count a number of builders that made small industrial switchers primarily or exclusively.
  18. jbaakko

    jbaakko Active Member

    Nice list, you beat me to it...

    P.S. You might want to watch CAT/Progress Rail in the future, there's no reason for CAT to buy a RR company like that w/o a minor thought in the back of their heads of getting a CAT diesel back on the rails. ;)

    P.P.S NRE ownes the copyright to Alco and F-M diesel engines (not all but most), primarly for ship use, but they can rebuild, OR new build the engines!

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