Engine model #'s, I'm confused

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by ezdays, Dec 2, 2003.

  1. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Ok, another problem that has been pressing on my mind, with no apparent resolution. I am totally confused about engine model numbers. I have difficulty distinguishing one from the other. :oops: Well, maybe I can if I have a picture of each next to each other, but even then, not always. :eek: For example, I can’t easily see the difference between an F3 and an F7, or between a GP-19, Gp-38, SD-45 or a Dash 8-40B…or BW... or BHW… :rolleyes: As always, I wonder if I’m alone, or is it just the more dedicated that prevail here. I know, there are dealers like Brooklyn Locomotive Works that have pictures of every loco they carry, but even then I’m hard pressed to see the differences.

    I guess I’m just wondering if there is one source that I can go to that will explain these things. I know that some differences are as slight as maybe one more vent, or a different handrail. Frankly, it doesn’t matter on my railroad, I bought what I have because I liked it and the price was right, but not knowing does make me feel that I’m missing out on something. There was a time when I was a kid that I could tell by looking what the make, model and year was for every automobile that passed by. That stopped a long time ago. Now I have problems even figuring out what color they are. :cry: Hmm, is that car gray, silver, pumice or puce?:confused:

    There has to be a book or a web site that can straighten me out here, not with automobile colors, but with locomotive models. :) I frequently see a string of locos on the BNSF line that runs parallel to the highway on the way to Phoenix;:wave: I’d like to be able to tell the difference other than they have different paint schemes…

  2. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    I think in some cases there may be no visible difference. Also, some are so obscure, there may have only been 2 or 3 of that model manufactured. I guess you would about have to focus on one area, just like you would to be an automotive expert.
  3. ddavidv

    ddavidv Member

    I'm with you on this, confusing as heck.
    I was doing some searching on the 'net yesterday for background on some older diesels, and one thing I discovered was 'diesel rosters'. Not sure how it will work for modern roads, but many older routes/fallen flags have railfan sites with images and listings of all the engines on that road's roster. I just did a search for "Western Maryland diesel roster" and found some great pages, very complete.
    Still can't tell you what half of 'em are if I spot 'em. It's an acquired talent I guess. But I can still ID any car on the highway. :thumb:
  4. Pete

    Pete Member

    ID'ing engines is done in a similar manner to ID'ing cars...you just need to know what to look for. Different noses, body style and shape, grille's and their placements, light configurations, etc. make each model unique.

  5. mhdishere

    mhdishere Member

    And to make matters even worse, details on a particular model can change during the production period of a particular locomotive (railfans call these "phases"), and when the next model comes out it may be very similar externally to the late phase of the older model.

    We won't even discuss steam engines either!
  6. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Ahh, glad to see I'm not alone. I think I got the wrong impression when I irst got into MRR and frequented another, very popular and very busy, forum for which I will not say it's name. I remember someone proudly posting a picture of his newly painted engine, let's say it was an AB-99D (made up #) and it was the ABC Railroad. Someone answered that the guy screwd up and the ABC Railroad never ran AB-99D's, they used AB-99E's. This was the same forum that someone took another guy to task because he used the wrong shade of yellow when he painted his engine.

    I don't ever what to know that much about engines and roads, maybe for fear that I would become as obnoxious at those guys were; but it would be nice to ID some of them on sight, or at least have a reference that I can go to. I want to be informed, but I still have to remember that this is suppose to be fun.

  7. pjb

    pjb Member


    There is a soft cover book series by Jerry Pinkepack , published by Kalmbach called the DIESEL SPOTTERS GUIDE . You can get used editions cheaply from used book dealers on ABE,AddALL,ALibris,and similar bookdealer coöperative selling services. You are not interested in the latest stuff, right- so any edition will have anything from before the 1980s. Otherwise buy a new one from Amazon or hobby shop , etc. Its handy and cheap and family resemblances will become apparent.
    Good-Luck, PJB
  8. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    More from Kalmbach

    I was just going through a list of Kalmbach books and there are two, MR Cyclopedia, Vol 1, Steam Locomotives and MR Cyclopedia, Vol 2, Diesel Locomotives . They are not cheap though, $50 for the steam one and $38 for the diesel. I think I'll look around and see if I can find them discounted somewhere.

    Or maybe I'll just stop being concerned and remain uneducated in this aspect, and just accept the wrath of those that are:D... or better yet, I can stay away from "that" forum and others like it.:wave:

    D:sleeping: N
  9. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    EZ if you check on the bay i got vol.2 for under 15$ and vol.1 for less other than that . they all look the same to me too:confused:
  10. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    This web site has a lot of photos of locomotives. It may help. Pick your favorite road and compare the photos to the loco ID #.

  11. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    IIRC, in the early days the models changed with the power of the engines, while carbodies changed without a model change. I think the F3 to F7 was a horsepower increase while there was no change in the body for a wile, but there were a number of distinct (to some people) changes while they made the F7. Similarly with the GP7/GP9.
    There were also options (dynamic brakes is a visible one) that didn't affect the model.
    I think GE changed their entire series designation without actually changing the locos.
    I agree that Diesel Spooter's Guide is the best reference. I'm still using the first edition.
  12. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

    As with every other pursuit the more invovled you get in it the more you learn. I couldn't have told a Geep from a Covered Wagon but now can identify a number of locos thanks to conversations like this, viewing pics that people posted, and reading articles about trains real and modelled. Some folks are going to delve deaper into recognizing distinctions between locos and may take pride in being able to immediately idenitfy any diesel on the spot. That's great, and more power to them.

    Not every one follows up on this part of rail fanning and modeling though and that's OK too. I have great respect for folks that strictly adhere to the prototype when they model but I take a dim view of people who try to take the joy out of modeling for others who don't do the same.

    By the way, the ABC DID run AB-99Ds!! :D

    You summed it up well EZ by remembering that it supposed to be fun. And we now have some nice resources from folks above for learning more about locos! Cool! :thumb:
  13. babydot94513

    babydot94513 Member in training

    Another good reference source for discerning the difference between types is: The Contemporary Diesel Spotters Guide, by Louis Marre and Paul Withers. While that book details the latter part of the diesel generation it also goes hand-in-hand with, Diesel Locomotives The First 50 Years before 1972, by Louis Marre.

    I have found both of these valuable for both railfanning as well as modeling - in which I know very little of either one.
  14. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    My LHS owner used to politely inform me of what's right and wrong until I started covering my ears and saying, "Not on my railroad, not on my railroad, not on my railroad" until he stops. Now he doesn't even start for fear of further embarrassment in front of other customers.
  15. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

  16. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Yeah, I used the phrase, "It's my railroad, I can do what I want on it" on "that" forum once, and was berated for saying that. I think some people take their hobbies too serious. Either that or they are in it just to show others how clever and smart they are.

    I just wonder what the real world consequences are of IDing a GP38 as an SM70, or using the wrong model loco on a particular line. In any event, I suggest those that feel it is a cardinal sin, that they get a life and learn to have some fun.

    Thanks for the input on the books and links, I will check them out since I really would like to learn a bit more than I know now, but if I do show my ignorance, so be it, I don't need to know as much as they do anyway.:thumb: :thumb:

    Just one more thought, but I bet life would be a lot easier if locomotive manufacturers put the engine model numbers somewhere on the side of the engines like car manufactures do, and Atlas, Kato and the others followed suite.:)

  17. Agatheron

    Agatheron Member

    I have a copy of the Canadian trackside guide, but all it does is tell me that a given roadnumber is a certain type of locomotive. I've only just figured out this week that there is a difference between GP9's and GP9RM's or GP9u's which are often called "Chop Noses." After looking at the pics between a GP9 and a GP9RM it looks like I need to be a bit more careful in choosing locomotives for my layout if I want to be accurate...

    The various pics links are veeery helpful :thumb:
  18. ddavidv

    ddavidv Member

    Diverting slightly to the 'fun' aspect...
    Just getting back into it as I am, I was finding myself stressing over details already. What paint schemes would be in use during my time period? What engines would be assigned to do my duties? What industries actually existed that supported the line? These are all (I feel) legtitimate concerns to be addressed when modelling a prototype.
    However, I made myself draw the line at worrying about build dates painted on N scale cars. I mean, who the heck is ever gonna see them? :p
    Unless you're modelling an exact scale mile of reality, every model RR is going to have some fiction in it. If I paint my handrails the wrong shade, maybe 1 guy out of every 1000 that looks at my layout will know it. And if I know it, and it doesn't bother me, then what difference does it make? :confused:
    It's real easy to get roped into thinking like the "fun-suckers" do. Keep it in your head it's a hobby, it's for fun; not to prove to others what a know-it-all you are. :thumb:
  19. davidstrains

    davidstrains Active Member


    I my hobby world I am running a Kato Mike on a Wabash run from Columbia, MO to Centrailia. I don't think that Wabash used them down there but I am. It is a loco that "I" like, it looks good, runs very well, and that is fine with me. I like to have fun running trains not arguing about what Wabash ran on this line or what MoPac used for it's interchange service. Enjoyment is the name of the game:) :) :)

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