Locomotive aesthetics

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Triplex, Mar 9, 2009.

  1. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Call me shallow, but aesthetics is a big part of the appeal of railroads and modelling. I've studied my own reactions to locomotives particularly - almost have it down to a science. Unfortunately, that means that I can't summarize them. It would take a small book. Maybe I'll post some of that when I have more time.

    Anyway, I don't recall this forum having a thread like this recently, so...

    Which locomotives are attractive or just "look right" to you? And which are completely the opposite? And why? Ignore paint schemes if you can.
  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Any GP diesel without a high short hood is plain ugly, IMHO. I guess that locks me into the early years of diesels, which is fine by me.

    There are a few steamers with ugly proportions.

    But there is nothing prettier than an 1870s 4-4-0 coming through the woods with 4-5 varnished open platform passenger cars.

    just my opinion
  3. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    The "streamlined" shrouded steam locos are, IMHO, among the most beautiful machines ever constructed.
  4. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    Steamers..??...A Y6...It's so monstrous...it's beautiful..!!
    Diesel...F3's...Beautifully proportioned with just the right dose of "streamlining"....
  5. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    :thumb:An N&W Y6b, massive ugly that's just too cool, any shay because of their monkey motions and GG1s because of their "State of the Art Deco" look.

    Amtrak's GE P42DCs:cry:...just what were they thinking---or---when Congress streamlines a locomotive, it looks like it's still in the box.
  6. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    The designs of Henry Dreyfuss remain the most classic for locos at any time. No offense to you modern guys, but diesels just don't have it.
  7. ZeldaTheSwordsman

    ZeldaTheSwordsman Thomas Modeler

    I love steamers. Especially British ones. Take a look at the LNER A1s and A3s, for instance.
  8. ytter_man

    ytter_man Member

    The appearance of a locomotive and its function are closely related to me.

    A 4-8-4 pulling a log train would look very stupid and odd to me, as would a shay pulling a passenger train (unless it were some old broken down combines).

    Diesels can haul most anything, and probably have, which is why i tend to stay away from them. If it's diesel for me, it's probably a shortline engine or a switcher.

    However, that doesnt mean i cant appreciate covered wagons pulling a streamliner at full speed!

    This is something modern high-dollar tourist railroads probably should take into account. The Rocky Mountaineer in Canada, for instance. Those spartan cabs just dont look right, i've seen it like that throughout my childhood, and i think they need to invest in the restoration of some C-liners or E-units. It would just feel right.
  9. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    French & Italian steam = Ugly
    British & German steam = Attractive

    Streamlining varies from outstanding to putrid. The worst streamliners were typically in the south...while midwestern streamliners were the best (Dreyfuss '38 century, PRR S-1, MLW 4-4-2s and 4-6-4s, etc).

    Several things I've noticed:
    -smoke box fronts: geometric shapes matter. modern NYC power was putrid (that's an understatement). Perhaps the ugliest locomotives ever built were their P&LE 2-8-4s.
    -cast trucks without visible leaf springs are far more attractive than fabricated trucks or USRA style (with visible leaf springs)
    -electric box headlights were the work of the devil
    -extended smokeboxes were frequently a step down in appearance
    -high mounted boilers, typically for the purpose of allowing a wider firebox without a trailing truck were barf inducing. If you're going to do without a rear truck, you better accept having a narrow firebox that sits in between the rear drivers...just like the fine looking ng 2-8-0s.
    -large numbers on the tender are ugly
    -solid black is bad. Driver tires should be striped. Running boards should be striped. The locomotives class should be labeled in small letters on the tender
    -only two basic families of stacks are nice: straight and large balloon/nesmith/cogden...diamond stacks are bad.
    -Green boilers are the next best thing to Russian iron...the finest color for a boiler. Wood cabs should be varnish, not painted.
    -solid pilots are ugly...give me some sort of spokes or lattice!
    -smoke deflectors can act like brown paper bags...great for covering the ugly mug of an otherwise fine looking locomotive (see NYC Niagaras for example!)
    -electric headlights should have visors...pyle national being the best
    -illuminated numberboards look great

    Ok...I'm picky...
  10. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Now why is Italian steam ugly? This is the nation that brought us some of the most beautiful machinery in the air, on the seas and on the roads. Couldn't they extend that talent to steam engines?

    Besides, these aren't that ugly:

    Attached Files:

  11. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    They clearly didn't...all of the best designers must have been working for Ferrari. I say clearly as I puked the first time I saw Rivarossi's complete catalog. :mrgreen:

    There are exceptions to the rule...this British engine was putrid...
  12. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Certainly "no frills", I'll give you that. However, this is really ugly, and it's Italian to boot:

    Attached Files:

  13. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    On the other hand:

    Attached Files:

  14. steamhead

    steamhead Active Member

    That Italian contraption is NOT ugly.....It's a mouthful of BARF.....way beyond ugly......
  15. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    You'll find that most highly experimental engines from anywhere draw bad reactions.

    It's interesting just how different we are. I count J3s, S1s, L4s and A2s all among the most attractive.
    This I can agree on. The worst offenders on this aren't American; the loading gauge in steam days wasn't high enough. Some classes of Russian 2-10-0 had so much airspace under the boiler you could almost walk through.

    For me, solid or footboard pilots look best. Cowcatcher-style pilots are alright if they don't extend too far. The most consistently ugly are pilots made of horizontal slats; these tend to ruin Argentine, Uruguayan and Paraguayan steam.

    Most British and Italian steam looks too... well, clean, and I particularly don't like most British smokeboxes. German and French steam somehow looks finely engineered.

    I tend to prefer semistreamlined steam to fully streamlined. I like, for example, CP steam with recessed headlights - the barely-streamlined Royal Hudsons and Selkirks, but actually more so their late heavy 4-6-2s and 2-8-2s which weren't even rounded off. Skyline casings are another weakness; favorites here are unstreamlined SP GS-series and AC-9s and East German 01.5s. Among unambiguously streamlined steam, those that still don't try to hide the shape (NYC Hudsons, N&W Js) come off much better than earlier shrouded efforts. In fact, it's questionable which are worst: the ugliest messy engines, or the most strained efforts to hide them.

    EDIT: Just remembered what I was trying to, an example of what I'm talking about. DRG class 05 4-6-4s. The shroud made them unrecognizable as locomotives. I hate when streamlining hides the wheels.
  16. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    I think we're going to need photos. :needpics:
  17. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    I think we're going to need photos. :needpics:
  18. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

  19. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    German designs have a certain flair, don't they?
  20. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

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