Why So Many Diesels?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by RobertInOntario, Jan 18, 2008.

  1. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    This past fall, I visited 2-3 excellent open houses of model railway clubs in the Toronto area where I was able to see some nice 1950s Canadian railway layouts.

    I noticed, however, that most of the locos running were diesels. There were a few steams, but these were usually parked on sidings, etc. I've noticed this before during previous years.

    I DO like diesels but I like steam engines much better. I'm curious as to why so many folks today seem to prefer diesels. To me, the sight of a Hudson, Northern or Pacific chugging along is much more fascinating than watching an F7 or GP. I wish there was more of a "50/50 split."

    I have a couple theories for this but thought I'd toss this question out here first!


  2. green_elite_cab

    green_elite_cab Keep It Moving!

    I'm going to guess its because thats what most of us grew up with. I was only born in december 89, and i'm into conrail, and I was barely alive for it. the railroading i know is GP38-2s on industrial tracks, with Monster GEs pulling huge trains, and boxy AEM7 electrics on the Northeast Corridor. As awesome as old steam was, part of that magic is lost since few of us have expierienced "real" steam aside from a few of the small surviving steam locomotives. I will never get to see a PRR J1 or NYC Hudson bearing down the rails, i won't ever see a N&W 0-8-0 doing industrial switching. Its all in pictures and old movies, which can hardly capture the magic of standing there trackside and hearing all the sounds, and seeing all the smells.

    Diesels are what we know. instead of chuffing, people hear the beatingof a diesel prime mover. we know their sounds, sights, and smells, and when we see them as models, we can more easily imagine we are there. My little GP38-2 on my layout looks like a train i have and will expierience throughout my life. as far as railfanning goes, i think that for us young folk, the diesel is going to be the one capturing the imagination more than the old steam.

    thats just my two cents.
  3. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Might be a matter of cost. Model steam locos are more expensive then diesels. The $300.00 Better-Half spent on my Big Boy, I could of bought a couple of Athearn SD70's and maybe a couple of Blue Box GP 35's. Even the IHC 2-8-0 Consolidation I bought Better-Half at $70.00, could of fetched me a couple of BB Athearn diesels.
  4. Renovo PPR

    Renovo PPR Just a Farmer

    I can answer that since I am a reformed steam lover. It only took one diesel to figure out I was in love with them. The sound of power and the rumble of of that engine was all it took and I knew forever the steam era was done. The sound of an air horn was pleasure to my ears s the rest was history. My diesel line rapidly grew from one last January to 11 in just one year.

    Now my steamers that are still out their boxes sit like relics of the past that they are on the few sidings I have.

    It helps in addition that I can run multiply diesels doubling the pleasure of sheer power.
  5. CRed

    CRed Member

    Cost is important and also steamers can be very finicky when it comes to the track they run on from my experience.I like steamers also,but it's very frustrating when they can't go around loop without derailing every few feet while a diesel has little or no problems at all.Generally diesels are easier to run and take care of.

    Did you happen to get an Genesis Big Boy?I was thinking about getting one and was wondering how good they were.

  6. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    Frankly, I think everyone is right. There is a big split in the railroading community, with the baby boomers who grew up with steamers and the newer generation (me included) who have never actually seen a real steam engine. The price also could be a factor. For example, my new Spectrum 2-8-0 with DCC on board was around $100, which could've bought around three P1K F3's (at least comparing it to the price tag on my F3). Maitnence also can play a part. Steamers have all those driving rods, and in fact the first 2-8-0 I bought actually had one of those break clean off, rendering the engine completley inoperable, forcing me to return it for another one. Desiels, on the other hand, don't have alot of exposed power. Heck, my P2K FA2's only moving part other than the wheels is the fan w/ removable cover to check if the motor is running! Lastly, track radius is probably one of the biggest issues. Most big steam engines like a 4-8-4 in HO need 22" or something to run, while any 4-axle desiel, which there are a lot of availiable, can handle a minimum of 18".
  7. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    i think all the answers touched on here are the valid points of why you see more diesels then steam on most layouts:winki: . though i do believe steamers made today arnt as finicky & do run much better then the ones made in the past:thumb: .

    CRed, i know your question wasn't directed to me:oops: , but i own one Genesis Big Boy, and two Genesis Challengers:mrgreen: , the detail on them is rivaled by brass engines, and they run SLAP FANTASTIC!:thumb: . Those engines are VERY FORGIVING on tight curves:winki: ...it doesn't look pretty to see them on tight curves:oops: , but they will run on them. i would recommend the Genesis steamers to ANYONE with 22r curves or higher:thumb::mrgreen: .

    :deano: -Deano
  8. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Rob: there was a great conspiracy between General Motors and General Electric who funded production of model diesel locomotives so that they were much cheaper than models of real locomotives. :cry:
    In HO, diesels have always been cheaper than steam locos. (With Lionel it was different.) They have fewer moving parts and are easier to deal with.
    Also, they all look the same. Steam locos were usually pretty distinctive (moreso in Canada) and despite what the model manufacturers did, one hudson didn't fit all. So if you wanted something that ran on your favourite road, a diesel would probably look the part better than a steamer.
  9. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    Just an "add-on" TO MY ABOVE POST:winki: .
    MY steamers as far as 18r curves run like this:
    Genesis Big Boy= will run on 18r curves, but looks ridiculous:rolleyes: .

    Genesis Challengers= will run on 18r curves, but looks ridiculous.

    Intermountain AC12 Cab Forward= not a chance this will run on less then 22r curves, and even those are really to small for this engine, at least 30r curves i would recommend.

    Riverrossi F-E-F Class 3 = runs on 18r curves, but will be thrown from the tracks at times, 22r curves or higher and it runs great.

    Riverossi Pacific= runs on 18r curves perfectly.

    Bachmann 0-6-0= runs on 18r curves, but this engine is really quirky, it will run fine one day, and jump the tracks for no reason the next day:rolleyes: .

    IHC Pacific(this is dads engine)= runs on 18r curves perfectly.

    :deano: -Deano
  10. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, guys. Quick late-night comment:

    Those are all pretty much the reasons I was thinking of as well -- especially that people are now more familiar with diesels since steam engines stopped being used in North America around 1960.

    I have a couple of other thoughts to add (in a day or so) when I have a little more time!

    Thanks again.

  11. chooch.42

    chooch.42 Member

    Rob, Hi. According to the local club The Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum ,during the Christmas Open House (Fri,Sat,Sun, mid Nov. to mid Jan), wear on the steam is a major consideration, so Friday is Steam Nite, Diseasels Sat.& Sun. Tracking reliability is probably #2, as its a large layout with little tangeant. Bob C.
  12. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    :inw:Deano has spoken:inw:
  13. ASH630

    ASH630 New Member

    I am a younger modeler! I like O scale and I would love to eventually have some of the biggest steam engines made including a model of the pennsy S1 6-4-4-6. As much as I love stem, though I generally prefer the older engines 4-4-0 then I like the streamlined steam. I also like a lot of the electric traction motors like the GG1s or even the BB-1s. I even like some diesels! I think I am going to end up with a LARGE layout with mostly large curves, and the entire thing under live centenary wires for the electric. As far as a time period, I think I am just going to run whatever I feel like. Even if it is the General running under the centenary. lol
    I think I like too much!
  14. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    That's a big point: a shortage of Canadian-appropriate steam (and, indeed, of Canadian-specific anything).
  15. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

    I don't think...

    ...anyone touched on the fact that there just might be a generational issue. I belonged to a club for a short while. The "old-timers" had steam and of course everyone likes a steam locomotive but as the old-timers left the group because of aging so did the steam. The steam that did appear was almost for the novelty. Wait until diesils as we know them now start to disappear in favor of the (whatever it is) next generation of rail power.:eek:

  16. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    I think everyone has a good point here.
    I was born in Europe in the steam era. I went back to model railroading ( N scale ) after a 40 years retirement.
    95% of the engines ( manufactured ) and displayed at the LHS in Montreal are diesels and they are relatively cheaper than the few steam engines available.
    The rare North American steam models are generally big ones and so far I didn't see any tank engines ( except at Exporail here in Montreal , but they were ... British and German steam tank engines ).
    The Fleischmann N scale catalog has no less than .. 19 tanks engines and 32 tender engines. so availability is an important point.
    And of course steam engines are more complicated to maintain.

  17. UP SD40-2

    UP SD40-2 Senior Member

    :eeki: well THANKS CNWman:smilie: , but please, save your :inw: emoctions for the VERY FIRST person that comes to MY mind when it comes to steam, my good friend Wayne(doctorwayne:worship: ).
    sure i have a few steamers:winki: , but i haven't changed them any, or weathered them...or anything to them:oops: . and they don't get run much at the present time:oops: .

    fact is, Wayne has forgot more about steamers then i will probably EVER know:winki: . i am 99% sure ALL the engines on his layout at this time are ALL steam, have ALL been HEAVILY modified by him, and he would DEFINITELY know how well the older steamers ran as opposed to the newer steam:winki: .

    Wayne would be the exception to the rule as far as the way this thread is going:winki: . like i said, i am sure ALL he runs is steam at this time, and he has steamers of just about every brand out there...old, and "newer".

    i hope he sees this thread and chimes in with his thoughts:thumb::mrgreen: .

    :deano: -Deano
  18. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    Alright then, I'll use the :inw: for doctor wayne, but I just thought your name looked good being worshiped by smilies:mrgreen:
  19. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Canadian deviation:
    When I started looking at HO in the late 50s, there was next to nothing pre-lettered for Canadian roads. Mantua had a TH&B boxcar, Athearn had a CN reefer (both just their standard product). I think Athearn's CPR boxcar came out mid to late 60s.
    Pacific Fast Mail imported cars and locos for the Canadian in the 50s -- the cars were shorties and it was all brass. There was a Canadian company making scale passenger car models, but I never saw any until a show in the 80s or 90s.

    Back to diesel vs steam: In ye olde days, reasonable quality steam only came as brass or as cast metal kits. It was expected that your machine shop would be as large as your layout. The first plastic locos were diesels (F7s by Globe/Athearn); Athearn didn't do a plastic steamer for years (a pacific), and then abruptly withdrew it. RTR steamers were on the toy end for years.
  20. CRed

    CRed Member

    Yeah they were on the junk/toy end for years unless as 6013 said you paid through the nose for brass or were handy enough to do the die-cast kits.They have come along way,I bought my son a Bachmann Plus NYC Niagara and while it's not quite up to the standards of my BLI steamers they look good and run surprisingly well.The Spectrums are very nice engines also and I would not be ashamed to have either on my layout.


Share This Page