Why So Many Diesels?

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

  1. Bones

    Bones Member

    I think it has to do with "generation saturation" (hehe, I coined a term), as well as DCC. (DCC in N and Z scale, that is)

    As for "Generation Saturation"(C), it's true that a lot of young modellers really have no idea what it took to run a steamer, or the engineering feats accomplished to do so. They grew up around nothing but diesels, and came to accept them as the norm. It takes something special to draw them away. Like for me... it was the Uintah Railway's 2-6-6-2Ts. The uniqueness of the locos caught my attention, and turned me forever. I'm a big steam fan now.

    DCC in N/Z... It's a size issue. How much room do you have to cram a decoder in that loco? Well, often times, not enough. So... steamers sit on sidings, while decoder-equipped diesels do the dirty work. That's pretty much all there is to it.
  2. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks, that's another good point and I didn't think of that. So, in many ways, model steam engines and diesels resemble their prototypes in that steamers are much higher maintenance than diesels. Cheers, Rob
  3. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Hmm, another good point! Thanks, Rob
  4. tetters

    tetters Rail Spiking Fool!

    I've never seen a steam engine live and in person. Not even sitting on display outside a museum. I have felt the rumble of the Go Trains passing under a street bridge or a stood respectable distance from a couple CN locos hauling an intermodel train. The sheer feeling of power under your feet which caused the ground to vibrate was enough for me to go for deisel.

    That said, I'd love to see a steamer some day...before they are all gone.
  5. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    FWIW i have never operated a steam locomotive, but I have operated 5 SD40-2s M.U.ed together with a loaded coal train and anyone who says diesels are not impressive has never heard the sound of 5 turbocharged 645s revving up together or been in the cab of one of these units under load.
    I am a steam fan, but just for the fact that I used to operate 'em I own diesels too. I wish I had the opportunity to operate the older Geeps and F units, I never operated anything older than a GP38 but I rode a CF7 once while qualifying on Amtrak territory.
    I watched an engineer operate a 2-10-0 once, a much different animal than a diesel, a skill in and of itself.

  6. Art Decko

    Art Decko Member

    This thread finally solves a mystery for me!

    I love railroad technology of the mid 1800s, but I seldom see any of that in model RR layouts. I've long wondered why anyone would want to mess around with a plain, utilitarian box on wheels (how diesels look to me), when there were so many gorgeous and fascinating earlier machines.

    Now I understand. Thanks. :)
  7. CRed

    CRed Member

    Wayne is just a great guy with more knowledge about model trains and such then anybody I know.He's helped me a ton lately and I greatly appreciate his help and knowledge.I was looking at some older threads with Wayne in them and he does have some diesels by the way and as usual they look fantastic!

    Thank you Deano for the response on the genesis Big Boy.I may get one soon,but I might get an get an genesis FEF instead for now,I just love Northerns!

  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    In the words of Andy Sperandeo:

    "Mine is the truest form of nostalgia - the fond memory of something never experienced." ;) :D

    I guess for me, the steam era represents a way to time travel and understand what life was like 75+ years ago (on my modules at least).

  9. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    A couple more thoughts.

    My observations pertained to recent Canadian model train layouts. I'm into British trains a lot and with British model railways, I would say there is a 50-50 split between steamers and diesels, and possibly even higher for steamers.

    I think the reason for this is because there are several steam railways dotted throughout Britain. Mainline steam-powered excursions also frequently occur on their mainline as well. This has kept the memory of steam engines alive. You can be a teenager or in your 20s, and still have grown up watching steam engines. The steam era lasted until 1967-68 in Britain, which I think has further helped with this.

    This in turn, "fuels" the modeling industry so that people want to buy British steam models because they can see steam engines operating today.

    All 14 of my British locos are steamers while it's about a 50-50 split with my North American train collection. I can't get motivated to buy British diesels because they seem boring compared to British steam (when it comes to diesels, I like North American diesels much better!).

    It's interesting to note that there are probably only two steam engines operating in all of Ontario. Yet I can think of four heritage railways within 80 miles of my in-law's house in England, and each would have several operating steam engines.

    Hope this doesn't sound like bragging but I do think they are interesting observations. I find it fascinating to compare the two regions.

  10. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Here in North America, the generational issue is probably the main cause for more folks to be interested in diesels. Yet I am sad about this because an operating steam engine is so awesome. We're losing something fascinating not just in railway history but from our history in general.

    At least we have the South Simcoe Railway northwest of Toronto, so we can support steam railways like that and keep the memory alive!

    BTW, I'm too young to remember seeing steam trains operating every day in Ontario -- I've only managed to see them at heritage railways!

  11. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    As far as I know, the stereotypical small HO layout is a 4x8 loop set around 1950. The equivalent in Britain is an OO shelf layout represnting a country branch between the wars - thus all-steam.
    In North America, there weren't nearly so many tank engines. Yard switchers were usually 0-6-0 and 0-8-0 tender engines. Typically, branch lines were handled by 2-8-0s and the like. Tank engines were mostly industrial and shop switchers and commuter engines.
    In Germany - or any other country with nationalized railways - modellers have an advantage. Standardized classes were usually used throughout much of the country. This is especially evident with steam locomotives.
  12. RobertInOntario

    RobertInOntario Active Member

    Thanks! 1950s and early-60s OO layouts are also common, offering a mixture of steam and diesel. Yes, branch lines are very common and the GWR is a favourite of many.

  13. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Well, I've seen the back end operation of a few museum layouts...and the piles of diesels are impressive. Keeping trains moving all the time, but with only part-time attention, causes many operations to focus on the most hours of operation per $ spent on power...so diesels.

    In the past for operation, the standardization of diesels made diesel roads affordable, but steam was cost prohibitive. Certain models of varying quality were available, but they were far more expensive (a Rivarossi 2-8-2 cost the same as 7 Bachmann Plus F units). Manufacturer's seemed to love to produce odd prototypes...such as Rivarossi's Indiana Harbor Belt 0-8-0s rather than USRA 0-8-0s, or Bachmann's Reading 2-8-0 rather than a Baldwin catalog locomotive. So if you wanted to operate a complete road, it really had to be predominately diesel...or you had to have very deep pockets for a mostly brass roster.

    Today, certain roads are still difficult to model for the previous reasons, but the generic models available now (all 12 USRA designs, the Russian Decapods, and Baldwin catalog engines)...it is easy to build a generic freelance road...still, many operators are firmly set in the diesel era from having gotten started years ago.

    $0.02...diesels are a bad word in my house. I take almost no interest in (diesel) model trains...and general interest in real railroads is a shadow of what it once was. I link this entirely to the replacement of steam engines with diesels. A very large number, in my experience, of diesel fans have never experienced steam...or know very little about steam. Yet, many become converts after a baptism of sights, sounds, and smells. I relate an interest in diesels to be similar to an interest in trucks, cars, or planes...but steam is something else. Steam engines are alive.

    Modeling the steam era...or having an interest in it...is very different from having an interest in the modern era. I have no interest in train spotting...could care less about the latest SDXX...and find intermodal about as interesting behind the trucks as they are behind a Dash 9. I love wooden cars. I love friction bearings. I love to look at the people picnicking on a Sunday afternoon special on their local railroad...whom posed for posterity alongside their train.

    I don't have any interest in modeling a specific diesel that was bought by a new railroad and received a special paint job...but I do have an interest in modeling NKP cabooses without the High Speed sign board...because that's what they looked like in 1948.

    Diesels are easier to model than steam. They are cheaper, and easier to acquire. If you just want to run trains, they are an easier choice. On the other hand, a trio of SD-45s are not 1/10th as interesting to the general population as a single 2-8-8-2 pulling the same train. People don't flock to tourist roads to ride behind diesels...they go to ride trains. And the demand is far greater...and they'll pay more...if they get to ride a steam train.

    It used to be, the engineers of the streamlined 4-6-4 powered 20th Century Limited would endorse Coca-Cola...and many little boys wanted to grow up to be engineers. Now days, very few want to grow up to become engineers. Most people don't have much interest in modern trains or diesels. Don't believe me? I can post pictures of the NKP 765 on an unannounced test run which drew a large crowd...many wanting their pictures taken and asking every question they could of the crew.

    The difference between model diesels and model steam isn't all that great...but to those whom have really experienced the difference of real steam and real diesels...there is no comparison at all. This doesn't mean that diesels are not of interest (I do have an honorary steam engine...an NKP PA-1). I have enjoyed my cab rides in mainline diesels and industrial switchers...but they were not 1/10th as interesting as just sitting in cab of a fired up steam locomotive...let alone the thrill of a cab ride in the MLW Road 261, or the NKP 765, or a Canadian Pacific pacific. There is no comparison. These are different things. I get no excitement out of a Ford Mustang...yet one of my friends couldn't stand the thought of having any other car.

    Diesels are not better or worse than steam engines. They are just different.
  14. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Sometimes I'm annoyed by railfans who are only interested in steam. Specifically, I'm talking about the steam hunters (is there a specific slang term for them?) - the (apparently mostly British) fans who have only existed as an obvious category since 1968. They travel the world to find real working steam. The problem? They photograph only steam. In many cases, steam hunters seem to supply the best information about railroads in countries that don't have large railfan bases of their own. However, I'd often like to see more diesel and electric photography from said countries...
  15. puddlejumper

    puddlejumper Member

    Anything post-oxen+wagon and pre-SD90MAC is good for me.:mrgreen::thumb:

  16. sgtcarl

    sgtcarl Member

    Well, what you are most familiar with is probably what you prefer. I grew up on the tracks of the Milwaukee Road, Rock Island Lines, and the DRI Line. All steamers, of course. We lived close to a bridge crossing the Mississippi river, and those old steamers would sure chuff loudly as they went under the bridge. I love trains of all sorts, and am currently living close to N-S tracks. My dad always said there was no power greater than steam. He used to shake his head whenever he saw a train being pulled by three or four diesels. "They could pull a lot more if they would've stuck with steam," he'd say. So I've now got a small and economical LL Santa Fe with diesel. GP38, I think. It's not as fancy and detailed as what most of you guys have, but it's a start.
  17. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I prefer steam, but I model on a layout with a modular club. We probably set up 6-8 times a year. I can pull a new diesel out of the box, put it on the track and run it. Typically, any steam engine I've tried needed at least 3 meets to get all of the bugs out of it. Lately model steam engines have gotten better, but typical of my experience was with a Bachmann plus 2-8-0. The club runs a 36 inch minimum radius on main lines. The first time I ran the 2-8-0, it would jerk around the curves. Bachmann left so much side play in the locomotive that the rods on the front drive would hit the valve gear and stall the engine until it "popped" loose and rolled until the valve gear and rods hung up again. I made a mental note, took the engine home and ran my diesels. I figured out that the problem was too much side to side play in the driver axles/wheelsets. I made some shims from styrene, slipped them behind the drivers, and glued them to the plastic frame. 1 month later we had our next show. I tried the 2-8-0 and discovered that it would not go around the 36 inch radius curves with out derailing. I had taken out too much of the side play. I took the engine off the track and went back to running diesels and took the 2-8-0 home for repairs again. At home I then removed the shims, and made a new shorter shim to just restrict the side to side movement of the front set of drivers letting the others float. 1 month later, I took the 2-8-0 to the next train show, and it worked fine. Since I have only a 3 foot long straight test track at home and no curved track, I could not really test the steam engine except at club set ups. It took 3 or 4 months to get the locomotive right because I had to wait for the club to have a show to see if my repairs had worked.
  18. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    You have a good point here Triplex.

  19. lester perry

    lester perry Active Member

    I love steam and was born when steam died 1955 there are some real nice steam loco availible now. yes they are mor expensive but they have more visable parts to add to them. And if the rr you model is a little different than the ones that are availible then get the closest one to it get detail parts to add what is needed and cut off what is not. you would be supprised how easy and enjoyable this is. the first time I tried it Iwas a little fearful, but after I did it once ther was no stopping me. start with something easy. the fitst one I did was a bachman 2-6-0 reading I recieved for christmas several years ago. I has long since died and gone to the torch. I decided I wanted a 060 for switching so took off the pilot truck cut a section from the pilot an glued it back on makeing it shorter then painted it and decaled it for C&O the only problem was the window had a round top but I can live wth that

    This is a mantua mikado. I don't have a before pic but this is the after. someone out there may be able to post a Mantua mikado pic for me so you can see the differance. I cut off the headlight replaced it with brass one and moved it down added feed water and some plumbing then then cut the running board and added compressers near cab and the flying pums to the front. took one evening to do.It is not a perfect replica but is close enough to get the flavor of C&O

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