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Sunday, July 16, 2023

Passenger Fs!

Like many railroads, the SNR began dieselizing passenger service with EMD E-units - in our case, E6s in 1940.  

However, like several mountain railroads, the SNR found that the A-1-A trucks on passenger engines lowered the weight ratio on the powered axles, making them a bit slippery on stout grades.  The solution for the SNR - like the ATSF, GN, and NP, among others - was to switch to F-units.  An F had 2/3 the horsepower and weight of an E, and all of it resting on drivers via the B-B trucks.

Heating the train was a problem with this approach however, as there was no room in an F3 for a steam generator's water supply.  The debut of the longer-wheelbase FP7 in 1949 resolved this issue, especially for local and flatland single-unit service.  But before that time, the solution was to mount boilers in the F B-units, fitting the water tanks into the cavity where the cab would have gone.  On the long-distance premier trains that these railroads were equipping, multiple-unit consists were the rule, leaving numerous Bs available for steam service. 

Steam generator intake and exhaust castings came from Details West.

In the model world as well, despite having lusted after those beautiful shovel-nosed Es from age 5**, I ultimately had to confess that they were disappointing in the mountains.  In this case it wasn't the weight on drivers, but the fact that on my layout, the curves in the mountains are effectively at eye level, causing those big, long boats to look clunky rather than slick.  I have always sought out shorter versions of passenger cars to reduce exactly this effect, and I had to come to terms with the fact that the Es were as objectionable as the Pullmans.  

Shorter-wheelbase F3s glide handily through the curves at LeMont, W. Va..

But with the elaborate paint scheme on my E6s having cost so much blood, sweat, & tears, and made me so very happy (♩♩♩ 𝅗𝅥  ♬♫)*, I couldn't just ditch them.  Fortunately I was helped along by electrical gremlins... (hey when have you heard those words in the same sentence!).

Tech wizard Darren Williamson (IHB) had invested vast effort into my Proto E6s, converting them to DCC, and even adding sound into one powered B-unit.  That one though was such a baboon heart, with all the cutting and milling required, that we never were quite able to get it to run reliably.  Eventually a short developed that just would not go away - and for good measure, the companion A-unit soon laid down too.  And not just on curves and grades, but sometimes even on straight track.  I concluded this had to be the universe knocking on the enginehouse door and saying "Try Fs, woodja?".  I decided I'd give up on that pair of E6s at least, and stop making Darren's life miserable.  

Fs accelerate out of the passenger terminal and across Della St. in 1950.

In the same way that after your kids' cool old Saab 900 has been to the garage for the 400th time and you just want to buy them a Camry that will always start and will run forever - maybe with a fresh clutch - the solution to the E6s was the eternal Stewart F3.  I love these things, and depend on them for the entire cab-unit freight fleet.  I've run the same engines for almost 30 years.

So it was decided:  SNR's second order for passenger diesels would be A-B-B sets of boiler-equipped F3s, in 1946. These engines would debut on the point of the new all-coach Queen City, splashed in the tri-color scheme designed by EMD for the E6s years earlier - originally done in anticipation of future stainless steel passenger equipment.  

The challenge was going to be fitting that swooshy-zoot paint scheme, designed for a swooshy-zoot 70' shovel-nose, onto a stubby 50' carbody and making it match the fleet.  But after much stewing and experimentation, accommodating the intakes and portholes, I think I got pretty close to a family look.  The B-units help out with the trailing length.

Glistening new F3s show off their "Queen City scheme" paint, with the matching new Budd stainless trainset in 1946.

Out on the railway, however, the arrival of the passenger Fs for the name trains downgraded the E6s to secondary and mail train service.  And sadly for railfans, that move therefore bumped the last of the long-distance passenger steam off the roster.  Yes the iconic blue and orange locomotives that had ushered in the Tidewater scheme with the re-equipping of the namesake train in 1934 were soon stored, and by the layout year (1952) are now white-lined and being sold for scrap ***.

Heavy Pacific #1275, filthy but still proudly wearing its Tidewater colors to the end, 
is in tow on SM-8, billed for the scrap dealer.

In a rare color shot from 1935, almost everything is less than a year old - the Tidewater's modern lightweight consist and paint scheme, the gleaming Pacific's matching blue suit, and... Kodachrome. What better way to capture the new era - even if the color balance in those days was still evolving a bit.

In 1952 once again, the obsolete #1275 is shoved into a "cut track" at Alleghany Scrap in St. Amour.  

I have often envied my friends who model actual prototype railroads, and can deploy beautifully painted engines right from the box.  But as for freelance paint schemes, I still have to think that despite the blood, sweat, & tears... God bless the child that's got his own.  (♬𝅗𝅥  ♬♩)* 

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!


* (♩♩ 𝅗𝅥  ♬♫) Blood, Sweat & Tears - "You've Made Me So Very Happy"

* (♬𝅗𝅥  ♬♩) Blood, Sweat & Tears - "God Bless The Child"

** This would be from watching the beautiful blue and grey EAs on the O-scale B&O exhibition layout which the Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. always displayed in its lobby at Christmastime.  The best day of the year was always the first day of Christmas vacation, when I could go downtown with Mom to see the trains at 4th & Main, meet Dad (who worked in the building) for lunch, and then watch more trains.  See the last entry on this page: Suffolk Northern Ry.: Heroes and Influences

*** Thanks to Darren Williamson also for the donation of the nice Mantua Pacific for the rolling-scrap fleet.  D's dad "Slim" was not a modeler, but a benefactor of the module group when we were teenagers.  This was an engine he bought to run at module shows just because he liked it, in its President-wannabee B&O blue with gold trim.  Because the engine had been languishing away in a box since Slim died in 1993, we decided it would be a good remembrance of him to resurrect the Pacific, even if it were in scrap trim and SNR paint.  At least it's still blue!  Just needed a coal bunker constructed in place of the cast load, and a little refurbishment, in order to proudly wear that first-ever SNR passenger scheme.