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Diesel Locomotives



The SNR's first passenger diesels were E6s, 18 A-B sets of which were ordered in 1940, and would become numbers 200-217.  The paint design for them was developed by EMD's Art and Color Section.  The goal was to blend with the blue and orange "Tidewater" scheme that had been used on lightweight passenger cars since 1934, but with an eye toward a forthcoming order for stainless cars.  Herr Hitler's hegemony intervened, however, and the first order for new cars didn't hit the property until '46 - although they synched right up with the E-units when they finally arrived.  

A handful of E7s were purchased after the war to supplement the E6 fleet, but tractive limitations on the steep mountain grades had caused management to begin to reconsider the 6-axle (A-1-A) format in those circumstances.  In late 1945 the SNR ordered A-B-B sets of boiler-equipped F3s for mountain service, which are used on the heavier trains. Some of the F3B units can also be seen supplementing E sets, as can a couple early F7s.  

A wave of replacement power is currently on order, in the form of E8s and boiler-equipped F7s, however those are not expected for delivery until '53.  


The SNR began dieselizing its road fleet just after WWII with an order of F3s.  They quickly gained favor with the railway, and have grown to fill the entire 300 series, with an order of F7s spilling over into the 400s.  The paint scheme adopted was simply the passenger scheme from the E6s, minus the silver, and without the scallop in the orange stripe along the side intake panels.

Model notes:  The fleet is composed entirely of Stewarts.  They run mostly in A-B-A consists, but there is occasionally an A-B-B.  In each case, the middle unit is a sound dummy with a Tsunami.  They are the Camry of the model railroad world - smooth, quiet, bulletproof, adequate, and eternal.  Most were bought new in the mid-90s, but I have continued to acquire them for replacements here and there, occasionally including the Bowser variants.  Although to date, none have needed replacing.  

Paint scheme notes:  The freight scheme actually came first.  I had always wanted to do a variation on a theme between freight and passenger, with similar markings, but with silver replacing the body color on the passenger.  The analogy I had in mind was Coke/Diet Coke cans.  Almost the same, except not.  

I studied every F-unit in the land I think, trying to come up with something that was handsome and 40's-y, but that would not be a bear to paint and decal - and especially, would not be too obviously derivative of any well-known schemes.

I had settled on blue, mostly out of love since childhood for the B&O and C&O.  But I needed it to be materially different, so the first move was to choose orange as an accent instead of yellow.  I had always liked orange and blue, and found it solidly historic, including Gulf, CNJ, the Bears, Rodeway, U. of Illinois, and the Mopar-orange 383 in our blue '68 Chrysler when I was a wee tot.  

Next was to pick a design.  Long story short (too late), I settled on the Santa Fe freight delivery scheme as a starting point.  Love that prow stripe and the cab window mask, and herald on the nose door.  And the solid color of the side intake panels meant that color separation could be along the seam, as could the base stripe, which is much easier to mask and get straight.  The only marked change, other than the orange, was to increase the radii significantly on the nose stripe.  

Real railroads would have more decoration, in most cases - especially thin separating stripes between the colors.  Nothing doing on the SNR - the thrifty Dutchmen at the helm in Suffolk were not going to be paying for any such frivolities.  And their counterpart on the HO workbench was not interested in going blind, nor in taking years to decal the numerous shells that were all in for paint at the same time.  The result seems to be a pretty useful compromise between utilitarianism and 40's flair.

Paint notes:  The colors are Polly-S "C&O Enchantment Blue" and Reefer Orange.  If you've used Polly-S, you know it's consistent, covers well, and bears no resemblance to the nominal color on the label.  Every other "C&O Enchantment Blue" in the universe is different.  So the standard color for SNR equipment is not "C&O Blue", but "Polly-S C&O Blue".  The Reefer Orange has the same problem, but luckily there's less of  it.  

So now that Polly-S has left the building, and my stash of hoarded bottles is diminishing, I'm having to find other alternatives.  I'm currently using Model Master "Dark Sea Blue" in spray bombs, especially on the mail cars, which is close-ish, if a bit dark.  It does force me to reckon with the fact that on the prototype, colors fade, and dark colors fade a lot - so even in the 50's, a consist was liable to have different shades in it.  So be it.

Decals were done in PowerPoint, and printed by Rail Graphics - speaking of beloved suppliers who have left the building.  On the F noses though, since the decals were run in "Reefer Orange" and not "Polly-S Reefer Orange", they did not match the side panels, and so had to have a coat of Polly-S applied to blend them!   

In keeping with the railway's early policy of sampling engines from major builders, when favored steam vendor Baldwin introduced their RF16 "Sharknoses" in 1950, the SNR interrupted what had been a long parade of EMD cab units and ordered up 10 A's and 5 B's.  These dropped right into the freight cab number series, becoming #390-399.  The B-units were numbered 390B-394B.  

As with the AS16s, the Sharks proved to be stout haulers but not as reliable as the EMDs.  So with the next order for freight cabs, the railway picked up where it had left off, receiving F7s from EMD starting with #400 and never looking back.  Meanwhile, like on the PRR, the Sharks' good lugging ability has landed them predominantly in coal service, where the occasional mechanical foible out on the road will not result in spoiled produce or merchandise shortages.  

Model notes:  These are BLI Paragon engines.  They are beautifully detailed and sound maahhvelous, but are curiously analogous to the prototypes they represent, being prone to control system failures on the road which causes them to simply lie down and go on strike.  Before they had even seen revenue service, plans were already being formulated to replace their decoders with Tsunami2s.  


As on many roads, the SNR has seen the light as to the superiority of road-switchers over cab units for through freights, and so virtually all new orders for freight power are in this category.  

The first order of GP7s was 600-619, which were early enough in the run that dynamic brakes were not yet an option on the hood units.  The railway had had great experience with dynamics on its Fs and Es, so as soon as that feature was available on the GP7, a large order was placed for 60 more engines, 620-679.  To date, 48 of this order have been delivered, the latest being #667 above.

The non-dynamic units have mostly been scattered to the flatlands (Stettinius & Erie territory), but some have been consisted between dynamic units on the Alleghany and Piedmont divisions.

Model Notes:  All of the GPs are yellow-box Atlas, converted to DCC a few years ago with Tsunamis, and most were already used when I bought them, in the early 90s.  They are as hardy and reliable as the prototype they represent, as is evidenced by their having been in service for almost 30 years on the SNR alone.  Some could be pushing 40.  With operations as a focus, reliability beats detailing - another Frank Ellison truth, as well.  The non-dynamic engines were neutered and converted to sound dummies for the consists.


The SNR's first freight units were the 500-546 series of Alco RS1s beginning in 1940.  They were distributed around the system, intended for transfer and local work, mine shifters, and heavy yard service.  They have proven hardy and are well liked by crews.

Model notes:  Like the GP7s, the RS1s are yellow-box Atlas from the mid-80s, many acquired used, and have put in 25+ faithful years on the SNR virtually without issue.

Not initially offered with MU capability, the railway converted several RS1s to run in pairs.  Above, 530 and 533 idle in the departure yard near the Segway depot with a St. Amour transfer, waiting for clearance.  

Leaving Segway westbound, crews run smack into the 3.15% ruling grade, which would polish wheels with the standard transfer cut when solo units were assigned.  So the Yaeger foremen specifically requested a consisted pair to handle westbound work, including the St. Amour turns, and the Highlands Shifter, which works truck dumps in the district.

The SNR sampled each of the major builders' products, including an order of 10 Baldwin AS-16s, numbers 680-689.  While stout, these have not proven entirely reliable, so most have been relegated to mine run service.  The same is true for the road's sampling of RF16 Sharknoses, so a further order for Baldwins is unlikely.  


The SNR began acquiring diesel switchers in 1940 with Alco S2s, in the same order with Alco as for the RS1s.  Numbered 100-143, they were dispersed all over the system to relieve the largest steam inefficiencies, which were in local yard switching.  Especially where a captive engine is assigned to work alone, and is not in use for the full day, the diesel switchers could be left to idle or shut down, without requiring extensive shop facilities or arduous startup procedures.  

The S2s performed very well in their roles, and the fleet was supplemented with an additional order for the updated S4 model in 1948, which became the 170-191 series.  

In keeping with the policy of sampling offerings from each of the major builders, 10 Fairbanks-Morse H10-44s joined the fleet in 1946, numbered 160-169.  Like the Baldwin road switchers, while sturdy the FMs proved a bit cantankerous.  The result of the FM experiment was the further order for Alco S4s in '48.

Paint notes:  Switchers use the same colors as all the diesel fleet, but with liberal use of the accent color on the nose and cab end for visibility.  The influence here was the later C&O switcher scheme, which followed the same pattern - too cool.


Three 1949 General Motors products compare notes outside the yard office at Segway, Va..

Having received "observations" from customers regarding the F-unit's suitability for switching, after the war EMD began developing an alternate format for its reliable 1,500hp 567B-16 locomotive, to address road-switching concerns.  The BL2 was the result, introduced in early 1948.   While an improvement over the Fs for such service, they were a lot like Ford's Edsel of 10 years later: a sound mechanical platform, repurposed to answer a question nobody really asked.  And also like the Edsel, they were  homely to the point of being lovable (almost).  

The BL was a reshaped F-unit, with switching pilots and end platforms added, and visibility increased to the rear via sculpted body sides.  However, in what would become its primary weakness, it did not follow the true "road switcher" architecture introduced by the RS1, which was a stout cast or welded frame with sheet metal hoods.  Rather, it was a carbody unit, like an F - a covered bridge.  The key manifestation of this weakness was the lack of walkways.  A brakemen could not get from the cab to one of the end platforms (realistically), without getting entirely off the locomotive and back on.  So while the visibility and accessibility were better than with an F, there were not a lot of time savings to be had, because the train had to come to a complete stop before the brakeman could even begin to prepare for the coming moves. The same was true in reverse, when wrapping up.   They also were difficult to service, because the prime mover and generator could not be accessed through hood doors, or the hood simply lifted off, like on a true road switcher.  And the internal walkways were squeezed almost out of existence by the sculpting of the carbody "fenders".     

As with the Edsel, customers stayed away in droves.  A whopping total of 59 were produced in the BL's 1½ year run through September of '49, when the GP7 was unveiled, which would then properly set the world on fire.  

Still, road-switcher customers anxious to stay with EMD as their reliable builder did try them out, including the C&O (for its Pere Marquette subsidiary in Michigan) and Western Maryland.  The SNR was no exception, ordering 4 units for the 460-463 series, which were delivered in January of '49.  Curiously, the assignment to the 400 range meant the railway did lump them in with F-units, rather than actual road switchers, which were in the 500 and 600 ranges.

Their limited utility, as discussed, in addition to the rough-riding AAR trucks specified by the skinflint SNR management, made the BL2s pariahs, being passed around the system to whichever division's road foreman of engines lost a bet that cycle.  Yaeger Yard in Segway, Va., a comparative backwater, was "awarded" #463 in answer to its request for an additional RS1 to handle increasing local service.  

Model notes:  Like Edsels, BL2s were a favorite of my late friend Roger Rassche, because of their obscurity, but also, and primarily, because of their weirdness that only a mother could love.  Roger bought a Proto 2000 example as soon as they were introduced, which then never turned a wheel, but which would do so "someday" - on the layout he would be building "someday".  Going through his effects after his untimely death, the remaining friends in the "crew" determined that the hallowed BL2 needed to find a home on the SNR.  Knowing about the Pere Marquette and WM engines, and having a lot of that same sympathy for underdogs myself, I thought this would be fine.

Unfortunately, many of the early Proto 2000 engines ran like... not well.  "If at all", in this case.  Neither the motor nor the pickup nor the gearing was the problem - they all were the problem.  So I thought, no worries, I'd just slip a Stewart F chassis under the shell.  Nope, too long a wheelbase on the BL2.  OK, an FP-7 then.  Nope, that 4 extra feet wouldn't do it.  OK, an Atlas GP chassis then - nope, still too long a wheelbase.  

It turned out the only reliable engine I could find that would fit the BL2 body was a Stewart AS-16, of which I had 2 - the second one intended to be a sister to #680.  So AAR trucks be damned, with some plastic structural carpentry the BL2 soon came to life.

Paint notes:  The paint was a lot of fun too.  The BL2, after all, was an aborted road-switcher - a hybrid of cab-unit and hood-unit characteristics.  So its SNR paint scheme had to be the same.  The nose - roughly the Karl Malden of F-units - uses the same prow decal and cab window mask as the F's (actually it took 2 or 3 decals).  But the long hood uses the road-switcher stripe, and the rear end features the V-neck sweater and herald of the GPs as well.

Operating notes:  It's been entertaining.  SNR crewmen universally deplore the BL2, as one must publicly decry the Edsel, because one has learned through cultural conditioning that they are to be decried.  But in its heart of hearts, the BL2 still sounds like a naturally-aspirated 567 with a D12 generator, same as an F3 or a GP7 - and runs like a Stewart.  So what's not to like?   And hey, how many layouts do you operate on where you get to run a BL2 and live to tell the tale, anyway.

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