CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Roster Review: D&H RS36s in 1984

#5022 (September 24, 1974)
In 2010 I had dusted off my old N scale layout (which was based on the BN/UP Camas Prairie line in the 1970s) and decided to model the D&H instead. I figured I could just switch out the rolling stock and it would be good enough. However, as I looked as the motive power that was available I was disappointed. I am not a big fan of N scale anyways for other reasons (oversize details, difficulty with reliable switching operations, and lack of equipment kits to build) but one thing that really caused me to look at HO was that nearly every D&H engine model was made in plastic. And, for reasons I cannot explain, the Atlas RS36 models resonated with me.

#5012 (June 1982)

Alco built the 1,800 hp RS36 engines (and similar 2,000 RS32 engines) in small numbers in the early 1960s. They didn't sell well, with only 40 RS36 engines being sold total. Of those, 12 went to the D&H who actually had the largest roster of them. The D&H bought them in 1963 and numbered them #5012 - #5023. They were all originally delivered in the lightning stripe scheme with small lettering spelling "Delaware & Hudson" on the sides. Most stayed in the lightning stripe scheme through their careers, but there was one exception. And boy was it an exception! 

#5015 (March 1976)
In September 1972, the D&H repainted #5015 in a brand new and simplistic "experimental" blue and yellow paint scheme with large billboard "D & H" letters on the sides. Per an online Yahoo forum posting from Doug Lezette, in which he quotes an email response he received from Carl B. Sterzing: "The idea behind this paint scheme, according to Chris MacDermot, was to try to develop a simpler design that would reduce time in the Colonie paint shop. As you might imagine, the lightning stripe was beautiful but just the masking alone took a lot of hours per unit. Also, Chris said this was only a test, not intended to be a final answer. For example, the big "D&H" on the side of the long hood was too simple looking, and some fancier script such as the kind of speed lettering the Rio Grande had, was more what he and Dave Huggins had in mind." 

In any event, this scheme was short lived (and not repeated on any other engines), and in early 1977 it was repainted in the solid "Altschul blue" scheme. An excellent photograph of it can be found here. This didn't last long either, and in late 1977 it was modified by painting the nose solid yellow and a yellow sill stripe (similar to RS-11 #5001). It retained this scheme until sold in 1988.

The rest of the entire class was always painted in a variation of the lightning stripe scheme. The engines that kept the original design with the words "Delaware & Hudson" and small numbers on the sides of their hoods were #5013#5019#5020, and #5022.

#5014 (August 20, 1984)
Some were modified with large numbers on the sides of the hoods in the early 1980s. These were #5012, #5014, #5016, #5017, #5018, and #5023. In fact, #5012 was the very first D&H engine to receive large numbers on its hood when it was repainted on 3/15/1981. The picture on the right #5014 is interesting because it is clearly obvious the D&H only bothered to repaint the part of the hood where the numbers had to be and ignored the rest of the body. This shot was taken in Mechanicville, NY.  The only other remaining engine is #5021, and after reviewing online photos I just can't determine what it looked like in 1984.  

#5018 (March 10, 1984)

#5015 (August 13, 1983)
Atlas has to this point really focused on producing reliable HO scale Alco engines, and they not only have a plethora of engine typesbut also have captured a niche by offering them painted for shortline and regional railroads. Atlas really picked up the ball on the RS36 and RS32 engine, because they have released over 100 different cataloged engines over the years in their Trainman line even though there were only 75 total engines made by Alco. For the D&H, they offered a whopping ten RS36 models already painted and lettered! The availability of RS36 engines pushed me to go into HO scale and abandon the smaller stuff. Now, I can't actually tell you the spotting differences between an RS36, a C420, and a C424, but I do know I like the shapes of the RS36 more. Which is probably why I own three and only one C424.

#5016 (March 1984)
About seven years ago I started collecting engines for my layout and at that time assumed that large numbers on the sides of the hoods was the ticket to accuracy for 1984. I have since learned that this is a good starting point but not entirely accurate. Sometimes the engines weathered so much that the large numbers disappeared or faded. Other times, the engines were sold prior to 1984 or were later repainted in a different scheme. However, I got lucky here. Of the models Atlas offered, two (#5016 and #5018) had the large numbers and were correct for 1984. Though disgustingly grubby, both engines' side numbers were still clearly visible in May so my models will work just fine.

Image of train set contents
Note: if you want the #5018 with large numbers, it was only available as part of the Atlas Trainman #0040 train set. I confirmed with Atlas that it was not available separately for sale, though they did offer a #5018 with small lettering on the sides. Apparently Atlas did this with most of their train sets to increase their appeal to buyers, though the number of train sets they sold must have been small and I wonder how much work was required. I am thankful for it though! I acquired mine in a trade with someone who had it and wanted the other version of the #5018, which I had mistakenly purchased.

#5020 (October 1983)
If I want to add some more to my roster, Atlas offered the #5020 (small numbers) and #5023 (large numbers) as well as the #5022 (no numbers on hood). I have been on the lookout for the #5020 but haven't stumbled on a good deal yet. Even though they run great like all Atlas engines should, they are part of the Trainman line and lack details such as separate grab irons, thinner railings, additional details, etc. This doesn't stop some idiots from trying to sell them on EBay at prices that match higher-end Atlas offerings. For those who want to add those additional details themselves, Cal-Scale (Bowser) has a detail kit #190-527 which includes wire formed grab irons, MU hoses, brake hoses, and an antenna.

Atlas stock photo
Atlas even offered the #5015 in the experimental scheme as part of a limited edition release. Imagine that, a model based on a single prototype that lasted for only five years. Thanks Atlas! I think a lot of D&H modelers bought it because it infused something different to those modeling the mid-1970s that had solid rostesr of lightning stripe scheme engines. In a weaker moment, I noticed a local train store had one that hadn't sold in several years so I adopted it. It doesn't fit my layout but I like it just the same.

#5019 (August 1985)
While discussing the engines with my custom weathering specialist Pierre at Elgin Car Shops, we struck a deal where in addition to weathering my engines he would also install the Cal Scale detail kits for me. When they return from his shops, they will not only look great (or filthy, depending on perspective) but their detail level will match my other engines. As can be seen in the picture at the right, it is very difficult to over-weather a D&H engine during the 1980s period. Guilford was certainly strapped for motive power and funds, and just about anything that could move was called into service. I like the perfectly clean yard sign though!

#5019 (October 3, 2009)
Three engines of the 12 survive. #5017 is still painted in the lightning stripe scheme and is located in Arkville, NY, as part of the Delaware and Ulster Railroad. However, it is currently out of service. The #5019 sits in North Creek, NY, where it was once used on the now-defunct Upper Hudson River Railroad. I rode behind it with my wife in 2009, which may be the only time I have ridden behind a D&H engine. It needs wheel work before it can be operated again. Compare this picture with the one above to see how much nicer it looks! Finally, the #5015 may still exist and was recently owned by the Louisville, New Albany, and Croydon Railroad. Searching for its current status online didn't get me far.

Finally, for all you N scalers out there, when I am at the Springfield Train Show I usually ask Atlas every year if they will ever release an RS36 in N scale. Their answer is always the same: "we don't know." I wouldn't hold your breath.

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