CP Executive train in Albany

CP Executive train in Albany

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Favorite Engines - Conrail SD80MACs

There are some engines that you just see and go "wow." I remember visiting the Steamtown museum last year with my friend and seeing Big Boy #4012 and thinking that. It was just huge. I respect that. There are other engines though that jump out at me because they have striking contours, or flashy paint jobs. The first example that I can recall personally coming in contact with were the Conrail SD80MAC engines. While most modern EMD and GE locomotives are big... especially compared with older first generation, four-axle engines... these not only seemed huge but very boxy and brutish. Here is an interesting website about them.

December 25, 1998

They were special for a couple of reasons. They were Conrail's first alternating-current (AC) traction engines, the first 5,000 horse power units, sported 20 cylinders instead of the typical 16, and featured EMD's radial truck design. And, Conrail was the only railroad to order them (though CSX and NS eventually inherited them) with a roster of 30 total. All nice, but when I saw them for the first time I didn't know or care about any of that. What I did see was a striking paint scheme of blue with a "white face." Conrail had designed a special livery just for them (which I asked about on Railroad.net) to signify their uniqueness and it worked.

June 22, 1996

They weren't frequent visitors on the Conrail mainline that cut through Rochester, but I definitely saw them a couple of times. I always wanted a model of one, and in 2002 Kato released an HO scale engine that I quickly pounced on. I had trouble installing a DCC decoder in it, so I drove across town to the NCE factory and they let me walk in and after we toured the place they personally installed a decoder for me. Now that is service.

Postcard of six (!) SD80MACs in Chatham, NY

I tried to run the engine on the college model railroad club's layout I belonged to but it always derailed in one place because they chose to run the mainline through the curved leg of a switch instead of the straight leg. Never, ever do that! Eventually, when I migrated to N scale I sold it. But now Athearn has announced that they are releasing them again in HO scale. And they are super detailed with DCC and sound! Yes, I know they are 12 years too late for my layout, are for the wrong railroad, and never operated on the territory I am modeling. And yup, I am going to get one. I mean... just WOW!

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