Some recent events are the inspiration for this week's blog entry. As I move my layout era from late New York Central to early Penn Central and back I have learned that all is not as it appears to be. With the merger of the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroads there was a little thing like sorting out the numbering of the soon to be 4,000 plus locomotives (1,802 NYC and 2,277 PRR) that the PC would inherit. A minor item that I paid absolutely no mind to for a very long time. In fact much of my early custom painted New York Central units bear no numerical resemblance to their NYC prototype counter parts. In the early paint jobs I did not pay particular attention to the locomotive numbers. But as my knowledge about the NYC and PC grew and I found more and more resources to access I learned more and more about the prototype numbering. Just ask PC Ralph. He can testify to the amount of unsolicited help I provided (annoyed) him with on this matter. Thankfully he's a nice guy and still communicates with me.
1969 is one of my favorite years for many reasons. I want to model the NYC because I lived in NY and it had a glorious history. But in 1969 the NYC was no more. Sure there was plenty of NYC equipment in NYC colors still roaming the rails so I would combine my NYC fleet, my oldest son's PRR fleet and my NH fleet into one huge railroad called the Penn Central. I figured I'd just run all three together and call it the early Penn Central with a colorful mix and match of the three predecessors. Perfect! Well maybe not so perfect. First their is the lightning stripe issue which is quite obvious at an immediate glance. Secondly the reclassification and renumbering of the PRR-NYC units leading up to the merger was totally overlooked and never given a thought. Thirdly what units from the NYC - PRR and NH actually made into the PC?
So looking back on the many modeling projects I have done. Some with accurate numbers and some not I've come to conclusion that the numbers matter only as much as I want them to. Admittedly I cannot look at a lightning stripe NYC unit and consider it part of an early PC consist. Not happening. Some of the inaccurate numbering on my NYC units don't bother me all that much either. I respect those who follow a strict prototype accuracy in all their modeling endeavors as I have learned this takes a lot of work not only on the research but on the models as well. As my own knowledge increases I do try to stay within the prototype numbering ranges but I may number outside the lines once in awhile. Especially in the case of fantasy units that neither the NYC, PRR, NH or PC ever owned but that I have in model form.
Let's take a look at some old project photos and apply some of our new numbers knowledge.
Speaking of the New Haven here are two Athearn BB F7A units that I refurbished in 2011. I touched up the paint, added new numbers, cleaned them up and added draw bar to couple the two back to back. Both units were originally numbered 0272. The 0 was used early to eliminate number confusion among the steam fleet and the new diesels. So using 210 and 215 looked like a pretty good idea. Turns out the 215 was an electric locomotive called an EY2 according to the Fallen Flags website. OK, no big deal. After awhile I learned that the New Haven did not roster any F7s either. They were not big EMD buyers at all except for the FL9s and some GP9s the NH was pretty loyal to ALCO, FM and GE. Oh well....
New knowledge and old models...
And it was wrecked in December 1963!
In conclusion I found the numbers game is constantly changing for me. On the one hand it's nice to have accurately painted models and find prototype photos of them and to learn of their history. On the other hand for me obsessing over the topic gives me a headache. In the end I'm painting and running toy trains on a toy train fictional layout no matter how accurate or inaccurate the numbers or whether or not the prototype had such units. If they look good then they are good. I'm having fun with the hobby and that's what matters most in a hobby. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.