Custom Painted P-2000 units

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Numbers Game

Greetings All,

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.  

The EMD GP7s of both the NYC and PRR were numbered into the NYC's 5600-5900 series as the NYC had the most GP7s. Custom painted Athearn BB NYC GP7s 412 and 505 wear a modified NYC paint scheme. These units should be considered  a fantasy scheme as the lettering, emblems and numbers do not match the prototype. To me they look fine as is and I'm not losing any sleep over it (at this time anyway) 

The PC EMD GP9 renumbering centered around the PRR's 7000 numbering range with the 7500 series indicating passenger equipped units. New Haven GP9 #1218 shows it's dynamic brake and passenger train equipment. The New Haven contributed 30 GP9s to the Penn Central in 1969. The 1218 would be numbered 7548 upon it's arrival to the Penn Central  

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....

NYC EMD E8A #4020 in the the NYC cigar band scheme. This is an accurate paint and number for this unit. The PC E7s and E8s were numbered into the NYC 4000 series topping off at #4319. The 4020 would be renumbered 255 after being acquired by Amtrak.

PC E7A 4210 appears to be a correct;y painted PC unit. This would be former PRR 5850.

Penn Central E8A 4317 looked to be correctly painted until today. New information has uncovered photos of this unit with the "PENN CENTRAL" placed higher on the car body between the rear two portholes. I researched the PC E8s prior to painting and until today thought this was correct.
New knowledge and old models...

A mixed bag of EMD GP30 motive power showing two units in NYC paint, a PC unit and a unit in PRR livery. The NYC purchased 10 GP30s numbered 6115 - 6124. They were later renumbered 2188 - 2197 for the merger. Then PRR owned 52 GP30s and only two were renumbered, PRR 2250-2251 became 2198 and 2199. The NYC units did not have dynamic brakes but the the PRR units did. On the GP30 the units looked the same with or without the dynamic brake feature. My NYC units show a 2700 and 2600 series numbering. Close but no cigar!

Penn Central 2232 sports the red "P" that was applied to some PC units early in the merger. This unit is accurately painted with number and logo. However it is accurate for only a few years as the 2232 was repainted with the traditional white PC prior to the Conrail takeover.

The FA1-FB1-FB1-FA1 project was formulated to provide car body cigar band motive power for the late NYC and early PC. The painting and numbering was researched and is accurate for these units. However additional information revealed that only one NYC FA1, #1009, renumbered to PC 1309, made it to the PC. All others had been retired. Dang!  

The cigar band ALCO consist rolls towards North Side Yard with FA1 1012 in the lead. 
These units run so well they are constantly given priority freight assignments regardless of era.

Terminal Yard showing some PC power in the proper numbers. SD40 6282, GP40 3180 and 3175 sporting the very rare orange C 

PC GP35s 2252 and 2327 are both painted in accurate PC schemes and both had dynamic brakes. Whew! These were projects that luckily turned out to be accurate. Note the very early layout photo

The SD35 -SD9 -SD35 paint project resulted in the SD35s in correct paint and the SD9 with a small PC. The prototype 6922 sported the big PC emblem.  

NYC GP20 2103 has been renumbered into the 2100 series for the Penn Central merger. The NYC contributed the 13 GP20s to the PC roster. The numbers are in the big PC style. The prototype had the smaller NYC numbers.

The NYC purchased 15 GP20s and the NYCTL has 3 of them on the roster, 2103, 6107 and 6109.
These are great running P-2000 units and they are given top line assignments.
As luck would have it NYC GP20 #6109, second in consist, was built in August 1961.
 And it was wrecked in December 1963! 
This numbers knowledge is killing me!

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.


  1. Hi John,

    I'm reading your latest blog post during the Iowa/Minnesota game half time. I think you summed up what a hobby is about just fine at the end. Numbering locomotives only needs to be as important as you want it to be. Like you, I started adding numbers to locomotives without much awareness of the prototype's system. It seems as we've spent more time in the hobby both of us have found it appealing to pay more attention to appropriate numbers and are enjoying the research related to discovering what those numbers might be. Like any hobby, the more you get into it the more interesting things you find out about it. I've benefited from your recent research and suggestions. Feel free to "annoy'" me with them any time! You have a great collection of locos that, whether completely accurate in their numbering or not, look mighty fine pulling trains! For some reason I keep going back to the GP20. That's a gorgeous unit! As for the PC E8, that's just one more example of the variability in the PC's practices. I take comfort in that as a PC modeler. There seems to be a prototype for everything!

  2. Thanks for the comments Ralph. As we communicated this was a tough topic for me to present in a manner that is not too boring or too rambling. Your commentary is a good summation on the topic. The GP20s are some of my favorite units. While under PC ownership some under went turbo lobotomies. On the NYCTL all three NYC units are in Power Pool A service!

  3. Yes, I think you're hitting on a critical issue. As a retired baby boomer with a lifetime interest in trains who's lived on both East and West Coasts, my era of concentration extends from PRR circle keystone to BNSF swoosh, and likely will go on to NSUP and CSXBNSF or however things pan out. I long ago decided to model what inspires me. It odes amaze me how many guys have tried to explain to me that I'm doing it all wrong!

  4. It's funny how that works in this hobby John. Sometimes it seems like the more fun you're having enjoying your model trains the more other modelers must insist that you are going about it all wrong! Kudos to you. BTW I've enjoyed your latest blog entries on the BNSF. In spite of it all, it seems like we're still having fun!.