Steam will grace the rails of Lorain County today as Nickel Plate Road 765 makes its way to the annual Steam in the Valley excursions at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The historic 1944 Lima-built 2-8-4 Berkshire type steam locomotive will travel along Norfolk Southern’s rails today and tomorrow. The engine will travel along the old Nickel Plate Road from its home in Fort Wayne to Bellevue, OH and will continue to Vermilion. Just west of Vermilion it will switch to the old New York Central route and travel through downtown Amherst and Elyria on its way east to Cleveland and the CVSR.
Good places to see it in Lorain County are listed below –
Coen Road railroad crossing in Vermilion.
Downtown Vermilion on the Route 6 bridge over the river.
Cooper Foster Park Road and Crosse Road railroad crossings between Vermilion and Amherst.
I rode the Joliet Rocket with Nickel Plate Road 765 on June 17, 2017. We left a little behind schedule but once the train started moving I went to the open vestibule in our car to experience the sound of a 1944 built locomotive travel 70 MPH. The Windy City had other ideas and promptly tour off my hat which was rather sad as this was the hat I always wear on excursions. The cancellation of the photo run by did not help to lift my spirits but I settled into riding in the vestibule for the rest of the trip. After the layover at La Salle Street Station, the impromptu photo run by did make for it with a surprise wheelslip. On the return trip, I set myself in the vestibule and lo and behold I saw my hat near the crossing in the town of Mokena! I marked the location as best I could with my iPhone. After getting of the train we drove out to Mokena and walked along the tracks and there it was. The pins must of weighed it down for 3 hours but unfortunately the The Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society, Inc. pin had vanished. Thankfully I can simply order a new one. We then went over to the Mokena Metra station and waited for 765 to blast through with the afternoon Joliet Rocket. This is the 100th video that I have uploaded to my Train Wizard Productions YouTube Channel!
I rode morning Joliet Rocket behind Nickel Plate Road 765. Due to a late start, the photo run by was cancelled so the crew arranged a mini run by at La Salle Street Station in Chicago. Not wanting to be in the crowd my Dad and I headed to end of the platform to see the spectacle. After a great whistle blast, you will soon see the wheels lose their grip for a small case of the wheelslip. Enjoy!
After many, many years I finally have a true steel mill train. Nickel Plate Road 365 was the first MTH Premier Line steam locomotive in my collection. It is based on a standard USRA 0-6-0 switch engine. The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway originally built 365 as W&LE 3965 in the company shops in Brewster, OH. After the Wheeling was leased by the Nickel Plate Road it was renumbered to 365. Two Wheeling & Lake Erie 0-6-0s survive. NKP 384 and W&LE 3960.
Next up is the brand new Lake Terminal Railroad gondolas. Again these are from the MTH Premier Line. The Lake Terminal Railroad was a small switching railroad which served the steel plant at Lorain, OH. It facilitated the movement of cars in and out of the extensive operations at Lorain with the Nickel Plate Road, Lorain & West Virginia (Wheeling & Lake Erie), Baltimore & Ohio, New York Central and their successors. It is still in operation today.
The US Steel cars were made by Lionel Electric Trains in two productions runs. The first three slag cars picked up by the engine were cataloged in 2003 while the second three and the two hot metal cars were made in 2016. The new ones are equipped with LEDs but other than that there is not much difference between the two runs.
You may notice a few changes on the layout. Notably the ballasted mainline. I was able to get many of the required Fastrack Remote/Command Switches in place and I only have to get the ones required for the freight yard trackage. The station on the mainline has swapped its installed rectangular platform for one custom made out of Woodland Scenics’ Mold-A-Scene Plaster. A glimpse of NKP 755 sitting on a new engine terminal track can be seen at the beginning of the video but more on that later!
It’s York Week and I’m not there but thankfully the internet exists. For those of you who have never heard of the Train Collectors Association twice annual York Train Meet, I’ll just say that it is the ComicCon of the model railroad world. Specifically catering to O-Gauge, O-Scale, S-Gauge, and Tinplate fans. If have never been you need to go.
Traditionally York is the time where MTH Electric Trains debuts their latest O-Gauge catalogs one in the fall and one in the spring. On Tuesday they released the 2017 Volume 2 catalog and it did not disappoint for me at least. What follows is a review of what caught my eye and the reasoning behind it all. To view the catalog online please click here.
We shall begin in the RailKing section of the catalog with pages 14-15 featuring the 4-6-4 Streamlined Hudson model decorated for the Nickel Plate Road item #30-1736-1. As some of you may know I am an extreme Nickel Plate enthusiast (I’m on the Board for the NKPHTS) so I have a rule where I buy any model lettered for the NKP. However, this particular model of NKP Hudson #175 is not a true model of the real NKP 175. You see in the MTH RailKing line up there are many models that are based off a real locomotive, in this case, the Wabash Hudsons and are then decorated for other railroads which may have rostered similar looking locomotives. I am totally okay with that while many rivet counters may balk at the prospect of an inaccurate model I see it as a way to make affordable plausible representations of engines that were so unique creating a scale model would be cost-prohibitive.
In this case, the Nickel Plate Road did indeed roster 4-6-4 Hudson type steam locomotives. They were numbered 170-177. The first four from ALCO in 1927 class L1-1 and the second four from Lima in 1929 class L1-b. Originally they were not equipped with smoke deflectors but they were added 1946. Weaver Models which closed its doors in 2015 sold an accurate scale version of the NKP Hudson in O several years ago and may never be remade again. These models are hard to find second hand but keep your eyes open as there I will be writing about one in a few weeks. One of the original NKP Hudsons #170 survives at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis.
So if you are a die hard NKP fan like me and always wanted an NKP Hudson I strongly suggest going with this model like me! Matching NKP heavyweight passenger cars in Pullman Green are also available in this catalog.
Next up, on pages 32-33 is a RailKing Scale Nickel Plate Road SD-9 diesel locomotive item #30-20446-1. It should be noted that MTH has made NKP SD-9s in the past. In real life, NKP #345 was built in 1957 by EMD. The introduction of the SD-9 class of diesel locomotives was the nail on the coffin for steam on the Wheeling & Lake Erie Division. Many NKP SD-9s lived through the Norfolk & Western and Norfolk Southern mergers. 345 ended up being retired in 1981 before being sold to for scrap in 1985. Several NKP SD-9s are either preserved or still in service. In 2010 Norfolk Southern donated ex-NKP SD-9 #358 to the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society which plans to return it to its proper paint scheme and operation.
Now we will go the Premier Line section of the catalog on pages 82-86 where will find the USRA 4-6-2 Heavy Pacifics. What on earth does that mean? Basically back in WWI, the government thought they could standardize and run all the railroads which the railroads took as a generally silly idea. One of the good things that came out of it was the introduction of the United States Railway Administration Standard Locomotives. A series of standardized designs which could be made quickly and efficiently and could easily be adapted to work on any railroad. Among the more popular designs was the Heavy Pacific for passenger services in places where speed and strength was needed. The design went on to influence many individual Pacific type locomotive classes after the war was over. Most modern Pacific type engines owe their design to either the Light or Heavy design specs.
For me, there are three that catch my eye. First is the Nickel Plate Road #162 item #20-3744-1. MTH cataloged an NKP Heavy Pacific near the beginning of the 21st century and hasn’t made another since. The real Nickel Plate Road #162 was built by Lima in 1922 and headed mainline fast passenger trains with its 10 sisters until the coming of the Hudsons. After that they were regulated to secondary services and all were off the roster by 1953. While not groundbreaking or as recognizable as the Berkshires or Hudsons they were still major players in providing Nickel Plate High Speed Service. MTH has cataloged a second run or they may have just re-cataloged left over Premier Line heavyweight passenger coaches to match.
Second, comes the Baltimore & Ohio P7 Pacifics. Wait that’s not Nickel Plate?! Nope its not as I a have a soft spot for the B&O too. When I was little one of the first railroad museums I ever went to was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum which is home to the first P7 #5300 named for President Washington. Also, the B&O was a major player in my home state of Ohio and even more so in my home county of Lorain. Not to mention that I really like the elegant paint schemes the B&O used on their named trains especially the blue ones.
I already own RailKing B&O Pacific in blue in fact it was the first MTH engine I ever owned and remains one of my favorites. It’s Premier Line counterpart B&O #5302 item #20-3738-1 in solid Royal Blue paint looks absolutely gorgeous and with a matching set of blue and gray heavyweight coaches would be picture perfect on my Northeast Ohio themed layout. B&O #5300 item #20-3739-1 is a huge draw as it was the first of the President class and is modeled in the original green paint scheme. Which to my knowledge has never been done before by either MTH or Lionel. Today the real #5300 is painted in that scheme at the B&O Museum.
If I had enough space I would go as far as to get a few more Pacifics from these few pages. Each is in a way unique as the Pacific type was rostered by nearly every major railroad in the USA. Many are preserved and more than a few operate. For example right on page 83 is first scale sized model of Reading & Northern #425 which operates regularly on the real Reading & Northern and again its painted blue.* There’s a US Army painted engine and you can get US Army coaches, another B&O in green President Lincoln, Erie, UP, Great Northern, Chicago & Alton in red, and the very very unique battleship gray New York Central 6467. Matching passenger coaches are available for each engine.
Of the Premier Line diesels, there is but one I would consider and that would be Norfolk Southern AC44C6M #4004 item #20-20802-1 as I recently saw it’s sister 4005 paired up with the Central of Georgia Heritage Unit but who knows I still can’t get over all of the Pacifics!
Finally, we must also take note of the DCS (Digital Command System) Explorer Interface Unit which allows you to control your trains with your smartphone or tablet without a TIU (Track Interface Unit) and WIU (Wifi Interface Unit). This will be included in all future MTH ready to run train sets allowing what I think will be unlimited possibilities to grow the World’s Greatest Hobby.
*Lionel has cataloged this engine in their LionChief line up but it is not to scale.
On Wednesday April 9th I was lucky enough to receive a confidential tip-off that the Norfolk Southern Central of Georgia Heritage Unit was about to head east on the old Nickel Plate Road out of Bellevue, OH to Conneaut, OH. I immediately drove to Vermilion, OH and situated myself next to the tracks along the coast of Lake Erie. I ended up waiting an hour but it was an hour well spent!
Besides being the first time seeing #8101 the Central of Georgia I also got to see my first DC to AC conversion unit locomotive #4005, and a far from home Pan Am (Maine Central) SD40-2. NS #8101 is one of the 20 Norfolk Southern Heritage Units commemorating the 20 Class 1 railroads now part of the NS system. The COG paint scheme uses the same pattern and colors as the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s “Royal Blue” paint scheme with the exception of orange striping instead of gold. NS #4005 was rebuilt from C40-9 #8867 into a new AC44C6M at the Juniata locomotive shop in Altoona, PA It is one of 4 painted in a special black mane and grey paint scheme and one of two with a blue stripe.