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Houston Tinplate Operators Society - Lionel, Trains, Layouts: Newsletter

Newsletter: October 1998

In this issue:


by Jim Herron

The New York Central Hudson Class 4-6-4 locomotives were often referred to as The Thoroughbreds. These engines were beautiful, fast and clean, and easily held claim to the most famous class of steam locomotives in the world.

The men behind motive power in New York City finalized plans for a new steam passenger engine that was officially born on February 14, 1927. A total of 275 were built for the New York Central. They raced across the populous northeastern quarter of America for the next three decades, hauling the most famous limiteds.

The Hudson Class 4-6-4 locomotive did not exactly take the rest of the country by storm. In the entire United States less than 500 were built and a few of these were created in company shops from older locomotives. In the end, over half of all Hudsons build in America went to the New York Central Railroad.

When you write about the New York Central Hudsons, you write about a different America. In 1927, the country was experiencing a post-war boom. The tempo of business and travel was accelerating at an astronomical rate, fueled by a national optimism that knew no bounds. These were the days when rail dominated the transportation scene. New York Central was caught in the crush. It was the most famous, even though it was second to the mighty Pennsylvania RR. If you were anyone heading west, odds were you would automatically choose the Twentieth Century Limited.

The steam engine developed by the New York Central to meet the ever-increasing demand was the 4-6-4 Hudson type. There, in large part lies her fame. She was "the" locomotive for the road at the height of rail passenger travel in America. That she was the first of her wheel arrangement in the U. S. matters not nearly as much as what she hauled and how she hauled it. The Hudson was designed to haul the "Great Steel Sheet" on the" Water Level Route." They were a New York Central phenomenon. They were special machines for that special road.

But, there is more to the legend than simply doing the job. They looked and acted the part. It has been conceded by almost all that the New York Central's Hudson is one of, if not the most, beautiful of all steam engines. On the New York Central there were low clearances, which dictated a straight through look that not only affected the Hudson, but all of the NYC power during the Golden Years. Working within these limitations, the designers of both American Locomotive Company and New York Central created the final product.

The Hudson had it all - looks, performance and timing. It was synonymous with the best. I believe the three most beautiful engines ever built are the Dryfuss Hudson, the Empire State Express and the Milwaukee Road Hiawatha. The clean lines, looks, speed and movement seen in still pictures still make your heart race. In scale model railroading, the New York Central Hudson ranks as the most popular model selected, maybe because it was the most beautiful engine ever made.


by Walt Sklenar

See how many of the following questions regarding Lionel Post War Aluminum Passenger sets produced between 1952 and 1966 you can answer:

  1. Engine which pulled Lionel's 1955 'CONGRESSIONAL' set.
  2. Jersey Central Trainmaster led a 3-car aluminum passenger set in this year.
  3. The year of Lionel's first 'SUPER CHIEF' outfit.
  4. Motive power for the 'PRESIDENTIAL SPECIAL' from 1964-1966.
  5. First Post War aluminum passenger set.
  6. Brand new addition to Lionel motive power in 1958.
  7. Year that 'MAINLINER' and 'EMPEROR CHIEF' passenger sets were produced.
  8. First aluminum passenger set to incorporate striping in the flat, wide channels just above the windows.
  9. PRESIDENTIAL passenger cars were introduced in this year.
  10. This aluminum passenger set had three vista domes.


A. 1954
B. EP-5 Rectifier
C. GG-1
F. 1956
H. 1962
I. 1958
J. 2383 A-A SANTA FE F3s

Solution next month!


by Tom Lytle

In case you haven't heard, the prototype for the back layout's favorite (is this thought universal?) test engine is getting ready to be restored. The Age of Steam Museum's 'Big Boy' (#4018) in Fair Park, Dallas, was moved August 13th. It was only 300 feet, but it was the first steps on the road to recovery.

Movie producer Danny Bishop has apparently gathered up about 2 million dollars to conduct the restoration. Gary Bensman, a well-respected steam restoration engineer, will spearhead the project. The Big Boy presents a number of significant challenges. The overall theme of the obstacles is, of course, related to SIZE. Some of these challenges are detailed below in my Big Boy Talking Points article.

Once the engine is restored, it is to be the central character in a movie to be filmed in north Texas. The story is said to be of a railroad magnate who challenges some characters to restore the steam behemoth to make runs between Texas and Canada.

Another major question is, then what? More to follow. Stay tuned...

And, as a service to those of you who are always out for that "edge" in the conversation, I am submitting this tidbit of information from my mailing list receipts, posted to the STREAMLINER list on 9-2-97 by Rick Steele. I think it will prove its value by its content. Enjoy...

Why will one (Big Boy) never run again? Good question. The main reason is cost and return on that cost.

It has been projected to cost over $1,000,000.00 for the UP to reacquire and rebuild a 4000. The UP no longer owns any 4000's since the 4023 was given to the City of Omaha.

Second problem, where to run it. The 4000's were built for a specific purpose, that is, to run over the Wahsatch. It was so successful that its territory was extended from Ogden to Cheyenne. Irrespective of the occasional side trip to Denver where turning and storage problems were encountered, they were never designed to be a system-wide locomotive like the 3900's. So, we are now limited Cheyenne to Ogden.

Problem 3: they were coal burners. The UP, due to the fires set by the 3900 when it was in coal has restricted coal burners to the trackage between Cheyenne and Laramie. Why not convert it to oil? I hear you cry. The UP tried. When the 4000's were in service they tried. They tried with a single burner, they tried with dual burners, the firebox is just too big and the oil burners developed hot spots in the crownsheet, a dangerous and undesirable side effect. So we can now only run it between Cheyenne and Laramie.

Problem 4: Where to turn it. The only stations which had turntables long enough to turn the 4000's were between Cheyenne and Ogden. All of the turntables except Evanston have been removed, and the tracks leading to the Evanston turntable won't hold the weight of the 844, much less a 4000 (besides, the UP has the turntable and roundhouse leased to a tank car repair shop). But we are restricted to Cheyenne to Laramie. The wye at Laramie is too sharp to turn a 4000, the 844 derails when it tries it. The only active wye on Sherman Hill big enough to turn a 4000 is at Speer. Speer is 9 miles from Cheyenne.

Now I ask you, would you pay in excess on $1 million dollars for an 18-mile round trip? I wouldn't.

Rick Steele


by Jim Herron

K-Line is soon coming out with a six-motored, highly detailed F-7 engine, including a working Mars Light, the first of its kind on a model "O"scale train. We've all seen Mars Lights on top of fire engines, probably not even knowing that's what they are called. What is their history, how long have they been around and where did they get their name?

The Mars Light takes its name from Frank Mars, owner of the Mars Candy Company and financial backer of the Mars Light. The inventor of the light was an ex-fireman named Jerry Kennelly. While working for the Chicago Fire Department and driving an aerial ladder truck, he saw a need for a new and different kind of light to warn oncoming drivers. Kennelly realized a moving beam would offer more warning than an attached stationary light. At first he maneuvered the beam manually. He replaced the white lens with a red soleen lens which greatly improved its warning characteristics. The hand-held light beam became the prototype for the Mars Light and other warning light signals we know today.

Kennelly left the fire department for the police department and continued development of the oscillating warning light. During his years with the police department, he made the acquaintance of Frank Mars, who realized the value of the moving signal lights. Frank Mars helped Kennelly start the Mars Light Company by providing financial backing, as well as equipment and engineers at the Mars Candy Company.

At Mars, -a two-in-one light action that resulted in a figure eight beam pattern was developed. This new beam could be seen in the rear view mirrors of vehicles in front of the fire truck and oncoming traffic. Profits from the fire truck lights alone would not support the business, so in 1936, Mars Light Company began experimenting with railroad crossing signals. Even though the first demonstrations were met with enthusiasm, the signals were too expensive to manufacture. A meeting with a safety official with C & N. W. Railroad inspired the solution-a moving signal light mounted on a locomotive.

The first test "figure 8" light was mounted on the smoke box of an E2A, Baldwin 4-6-2 and Baldwin #2609 in April, 1936. It was a success. Within 30 days, several companies called for orders. One of the first was GE Electro Motive Division and, after much persuasion, the Mars Light was seen on the Western Pacific Railroad. By the time the high speed passenger trains were dieselized, the Mars Light was- standard equipment on almost all of America's Railroads.

The Mars Light Company had financial difficulties and continued to struggle. The company did not realize at the time that it had developed a new safety feature for American railroads. The Mars Light became a defining feature of the "F" series diesel engines, oscillating light on the front of each "A" unit. As the F-3 moved forward down the track, the Mars Light swept- back and forth across the track, warning everything in its path that a

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