Friday, January 20, 2017

Modeling SP's Road Switchers (Part 1) - Small Steam Engines

My last major blog page update was focusing on the biggest of SP's steam engines, IMRC's AC-12 Cabforwards.  There's been some questions about small SP steam engines recently.  So I thought I'd put together a quick post covering what models are out there and also can be made into excellent runners.

SP 1774, an M-8 at Bakersfield, CA.  Eddie Sims Collection

SP 2850 next to the Carpenter Shop at Bakersfield.

I should also be quick to point out that current production of the "Plastic RTR Steam" is approaching the price of most of the following "budget brass" options, so don't think that 'Oh it's brass, so I can't afford it."  Many of my friends are spending more to buy a current production DCC+Sound equipped steam engine model than it would cost them to buy a 20-30 year old brass model, possibly repaint it, and equip it with DCC.

I'm including price ranges for what I would expect to pay and consider a 'fair price' in 2016 USD.  Obviously a model in better condition, no wear on drivers, no tarnish, and a great paint job will fetch a higher price.  I have seen prices lower than this which I would consider a deal, but I don't expect to find cheaper models without being willing to put in extra effort to make them run well.

M-4 Class 2-6-0 by IHC (Plastic) - $70-140

My old IHC M-4 with new cab and kitbashed cylinder jacketing.  A new headlight and bracket are coming too.

Pacific Lines M-4's

The M-4 class Moguls were mostly built in 1899-1900.  More than 100 were built, numbered between SP 1615 and SP 1719 for the Pacific Lines.  They received some upgrades over the years, but most were not superheated during the 1930s and were cut up for scrap during the depression between 1930 and 1935.

The 23 or so that were not scrapped were used on various light branch lines.  I'm still trying to figure out exactly where they were used.  There's photos of them working near Schellville on the branch lines out of Fairfield, and also roster info showing them leased to the SPdeM in Mexico and working the lighter branches in Arizona.

Texas Lines M-4's

The Texas Lines (T&NO) received 60 M-4 class engines numbered in the 950-series until the renumbering in 1950 to the 410-series.  This renumbering was to allow the most of the Pacific Lines F-5 class 2-10-2s to be transferred (leased) to the Texas Lines 900-series.  About 35 of the 60 engines started life as Pacific Lines M-4s and were transferred to the Texas Lines in 1901 and 1902, only a few years after being built.  All of the Texas Lines engines we superheated around 1920 and served until the early 1950's in the flatlands of the Texas Lines.

The Models

While most of the models I'm looking at are brass imports from the 1980s, I feel that IHC's M-4 2-6-0 Mogul is worth mentioning.  PFM/Fuji (iirc) imported M-4 class brass models, however the IHC model is about as good in terms of running quality as the small old brass models.  If the option comes to buy an IHC, a brass M-4, or a brass M-6/9 (which I'll talk about below), I would go for the M-6/9 model as they are more useful in general.

The tender that comes with the IHC model is a larger square tender, and really doesn't fit with most of the SP square tenders without some serious modifications, the engine is actually pretty nicely proportioned.

I've not been in the market for one of these IHC models in 15 years, so I'm not sure what the 2016 price for them is.  I remember buying this one for around $70 from a mail order discount store in the early 2000's.  A quick search of Ebay shows prices from $60-130, so my guess is about right.

Here with a Sunset tender from a M-6/9 the M-4 will likely be assigned to switching duties.

I plan to team this little critter with a brass tender of some flavor.  Another option for modelers who can't get their hands on an appropriate brass tender is the old MDC/Roundhouse Vandy tenders.

SPMW 8241, a lightly kitbashed MDC Vanderbuilt Tender.

Here is one of the MDC tenders assigned to SPMW for water/fuel service supporting pile drivers and cranes.  These models could also have their bunkers narrowed to match the brass tender shown with the M-4 above.

M-6/8/9 Class 2-6-0 by Sunset Models (Brass) - $250-350

A Sunset M-6/9

The following larger class of Moguls were built in 1901 and 1902.  M-6 Class were assigned to numbers SP 1725-1769 and SP 1780-1803.  The M-8 Class were assigned to numbers SP 1720-1724 and SP 1770-1779.  The M-9 Class were built in 1908 and numbered between SP 1804-1822 and SP 1826-1830.  Follow-on engines were assembled from parts during WW-1 and classed as M-6, numbered SP 1823-1825.

Also numbering over 100 engines, it's surprising that no plastic manufacturer has produced these engines which use a larger boiler and could be made to pull significantly more cars in HO scale.  Thankfully several brass importers have brought these classes in over the years.

During the 1980s and again in the late 1990s Sunset Models imported the more useful and common M-6 and M-9 class 2-6-0s.  I'm sure most of you are asking, so what's so great about the M-6/9s?  Well, briefly they were much more common in the later years of steam service on the SP than the M-4s.  Some of the M-6/8/9s were still regularly working the branch lines around Fresno in 1956 in sizable numbers.


Here's SP 1774, an M-8 at Bakersfield with a 90-R-series tender.  Eddie Sims Collection

The Sunset's early imports of these models are nicely made.  One issue is that the pilots are about 12" too long, which results in the pilot bracing rods being at too shallow of an angle.  This is partly caused by the model being equipped with a 36" pilot wheel instead of the correct 33" wheel.  This isn't too hard to change.

Here's a model painted, minus the pilot which was removed for modification.

I plan to shorten the pilots on the Sunset Models engines I am working on.  I am sure this modification will be the feature of a future post on this blog.

T-28 & T-31 Class 4-6-0 by Westside Models - $225-400

Westside Models has also produced very nice Ten-Wheelers in both T-28 and T-31 classes.  These models run very smoothly after having minor cleaning and lubrication.  These Ten-Wheelers were built for passenger service with 63" drivers.  In the early years they were photographed pulling various passenger trains before the train weights increased, at which time they were downgraded to medium freight work and branch passenger service.  - As I show in my SP-SD&AE Passenger Service (Part 1) bog post.

T-28, SP 2349 worked the last few years in the San Joaquin Valley around Fresno and Bakersfield.  Eddie Sims Collection.

All of these two classes lasted until at least 1949, many lasting into 1956 and even a few to 1957, making these some of the best little engines to have switching your packing sheds or working a local assignment.

T-28 Class

Left side of SP 2339, a T-28 Class 4-6-0 with Stephenson valvegear

Right side of SP 2339, a T-28 by WSM.

The T-28 class were built in 1907, 1909, and 1911 as larger versions of the T-26 class Ten-Wheelers.  They were assigned numbers SP 2311-2352.  All of the T-28s were superheated between 1917 and 1920.  Three T-28s also received Feed Water Heaters (FWH) in 1935 and 1937.

Westside didn't import as many of the T-28 class models, so these are harder to find than the T-31 version.  Many of the T-28 models also included valvegear to rebuild the model into T-31s.  This is somewhat of a problem as the T-28s were about four times more numerous on the prototype than the T-31s!

The main difference in the WSM models between the T-28 and T-31 is that the T-28s generally have very simple gears without an enclosed gearbox.  The worm gear is soldered directly to the open frame motor's shaft.

WSM T-28 underside with exposed main gear.

This poses an interesting challenge to upgrade to the standard enclosed gearbox and can motor design, generally desired in operating steam engine models.

T-31 Class

Left side of  SP 2355, a T-31 Class 4-6-0 with Walschaerts valvegear

Right side of SP 2355, a T-31 by WSM

The T-31 class were built in 1912 numbered SP 2353-2362.  All of the class had the boiler pressure increased to 210 PSI in 1926-27.

Westside imported about three times more of these models than the earlier T-28 versions.  The T-31s I've seen as low as $125-175 on occasion because they are so common.

T-31 with enclosed gearbox and larger opening in frame and cover plate for it.

The T-31 version brought in by WSM has an enclosed gearbox and can have the motor changed out to a can motor fairly easily by comparison to the T-28 version.  Converting the T-28 to have this style gearbox is a bit more of a challenge.  I plan on converting my T-28 to the enclosed gear box.  When I do, I'll be posting an article about it here with a link.

C-Series Class 2-8-0

SP 2601 with 73-SC tender at Bakersfield, CA. SP 2601 was vacated and scrapped in 1951.  Eddie Sims Collection

Probably the best class to equate to modern 4-axle diesel road switchers would be the 57" drivered C-class 2-8-0s which were numbered between SP 2513-2830, by far one of the largest of any single wheel arrangement steam engine SP ever owned.  Additional non-Common Standard engines were placed in the SP 2861-2868 and SP 3400-series.

C-2/3/4 Class 2-8-0 by Oriental Limited - $350-500

The older Common Standard 2-8-0s were numbered 2600-2693.  Built between 1899 and 1901 as various combinations of two and four cylinder compound engines, they were the mainstay of SP's heavy mountain divisions until the bigger 2-10-2s took over.  

Oriental C-2/5 model with Balboa 100-C-tender

The compound engines were simplified between 1904 and 1919.  Most of the early C-class engines were superheated in 1919-1924.  Many engines lasted until after WW2, a few even past 1950.

Oriental C-2/5 model with 73-SC-tender

Notice how low the boiler of the early C-2/3/4 class engines sit on the cylinders and the drivers compared to the "taller" C-8/9/10s built as simple engines.  The boilers of the later class engines was also straighter, while the early engines had a pronounced tapered look.

SP 2601 - C-2 Class Oriental Limited Model

SP 2601 is a pretty good choice for the Oriental Limited C-2 class.  I'm doing a blog on making this model.  SP 2601 - C-2 class 2-8-0 (Part 1).

C-8/9/10 Class by Challenger, Balboa, Key, and Sunset - $325-450+

SP 2527, a C-9 class with switching pilot steps

The balance of the SP's 2-8-0s were the larger C-8, C-9, and C-10s were built between 1904 and 1908, with addition engines being built during WW-1 from 1917-1919 from spare boilers or new SP-built boilers.

Left side of SP C-9 class by Sunset Models

The Sunset and Balboa C-9s are the 'budget brass' models of choice.  Key are higher end and usually fetch a higher price and Challenger models are absolutely beautiful, usually resulting in asking prices in the $1400+ range.  That said, unless one of the Keys or Challenger Import models drops into your hands from a rich uncle, I am still more than happy to work with Sunset or Balboa models of these engines.

Right side of SP C-9 class by Sunset Models

The C-class engines lasted well into 1956 and were seen on every division of the Pacific Lines until finally displaced by diesels.  Many photos towards the end show late model C-class engines working as heavy switchers in yards and making occasional trips out on local switching assignments.

TW-class "Twelve Wheelers"

SP 2914 with water car leads a branchline freight out on the Sunset Rwy or Buttonwillow Branches south of Bakersfield in the early 1950s. - Eddie Sims collection

The SP rostered a large fleet of small 4-8-0s in the 2900-series.  The largest of these (TW-8) were still smaller than the SP's standard 2-8-0s (C-8/9/10) and were used on light rail weight branchlines.  SP 2914 was the regular engine that worked on the Buttonwillow and Taft/McKitrick Branches out of  Bakersfield into the mid-1950s.  When 2914 was unavailable due to shopping work, two M-6/8/9s had to double-head to take her place, doubling the expense of operations without the TW-8 covering the job.  A C-8/9/10 was considered too heavy for the rail and bridges of the southern San Joaquin Valley branchline.

Earlier class SP 2938 in logging branch service in Oregon - Eddie Sims collection

Most of the other higher numbered engines were actually older and smaller engines which lived out their lives on the light weight branches of Northern California and Oregon until the GE 70-ton diesels replaced them around 1950.

Steam Switchers

While this post is mainly focusing on the SP's Road Switchers which also were used as heavy switchers, it's only fair to briefly talk about the two main types of strictly Switcher engines the SP used for about 40 years.

SP 1278, an S-12 Class 0-6-0 works as a passenger switcher with herald and green boiler jacket.  Eddie Sims Collection

S-8/9/10/11/12/14 class 0-6-0 by Sunset, Challenger, etc - $200-350

While not used as road switchers very often, the 0-6-0s served the unsung roll of switchers both in freight yards throughout the SP system and also the prestigious passenger terminal switchers, often with colorful green or blue boiler and cylinder jacketing.

Left side of SP 1213 by Sunset Models

Right side of SP 1213 by Sunset Models

While I'm not getting into too much on these very light engines in this post, I will say that the model of the 1213 surprised me a bit when I was able to get it to easily pull 25 cars on level track.  So the idea that a small model like this is gutless isn't true.  At the same time, don't expect it to switch a cut of 40-60 cars without doubling it over.  Most switching moves were made without air on the cars and also were limited by the crew's visibility and ability to relay signs to the engine with only 3-4 men on the ground.  These factors combined resulted in most switching moves having, at the most, only 10-20 cars.

SE-3/4 Class 0-8-0 Heavy Switchers by Balboa - $250-400

Left side of SE-3/4 built by KTM for Balboa

Right side of SE-3/4 buitl by KTM for Balboa

In 1930, SP was looking for a new heavy switcher to work the major yards of the Pacific Lines.  The Sacramento Shops turned out eight 0-8-0s using the boilers from retired A-3 class 4-4-2s.  The engines were originally numbered in the SP 1300 series, then moved to the SP 1400 series as the new diesel switchers arrived before WW2.  Finally they were moved to the vacant SP 4500-series to free up the SP 1400-series numbers for the newest diesel switchers.  The SP 4508, was the last of the Pacific Lines' eight engines, and was not assembled until 1937, becoming the last "new" assembled at Sacramento Shops and the last steam switcher acquired by the SP.

The Houston Shops turned out four additional SE-3 class engines for the Texas Lines.  In 1952 and 1953 the four Texas Lines engines came west and were assigned numbers between 4509 and 4512.

SP 4508 working as a heavy switch engine on the Pacific Lines after 1946.  Eddie Sims Collection

Many of the SE-4s worked in LA, Roseville, Oakland, and Bakersfield, often many photos show at least two or three working or being serviced at the same time.  One photo I know of shows three 0-8-0s at the "whisker" tracks at Bakersfield being serviced, and in the Southern Pacific 1941 video by VideoRails, now Pentrex collection, shows three 0-8-0s working Roseville at the same time.

The model comes with a square tender and narrow bunker on top, I cover it in more detail below.  The SE-3/4s also used small Vanderbilt tenders as well, such as I show above with the M-4 class.

The SE-3/4 class engines lasted until 1956 and 1957 before being retired and scrapped.

Various Tenders for Small Engines

I cover more of the various tender models that can be found on my SP Tender Swapping blog post, but here are several related to the engine types shown above.

90-R-series Tender from WSM

WSM 90-R- Tender

Westside Models (WSM) has imported the correct square tender for the 1774 above.  They usually show up behind models of the PR-1 Class 2-6-2 Prairies, but I believe they're also available separately.

Square Tender with Narrow Bunker - from Balboa & WSM-KTM built SE-4 models

Left side of KTM-built Balboa and WSM tender for SE-3/4 class models (This one has fairly heavy tarnishing)

Right side of KTM-built Balboa and WSM tender for SE-3/4 class models

73-SC- "Whalebacks" from Various Importers

SP 1765 with 73-SC-tender.  Eddie Sims Collection

Near the end of the SP 1765's life it was fitted with a 73-SC-type tender during its triple header on the Fairwell to Steam trip with the SP 2248.

Left side of an Oriental 73-SC-series tender

In Closing

SP 2717, a C-8, at Port Costa which was not vacated until 1957!  Eddie Sims Collection

I hope this gives some ideas of what small engines to look for to fill out your operations around your yard and outlaying switching areas.  Modeling SP's Road Engines (Part 3) - Heavy Steam

Jason Hill

Related Links:

SP-SD&AE Passenger Trains (Part 1)  - Passenger Consists for your Small SP Steam Engines


  1. great post Jason! Despite I model in N scale .... very informative! Thanks

  2. Great article, I stumbled upon these cheaper brass locomotives recently and now I'm on the hunt for one to model an SP Valley Mallet 2-6-0.

  3. Jason have you converted that T-28 to an enclosed gearbox yet? I've done mine, and I'll be doing an old Balboa 0-6-0 as well.
    Alan Houtz

    1. I'm looking at doing it now that I have a gearbox. Perhaps over the next month or so I might get to it.
      Jason Hill

    2. Always another project, isn't there? I'll be looking forward to how you tackle it. Mine runs very well with the NWSL 28:1 gearbox and a little can I found on e-Bay. I have photos of what I did if you're interested. I'm a little concerned about the Balboa 0-6-0. The frame crossmembers are close to the gear, so clearance may be a problem. It'll be fun I'm sure!

  4. United also made a Common Standard consolidation imported by Pacific Fast Mail. It was available in both UP and SP versions, but the UP version seems to be more common than the SP. I've got a UP version awaiting conversion. Running boards need to be relocated, and the Vanderbilt tender needs to be converted from coal to oil.

  5. Why no TW-8 4-8-0 like 2914

    1. Robert O, good catch. Added a small section on them. I don't have any TW-class models to photograph, so this will have to do.


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