NEB&W Guide to MDC/Roundhouse Steam Locomotive Models

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Athearn and Model Die Casting/Roundhouse are now under one management and you might see "Athearn" as the brandname when they mean "MDC", or vice versa, so also check Athearn. And the steam locos now being produced are a generational step above what they did before.

Saddletank 0-6-0

  • Saddletank 0-6-0 - Unknown prototype, but not untypical.
The model has slide valves and inside valve gear, so it would have to represent a prototype built before WWI, probably before 1910. Yet it also has an air pump and cooling coils, so as is, represents an engine operating since the use of air brakes along with a steel cab, so that puts it at post 1900. (Could be backdated earlier if the pumps and coils were removed and a wood cab substituted.)



Switcher 0-6-0

  • Switcher 0-6-0 - According to the review in the March '73 Model Railroader, the kit was based on the Southern Pacific's S-9 switchers, some 15 engines built by Baldwin in 1912, nos. 1195-1209. (And very similar to the SP's S-8 class, but these had rectangular or Vanderbilt tenders instead of the slopeback tender of the MDC kit.) It has fairly typical lines for such a switcher although the cab has the short window style of SP.

The kit was originally introduced in 1939 as cast metal with some brass parts. At first the cab was made of five separate castings, but around 1953, the cab was made a single casting. Twenty years later, around 1973, the superstructure was converted to plastic. The model has 52 inch drivers, two sand boxes, slide valves and inside valve gear, the later two features just about obsolete by 1912. (As originally produced in '39, it had 57 inch ones, although the prototype, I'm sure, had 51 inch ones.) The slopeback tender is an oil tender.
If this engine ran better, it would be an ideal candidate for a lot of other road's switchers. Stephen Goldspiel (August '82 Railroad Model Craftsman) said the model is close to a number of other Harriman switchers.

Superstructures & Wheel Arrangements

  • Originally, MDC produced a boiler and cab superstructure based on Santa Fe practices, and put either a 4-4-2 or 2-6-2 mechanism under it. (Both are among the rarer arrangements.) Years later, they expanded their line with a Harriman type superstructure and a Pennsy one, along with a 2-8-0 and 4-6-0 mechanism. This made 12 possible permanutations. (Don't think they used all 12. The ATSF boiler had too deep a firebox to fit over a regular sized driver.) They also came out with an "Old Time" superstructure which is only used with another 2-8-0 mechanism (with smaller drivers) and a 2-6-0 mechanism.



  • Harriman Locos - C. 1900, the Harriman lines (including the SP, UP, Alton, and IC) shared common motive power and rolling stock standard designs. The locos were typical of the times so these models are fairly useful even if you don't model any Harriman line. There is one problem in that the Harriman cab had a distinctive scalloped cutout in the overhang, duplicated on the MDC models, making them a little less generic in look than one might hope. (Wish MDC did a more typical cab that one could file back the overhang to get a Harriman style.)

  • Pennsy Locos - Starting around 1875, the PRR made almost a fetish of standardization of designs and related parts. One hallmark was the Belpaire firebox, which gave a squared look to the rear of the boiler, which is otherwise round. The Pennsy E6 Atlantic, G5 Ten-wheeler, and H9 Consolidation actually shared the same boiler.

Mogul 2-6-0

  • 292 ATSF Old Time Mogul 2-6-0 - A c. 1880's loco, with Baldwin characteristics. This model has the same 51 inch diameter drivers as their "Old Time" 2-8-0, but they also offered a version with the larger 62 or 63 inch drivers. This model is ready-to-run.



  • 2-6-0 Mogul - It appears MDC took their new 4-4-0 and added another driver instead of the second lead truck. This model has much taller drivers, maybe 63 inches and I don't think it is the same as the above Mogul.
    We got one of these to operate our Addison branch. The r-t-r model comes with large oil headlights which I wish were easy to switch out. We are expecting if this works out to modify the superstructure to more closely model the Rutland's no. 144. But the good news is that right of the box, this is a sweet running loco.



Prairie 2-6-2

  • 440 ATSF Prairie 2-6-2 - Undecorated.
  • 441 ATSF Prairie 2-6-2 - Lettered for ATSF.
  • 441 ATSF Prairie 2-6-2 - Apparently also lettered for ATSF and numbered 1010.
    This kit utilized their Atlantic superstructure with new mechanism. While the model has 63-inch diameter drivers, all but two of the Santa Fe prototypes (nos. 564 and 565) had 69-inch ones. The model is said to have a 33-inch wheel trailing truck, while the prototype had a 40-inch one.

The largest class of Prairies on the ATSF were the 1800 class. Baldwin built these in 1906 as compound locos and around 1928, the Santa Fe rebuilt them as simple locos. I believe it is this rebuilt class that MDC tried to emulate with their cast-metal loco kit.



  • 444 Harriman Prairie 2-6-2 - The MDC Harriman 2-8-0/4-6-0 superstructure on the Santa Fe Prairie mechanism. The basic problem is that the whole idea of a trailing truck is that the firebox is too large to simply rest between or above the drivers. (Adding a trailing truck does afford a better ride in reverse, but you lose traction because it isn't a driver.) The superstructure has what is supposed to be a narrow firebox to fit between the drivers, but for model railroad curves, has been cut away, although this would be hidden by the last driver. On this model, the cut away is glaringly apparent, but also a narrow firebox over a trailing truck is odd, to say the least.
    Another problem with the model is that it uses the MDC's Santa Fe Atlantic mechanism, with a72 or 73 inch drivers. As far as I can see, all of the Harriman engines came with 81 inch drivers, a distinctive difference. (At least one loco was sold to the T&P and rebuilt with 77 inches, but that is still quite large.
    The UP and Alton got coal burning versions from Baldwin in 1904, while the SP got similar oil-burners from Alco the same year. There were many variations on the same basic design, including some early ones built as compound locos (and later rebuilt to simple ones). The cabs also differed, including the early ones having another window up front, giving the effect of almost all glass.



  • 451 Pennsy Prairie 2-6-2 - Said to be a class J28. This class was a total of two experimental 2-6-2 built by Alco in 1906, nos. 2761 and 7453 and scrapped in the '20's. (Curious it was J28 and not J1.) Not aware of any other Prairies the Pennsy had, although they might have acquired a couple of odd ones from lines they acquired. However, these second-hand locos would most likely NOT have the Pennsy look. However, the two J28's didn't have a Belpaire firebox, so these, too, did not look Pennsy.



Consolidation 2-8-0

  • Harriman Consolidation 2-8-0 - I believe the Varney "Old Lady" is more or less based on the same "prototype", i.e., a Harriman type Ten-wheeler placed on a Consolidation mechanism. (The Bachmann 2-8-0 is basically the standard Harriman Consolidation.)
    There was a real Harriman prototype, which was built for the UP and SP, and related subsidiaries, starting around 1902 or '05, and running as late as 1918 on the SP. These had a fatter, pretty much straight boiler and I believe all had 57-inch drivers, not the 63-inch ones of the MDC model. And the UP version had an window in the cab, pretty much making it continuous windows, not the blanked in SP version. It also looks like the firebox was above, not between as on the Harriman 4-6-0 and the model. (The IC had 63 inch drivered locos but these were a couple of feet longer.)
    I haven't figured out exactly why, but it seems like the Consolidations in this period tended to ALL have a straight or straighter boiler, and also a fatter one, than the similar Ten-Wheelers.
Stanley Harris had an article in the April '78 Model Railroader on modifying this kit into a more accurate version of the SP C-3 class. He said the MDC boiler was a good match to this class, but the C-4 through C-10 class had a fairly straight boiler. He did change the driver size by getting a Bowser 2-8-0 frame and 56 inch sized drivers from Northwest Shortline. (Not sure why he didn't attempt to used the NWSL drivers in the MDC frame.) He also made a bunch of detail changes.



  • Pennsy Consolidation 2-8-0 - Along with the nearly identical H8 and H10, the H9 Consolidations were the largest class on the PRR. The first H9 was built by Baldwin in 1913 (don't known the date on the H8). If I understand the Bowser website, some 1,206 Consolidations were built between 1907 and '16. The H9's rode on 62 inch diameter drivers, basically the standard size for 20th century 2-8-0's. However, this model has inside valve gear while the prototype H8/9/10's had outside Walschaerts. I think any earlier classes that had inside valve gear also had smaller drivers.
    Bruce Smith of the Pennsy historical society said that he is not aware that the MDC models are considered accurate for any PRR steamer. He said the G5 and H8/9/10 shared the same boiler. The G5 had the short, one window cab, while the H8 had the longer two window cab. The G4 did not have a Belpaire firebox, as far as he knows.
    Smith said the H6 did have 56 inch drivers, and there was no H7 class. He doesn't have the boiler measurements for the MDC 2-8-0, but the H6 boiler is considerably smaller than the H8/9/10. But he did note that some H8 class locos did have inside valve gear.

  • 270/280 Baldwin "Old-Time" 2-8-0 - Painted black, but unlettered.
  • 271/281 SP 2-8-0
  • 272/282 ATSF 2-8-0
  • 273/283 PRR 2-8-0
  • 274/284 UP 2-8-0
  • 275/285 D&RGW 2-8-0
  • 276/286 M&Pa 2-8-0
The ready-to-run versions are in the 270 series. The 280 series are the same road names, only in kit form.
According to the review in the Aug '77 Model Railroader, this low-drivered (51- or 52-inch diameter) loco represents a common Baldwin design of the 1880's and '90's. The kit could be repowered with a USRA 0-8-0 mechanism if desired (at least in terms of matching driver size).
This model would be close to the PRR loco class I and similar to other Baldwin products of the 1875-1886 period.
The 2-8-0 wheel arrangement was invented in 1866. On the PRR, the first Consolidations were the I class, built in 1875, some 15 locos. (The "I" was the use of an earlier classification system.) In 1886, the R class (later H3 class) locos were built, pretty similar but the first Pennsy locos with a Belpaire firebox.
The M&Pa got four locos from Baldwin. No. 23 was built in 1902. Nos. 24, 25, and 26 came a decade later, in 1912. (They also had a class of heavier 2-8-0's.) No. 23 later got outside valve gear (Southern), and no. 26 later got a steel cab.
Basically the Model Power "Old Time" 2-8-0 is based on the same or similar prototype(s).



American 4-4-0

  • American 4-4-0 - MDC has a new state-of-the-art rtr 4-4-0, with DCC and sound already installed. (Hip, hip, HOORAY!!) It appears to be a c. 1890's loco with arc or oil headlight, wood cab, ringed Baldwin-type domes (although there may be other varieties, square steam chest and inboard valve gear). If this is truly as good as it could be, this could revolutionize the hobby, allowing for more modelers to model earlier periods, and the one review I've read gave it a stellar rating.
    It appears MDC started with their "Old Time" boiler/cab superstructure.



Atlantic 4-4-2

  • 431 ATSF Atlantic 4-4-2 - Based on a Santa Fe prototype, but on the model, the boiler was made to sit very high, totally altering the look. (Or maybe the too high boilder is on the Prairie version.) Model is numbered 1491.
The prototypes were built by Baldwin as compound locos between 1904 to 1910, with very funky looking cylinders and piping. Eventually, all were built with simple cylinders as per the MDC model. Most of these had 73-inch diameter drivers, but a few had 79-inch ones. The plan in the Oct. '40 Model Railroader was numbered 1491. The loco was 15 ft. 3 ins. to the top of the stack.
I understand the MDC 2-6-2 has a 33-inch wheel trailing truck, so I would have to assume the Atlantic does, too. No. 1491 had a 45-inch trailing truck. (The model photo seems to show a large trailing truck.)

  • 429 SP Harriman Atlantic 4-4-2 - Numbered 3041. The boiler for this has a firebox intended to fit between the drivers of an x-x-0 arrangement and the firebox looks really awkward perched over a trailing truck.
The UP and Alton got these as coal burners and the SP, as oil burners, all in 1904. The locos did have the inside valve gear as per the model, but had 81 inch diameter drivers. I'm assuming that the MDC model as the same 73 inch or so sized drivers as per their original Santa Fe version. (At least one, Alton no. 554, was sold to the T&NO and rebuilt with 77 inch drivers.)

  • 436 Pennsy Atlantic 4-4-2 - The first of this class was built in 1910. Drivers were 80 inches. In 1914, this Atlantic design was stretched to make the famous K4 4-6-2 Pacific, so I suspect production of the E6 ceased. The MDC model has 70 or 72 inch diameter drivers and I've read the entire loco was scaled down to match the smaller drivers.
This model uses a boiler intended to sit over 62- or 63-inch drivers. I think the boiler on this mechanism sits too high as the center of the cylinder appears to be above the center of the drivers. (Might just be a problem of the model made for the photo.)



Ten-Wheeler 4-6-0

  • 454 - 459 Harriman 4-6-0 - I think the Ten-wheeler is modeled after the SP's T-28 class, which were built by Baldwin and Brocks c. 1907-1911, and the consolidation is just the same superstructure on a 2-8-0 mechanism. Some of the T-28's burned coal and had a regular tender and some burned oil, with a vanderbilt tender. Both prototypes, I believe, had 63 inch drivers.
I believe the Varney "Casey Jones" is more or less based on the same prototype. This was a common style of loco in the first decade of the 20th century. If we could get the engine together without months of work, we'd be using these as stand-ins for the Rutland/NEB&W light Ten-wheelers.



  • 452 PRR 4-6-0 - The Pennsy standardized on everything possible, including the basic boiler, which was used on their Atlantic and Consolidation as well as their G5 Ten-wheeler. However, the G5 version was built a decade or two later and the cab was noticeable shorter and more modern-looking. Also, the prototype had outside valve gear and probably 69 inch, not 63 inch drivers. (MDC never claimed it was a G5, just a "Pennsy-style" Ten-wheeler. However, don't know of any other PRR class of 4-6-0's which might match any closer. I believe the G4 was built c. 1900.) First thing I'd do is substitute a PRR K4 cab. Second thing, toss the kit and get the Bowser one instead.)
Larry Fink sent the following addition: "This model is like the PRR class G4b, a one-of-a-kind locomotive. It was a G4a, no. 7306, whose boiler was upgraded with a Belpaire firebox and larger grates. (See http://www.northeast.railfan.net/prr_steam3.html) The MDC model has the longer cab and 62 inch (approx.) drivers of the G4, and the Belpaire of the later G5 class locomotives, although after that the similarity to the G4b is minimal - different domes, cylinders, headlight, etc."