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Favorite Locomotives of Riding Scale Hobbyists

According to You

Rick Henderson, DLS Staff  with
additional comments by Jim O'Connor

The recent ‘Favorite Locomotives’ survey showed that we in the hobby have a very broad taste in prototypical motive power. The survey may show more of what we desire and not necessarily what we can buy for our riding scale hobby needs. The top four favorites of steam and diesel were the 4-8-4 Northern, EMD F7, 4-6-2 Pacific and the EMD GP7/9.

Steam was again the hands down favorite (most desired) at 61% over diesels 39% but in the individual categories, there was no runaway winner with 16% of the steam category for the Northern as the highest percentage of any locomotive listed. Most models achieved only 1-4% of the votes individually. If you look at a typical riding scale meet today, you will see that what we are actually running overall may be more like only 40% or less live steam, even though it is the most popular.

While the 4-8-4 Northern coming out as the favorite steam locomotive was interesting, the F7 topping the diesel category with 11% was no surprise at all. The GP7/9, RS3 and PA’s, averaging 7% each, round out the top four favored diesels, which actually seems to follow prototypical mid-century popularity. In steam, the 4-6-2 Pacific, Shays and the 2-8-2 Mikado came in 2, 3 and 4 in the voting. Like the Northern, the popularity of the Shay seems higher than the number of Shays actually running in riding scales.

While the survey returns for the steamers, contained a lot of nicknames and even road numbers like SP #4449, these were all included in the tallying under their Whyte classification as much as possible. Some may not recognize the “Four-coupled”, which covers the 0-4-0 class of steamers and includes the Porter and Dockside switcher.

Our interest in over 100 different locomotive types listed in the survey results is why we see such a wide variety of motive power at layouts, which would be a railfan’s dream out on the railroads. On any given prototype railroad during any time period, it was rare to see more than a few variations in the common motive power available in a yard or passing through. Thankfully we have a better variety in riding scale rail fanning.

Steam Locomotives

For these surveys, we only took only the top locomotives.  Many more locomotives were entered but didn't have enough votes to make the list.

For diesel locomotive fans, we concentrated on the major American manufactures of diesel equipment: Electromotive Diesel founded in 1922, and was formerly the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors, Alco or American Locomotive Company founded in 1901 and stopped production in1969, and GE or GE Transportation a division of General Electric, Erie, Pennsylvania.

EMD type locomotives proved the most popular followed by Alco.  The F7 which topped out list was the famous "shovel nose" or "covered wagon" produced between February 1949 and December 1953.  It shared a similar style with EMD's "E" series.  The EMD GP7/9 "Geep" was a general purpose "road switcher".  What it lacked in streamline beauty it made up for in visibility.  The window placement made it better for switching duties that often came up while on the road. The Alco RS3 was also a road switcher with a similar body style.  The Alco PA had a similar in function and style to the EMD F units but with a much longer hood and a very vertical leading edge, had a more aggressive look.

The list of favorites is populated with a few switchers and lots of road machines.  Do a Google search for the names you may not be familiar with.  It's really a lot of fun and you may just learn something.


Diesel Locomotives