Barriers to Model Railroading: Believable Freelance Locomotive Rosters

A believable locomotive roster for a freelance model railroad is what helps make the model railroad believable. I have seen many modelers have a one of this and one of that roster. That would be acceptable for maybe one engine but not the entire roster. What makes a believable roster? How many different classes of steam engines or diesels. Which manufacturer(s) would the railroad buy their engines from. The other problem is availability of a suitable model in the scale you are modeling.

First question, what do you intend to model. Are you modeling a short line, a branch line of a larger railroad or a division of a main line? Are you modeling a fictional section of a railroad or is the whole thing a freelance model? What type of freight and passenger traffic will you be modeling? If you address these questions during the initial phases, purchasing locomotives will be a better experience than buying this one or that one.

Let’s use the Northern Maryland Railway as our freelance example. In its region, other narrow gauge railroads would be the East Broad Top, the Lancaster,Oxford, and Southern Railroad, the York Southern, and the Maryland Central. More distant historical comparators that I like are the Newport and Sherman’s Valley, Tuscarora Valley Railroad, Waynesburg and Washington, Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina, and the Ohio River and Western. I also decided to look at two standard gauge short lines, the Stewartstown Railroad and the Ma&Pa.

In determining my engine roster, I decided that the Northern Maryland would purchase steam engines new similar to the East Broad Top, Waynesburg and Washington, and Eastern Tennessee & Western North Carolina railroads. I also decided that the primary builder would be Baldwin Locomotive as they are close to the Northern Maryland. I did have one engine deviate from this plan. One mogul would be purchased from Cooke at a time when Baldwin was too busy to fill an order in the time the Northern Maryland required.

I started my locomotive roster from the beginning of the Northern Maryland in the early 1870s up to 1914. Engine retirements, replacements, rebuildings, and an occasional wreck were all included in the process to arrive at my 1914 engine roster. The NM purchased small power, 2-4-0, 4-4-0s, 2-6-0s, and finally 4-6-0s. Like the ET&WNC, the Northern Maryland decided that the dual purpose 4-6-0s suited their needs best. The only downside was that the 4-6-0s that Baldwin sold the ET&WNC were built in the early 20th century. The Northern Maryland would be purchasing their ten-wheelers much earlier, in the early mid 1880s. The ET&WNC ten-wheelers have always been a favorite of mine, however they are not made in Sn3 and they do not meet the imagineered Northern Maryland purchase history. The Denver and Rio Grande’s T-12s however did meet the framework of the story I am trying to tell and in the correct timeframe. Jerry Day made two excellent videos of the Cumbres and Toltec’s restored T-12 number 168. You can watch them here and here or search for them on YouTube. After watching Mr Day’s videos as well as several others, I was sold on the T12! Better yet, it is available in Sn3. P-B-L made them several years ago now and would require finding one used. Railmaster Exports, in New Zealand, still makes new T-12 kits.

Northern Maryland’s #1 was similar to the Denver and Rio Grande’s Montezuma. Nathan Holmes collection. Downloaded from

Barriers to Model Railroading: Believable Freelance Locomotive Rosters @February 2021 by H. Mathews

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