Friday, October 27, 2006 at 11:25 am
A Bounty of Big Boys
The December issue of Model Railroader came in the mail yesterday; it features a head-to-head review of two recently released HO 4-8-8-4 “Big Boy” locomotives: an Athearn Genesis and a Precision Craft. Both come with sound; the Precision Craft is die-cast, more detailed and more expensive. Along with the earlier Rivarossi and Trix models, that makes at least four Big Boys that I’m aware of in HO scale, not including brass.
I appreciate that famous engines are going to get done as models, but honestly, can the market support four Big Boy models? I can understand it if there is more than one source for a GP7 or a USRA steam engine, or if two manufacturers put out a model that is just plain going to sell — Pennsy K4 Pacifics, for example. But a Pennsy modeller is going to buy a bunch of K4s; how many Big Boys does a Union Pacific modeller need? (And no one modelling anything else is going to buy a Big Boy unless they just don’t care about prototype.)
On the other end of things, there’s only one modern plastic model of a 2-8-0 “Consolidation”: Bachmann’s. It’s a good model, but it’s generic; and the Consol was the most popular Whyte configuration in the history of steam.
It’s no different in preservation: of 20 Big Boys built (the MR review says), eight have been preserved. But big locomotives get preserved more often than small ones, and the Big Boy is iconic. Compare: Canadian Pacific’s K1a-class 4-8-4 Northerns were crappy (but big) locomotives, but both were preserved, compared with just two T1c-class 2-10-4 Selkirks and five iconic Royal Hudsons.