Friday, October 27, 2006 at 11:25 am

A Bounty of Big Boys

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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.

Precision Craft Models Big Boy 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.

Big Boy Oh well, it’s not for me to second-guess their business plans — just that four Big Boys has to be too many for the market.

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.

1 Comment

  • We we just receive the PCM Brass big boys with operating bridge display. We stocked model number 119U undecorated in full brass. This was an allotment of only 12 left in native brass from PCM. We have only 1 left.
    This has to be the finest HO model of a big boy made to date with opening hatches and even a pilot coupler that can be displayed open or closed.
    The bridge display is actually an operating display with clear cover so that you can operate the model on your display shelf.
    For brass collectors this is the mother of all brass.