As HO model trains go, this thing is HUGE! But alas, it was a temporary fling.
This model ended up being a stop gap during my search for what I considered the ultimate prize, the Overland Models Union Pacific Coal Turbine, which I was able to acquire after a long search. The model shown here is from New Jersey Custom Brass, and while it’s not as detailed or accurate as OMI’s version, it’s still an impressive set. This particular model is in great shape, never run, and the box and internal foam packaging is in great shape considering the age. The model consists of the lead Alco unit, center turbine unit, and coal tender.
The Union Pacific Railroad experimented with a number of different turbine locomotive types. In the late 1930’s, UP tested two coal-fired steam turbine locomotives simply named units 1 & 2. They were put into service for about a year and ultimately declared a failure, primarily due to reliability issues.
In the 1950’s, UP once again considered a turbine design, but this time the turbine was fired with a low-grade oil called “Bunker C” . This low grade oil was typically regarded as a waste product, produced as a by-product of oil refining. The one advantage was that it was cheap. UP was pleased with the performance of their oil burning turbines and put them into service. They remained in service for approximately ten years at which time the plastics industry found use for Bunker C oil, and the price skyrocketed, making the turbine locomotives no longer economically viable.
In 1961, UP experimented with this unique, three-unit coal-fired turbine. The lead unit was a modified Alco PA-2. The second unit was built upon the chassis a Great Northern RR W-1 electric locomotive. It was modified to house the turbine itself. The third unit was an old steam locomotive coal tender that was modified for use with the coal turbine. The way the whole thing worked was coal in the tender was pulverized into dust by a coal crusher built into the tender. The coal dust was then mixed with water and pumped to the second unit, where the coal dust was then separated from the water and fed to the turbine. The turbine spun a generator which powered the traction motors in the first unit, producing 5,000hp. The first unit also retained it’s original 2000hp diesel engine, for a combined output of around 7,000hp.
Detail on the model is very good, but a few things puzzle me. In all the photographs I’ve seen of #80, this model doesn’t seem to reflect the real #80. One of the nice “extras” for this model was the inclusion of a b/w photo of the real thing. This helps highlight some of the differences:
Most differences appear to me to be on the second unit. While the model includes nice mesh screening over the various openings, the screening is on the inside of the unit, whereas the real thing has most of the screening on the outside. Also, the lead unit on the model has grills near the roofline that are simply molded into the structure, whereas the real thing has grills that you can see through into the inside structure.
A friend over at my model railroad club suggest that because UP experimented heavily with this unit, and was constantly changing the configuration and they worked through issues, that the model may represent some phase in the experimentation process that changed things up. I still can’t find the photographic evidence to support this model’s config, but it’s a possibility.
Another producer of fine brass model trains is Overland Models. They produced this same model, and to me, it resembles the photographs I’ve seen much more accurately. Of course it’s more than triple the price of the NJCB. I suppose you get what you pay for, but given the level of detail in this NJCB model, it doesn’t feel like they skimped; more like they just got it wrong. But as my club buddy said, it could be one of many variations.
These photos illustrate what a truly detailed model this is. What is needed to make it complete is the addition of lighting and window glazing. There may be work needed on the inside as well since only one truck on the lead and one truck on the middle unit is powered. The electric motors are a bit undersized as well. Add to that the installation of a DCC decoder, most likely with sound, and I’ve got my work cut out for me.
Update: I’ve really been on the hunt for Overland Model’s version of the #80 Coal Turbine and was able to track one down from a used brass trains dealer. The NJCB/Orion model has since been sold. You can read about the OMI #80, its conversion to DCC, and see a video in this post: http://www.rcgrabbag.com/archives/overland-models-up-three-unit-coal-turbine-80
Originally posted 2014-06-21 20:16:20.
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