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Shannondell Diesel Trains

Introducing our Diesel Locomotives

            By the late 1950’s, the Pennsylvania Railroad had shut down most of its steam operations in favor of diesel locomotives.  Diesel units require considerably less maintenance than steam, with a corresponding reduction in the number of personnel needed to keep the fleet in service.  Hence, they are more efficient because they cost less money to run.  Also, diesel units are not as polluting as steam power – a plus for the cleanliness of passengers!

            We now have a number of diesel locomotives that have been equipped with DCC and are now running on our platform.   Some are also equipped with sound.

            They are:

Railroad                     Number          Model         Service      Sound

Penna. Railroad        2415                C424               Freight           No

Penna. Railroad         4828              GG1               Passenger      No

Penna. Railroad         4935              GG1               Passenger      No

                              Penna. Railroad        6311                C628            Passenger       No                              

Penna. Railroad        8448                RSD-5             Freight            No

Penna. Railroad        9643                F7A                 Freight             No

Penna. Railroad        9786                F7A                 Freight             No

Penna. Railroad        9841                FP7A            Passenger       Yes

Lehigh Valley              638                 C628               Freight             Yes

Lehigh Valley              639                 C628               Freight              No

Reading Railroad      5516                  GP30            Freight               No

Reading Railroad      5518                  GP30            Freight               No

Seaboard Coast Line     10                 FP7A            Passenger        No

 PRR #9841
Model of PRR #9841

The original PRR #9841 (Model FP7A) was built in 1952 by General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD).  Its power output was 1,500 horsepower. 

            A total of 2,366 cab-equipped lead A-units and 1,483 cabless booster B-units were built during the period of February, 1949 through December, 1953.  The F7 was the fourth model in GM-EMD’s highly successful F-unit series of cab unit locomotives, and was one of the best selling Diesel-electric locomotives of all time.  Many F7’s remained in service for decades, as railroads found them economical to operate and maintain.  However, the locomotive was not very popular with the train crews who operated and worked on them, due to the fact that they were extremely difficult to mount and dismount, and it was also nearly impossible for the engineer to see hand signals from his ground crew without leaning way outside the window.  As most of these engines were bought and operated before two-way radio became standard on most American railroads, this was a major point of contention.  In later years, with the advent of the “GP” type “road switchers”, F’s were primarily used in “through freight” and “unit train” service where there was very little or no switching to be done. 

The F7 design has become entrenched in the popular imagination due to it having been the motive power of some of the most famous trains in North American railroad history including the Santa Fe’s “El Capitan” and the Denver & Rio Grande Western’s “The California Zephyr”.

PRR #9841 had its number changed to #4341 when it was taken over by Penn Central and then by Conrail.  It was probably destroyed around 1978.

PRR Logo

The Rise and Fall of the Pennsylvania Railroad

The Pennsylvania Railroad was founded in 1846 and merged in 1968 into Penn Central Transportation.   Its headquarters were in Philadelphia, PA.

The PRR was the largest railroad by traffic and revenue in the US throughout its 20th century existence and for a long while was the largest publicly traded corporation in the world.  The corporation still holds the record for the longest continual dividend history - it doled out annual payments to shareholders for more than 100 years in a row.

In February of 1968, the PRR merged with arch-rival New York Central to form the Penn Central.  The ICC required that the ailing New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad be added in 1969.  Penn Central declared bankruptcy in June of 1970. 

Penn Central rail lines were split between Amtrak (passenger service) and Conrail (freight service) in the 1970s.  After the breakup of Conrail in 1999, the portion which had formerly been PRR territory largely became part of the Norfolk Southern Railway.


Lehigh Valley 638
Model of Lehigh Valley #638 and #639

     The black and white diesel locomotives #638 and #639 were purchased for the SMRRC by one of its members, Glenn Landis.  They are in remembrance of his father, Edwin C. Landis, who worked for the Lehigh Valley Railroad for fifty years (1916 – 1966).  He died in 1998 at the age of 104.

            During Glenn’s early teenage years, he spent a lot of time after school with his father in the marshalling yards where the freight trains were put together for trips all over the country.  He also accompanied his father on passenger runs from Easton to Buffalo and Glenn developed a keen interest in everything about the railroad.  After a near accident on Glenn’s part when his foot slipped while he was climbing a ladder on a moving boxcar and came within inches of the wheel, his father discouraged any further thought about a railroad career.

            His love of railroads never faded and today, Glenn takes great pleasure in the Shannondell Model Railroad.  Look for the black and white locomotives which are fondly called ‘snowbirds’.

LV Logo

            The Lehigh Valley Railroad dates back to the mid-1800’s and was sometimes known as the Route of the Black Diamond, named after the anthracite coal it transported.   The original purpose of its founders was to build a railroad for the transportation of anthracite and, incidentally perhaps, passengers between the mines then being operated near Mauch Chunk, Pa., and the Delaware River at Easton, Pa.

            Almost immediately the railroad began to expand and by the 1890’s, the Lehigh Valley Railroad stretched from New York Harbor to Tifft Terminal in Buffalo, passing through the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, and the Finger Lakes region of New York state.

            By the mid -1900’s, the steam trains had been replaced with diesel locomotives.  Coal traffic declined steadily after the 1940s and, by 1962, the Pennsylvania Railroad had acquired majority stock control of the railroad.  On June 24, 1970, the Lehigh Valley Railroad declared bankruptcy, just three days following the bankruptcy of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s successor, Penn Central.  Penn Central’s bankruptcy relieved them from paying fees to various Northeastern railroads, the Lehigh Valley included, for the use of their railcars and other operations.  The non-payment of these fees was fatal to the Lehigh Valley’s finances.

            The Lehigh Valley remained in operation during the 1970 bankruptcy, as was the common practice of the time.  In 1972, the Lehigh Valley assumed the remaining Pennsylvania trackage of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, a competing anthracite railroad which had entered bankruptcy as well.  In 1976, the assets of the bankrupt Lehigh Valley Railroad were acquired by Conrail.  By 1980, all of the Alco C-628 diesel locomotives had been scrapped.

Locomotives #638 and #639 were built by Alco as part of the Century Series.  These C-628s were 6 axle, 2800 hp diesel locomotives of the road switch type.  186 of these were built between 1963 and 1967.  The locomotives numbered 638 and 639 were delivered to the Lehigh Valley Railroad in December of 1967 and were painted in the black and white colors.  In March of 1973, they were re-painted Cornell red with a yellow stripe. 

Unfortunately, there are no real Alco C-628 locomotives left to see.

Reading Diesels
Model of Reading Railroad #5516 and #5518

In 1962, the Reading Company purchased 20 GP30 locomotives built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors Corporation, numbered them 5501 through 5520, and painted them in a distinctive green and yellow color scheme.  One of the series, number #5513, was placed on display for commuters inside the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia.

There were 948 GP30s built from 1961 to 1963.  It is believed that only about eight still survive and some are still working.  The Reading Company Technical & Historical Society owns #5513 and it is currently awaiting repair. 

Sadly, #5516 was scrapped in 1983 and #5518 in 1994.

Reading 5513
Surviving #5513 awaiting repairs

Reading Railroad

    Although remembered mainly as a railroad, the Reading Company was, in its heyday, a multifaceted industrial giant.  Originally established as The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad (P & R) in 1833 to transport anthracite coal, the pioneering 94-mile line evolved into a mighty corporation serving eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.  Operations included coal mining, iron making, canal and sea-going transportation and shipbuilding.  With its great complex of shops for locomotive and car building and repair, and constant advances in railroad technology, the company held a position of leadership in the railroad industry for over a century.

    By the nature of the territory which it served, the P & R fueled the Industrial Revolution which led the United States to economic leadership.  With lines reaching out to the North, South, East and West, the P & R served the heart of the most densely industrialized area of the nation and by the 1870s became the largest corporation in the world.

    During this period the P & R established a subsidiary, The P & R Coal and Iron Company, to gain control over the vast anthracite deposits being mined for shipment over its lines.  As one of America’s first conglomerates, this attracted the infamous “robber barons” of the latter 1800s, such as Carnegie and Vanderbilt.  During the company’s final spectacular attempt at expansion through control of lines to New England, Canada and the West, the formidable J. P. Morgan pulled the financial rug out from under The Reading, and forced the company to settle into its traditional role as a regional railroad – mainly a carrier of anthracite.

    During the 1890s, to ward off government efforts to break up monopolies, the P & R’s owners created a new holding company named Reading Company, to own on paper the P & R Railroad and P & R Coal and Iron Co.  Finally, a Supreme Court ruling forced a complete separation of the P & R entities.  On January 1, 1924, the P & R Coal and Iron Co. became independent, and Reading Company became the railroad operating name.

    After World War II, as America began to turn away from coal as its major fuel, The Reading’s fate began to turn as well.  Dragged down by the failure of surrounding lines on which it depended for traffic to offset the loss of the coal business, The Reading entered bankruptcy in 1971.  Its operations were taken over as part of the federally financed CONRAIL, on April 1, 1976.


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