Model Y-class locomotives

NW Modeling List nw-modeling-list at
Wed Sep 4 15:20:02 EDT 2019

Ron and list-


Manufacturers produce models that they feel will sell enough to cover costs of development, tooling, production, distribution, sales and make a profit.   Even if the importer/manufacturer has people working for it that personally favor a particular railroad, since their paycheck depends on the last part of the previous sentence, everything ultimately filters down to the bottom line.


Yes, the biggest steam engines do tend to get made because the consumer perception is that an 0-6-0 ought to cost proportionally less than a 4-8-8-4…..and that is just not true.   Overall project costs and the cost of tooling are not based much on the overall size of a prototype. 

I do not understand the public’s seemingly insatiable demand for UP Big Boys (locomotive only used by one railroad in an area where more sheep saw them run than people)  but new models and new production runs seem to sell out even though it is impossibly large for most home layouts in any scale!!     


I don’t think there hasn’t been a commercial model of a steam switcher since the Bachmann USRA 0-6-0  and the Life Like USRA 0-6-0 and 0-8-0s….and before that the Model Die Casting SP 0-6-0 (discounting Tyco and Mantua and Rivarossi).  

Bachmann has done well with their USRA-ized IC/RI/AA 2-8-0 and other smaller steam as has BLI with their PRR H9 and de-Belpraired generic version thereof.  Larger engines and even articulateds do dominate the market.


The Life Like 2-8-8-2 was chosen not because it was a N&W locomotive but because it was a “USRA”…..and had a broader appeal as such.  


The Y6b and other Rivarossi plastic steam were largely chosen based on availability of plans back before the level of research that is done for production models today was common.   Often a single erection drawing in a Cyclopedia and a few photos were all that models were based on.  (Rivarossi did the Atlas N “smoothside RPO combine” from a single photo of a Monon rebuilt US Army Hospital car….and modeled a vestibule that belonged to the car coupled to the far end of the RPO in the photo, and only had the roof vents on one side of the roof because that was all that was visible!).  


Having been in full time R&D roles both within a company and as a consultant to others I know that a very significant factor beyond the perceived “popularity” of a prototype is the timely availability and completeness of information…plans, photos and other data necessary to support all aspects of the development, tooling, distribution and sales of a model.  One of the reasons why Pennsy fans have so many models is that they are probably the best and easiest champions of any railroad to work with from the standpoint of a importer/manufacturer……and, once the models are available, support it by buying them. 


Charlie Vlk

Railroad Model Resources 




While I tend to agree with you, the fact is manufacturers mostly produce models based on either prototypes still around or the most popular/biggest/fastest/noteworthy ones. The Y-6b was the last of it's kind and probably the one that gets the most attention due to that fact. 



The Y-3 was done by Life Like P2K and admirably in a couple variations. 


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