Rio Grande F3s and GP7s

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In March 1999, Scott Chatfield wrote:

The F3s were delivered in November, 1946 as A-B-B-A sets numbered 552A-D, 553A-D, and 554A-D. The B-units had steam generators. The A-units had water tanks mounted in the rear, with one water filler on each side just behind the rearward door. The B-units had at least one water filler amidships.

Being early F3s, they were what we call Phase Ones. In other words, the A-units had three portholes like the B-units, and all had the high fans. The A-units also had the big side number "indicators" like the FTs. They wore the black & gold scheme. There is a nice photo of 554A&B taken in 1947 on page 92 of CRM's "Locomotives of the Rio Grande."

But by 1951 it appears all six A-units were rebuilt with new sides and renumbered 5521-5524, 5531-5534, and 5541-5544. Look at the March 1951 shot of 5521-5524 on page 87 of "Locomotives of the Rio Grande." Now instead of three portholes, they have sides with two portholes and four sets of louvers, and no number indicators, and the upper openings were still covered with "chicken wire." This is the side design associated with the Phase Three F3s.

It was not uncommon for roads to send their Fs back to EMD for electrical upgrading, and while there they often got whatever louvers and grills the factory was putting on new units. This implies to me that these twelve units went back to EMD sometime in 1948, when Phase Three F3s were produced. Does anyone know for sure when they were rebuilt and renumbered?

Lastly, they were repainted gold and silver sometime before 1956. Anybody know when? The 5521-5524 were still black and gold in 1951.

In any case, another little detail is the F3s all had the "square & sloped" journal boxes instead of the round boxes found on all the models. DA also offers these parts. It isn't hard to shave off the old boxes and glue the DA parts onto the sideframes. Once the trucks are weathered the journals are quite noticeable and add character to the models without much work.

(From: Jim Eager)

-- 5521-5524 renumbered on 1/30/50, 5531-5534 on 4/12/50, 5541-5544 on 3/7/50.

-- 5534 still in original configuration in 8/50 but the side number boards were black.

-- Side panels changed to louvers on 5521-5524 by 3/51 and side number panels removed.

-- Repainted to gold/silver 4-stripe by summer of 1952. (FTA 5481 was the first unit repainted gold/silver when it was rebuilt with an F7 carbody in 3/51.)

-- 5531 rebuilt by EMD with F9M carbody (F3 high fans and dynamic brake grilles) in 2/54.

-- 5521-5524 repainted in single-stripe scheme in early 1961, soon followed by the other two sets.

-- A few F7As had their fans swapped out for F3 type at some point, including 5624 (1966) and 5574 (1972).

(Roster listing of D&RGW F3 locomotives)

Steve Seguine adds:

For the F3s, if you look closely at the chicken wire and the openings behind it there are differences on both the A and B units between the Phase I and Phase III. In the as built configuration there are several short sections of chicken wire separated by sections of sheet metal. Then after about 1950 there are only two sections of mesh with one short section of sheet metal just forward of mid unit. This space is very apparent on the Gold/Silver 4 stripe scheme with the screened areas painted black. With the Highliner B shell, and I suppose the A if we ever get one, it is very easy to get this distinctive D&RGW (odd) appearance.

It seems hard to imagine that this frugal railroad would have gone to the added expense of having the entire sides of these F3's replaced if it didn't contribute to the reliability or efficiency in some way. At that time they could also have replaced the chicken wire with horizontal grills!


In March 1999, Scott Chatfield wrote:

The GP7s were delivered in black and _yellow_ (Duco Imitation Gold), not Aspen Gold (Duco Orange). The switch to Aspen Gold on hood units came either between the GP7s and the GP9s (1952-55), or between the two GP9 orders (1955-56), it's not yet clear which.

For the GP7s, there are now two modeling options and yet one problem with both.

5100-5103 are early Phase Two GP7s, built 10/50, with 36" dynamic fans and solid skirts. They are among the first GP7s built with dynamics (Erie, BAR, and MEC also got GP7s with dynamics that October).

5104-5113 are mid Phase Twos, built 6/52, still with 36" dynamic fans but with slotted skirts.

(Roster listing of D&RGW GP7 locomotives)