LocoNotes Model Designations

Index For This Page

This page was last updated on June 19, 2024.

(Return to the Locomotive Notes Index Page)

Locomotive Model Designations

On August 12, 2004, there was a discussion concerning locomotive model disignations on the now-defunct RR Rosters discussion group.

Larry Russell wrote:

Many years ago a railfan called a high hood ALCo with 600 hp an HH600. This was the start of the slippery slope to inventing models. Many believe that the original manufacturer should be the one to determine the model. Some assigned no model, Some assigned models retroactively, Some assigned models for internal use only. The marketing people got involved and clashed with the designers. Whatever!

Along came Jerry Pinkepank to try to clear the air in his offering of Extra 2200 South and later Don Dover and the rest of the brain trust (Dave Hamley, Ken Douglas etc.) Don seems to have kept the group focused and the result was the Diesel Spotters Guide put out by Jerry.

Most of this discussion has taken place many times over the years with no clear consensus. Don Dover formalized those things that were mostly agreed upon and added his own thoughts. The railroads did pick up some of this through their mechanical departments and added some of their own thoughts to the mix.

Joe is correct in suggesting that some basic rules should apply. Consensus might be hard to reach on some of it (and I hate imposition of rules unilaterally). We should be able to agree on what has preceded from the Dover years, since it was thoroughly hashed out then. Until everyone uses a relational database instead of flat files there will be individual problems unless they comment extensively (and even then....)

As I have said before, as long as someone coming along later can figure out what you've done and why, you can record it how you wish. IF THEY CANNOT, then I suggest you rethink what you are doing. I've been doing this since 1959 and many have been doing it longer. We build of each others knowledge and although errors creep in, it's still better than doing nothing. I'm always prepared to revise my work as long as I'm satisfied I've made an error. It's a work in progress guys!

Merging data is a problem that we have looked at, and as Tom has said: "It ain't gonna happen" (at least anytime soon) I can't imagine most of this crowd dealing with the amount of data Doug & I deal with! We deal with the WORLD and from the beginning of railways. Yes, we've stretched ourselves thin in places, but monomania is part of the deal of being a railfan.

On August 12, 2004, Dave Hamley wrote:

With the blinding brilliance of 20/20 hindsight, it turns out that all those funny Alco switchers of the 1930s actually did have a form of official designation, an E-XXXX specification number.

Another amusing blunder was committed by those (Sy Reich?) who designated FM models as "ALTxxx.x" and so on. They read the FM specs, which were numbered as ALT (Advertising Literature Technical) and off down the yellow brick road they went. (I wonder if they met the Wizard?)

And I believe I'm correct (or at least close) that Alco never called it an RS1 or RS2 until c.1950 they decided the then current model was an RS3 and applied the other two in retrospect.

On August 12, 2004, Don Strack wrote:

Back in mid 1998 when Paul Withers and I decided to do the first of the UP locomotive directories, I wondered about how to address the numerous and varied model designations that were coming from both the UP side and the SP side. After the 1996 merger, I swore that I was done with UP's roster, mostly because I had absolutely nothing about the SP roster. But like the Sirens of Greek mythology, the challenge of making some sort of sense of the SP roster pulled me in.

Tom Wells at UP sent me paper copy of their new intergrated UP and SP locomotive database, asking for some help. I lent my limited expertise and we came up with a solution for the varied model designations; mostly to call them whatever UP wanted to (and since this UP-only database was his, and he was not a railfan, he was free to call them whatever he wanted). He complained that there was no rhyme or reason to the various railfan model designations in the various magazines and books he was using as his source data, except the outdated Diesel Spotters Guide. Paul and I decided that whenever we deviated from the builder's model, or the railfan model, that we should explain the deviation, which I tried to do in the first directory (and all UP rosters since then).

It's nice to read what Larry Russell and David Hamley have to say from their experience in the early years. It would be nice if Dick Will or Ken Douglas could add anything from the early Extra 2200 South years. Larry's and David's recollections make me realize two important things (both of which I have already fully embraced): 1) there is no standard among either builders or railfans, and 2) whatever we use, we should explain it. Period.

The lack of a central standard, or a central database, again brings to mind the apparent potential of combining PHP and MySQL into such a beast. Both are open source, free programming applications, but my limited knowledge of PHP says it can be done. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no knowledge of MySQL, other than to know vaguely that it is a server-based relational database scheme that is apparently quite powerful, and completely user-configured, including passwords and the needed security setups. There are numerous books on the subject.