by Tony Cook
Wabash purchased Electro-Motive Division (EMD) GP7s beginning in 1950. The first GP7 units received 450-452 road numbers. The road returned in 1951 for more GP7s, which by 1953 included a collection of 30 additional examples (454-483). The number not noted in those EMD units was a Wabash GP7 carrying road number 453. It was a product of General Motors Diesel (GMD) of Canada. Why the Canadian GP7 in this collection of LaGrange, Ill., EMD units?
According to J. David Ingles’ Wabash Railroad Color Pictorial (2017, Four Ways West Publications), the road gained trackage rights in 1898 from Grand Trunk Railway (later owned by Canadian National) that linked Detroit, Mich., and Buffalo, N.Y., via a direct route through Ontario in Canada. This interesting operation, Wabash’s St. Thomas Division, consisted of 220 miles and gave the railroad an import link in its system. Motive power was purchased to support this division with switchers, F-units, and a single GP7. For many years, this power could be spotted by variations to its livery versus stateside Wabash F-units and Geeps.
ABOVE: Visiting Chicago, Ill., in 1965 after the merger into Norfolk & Western’s system, Wabash 453 and a Nickel Plate Road geep will soon find themselves wearing N&W dress. – K.C. Henkels photo, Kevin EuDaly collection
For its November 2020 delivery of Genesis GP7s, Athearn includes four Wabash releases. Each road number (450, 453, 462, and 483) includes detail variations matching prototype. You’ll also discover only 453 includes the famous red Wabash flag herald on its nose. The other three GP7s lack this flag herald, but include silver accented roof sections and the gold stripe on the nose runs the length of the unit and connects to the matching downward point on the long hood. This variation in striping and flag herald inclusion separates Wabash 453 from its other GP7 siblings and reproduces the Canadian appearance for this prototype.
This fully assembled GP7 diesel locomotive release includes winterization hatch and spark arrestors, accurate air horn on cab roof with single-bugle horn on the long hood roof, skate-type antenna, and no dynamic brake equipment. The short hood headlight package duplicates Wabash’s vertically stacked collection of standard headlights with protruding Gyralite and red emergency light between the number boards.
ABOVE: Wabash’s 453 was setup for short-hood forward operation and the light package found up front was not repeated on the long-hood end. Athearn’s model includes a well-detailed pilot with drop step and hoses. Note the crank brake mounted on the end of the long hood and the MU receptacle on the pilot deck.
Wabash’s original diesel scheme was an intricate tri-color combination of blue, gray, and white. Following a similar path that many roads took when painting was required, a simplified livery was introduced in the early 1960s. This look was solid blue with gold Wabash name and striping with trucks and tanks were painted silver, as was the loco’s cab roof. Though many enthusiasts have allegiance to the early Wabash tri-color livery, this solid blue is a regal looking scheme. Athearn’s Wabash 453 does a great job including the necessary details to replicate a GMD non-dynamic GP7. The road-specific details are many with the highlight likely being the short hood light package.
ABOVE: This GP7 presents one of the smaller fuel tank options available for this four-axle unit. Athearn’s excellent Blomberg truck sideframes include a speed recorder cable running from the lead truck’s second axle. The body-mounted knuckle couplers are McHenry scale-head examples.
In addition to Wabash, Athearn presents Norfolk & Western repaints in this production. When added to N&W’s roster in 1964, the units received a “3” leading their original Wabash road number. Athearn’s offerings include N&W 3453 (ex-Wabash 453) and 3462 (ex-Wabash 462). These two models come dressed in Pevler Blue with N&W’s “hamburger” herald and the road name spelled out on the long hood.
You’ll read the rest of this review in a coming edition of Model Railroad News!