From the Archive: Road-Specific HO-scale NYC GP20 in 1960

This HO GP20 enjoyed one of the longest runs in the hobby’s history. From its introduction by TYCO around 1960, the model remained in that line until nearly its demise in the early 1990s. Mantua got much use from this shell beginning just before 1980 and to the end of the 20th century. The last appearance to date was as a Mantua Classics release via Model Power, with DCC and sound as an option in the 2000s. The boxed Chattanooga GP20 is from the mid-1970s, while the red Burlington model is a 1960s version with metal handrails, original drive, truck sideframes, and uncommon dynamic brake detail.

From the Archive: Road-Specific HO-scale NYC GP20 in 1960

HO Scale

August 2021’s New York Central-themed issue and the recent arrival of Broadway Limited Imports’ all-new HO-scale GP20 diesel locomotive model (see July 2021’s Model Railroad News, page 62) had me thinking about the classic and long-serving TYCO GP20 model.


ABOVE: Conrail 2102 was westbound in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area in August 1977. This example wears patched “CR” identification and received a paper-type air filter addition on its long hood at some point during its career; however, this is close to the prototype for the very common TYCO HO-scale GP20 diesel locomotive tooling. — Kevin EuDaly photo

For its day (introduced around 1960 both by Electro-Motive Division and TYCO), this turbocharged four-axle locomotive was noteworthy. With respect to the HO reproduction, the model possessed proportions that were close to accurate, and detail was pretty good. Countless examples served under Christmas trees and helped introduce young enthusiasts to model railroading. It is just as likely that many of these HO GP20s went in for serious craftsman-level efforts on many a modeler’s workbench. I know you’ll find a feature documenting a build for this shell from as late as the early 1990s… only a few years before Life-Like’s Proto 2000 rendition arrived and largely put this plastic GP20 out to pasture for many serious endeavors.

I don’t believe I really took a serious look at this GP20 shell and compared it with prototypes until maybe sometime in the 1990s. While GP20s tended to be fairly stock-detailed affairs across the many roads to employ them, the model’s usual lack of dynamic brake detail made it uncommon. A crude separate dynamic brake section was offered in the 1960s by TYCO, but largely went into hiding until Mantua reintroduced this tooling in the 1980s. As you compare and spot features on GP20s, you’ll discover the 48-inch fans on the roof may be the most recognizable variant across production. There are fans with a tall collar with a widening or flare to the top edge and there are “button top” style fans lacking the collar. The model’s tooling leans toward the tall collar fan but omits the flared out top ring.

While this non-dynamic GP20 shell might be pegged as New York Central-accurate (as this was the only road to buy this EMD model without dynamics), the fans also bring in some addition concerns… so, was it road-accurate in 1960… vaguely.


August 2021“From the Archive” is a regular Model Railroad News feature.



This article was posted on: September 12, 2021