It’s commonly agreed that steam locomotives are enchanting. Our parents or grandparents remember them warmly. Those boxy, shiny diesels evoke a different feeling from a different era.
Roundhouse Trains specializes in “Bringing the Golden Age of Railroading to Life”. Roundhouse produces this 2-6-0 “Mogul” steam locomotive in Southern Pacific Daylight colors, in HO scale and ready to run on your layout. The MSRP is $149.98, which is comparable to similarly sized, finely detailed locomotives by other manufacturers.
The 2-6-0 is called a Mogul with two lead wheels, six drive wheels, and no trailing wheels, and is generally a modest-sized locomotive, used by the railroads for a variety of jobs, both passenger and freight, though more likely pulling freight trains.
Searching the internet, I find on espee.railfan.net that 2-6-0 #1601 falls into the Southern Pacific’s M-2 Class, built by Baldwin between 1882 and 1883. They recommend the references:
- A Century of SP Steam Locomotives - Guy L. Dunscomb
- SP Co. Steam Locomotive Compendium by Diebert & Strapac
- Volume 2 -- Southern Pacific Mogul 2-6-0 Pictorial - By Duane Karam Jr., Monte Vista Publishing
Roundhouse’s model comes fully assembled and nicely packaged, so a modeler can run it right away on a DC (analog not DCC digital) layout. Inside the tender is a small removable circuit board with a 9-pin DCC connector that can easily be replaced by a digital decoder and includes a speaker compartment for installation of a sound decoder.
The locomotive and tender are joined by several wires and a metal drawbar, screwed on each end.
The wheels are silver-colored and appear to be nickel silver, but the electrical wipers on each are bronze-colored and might require regular use or cleaning to maintain optimal electrical conductivity. There are wipers on 4 of the 6 drive wheels and all 8 tender wheels! The center two drivers have a rubber tire to assist traction. The wheels on this model are all to standard gauge tolerances.
Couplers are supplied by McHenry (a sister company of Roundhouse, both owned by Horizon Hobby, Inc.) and have metal springs and trip-pins, operate well, and check well for height on an NMRA standards gauge, although modelers who prefer all-metal couplers can easily change these out for their favorite standard knuckle couplers. The lead coupler is operating (not common on many older models), but its shank appears awkwardly long.
The two lead wheels are mounted on a neat spring mechanism to hold them to the track. The locomotive feels nicely heavy and can definitely pull a short train of prototypical length for this type.
The instructions parts diagram shows many interchangeable options available on this locomotive and tender, allowing Roundhouse to match specific options for each particular railroad. This Southern Pacific locomotive has a straight smoke stack and an oil tank tender.
The railings are beautiful fine wire.
While the Daylight Scheme is very attractive, I have doubts about its authenticity on this little Mogul. This locomotive would have been 55 years old when the SP Daylight
started running (big 4-8-4’s) in that new scheme in March of 1937, and it could not have pulled a large train at any speed to be proud of. Nonetheless, it is conceivable that if it weren’t scrapped by then, a museum or tourist line may have painted an actual locomotive this way.
Out of the box, the locomotive responds well to a DC throttle. The tie rod motion is smooth and fun to watch. There’s a faint buzzing, but one would expect that to decrease over time, as the working parts wear in.
Here’s where my personal experience gets tricky. Opening the tender involves laying the loco and tender (together) on their sides. To access the two tender body screws, I had to remove the trucks (one screw each). As happens with soft metal and fine-threaded screws, I stripped one of the truck screws.
Once inside, I pried off the DC circuit board on the 9-pin-plug and replaced it with a basic Digitrax DH163 mobile DCC decoder. It didn’t fit above the main board and under the narrow oil tank top, but there is about an inch of wire to work with, so I was able to fold it underneath the main board, into the speaker housing. If I was to install a sound decoder, I would have had to figure out another arrangement—probably using an N or Z scale decoder. To keep the boards in place on the posts while I inserted the screws, I used cellophane tape on the corners, cutting off the excess afterward. Be sure to keep the locomotive wiring inside the little wire duct in the front of the tender near the drawbar—it likes to wander around while you close it up. I put a dab of latex craft glue into the stripped screw hole before inserting the screw—that would hold the weight of the tender truck whenever someone lifted them up.
It ran smoothly on a Digitrax DCC layout, but it was often slow to respond to commands—most likely from oil on the wheels from assembly. The faint buzzing was still there as well—again, I would expect that to lessen as the working parts wear in. It was a temporary modular layout at a local model train show, so I couldn’t test it further, but I look forward to it!
Model steam locomotives have come a long way (since the time of real steam locomotives), and this is a nice smooth runner, made of quality materials, that I would expect to run well for a long time forward. It’s attractive in those bright Daylight orange and red stripes. The 2-6-0 arrangement applies itself to any interesting operation, whether passenger or freight.
Please remember to tell vendors and manufacturers that you saw this model here -- on