Manufacturers Salute: RIGHT OF WAY
By Mike Stella
Flashback 17 or 18 years, and the introduction of the first BIG 3-rail steam locomotives made by Right Of Way Industries. The 4-4-4-4 Pennsy Duplex was a fascinating piece that caught my eye even though I grew up on the West Coast.
It had a retail asking price very close to $2000 which was unheard of at the beginning of the 1990s. I had a friend with a hobby shop, and together we ordered 10 of these giants, thinking everybody would want one and rush in to plop down their $2000. I think we sold the last one in 1994 or 1995 at a significant discount, but I did keep one for myself and I still think it is a great locomotive with great features, still not found in current pieces.
That LED firebox “glow” is fantastic and these locomotives had TWO motors. I like the fact that ROW numbered every piece and never hid the amount produced. My Duplex is #340/340, the last one made!
Going from that big Duplex, ROW next produced the smallest locomotive on their roster, The B&O 0-4-0 Docksider Switcher.
I remember the HO version made by Varney and may even have one stored away some place. ROW did another fantastic job producing a hefty little switcher that is fun to operate on “Lionel Lines” (The Largest Lionel Railroad on my Block). Too small for a sound system, the B&O was offered in a set with a sound boxcar (again a 3-rail first!) and a beautiful B&O “Round Roof” caboose. It took about 15 years for another “O” gauge manufacturer to come out with this unique looking caboose.
For about the first 20 years as a born again Lionel operator, it was easy to acquire scale size F3’s and such, but I envied my American Flyer friends that ran those gorgeous ALCO PAs in Santa Fe and other road names. ROW once again was ahead of the pack with their ALCO Pas, and to this day I don’t think any other manufacturer has produced a better looking set of diesels. These are an 11 out of 10! Made of brass, they shine unlike those made of plastic.
While ROW produced 240 of these ABA Santa Fes, only 10 of the powered “B” units were ever made, and adding one to my consist gave me a 4 motored set with two sound systems. Or, I can independently run two AB sets. Or better still, I can add the 3rd “B” unit I purchased at a local train meet for a whopping ABBBA consist. In real life that would represent 10,000 horsepower and that train ought to hit 100 MPH or more!
Steam locomotives continued to out-number diesels, and soon the 2-8-8-0s appeared. They were produced in several different road names, each with a different but the proper Vanderbilt tender. They also could be purchased with or without the built-in sound system for a $500 difference in price!
I opted for a Union Pacific “Bulldog” with sound system, and this remains a favorite on my UP roster. Fifteen years later, the Internet seduced me into buying the Great Northern version. Again, these are twin powered locomotives and have been flawless in operation. ROW did a great job on everything they produced.
Did you know that the last locomotive produced by Baldwin Locomotive Works was a 2-6-6-2 for the C&O? An historic piece of motive power and just one of the reasons I sought to add one to my roster, and ROW was the first to make it. I bought mine at a Cal-Stewart meet for a lot less than they originally sold for.
By now other manufactures were making all the same stuff over and over again, and with newer (better?) sound systems and control systems, the ROW pieces have become more of a collector’s novelty, and available at greatly discounted prices.
This makes it easier for me (and you?) to obtain some great running BIG locomotives.
I attended a “live” auction a number of years ago, and outbid the competition for a set of ROW D&H ALCOs, with the matching 6 car set of passenger cars produced in very limited numbers. It remains the ONLY set of ROW passenger cars I have ever seen. Admittedly I overpaid, but what the heck. The set holds a place of honor on my passenger train wall display.
The D&H became a railfan’s delight when it bought four ALCO PAs from the Santa Fe, and again when it operated the last Baldwin Sharknose units. They never had a “B” unit, so I only display the proper AA combination.
When is a Berkshire not a Berkshire? When it is a Kanawha! Sometimes, a 4-8-4 Northern is called a Niagara. A 2-8-4 is always a Berkshire in Lionel Land, but on the C&O they call it a Kanawha. ROW made both AND they made them the correct way.
Look at the picture, and you will notice that the NKP Berkshire has the sand box behind the steam dome, while the C&O has them reversed. Is there another manufacturer that would produce virtually the same locomotive in two distinct styles? Hand it again to ROW to do it the “RIGHT WAY”.
Two additional styles of ROW locomotives were produced, but it must have been in very small numbers, as I recall seeing only one of each ever turn up on the Internet for bidding. I was not in the market for them at that time, but I sure will attempt to obtain them if ever I see them again. I am speaking of the Western Maryland #6 SHAY and a 2-6-6-6 Allegheny.
I will keep looking.
As always, Happy Collecting.