MILW 15/15A


My favourite diesel passenger locomotive is the pre-war Electro-Motive E6.  My last post on “Excess” got me to thinking more about my E6 Cabinet Collection, and the locomotives in two other Cabinet Collections too.  The collections are limited and mean something special to me.  They are representative of the era I enjoy most (1938-1945, especially the years 1940-1941).  There is only so much space in the cabinets and 95% of it is used or spoken for.  So, I guess, I’m not going to be buying much, if anything, in the future.  While this goes against the prevailing model railroading culture of buy, buy, buy, I’m totally ok with this.  I am very fortunate to have what I have and I want to enjoy and appreciate it.  I don’t think I can do this effectively if the collection is too big: I don’t want to have models stored away in boxes.


In considering my collection, I realized that while the models look quite good, most of them don’t run as well as they should.  The factory-installed DCC & Sound systems I have are from QSI, MTH, and Broadway Limited (Paragon, Paragon 2, Paragon3).  I have been very delighted with using Soundtraxx decoders in all my layout locomotives and the EMC 103/103A project of last Winter.  Re-decodering layout locomotives is an expensive undertaking, especially so if the layout is an engine terminal!  However, it has been a great success.

I am extending the re-decodering to the cabinet collections too.  What I hope to have are locomotive models that I know will run excellently any time I wish to have some fun with them on Fillmore.


The Soundtraxx Tsunami 2 PNP style decoder with EMD sounds (#885013) drops right into Broadway Limited E6 locomotives.  In fact, the same mounting screws and posts are used as seen below.



An easy conversion, I kept the factory speakers.  At the same time I replaced the factory headlight/Mars light LEDs with Soundtraxx Sunny White LEDs.  To do this I built-up an assembly using strip styrene such that this new assembly fits where the factory one does, under the cab interior.  The single LED style shown is for locomotives without a Mars light.


Here is a picture of the installed light assembly; connector coating was applied at the soldered connections (for strength) and around the bulbs to eliminate light from emanating from anywhere but the front.


An all-time favourite prototype paint scheme on these locomotives must be the one applied to the Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific (“The Milwaukee Road”) engines for the premiere Twin Cities Hiawatha streamliner (Chicago to Minneapolis / Minneapolis to Chicago), at the time running as one westbound and one eastbound train in the morning and the two returning in the afternoon.  The Chicago & North Western’s “400” and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy’s “Twin Zephyr” provided stiff high-speed competition to the “Hiawatha”.  Both of these trains were dieselized long before the Hiawatha was, The Milwaukee Road preferring to stay with streamlined steam power: the famous Class A Atlantics (4-4-2) at first, then the 4-6-4 Class F7 Baltics (both with 84″ drivers!).

Finally, in September 1941, one of the Hiawathas got diesel power from Electro-Motive in the form of E6 A-Units #15 (EMD s/n 1363) and #15A (EMD s/n 1364) – both units showed #15 in the number boards.  These two units were mated as one 4000 hp locomotive set for one train; the other was powered by two DL-107 (#14 & #14A) A-Units from competitor American Locomotive Company.  It was clearly a head-to-head contest.


I think the Broadway models are quite good without anything major, as far as I can tell, amiss from the prototype.  Besides changing the DCC & Sound system, I wanted to improve the appearance by installing Sergent couplers.  Fortunately, the standard Sergent Type E couplers are the correct length and coupling height for these models.  The coupler boxes were only modified by trimming away the snap beads that hold the coupler assembly to the chassis – these are likely made this way to facilitate factory production of the models; they are a hinderance to removing the couplers with respect to the nice cut lever provided.

As noted in my posting about Tight Lock couplers for lightweight passenger trains (CATEGORY: TECH – LOCOMOTIVES “TIGHT LOCK COUPLERS”): these were implemented as the standard as of March 1, 1940.  However, I don’t think they were mandatory for locomotives as I have seen EMD E/F Units with Tight Locks and standard Type E couplers, pre-war and post-war too.

We often can’t really tell what type of coupler our prototype actually had since these early E Units had retractable couplers hidden behind pilot doors on the front of the locomotive and a trainset coupled to the rear.  In the case of 15/15A, we are lucky that an unusual photograph exists in the Kalmbach book E Units:Electro-Motive’s Classic Streamliners (Jeff Wilson, 2002).  On page 54 there is a fine photo of sparkling-new 15/15A, uncoupled, clearly showing the Type E coupler.



The EMD builder’s photograph (below) does not show the tilted CMStP&P logo….


…..but the photograph in the book shows it applied in-service and the model includes this fine detail as well as the builders plate beside the boarding ladder on each side…


The results?  Wow, the new control/sound and couplers, in my view, greatly improve the enjoyment I have with these models.  In particular, I find the Mars light quite good mimincking the oscillating prototype effectively.  I also like the start-up sounds; the two prime movers in each car body starting up separately.

This was a nice, clean project.  In time I will redo all my E6’s, as well as my solitary E1, and the collection steam locomotives.  For me, a very worthwhile investment.