Friday, December 1, 2023

Friday Fun: And Now For Something Completely Different . . . (NH #529)

Outside the Essex shop, before the Locomotive Service Facility was built, c. 1986/1987.

I first met New Haven Railroad DERS-2c (Alco RS-3) #529 in November of 1986. I was 17 years old, had had my license for almost 2 years, and was able to go on a solo railfan trip to the Valley Railroad's Railfan Day, which I'd just heard about a few weeks before.

Fast forward a few months, and I'm working on the VRR as a steam locomotive fireman and one of my "featherbedding" jobs (a hopefully good-natured accusation) then was to hold down the left-hand seat on the 529 whenever #97 (our venerable 2-8-0 and the only steamer in service at the time) was sidelined for a boiler wash.  I even got to run it on a train a few times (under the watchful eye of the engineer, of course).

I was at the Valley for 3 years before college, then lawschool, then marriage and starting my career got in the way. Eventually, we bought our first house and I finally had some space for a layout. The layout I started with was a donation (read more of that story here) which didn't run all that well and was only going to represent the Shepaug Branch off of the Berkshire Line-themed layout I was planning.

I wanted to restore the layout to operating condition, but it wasn't until my friend Tom gifted me with a model of the 529 (pictured above) - and I wanted desperately to have someplace to run it - that the restoration hit high gear.

Unfortunately/fortunately, the engine was DC-only (we're talking probably about 2001/2002 at this point) and I converted to DCC in May of 2003, so the 529 was sidelined until I could get around to converting it. But then I took up bike racing in 2005 and the hobby took a back seat for about half a dozen years . . .

Now that The Valley Local has been up and running well for about 10 years now, I decided to start going through my stash of equipment to see what's now surplus and can be liquidated to fund other railroad-related projects. Consequently, I've sold off 4 of 6 DL-109s that have just been sitting new-in-the-box for years (incidentally, I have 2 left to sell if anyone's interested), and then I came across this now-old Atlas Classic #529, sitting like new in the box. . .

I'd seen a while ago that Loksound had come out with a v5 decoder that has PowerPacks onboard, and is a drop in for the Atlas Classic RS-3. And Scale Sound Systems sells outstanding speakers, which are also custom fit. So suffice it to say, I took some of the DL-109 money and made a visit to the SSS website.

And the package finally showed up today . . .

So, just as soon as I can end this post, take out my contacts, and heat up the soldering iron, I'm gonna spend a lovely evening listening to the Charlie Brown Christmas album, sipping a nice Cabernet, and converting my HO scale #529 for use on the Valley Local!

"Photo Freight" southbound through "the Meadow" just north of Essex station on the Valley Line, Railfan Day, November, 1986.

And don't bother telling me it's past my era - I've actually run the prototype locomotive over the line that I model, so there's no way I'm not going to run the model on my layout. Now I just have to see if I can get my friend Bernard to 3D scan me in a diesel engineer's pose . . .


The actual, real 529 still exists today, but it needs your help. The Railroad Museum of New England is in the process of restoring it to operation, but unfortunately such efforts are costly. Check out their efforts here and consider helping get the 529 running again!


  1. Myself and a buddy of mine went to run 529 on the northern part of the RMNE trackage over 20 years. It was our second time running an engine after we did "Your Hand on the Throttle" running steam on the Valley RR out of Essex.

  2. What a cool story! Love it! And I have a soft spot in my heart for an Alco RS-3 because I lived in Ohio for 15 years and fell in love with the Erie Lackawanna!!

  3. Chris, thanks for the mention of the RMNE's New Haven 529 restoration project. 529 was not a stranger to the Valley Line back during the New Haven Railroad era. In 1973 I was given about 15 years worth of train orders, clearance cards and block sheets from the Saybrook Tower. I went through the collection years later (after the RMNE obtained the locomotive) and I found a form 19 order giving # 529 permission to work extra from Saybrook to Essex and return on August 13, 1958.

  4. This is going to be an interesting build challenge for sure!