Sunday, February 1, 2015

Favorite Locomotives: K-line MP15

One of the best O gauge locomotives is the K-Line MP15. The real MP15s were built in the 1970s, descended from the SW series of switcher. The originals were built between 1974 and 1984. Most used DC in their traction motors. A smaller, later batch used AC. They were very reliable machines and most are still in use. Not bad for equipment that is anywhere from 30 to over 40 years old.

The MP15 was one of the K-line’s first original locomotives. The first ones were made about 1987 in Chessie and Santa Fe liveries. Their previous offerings used recasts of Marx or KMT parts. It can be considered a scale model, though it is made for three-rail track. The MP15 is a good puller. It runs a bit fast for the scale-speed fans (weenies).

I have a few of these little powerhouses. Back in the 90s you could get them cheap. My first was a Rock Island MP15 that came with a caboose. I bought it for two reasons: it reminded me of the old black ATSF NW2 I had as a kid. It would go well with a couple of Rock Island E7s by Marx I had. Next came the Kenecott Copper version fro m the K-Line collector’s club. The green locomotive with yellow trim was based on equipment used by Kennecott Copper ,a Western mining company. I received a second one from a friend a couple years later, by the way. The third acquisition was a Timken version from the club. Then came a Pennsy version as part of a trade. I find it amusing, since the Pennsylvania Railroad had been absorbed into Penn Central six years before the first MP15 rolled out of the factory.

By the way: The Rock Island Railroad folded 14 years before the MP15 was introduced. K-Line was none too careful when it came to anachronisms. I have seen MP15s in Lackawanna and other railroad’s liveries that had folded long before the actual locomotive was manufactured.

K-Line made a train set called the "Greenport Scoot" based on a long Island railroad train. At one end was an Alco FA, and the other had an MP15. K-Line’s set had three passenger cars in between. I saw the real thing and it had more than three cars. The real train used the MP15 for motive power and as the cab in one direction. The FA cab was unpowered and used to control the train in the opposite direction. As I understand it, the MP15 / FA combo has not been used for a while.

In the world of model railroading, it is not unusual to find locomotives painted in liveries that were not prototypical for their type. I remember a few years ago a company called IHC had HO models of the FM C-Liner painted in every scheme possible. The real locomotives only had a handful of road names. IHC had at least 15. The real corker was Marx, who produced tenders for their low-priced steamers with Penn Central painted on the side. K-Line was doing nothing unusual in having some of its MP15s in road names that never had them. For most, this is not an issue.

And for those who insist on prototypical realism, a reminder that they have to do their own fact finding. They cannot rely on model train makers to get it right.

That MP15 switcher by K-line is a real gem, and it was priced just right. As I understand it, a company called RMT is planning to offer a remake of them. RMT has been able to buy items from China made with the old k-Line tooling. Will they be as good? You tell me. I have enough MP15s to keep my railroad in good order, so future purchases of the switcher from other makers are unlikely.

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