Diving Into Conrail Blue – Olympic Trials SD40-2
An Article by Ian Smith
Conrail’s one-hundred-sixty-seven SD40-2 locomotives, purchased from 1977 to 1979, would be among their most reliable power, and were always well-liked by crews. They could be found on manifest and unit trains, along with powering heavy wayfreights.
By the early 1990s, the forty SD40-2s through series 6358-6398 were assigned to Altoona in helper service. Units 6399-6410 were modified to fit Pennsylvania Power and Light’s Strawberry Ridge, PA coal dumper, and 6424-6524 had LSL (Locomotive Speed Limiter) to run on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, but would later be seen throughout the system, on everything from coal trains to TV trains, after the delivery of more LSL-equipped power.
The ScaleTrains.com Conrail SD40-2s are the best I’ve seen yet – and it’s all in the details: the underbody detail is superb, grab irons are in the right places, the data label placement is correct for each road number. 6381, 6459, and 6462 faithfully represent repaints between 1990 and late 1992.
6373, the USCF Olympic Bike Trials unit, was repainted in the spring of 1992 to commemorate the United States Cycling Federation’s rigorous Olympic bike trials which were held in the mountains around Altoona, and after seeing those cyclists biking up the hills that year, they definitely earned it. Again, the attention to detail is outstanding – the USCF logo and hand-painted long hood lettering and artwork bring me right back to 1992.
It would go on to be repainted twice before the Conrail takeover; once with “regular” Quality logos, and a final time with “backward” Quality logos and special decals commemorating Juniata Locomotive Shop having two million man-hours with no lost-time injuries.
Paul Ellis, Executive Product Development Manager and ScaleTrains.com Founder, added the following commentary in an informative social media post about the 6373:
“That’s the weirdest 10-speed I ever saw!” is probably what the cyclist at the head of the pack is thinking (ok, maybe not) as they pedal past Conrail 6373, seen here at Conrail’s Altoona, PA Juanita Shop in June 1992, decked out in its special USCF Olympic Bike Trials scheme. With the date and location, it’s a safe bet Conrail put the specially painted unit on display to catch the attention of the competing cyclists, at least if they could spare a quick glance! This wonderful image is courtesy of our good friend and contributor Donnie Lee who also lent his talents on the artwork for 6373 and the other CR SD40-2s in the sixth run of Rivet Counter™ HO Scale SD40-2s,” said Ellis.
He continued: “They feature the usual ScaleTrains.com attention to detail, including the many options Conrail specified on their SD40-2s, some of which have never been offered before on a plastic model: “short” stepwells, low-profile roof fans, Flexicoil C trucks, and even the special grill on the last radiator fan with extra radials (thanks Mark Kerlick!). These and the other SD40-2s in this upcoming run will move quickly, so be sure to get in your order direct, or your favorite ScaleTrains Select Retailer™, before they pedal off into the distance!”
The 6373 along with the standard Conrail SD40-2s in this most-recent run are now available through ScaleTrains.com and Select Retailers™.
Ian Smith is an avid Conrail modeler who has been involved in the hobby since the early 80s. In his 20s, Smith fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a conductor and later an engineer with Conrail where he worked for a time in the early 1990s. Switching over to passenger rail in the mid-90s, Ian now works for Amtrak as a Station Agent where he has since been employed for nearly 25 years.