Friday, May 8, 2015

American Electrics: South Shore 700-Class Boxcab

19660529 09 South Shore Line 703 @ Michigan City Shops.jpg
"19660529 09 South Shore Line 703 @ Michigan City Shops" by David Wilson - Flickr: 19660529 09 South Shore Line #703 @ Michigan City Shops. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The 700s were the other hand-me-down freight engines in the final years of electric freight operations on the South Shore.  They began life on the New York Central as R-2s, where they drew power from 660VDC third rail in the tunnels and suburban lines around New York City. Diesels were able to work the tunnels in NY, thus saving the NYC time and money by eliminating the need for engine changes. South Shore picked up seven R-2s between 1955 and 1967, added pantographs, changed other carbody appurtenances, and rewired them for 1500VDC operations.

Nickel Plate Products CSS&SB 700 in HO.
The 700s were usually MUd in pairs. They could handily pull long freights but were limited by South Shore's antiquated power distribution system--both the 700s and the 800s (Little Joes) maxed out substation capacity when pulling long trains. The increasingly heavy freight traffic on the South Shore in the late 1960s and 1970s--particularly with the rise of unit coal train traffic--exacerbated these weaknesses in South Shore's power distribution system. The 700s were eventually supplanted by plain blue GP7s, and were out of service by 1977. The 800s hung on for another five or six years, and were primarily relegated to less taxing industry switching in East Chicago and Gary.

Nickel Plate Products imported a Japanese model of the 700 in brass in HO during the mid 1970s.  It is a notoriously bad runner with a tendency to crack its gears. Its minimum track radius of 22" is somewhat surprising, given the model's short overall length and wheelbase.  The pantographs are also typical 1970s fare--not intended to actually contact wire, barely stay retracted/folded, and look not quite right. The small 'footprint' of pantographs may necessitate actually scratchbuilding replacements. Still, it's a beautiful, chunky model with a lot of butch, gnarly detail. I have one in my collection, and I plan to eventually re-work its drive, install DCC and lighting, and paint it. Maybe another will come along to join the Dunes Junction roster.