Written by: Gary Dolzall
New Haven’s 1960s desperate need for freight electrics was answered by the distinctive EF-4, which is coming to Train Simulator!
Electric freight locomotives have always been something of a rare breed in the United States, but lack of quantity was never equated with a lack of appeal, and soon a classic of U. S. electric motive power is coming to Train Simulator with the New Haven EF-4.
In the recent Train-Simulator.com article “Electric Vagabond”, we introduced the New Haven EF-4 (which is often also called a GE E-33). As recounted in that article, these 3,300-horsepower ignitron rectifier electric locomotives had been built in 1956-57 by General Electric for the coal-hauling Virginian Railway, then – after Virginian successor Norfolk & Western discontinued its electric operations – were purchased by the New Haven (New York, New Haven & Hartford) in 1963.
The chain of events that put the New Haven in the market for modern (if second-hand) electric freight locomotives is a strange tale. Financially troubled, the NYNH&H had, since the 1950s, endured much management turmoil and more than a few dubious management decisions. In 1956, despite the fact the railroad had just recently acquired new passenger electrics (the famed General Electric EP-5 “Jets” of 1955) management decided to largely phase out the railroad’s electrified operations which extended between New York City and New Haven, Connecticut. Under NYNH&H’s plan, only the dense commuter territory from Stamford to New York Grand Central Terminal would remain under the wires. While New Haven’s de-electrification plans thankfully never reached full fruition, by 1959 all freight operations – even those operating under fully energized catenary – were handled by diesels and the overhead wires were in fact de-energized in some freight-only sections around New York City and New Haven.
With new management in the 1960s, the questionable concept of operating freights using fuel-hungry diesels operating under energized catenary was thrown out and the railroad decided to reinstitute electric freight operations. The problem: New Haven’s existing freight electrics, such as its dual-cab, streamlined EF-3s, dated to the early 1940s and had been stored for several years. The old electrics would be costly to repair, and in any case, the railroad had closed its Van Nest (Bronx) electric shops in the late 1950s. The New Haven badly needed new freight electrics but, being in bankruptcy, had little money available. Thus, the ex-Virginian electrics, not even a decade old and available at a remarkable bargain price ($300,000 for a dozen units that had cost $267,000 each when new!) was nothing short of a miraculous rescue for the NYNH&H.
The six-axle (C-C) road-switcher-style electrics acquired by the NYNH&H from the Virginian employed 12 water-cooled ignitron rectifiers. NYNH&H’s 11,000-volt A. C. catenary power was reduced by a main transformer before being run through the rectifiers for conversation to D. C., then used in the locomotive’s General Electric 752 tractor motors. After arriving on the New England carrier in the summer of 1963, the electrics received mechanical work and application of NYNH&H liveries at the railroad’s Lamberton Street Shops in New Haven, then began entering regular service in October 1963. Eleven EF-4s were placed in service wearing New Haven road numbers 300-310, while one unit was retained as a parts supply. Nicknamed “Virginians” by NYNH&H crews, the EF-4s were assigned to freight duties between Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven and Oak Point Yard in the Bronx and Bay Ridge Yard in Brooklyn. Well-regarded by New Haven’s operating crews, the EF-4s dutifully served the New Haven until the railroad was merged into Penn Central in December 1968, and, as recounted in our earlier Train-Simulator.com article, went on to work for both Penn Central and successor Conrail into the early 1980s.
Thanks to partner programme member Reppo and its master craftsman Ricardo Rivera, the remarkable New Haven General Electric EF-4 freight electric is soon coming to Train Simulator. Created in exacting and superb detail, the NYNH&H EF-4 for Train Simulator faithfully recaptures the features and operating characteristics of the EF-4 electric locomotive and the Reppo locomotive will be provided in both “running” and “cold and dark” variations, the latter offering a highly authentic, multi-step start-up process (and detailed operating manuals are provided). For appropriate equipment to accompany the EF-4, the pack will include a 40-foot New Haven boxcar in orange livery, NYNH&H’s classic NE-5 steel cupola caboose, and, for AI use, a New Haven Electro-Motive GP9. And the pack will also include four career scenarios for the NEC: New York – New Haven route (route available separately) which represents much of the electrified ex-New Haven mainline trackage over which the distinctive rectifier electrics operated. – Gary Dolzall ■