Electric Vagabond

Written by: Gary Dolzall

New Haven’s GE EF-4 electrics worked for five railroads – and the distinctive locomotives are coming soon to Train Simulator!

Built by General Electric in the mid-1950s and born to haul coal in the Appalachians, a group of 3,300-horsepower electrics – destined to be vagabonds over a quarter-century of service – came to the New Haven Railroad in the summer of 1963 to haul tonnage between New York City and New Haven, Connecticut. And soon, these distinctive electrics – designated EF-4 by the NYNH&H – will be coming to Train Simulator!

The story of New Haven’s EF-4 electrics is about as close to a “man bites dog” story as one can find in American railroading history. It is a story that begins in the Norfolk, Virginia headquarters of the Virginian Railway (see “Born to Haul Coal: The Virginian Railway“). Dating back to the 1920s, the 600-mile Virginian Railway had electrified the challenging 134-mile center section of its Appalachian mountain main line, and the heavy-haul railroad then called upon three generations of powerful electrics to help tote millions of tons of coal. Last among Virginian’s electrics were a dozen 3,300-horsepower ignitron rectifier General Electric-built locomotives which rode on a pair of three-axle trucks and employed road-switcher carbodies. Designated as class EL-C, the new locomotives were dressed in an attractive black-and-yellow livery, and given road numbers 131-140 on the Virginian. The potent rectifier electrics, which began arriving in October 1956, weighed in at 394,000 and provided 98,500 lbs. of tractive effort, were put to work lugged coal over the rugged spine of the Appalachians between Princeton, West Virginia and Roanoke, Virginia.

Only three years after the arrival of the dozen GE electrics, however, the Virginian Railway was merged into its big neighbor, the Norfolk & Western. The almost-new electrics worked for their new owner for a time as N&W 230-241 (and at least one even gained N&W livery), but Norfolk & Western, whose own main line was largely parallel to the Virginian, soon began using the ex-VGN route only for eastbound empty movements and in 1962 de-energized the ex-Virginian electric catenary. The Virginian GE’s, although less than a decade old, thus became orphans and were stored.

Meanwhile, some 500 miles to the north, the New Haven Railroad, which for a time had tried operating its freights exclusively with diesels even though they operated under live electric catenary used for commuter and passenger services, was rethinking that odd decision and looking for modern electric freight power. At a bargain price of $300,000 for the lot, New Haven purchased the ex-Virginian electrics in the summer of 1963. For NYNH&H service, the electrics were given classification EF-4, assigned road numbers 300-310 (one unit, ex-Virginian 180, was assigned road number 311 but in truth was used only as a spare parts source), and dressed in a flashy New Haven vermillion (red-orange), white, and black livery.

Nicknamed (for obviously reasons) “the Virginians” by New Haven road crews, the electrics began entering regular service on the NYNH&H in October 1963. New Haven 304 and 309 were the first to go to work and were assigned to night piggyback service between New Haven and the railroad’s Oak Point Yard in the Bronx. As the full roster of EF-4s rolled out of the road’s Lamberton Street Shops in New Haven, the electrics assumed virtually all mainline freight operations across the railroad’s electrified territory, working between massive Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven, Oak Point Yard in the Bronx, and Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge Yard. Most typically, the EF-4s worked in lash-ups of two units and although they had been constructed as heavy coal-haulers, the electrics were capable of quick running, being geared for a 65-mph top speed.

By virtually all accounts, the “Virginians” served the New Haven well and were a welcomed assignment by the road crews. But the railroad was bankrupt and in December 1968 the New Haven was merged into the ill-fated Penn Central. Serving their fourth master, the EF-4s (which became class E-33s on Penn Central) briefly continued to serve in ex-New Haven territory but increasingly found their way into ex-Pennsylvania Railroad territory where they joined the large ex-PRR fleet of E-44 electrics which has been built for the Pennsy by General Electric in 1960-1963 and were a refinement of the ex-Virginian units constructed half-a-decade earlier. Soon dressed in Penn Central’s somber black, the electrics worked for the PC until 1976 when the railroad was merged into the newly formed Conrail, thus giving the vagabond electrics their fifth owner. With some units gaining Conrail blue livery, the operational careers of the “Virginians” finally concluded in 1981 when Conrail ceased electrified freight services. Happily, two of the distinctive rectifier electrics have been preserved: Ex-VGN 131 at the Illinois Railway Museum, and appropriately, ex-Virginian 135 at the Virginia Museum of Transport in Roanoke. The latter is beautifully restored to its original Virginian livery.

Now, thanks to partner programme member Reppo, the remarkable New Haven General Electric EF-4 freight electric is coming to Train Simulator. Created in extraordinary detail by the masterful Ricardo Rivera of Reppo, the NYNH&H EF-4 for Train Simulator faithfully recaptures the features and operating characteristics of the distinctive electric locomotive and the Reppo EF-4 will be provided in both “running” and “cold and dark” variations. To provide period-appropriate equipment to accompany the EF-4, the pack will also include a 40-foot New Haven boxcar in familiar 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 ex-New Haven mainline trackage over which the distinctive rectifier electrics operated.

New Haven’s “electric vagabond” is coming soon to Train Simulator! – Gary Dolzall

New Haven’s distinctive EF-4 electric freight locomotive is coming soon to Train Simulator through the craftsmanship of partner programme member Reppo. The 3,300-horsepower six-axle (C-C) ignitron rectifier electrics were built by General Electric for the Virginian Railway in 1956-57 and were purchased by the New Haven in 1963. Screenshots by Gary Dolzall

Nicknamed “Virginians” by NYNH&H crews, the EF-4s were assigned to freight duties between Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven and Oak Island Yard (in the Bronx) and Bay Ridge Yard (in Brooklyn). A duo of New Haven EF-4s have a heavy freight on the move through the Bronx borough of New York City. Note: Screenshots depict content still in development.

Riding high on the approach to famed Hell Gate Bridge, New Haven EF-4 301 reveals its angular road-switcher styling (above) as it leads a long string of New Haven 40-foot boxcars with a classic NYNH&H NE-5 steel cupola caboose carrying the markers (below). The upcoming Reppo EF-4 pack includes period-appropriate freight stock.

Taking the engineer’s seat in the EF-4 electric will provide the opportunity to operate the powerful locomotive with highly authentic controls (above and below). Among the features of the EF-4 is a 17-position master controller.

With New York-bound tonnage in tow, New Haven EF-4s 303 and 310 are westbound through New Haven, Connecticut (above and below). The EF-4s 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.

On a rainy night, New Haven EF-4 309 makes up a freight at Stamford, Connecticut. The upcoming NYNH&H EF-4 pack will include four career scenarios on Train Simulator’s NEC: New York – New Haven route (route available separately).

Bound for the railroad’s namesake city, a pair of New Haven EF-4s glide across the wide Mianus River at Cos Cob, Connecticut (above). What is today CDOT’s maintenance facility located in New Haven was, in the NYNH&H era, the railroad’s Lamberton Street Shops. Outside the shops (below), EF-4s sit together with a New Haven EMD GP9 which is included in the upcoming DLC pack for AI use.

New Haven EF-4 303 heads a New York-bound freight crossing the Housatonic River at Devon, Connecticut. The vagabond electric – New Haven’s distinctive and powerful EF-4 – is coming soon to Train Simulator!

We’re always happy to receive your comments below but please ensure they are related to the subject of the article, we’ll remove any that appear to be unrelated.

Gary Dolzall


  • We need more USA Routes

  • When’s the release date?

    • All being well, within the next couple of weeks The New Haven Railfan

      • Ok, thanks

  • I’ll try to address several of the reader questions and comments here:

    – The EF-4 will certainly be suitable and highly authentic for use on those portions of the excellent VNHRR route which are electrified, which includes portions of massive Cedar Hill Yard and the New Haven area.

    – The classification “EF-4” was that used by the New Haven for these locomotives, just as the Milwaukee Road independently assigned the same classification to its “Little Joe” electrics. Otherwise, there is no similarity between the two types.

    – The article’s reference to piggyback service notes that this was the first use of the initial rebuilt locomotives. As also stated, the EF-4s “assumed virtually all mainline freight operations.” Thus the included 40-foot NYNH&H boxcars is very appropriate for use with the locomotives.

  • I wonder why there’s two types of EF-4 engines, there’s the Little Joe and then there’s this one.

  • In the article, it says this loco was used for piggyback services. However, only one box car is included? Why not include more to allow for more realism? I mean that’s a very limited choice of stock.

  • Another puzzling (to me) quotation from Steve’s article: “for AI use, a New Haven Electro-Motive GP9”. I’ve seen this in articles about other add-ons as well, but do not understand why an engine would be for AI use–does that mean only AI use? Does it lack a cab view? If so, why? As so often happens, I’m confused.

    • AI trains are usually those that either has limited functionality or has had some minor attention to fill out the driving experience for the featured locomotive. This typically does not mean the AI locomotive is inoperable by the player but merely means it’s not the primary focus of the package.

      • That’s wonderfully clear — many thanks!

  • This looks amazing! 😀

  • This is looking good. However someone should post a route modification of the NY-NH to the workshop that electrifies Oak Point and the Bronx yard along with possibly adding some trackage in New Haven. Also Someone should release the New Haven Passenger electric, “The Jets” with appropriate stock.

  • Wow! I honestly wasn’t expecting this! The New Haven Virginians are coming to Train Simulator 2017 and they look great! That New Haven GP9 also looks much better than the one that’s included with the Springfield Line, even though it’s for traffic trains, I guess that means it’s still drivable (and hope that it is). Even the boxcar and caboose look a lot better than their Springfield Line counterparts.

    One thing that’s going to be a bit awkward with this DLC is that there aren’t any passenger cars included with it, not even the heavyweights and American Flyer coaches included with the Springfield Line. Which means everything in the included scenarios is going to be a freight train on the New York to New Haven section of the Northeast Corridor, a route that has always had heavy passenger traffic.

  • Although it isn’t mentioned here, wouldn’t this electric be suitable for use on the VNHRR as well? Much of that route is electrified, even though the DLC doesn’t include an electric loco: could this fill the gap?

    Great screenshots, as usual, Steve!

    • This article was written by Gary Dolzall, all the amazing screenshots are also Gary’s credit LastTrainToClarksville. I’m sure Gary will respond on the point about the VNHRR 🙂

      • You caught me! Apologies to Gary!

    • The Springfield Line is only electrified at the southern end of it in New Haven and North Haven only. You’d be disappointed if you had a scenario take place with you driving and electric locomotive on that route because once you pull out of Cedar Hill Yard, you can only go as far as New Haven’s Union Station, which is not a long distance. Any New Haven electric would be better off having scenarios for New York to New Haven because that’s the core route where they all ran.

  • This looks amazing, just saw one on Sunday at the Illinois Railway Museum. Very interesting loco and can not wait to try it out.

  • Was only wondering if we would see some New Haven electrics, glad to see these old girls coming to the sim!

  • This looks like an incredible add-on! Reppo has definitely hit a home run with this one. Can’t wait!

  • Why can’t you guys do a more popular and frequently requested loco for this route? For example, I know that MANY people have requested the Metro North Bombardier M7.

    • I should point out that this loco is not ours, Bob, this is a loco solely developed by Reppo, as mentioned in the article above.

    • I personally would love to see the M7’s as well. Problem is, there’s not much of the New Haven Route to warrant a dlc to use them on. Except for AI use. Which I would have loved to see, honestly at least.

      Now, if they made a route that could fully utilize them, like the Hudson, Harlem, or even LIRR. Then yes, those definitely need to be done. What I really wish to see, are the Budd M2s. That is the most iconic DLC this route is missing.

      They definitely gotta put out some American third rail commuter dlc.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.