While its competitors needed monstrous engines to conquer mountain ranges, the New York Central did not. Its Water Level Route from New York City to Chicago was a nearly level raceway built along rivers and the Lake Erie shoreline, and the Central's main line steam engines were racehorses bred for speed on that route. By the early 1930s, the NYC relied on two locomotives for premier services: the 4-6-4 Hudson for its Great Steel Fleet of passenger trains and the nation's largest stable of 4-8-2s for fast freight. Labeled Mountains on most other railroads, the Central's 4-8-2s were named Mohawks after one of the rivers its rails followed.
As the Depression waned in the late 1930s and traffic picked up, the need arose for a dual service locomotive that could augment the Hudson fleet and hustle freight as well. The answer was the 80 mph class L-3 Mohawks, delivered from 1940-1942. With over 5000 horsepower on tap and the largest tender yet seen on a Central locomotive, they were equally at home pulling the 20th Century Limited or more than 100 freight cars. ALCo-built class L-3a Mohawks were dual service steamers with roller bearings on all axles. Class L-3b engines, built by both ALCo and Lima, and class L-3c built by ALCo, were fast freight locomotives.
The pinnacle of Mohawk development was Lima-built wartime class L-4, with larger 72" drivers. Tenders on the final L-4's were upgraded with an expansion cistern behind the coal bunker, so water could be scooped from track pans at up to 75 mph without blowing the tender apart. Famed author Alvin Staufer noted that "The dual purpose concept had really taken hold on the Central, and the wartime service the L-4's performed was almost beyond belief. It was nothing for them to come in on a heavy freight drag, be serviced, and leave a few hours later at the head of one of the Great Steel Fleet." Soon after the war, L-4 and L-3 engines were retrofitted with smoke deflectors (a.k.a. "elephant ears") to deflect smoke from the engineer's line of vision.
M.T.H. is proud to return our Premier model of this NYC racehorse in 2010, offering accurate detail for each subclass of L-3 and L-4. Removable elephant ears on L-3c and L-4b versions allow you to model them before or after smoke deflectors were applied. And like the prototype, these engines are dual purpose: using our optional DCS System, you can change your Mohawk's sound set from passenger to freight or vice versa with a free Internet download. Check out the details on this accurate, full-scale, smooth-running model; we think you'll agree it's a "must-have" for any NYC fan.