Railroad Model Craftsman Product Review

PIKO America N Scale  65-Ton Whitcomb Switcher

Between 1943 and 1944, 167 65-DE-19As were produced at Whitcomb’s plant in Rochelle, Ill. Now it’s available in N scale from PIKO.

PIKO America N Scale 65-Ton Whitcomb Switcher

N Scale (1:160)By Harry K. Wong

Since the American Civil War, railroads have played an essential role in transporting men and materiel for the war effort. As author (and RMC contributor) George Riley writes, “Troops along with their heavy equipment could be quickly moved hundreds of miles to where they could be supported logistically with provisions and supplies. This fact was duly noted by the military leadership worldwide and became integral to the planning of offensive campaigns and defense.” The onset of World War I between 1914-1918 reemphasized this fact, as both sides designed and built rail equipment particularly suited to supplying the trench warfare that characterized this conflict.

With the coming of World War II, the United States wielded its considerable industrial might to produce not only all manner of warplanes, naval ships and arms of all kinds for the war effort, but also locomotives and rail equipment designed specifically to serve overseas across a wide range of rail networks behind the front lines. This included four types of steam locomotives and several different models of diesel-electric locomotives used by the U.S. Army Transportation Corps (USATC). One of these designs was the 65-DE-19A diesel-electric switcher produced by Whitcomb Locomotive Works. Powered by a pair of Buda-built diesel power plants — one under each hood — this center-cab locomotive produced a total of 650hp driving a pair of Westinghouse-supplied generators to feed its four traction motors. The 65-DE-19A was a reduced-clearance design intended for the tighter loading gauges present in Europe.

Between 1943 and 1944, 167 65-DE-19As were produced at Whitcomb’s plant in Rochelle, Ill. After the war, many of these locomotives made it back to the U.S., where they were resold to numerous short lines and industrial operators far and wide. Even Class I railroads such as the Atlantic Coast Line picked them up. Examples continued in revenue service into the 1970s and a select few operate even today at railroad museums.

In the August 2023 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, we reviewed PIKO America’s HO scale version of the 65-ton Whitcomb. Recently, the N scale rendition became available. To our recollection, this is the first Whitcomb diesel locomotive to be replicated for ready-to-run mass production in N scale. Like its HO counterpart, PIKO’s N scale Whitcomb echoes the operational features and nearly all of the details of its bigger sister, including thin profile, sturdy metal handrails on the pilots and on the long hood, illuminated LED headlights, lit marker lamps and much more. The only thing absent are the already microscopic lift rings on the long hood of the HO version that would be almost invisible on this 1:160 counterpart.

Like its bigger sister and mirroring the prototype, all details are finely rendered including properly scaled relief of the doors and louvers on the long hoods, and numerous separately applied details including windshield wipers, exhaust stacks, horns, and a deck-mounted bell embellish the model.

On the pilots to either side of the draft gear are footboards, metal coupler cut levers and m.u. plugs as well. An impressive surprise is the depth of the traction motor detail on the underside of the trucks. Included in the packaging for the user to optionally install are skirts to cover the fuel tank and sunshades for the cab windows if desired. That said, the photos we located of the prototype ACL 70 show the skirts removed…

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This article was posted on: January 24, 2024