The C. P. Huntington
The Central Pacific's first locomotive, the C.P. Huntington, is on
display in the California Railway Museum in Sacramento, California.
This loco was built in New York in 1864 and shipped to California
around the Horn. As a single driver it's highly unusual in the US
and has a unique charm of it's own. I've often stood gazing at the
engine and wondered why there are so few models of it in
It turns out that a model was produced, back in the very early days
of garden railways, by Delton Locomotive works in brass and to a
very high standard. These models were expensive at the time and
today sell for very high prices on the rare occasions that they come
up. Back in the 1980's Delton set a trend in compromising scale for
compatibility in G scale models that has persisted to this day.
Although the CP Huntington was produced in 1:24 scale to match
European imports, it actually ran on G Scale, or 45mm, track which
equates to approximately 3' 3" gauge in full size. But the prototype
is Standard Gauge! To accomodate this, Delton's model was narrowed
in width, while maintaining a semi scale outline.
To our English eyes, this butchering of scale is nonsense, but I
have to say the resulting model has a delightful appearance that
doesn't clash with the eye in the way that sub-scale models of
British prototypes always do. Anyway, all subsequent 'CPH' models
seem to have followed the same trend and the compromise works well
with commercial 3' gauge stock from Bachmann and others.
My model, acquired at a UK trade show, is of fully
brass construction in 1:24 but not, as far as I can tell, a
Delton. The fact that it is unfinished and assembled with BA
hardware points strongly to a UK origin. The brasswork is superbly
cut and must have been made by NC or pantograph tooling. It might
relate to a Delton origin, but there are detail differences that
point to a parallel design. I'd love to know more about it and if
there are any more in existance, but no amount of Google searching
The boilers of early American locomotives were
often clad in what is known as 'Russia Iron'. In the days before
rolling mills were able to roll thin sheets, Russia Iron
provided a practical but probably expensive solution. It is the
blue - gray colour of this material that is so often imitated in
the boiler cladding of models and restored locomotives with
colours varying from sky blue to silver. It's a highly emotive
and sometimes controversial subject!
Russia iron was made by hammering thin sheets of wrought iron
into ever thinner laminations in the presence of oil so that the
oil became trapped in the material, eventually down to about
.025" thick. While the resulting colour was rust resistant due
to the embedded oil, it also took on a lustre that's difficult
to reproduce nowadays. I'm very fortunate to possess a small
sample cut from the (believed to be) original boiler lagging of
the locomotive 'Glenbrook', built in 1875 for the Lake Tahoe
Railway and restored to working order by the Nevada Railroad
Museum in Carson City in 2015. The sample was given to me by the
Museum director and still carries the planishing marks left y
hand hammering all those years ago.
It's not silver, or sky blue, it's a dark blue-gray, closest
resembling the modern RAL2008 paint colour. And that's the
colour the C.P. Huntington's boiler will be!
'Glenbrook' in 2015, a contemporary of the C.P. Huntington built
to bring timber down from Lake Tahoe to the Central Pacific main
line. Shown under restoration in 2012 and complete in 2015.