In honor of this exciting release, here are 7 interesting facts about the real-life New York Central 4-6-4 “Hudson” locomotive and its unique history:
But first: What makes the 4-6-4 Commodore Vanderbilt Hudson so special?
The famed New York Central 4-6-4 Hudson wasn’t just another steam locomotive: it lives on in history as a master chameleon. The Hudson J-1 No. 5344 – the last J-1e – became America’s first streamlined steam locomotive in 1934.
Coined the Commodore Vanderbilt, on December 27, 1934, the Hudson 5344 was fitted with a streamlined shroud courtesy of the NYC Equipment Engineering Department’s Carl F. Kantola, who had constructed a cowling for one of the NYC road’s J-1 4-6-4s.
The streamlined design was inspired by the diesel Zephyr streamliner. Unsurprisingly, the striking streamlined locomotives appeared prominently in NYC-related advertising at the time.
Again in 1939, the #5344 underwent yet another transformation, when it was reinvented into a standout streamlined concept inspired by the infamous Henry Dreyfuss. This design was intended to match the final ten J-3a Super Hudson locomotives, numbered 5445-5454. It was the only J-1 to be streamlined.
- The 4-6-4’s were built for the New York Central Railroad by ALCO & the Lima Locomotive Works from 1927-1938, in three classes: the J-1, J-2, and J-3.
- NYCR President at the time Patrick E. Crowley dubbed the 4-6-4’s “Hudson” types, after New York’s Hudson River. Crowley had been with the Railroad since he was just 25.
- The “Commodore Vanderbilt” name of the notorious Hudson 4-6-4’s was after Cornelius “the Commodore” Vanderbilt, then a business tycoon and former owner of the NYC Railroad.
- Only one other engine was ever streamlined twice – the B&O #5304, in 1937 and again a decade later. The 5344 had the honor of being first though – in 1934, then in 1939.
- Streamlining wasn’t just for looks: it was functional too. Two key benefits were better airflow and improved insulation. But those perks were overshadowed by the burden of extra weight – and greater required maintenance.
- By the time it was sent for scrap, the once-dashing 5344 had been stripped of its streamlining. See it sitting out in a scrapyard circa 1954 here, in this powerful photo that speaks to the times.
- The classic Hudson 4-6-4 locomotives live on – if only in miniature form: Lionel issued the first Hudson model in 1937, numbered #5344. MTH and Bachmann Trains, amongst other manufacturers, have also released Hudson models over the years.
Wait…did we forget someone?!
Drumroll, please…in 2023, Broadway Limited Imports rolled out two outstanding quality HO scale models with excellent detail and industry leading features:
- 2840 NYC Commodore Vanderbilt Hudson, #5344, Spoked Drivers
- 2841 NYC Commodore Vanderbilt Hudson, #5344, Disk Drivers
The 2840 represents the beloved Vandy Hudson as she originally appeared with spoked drivers; the 2841 models the later appearance, featuring roller-bearing siderods and disc drivers.
Did you know? These Broadway Limited Vanderbilt Hudson #5344 models are delivered ready to run on 18″ curves. To make this happen, two small pieces of shrouding were removed at the front; the locomotives also have a modified rear trailing truck. Both small shroud pieces, plus a prototypically accurate trailing truck are included for optional installation.
Key features of Broadway Ltd’s HO Scale Version of the NYC Vanderbilt Hudson:
- Legendary Paragon4 Sound & Control System
- Synchronized, variable puffing smoke with chuff sound
- Integral DCC Decoder with Back EMF that delivers impressive slow speed operation in DC and DCC
- Precision Drive Mechanism designed for continuous heavy load towing & smooth slow speed operation
- 5-Pole Can Motor with Skew Wound Armature
- Heavy die cast boiler, tender body & chassis, to deliver greater tractive effort
- Factory-installed realistic engineer & fireman figures (always a favorite with the grandkids)
What ever happened to the real-life Hudson locomotives?
These once sleek, speedy powerhouses of the railroad vanished almost without a trace:
As diesel took over the railways around the mid-20th century, all Hudsons were eventually scrapped by 1957. None were preserved, save for a converted tender from J-1d 5313. It can be seen at the Scranton, PA Steamtown National Historic Site.
See what other popular HO scale steam locomotives Nightwatch Trains has in stock & ready to ship to you today.