Rock Island C415 Project is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.


Rocket Red
Continuing with my recent interest in unique switchers, I would like to take on modeling a modern Rock Island C415 by Alco. However, this project has to main delimmas: where to get the locomotive and what color to paint it.

As for manufacturers, I have found that only IHC makes a model C415. Has anyone had any experience with these and do you know if the motor is any good? Judging by the looks, I would need to add some hefty details to this unit. Also, just as with my GP9 chop nose project, would it be possible to install a Digitrax DCC decoder in this unit? Walthers has these available, although they are out of stock:

As for the paint scheme, I have devised two scenarios. First, the locomotive could be rebuilt in the early 1970s, then is rebuilt in the early 90s to last another 25 or so years. Therefore, my locomotive would be a weathered "bankruptcy blue" scheme like this:

Second, the locomotive could be rebuilt in the early 80s, then is rebuilt again in the late 90s with the new Rock Lobster scheme like this:

What do you think would be more plausible?

Thanks for your help!


Diesel Detail Freak
I'd go for the "bankruptcy blue" and say its getting to the very end of its service life, just before retirement, and/or rebuilding. I'd also suggest replacing the exhausts and say that they had someone like Morrison-Knudsen add CAT engines, or something of that sort.

As for the reliability, I think its the same model as my older AHM C-415, and that motor/drive train was a PIECE OF CRAP, however, I have no room to speak, mine was 25+ years old and majorly oxidized. I have yet to re-power it but I was thinking of using Stewart components.
I've seen the new ones run, and they seem to run smooth. I would add a flywheel, because at ANY spot in the track that has the slightest problem, it stops in it's tracks. The Mehanoteknica motor is an ok runner but it doesn't really like DCC that much, I've tried. I ended replacing it with an athearn drive.

I wonder: is the wheel base of a proto ALCo S-2/3/6 similar, or can it actually be legenthened? I think that would be an excellent chassis to start with. Perhaps an Athearn RS3? Or Atlas C420 as a donor?

Also remember that the Rock Island owned the LOW cab version...the IHC is an extra high version that was used on the SP.

Here's a shot of one to see what I mean:

I would say, outside the curved exhaust manifolds, tha the detail is WAY TOO THICK on everything, even the window casements. Perhaps start with a hood from that ALCo S-6 or C420 donor unit, and build up the locomotive's nose with that. that way you could get fine detail AND lighted numberboards.

I would suggest etched brass grills through out, and mayb some sort of cannon &co. Thinwall cab too, kitbashed into the unique RI low cab version.

Sound right to you?


Diesel Detail Freak
Sheesh Miles, might as well buy a Brass one, considering that work. ;)

I would suggest the brass grills though, much nicer. But the motor is the main priority there...

Railroad Joe

Engineer, RI #424

The paint scheme you have in your original post is correct for the red & yellow scheme. The maroon & yellow scheme would only change where the red is. When delivered to the Rock Island, all 10 units were in solid maroon. At the end(1980), the following units were in red & yellow: 415, 416, 417, 421 & 422. The 415 & 421 sported much larger numbers on the sides of the cab, where as the 416, 417 & 422 remained the size you have in your picture. The 418, 419, 420, 423 & 424 all were maroon & yellow. All had the larger numbers on the cab. I do not mean to step on MilesWestern's toes, but as for the cab height, it was not the low cab, the Rock Islands were medium height. As was already specified about brass locomotives, I have 2 of the Overland Model brass locomotives. Yes, it was over $1200.00 when I bought them, but if you watch eBay, you can get them for around $400.00. They are excellent runners and pull well for their light weight.

If you want to, get yourself the Volume 2006, Issue #3 of The Rocket magazine, issued by The Rock Island Technical Society, which has an article on how to make the IHC locomotive into a better operating locomotive for your layout. Hope this helps somewhat!! Good luck!!


Rocket Red
Thanks for all your help Josh, Miles, & Joe! Thanks for the tip on the motor; I was afraid it might not be too good. And I was also thinking things looked a little too thick. I might start with the basic locomotive, compare it to other frames, motors, etc and see what I want to upgrade it to. I really haven't set a budget for this yet, but I am keeping in mind that it will be relegated to switching service. The grills are definitely a good idea. And Joe, thanks for the history on these locomotives - I have been doing a lot of research on them recently. That is good to know about the Rocket, I will try to get that issue.

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.