Loco Lookback 2: The K-Line B&A 2-8-4 (October 2004 CTT)

Posted by Bob Keller
on Wednesday, May 16, 2018

K-Line Boston & Albany Berkshire was a massive and very highly detailed steamer at the peak of K-Line's scale-detailed locomotive production.

From head-on, the Berkshire looks like a brawny bruiser of a freight-hauler.

The Berkshire's boiler is an example of mixing the cast-in and add-on detailing right. Note the black painted step on the right steam chest!

K-Line B and Albany A-1 Berkshire (K3670-1407CC)

 When I write a review for Classic Toy Trains, I don’t write the reviews to a word count. I write the review to write the review. The whole shebang. Every prototype factoid I think important, musing on the paint job or the rivet heads, and whether or not the backhead gauges and valves are painted. 

 Unfortunately, gut-check time comes when we reach the copy fitting part of the production cycle and I have to cut text to fit the space I actually have available. The trick is keeping the useful or interesting, while tossing the rest to make it fit.

 The original review of this model is a case in point.

 For reviews in the October 2004 issue I had 27 columns for the department (three columns is a page). Today I normally have 12.

 I had to run reviews of an MTH RailKing (Scale) UP F3, a long-term review of an S-Helper F7, an O gauge Lionel Camelback 4-6-0, a Flyonel (American Flyer) repro talking station, British outline tank cars from Ace, and the K-Line Boston & Albany A-1 class Berkshire. Whew.

The poor Berkshire suffered greatly during copy fitting. If you subtract four A-1 photos (model and prototype), two charts (after a while I hated those darned things), and a text box; I ended up using just over 1 column of text. Ouch.

 We had such a tremendous volume of product coming in (always after it arrived in the country and was probably already at dealers) we needed to move it out for the next truckload of stuff. This was one of those models where I was rolling the dice that the photos would tell the tale. In retrospect, I don’t think it did. Or at least not well enough. From the placement of the engine in the review package, I suspect that the space for it was added at the last minute, and it suffered from simply being the only complete review I had on hand.

The first thing to go was the prototype information. Of course, I just would have stated the fact that simply because it was a model of a New York Central Lines locomotive, it was obviously superior to anything the Boston & Maine could have fielded. Okay, just kidding, but you get it. Probably four to six paragraphs bit the dust right there. And the red pen kept on cutting.

I think this was probably the largest K-Line steamer I had reviewed at that point. But size isn’t everything, and I recall being impressed with the exceptional level of add-on detail as the photos show. Add-on pipes, exceptionally deep and clear rivet detailing, and differing design elements along the boiler that could have been done in a more cost efficient basis stood out. 

 For example, there is a line running back from the smokestack to the cab, that runs through the large, squarish sand dome). Very cool.

The flat pilot, compressor shields, and the large green steam chests behind the black pilot and below the silver smokebox really stood out and make the locomotive look burly.

 The locomotive also had an earlier rendition of K-Line's own speed control device. I noted that it was the slowest K-Line steamer I had ever reviewed, timing at 2.5 scale mph. Drawbar pull was good, and it had RailSounds, so what more could a hobbyist ask for?

I do have a later K-Line Berkshire, a Boston & Maine T-1a (yes, like my Southern Pacific Daylight, now re-lettered for New York Central) and it is equally impressive in the level of detail built into the model.

It probably would not be too difficult to add the A1 to your fleet. While the original MSRP was in the low $700 range, you might be able to score one in the high $300 to mid $400 range on eBay (I think just two have shown up this year). Although I see fewer and fewer late K-Line locomotive boxes at train shows, I wouldn’t give up hope in that venue.

Oh, this one has a "CC" product code. K-Line offered conventional and Command versions, so if this makes a difference, be sure you know which version you are looking at.

So in my book, the K-Line A-1 Berkshire certainly ranks as a forgotten classic of the modern era.



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