A1G 3030 Series: Helium Tank Cars (now with E-R Models reissues!)


Among this quartet, manufactured by Roco for Atlas, is one of the scarcest cars in the entire A1G series. Another of the foursome is one of the easiest to find. These cars were out of production for many years until Roco produced a new batch for marketing by E-R Models in the 1990's. Then Micro-Trains reissued the body style twice in 2017. See the bottom of the page for those cars.

All four of these helium tank cars were lettered for U.S. Government operations of one sort or another, and have some prototypical basis. For example, the January 1964 Official Railway Equipment Register shows these type of cars on the roster of the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Amarillo, Texas. The Department had over 200 of these cars of various cubic foot capacity, including a series from 1197 to 1221 which would have included this number. The AAR class was "TMU," described further as "Tank car equipped with containers" of various specifications. This type of car was built by General American in the 1950's and the Department of Mines had similar cars in service for many years. A photo in the book "Classic Freight Cars Volume 2" shows an MHAX car in 1988!

For some reason, the ATMX "Atomic Energy Commission" car is one of the most common of all of the "special type" cars in the A1G series, and turns up very frequently. For some other reason, the USQX "U.S. Army Air Service" is one of the least common cars in the entire A1G series. I had actually never seen it before I decided to accumulate all of the A1G cars! Its rare appearances on the aftermarket auction circuit are usually greeted with prices that are unusually high-- higher, in fact, than the range I am quoting as the Approximate Value.

Key spotting features for this car are:
- underframe stamped "Atlas Austria" near center. Floor is recessed to allow for trucks to swivel
- open sides showing horizontally arranged cylinders inside a three partition frame
- open roof except for frame and roofwalk support
- absence of stirrups at the corners
- distictive ends with molded in small door detail at the brake wheel end and larger door detail at the other end

Note: The following information on conditions and "Approximate Value" prices are intended to be a guideline only and is presented with no warranties, express or implied. Caution: Definitions and prices can and do vary with collectors, buyers and sellers, and, of course, whether a person is buying or selling an item. That's the way a "free market" works...

A 3030 series helium tank car in "as manufactured" or "AM" condition has:
- brake wheel intact and attached at the end of the car
- roofwalk and cylinders intact with no visible damage
- no weathering
- no abrasions, scratches or other damage to the paint
- the original Atlas trucks with the original metal wheels which were fitted to the axles
- "Rapido" type couplers, truck mounted (this is a case where changing to Micro-Trains® trucks and/or couplers is not a plus!).
Note that minor paint flaws on these cars were common and should not be considered especially "collectible"; in fact, I'd rather have a "perfect" paint job.

A 3030 series car in "mint in box" or "MIB," meets all "As Manufactured" criteria plus:
- no dust, dirt or wear on the car itself
- no wear on wheels (although discolored wheels are common)
- kept in the original Atlas box
- box itself is intact with no cracks, breakage or crazing, with original Atlas label (usually white with black printing), plastic liner (usually blue), and cover. Both inserts and labels vary as the A1G series was sold for years. Store price stickers may or may not detract depending on the placement, size and wear.

Because these cars are relatively scarce in as manufactured condition, there is an estimated value for "runner" cars in this series of from 30-40% of the as manufactured values.

Table of Releases: Where available, click on "Image" to popup an image of the actual car.
Catalog # Popup
Image
Reporting
Marks
Description AV
AM
AV
MIB
3031Image MHAX 1200Silver, Black, Dept. of Mines7-1010-12
3032Image USNX 1019Gray, Black, U.S. Navy10-1212-15
3033Image USQX 212Black and Silver/Black, White, U.S. Army Air Service25-3030-35
3034Image ATMX 1020Silver, Black, Atomic Energy6-88-10

AV = Approximate Value (US$ range)
AM = As Manufactured (see above)
MIB = Mint In Box (see above)
Abbreviations: Hld=Herald, R/N=Roadname, L/R=Left/Right Side of Car


The E-R Models Reissues: This body style returned briefly many years after the original A1G runs, 'Made in Austria exclusively for E-R Models' by Roco. The paint schemes are mostly similar but the reporting marks are different. (When I came across these cars, I actually checked this site to confirm this!) Unlike the A1G version, the paint on the 70311 U.S. Army Air Service doesn't look to be pure black, more like a greenish dark gray. (Or perhaps the Pennsylvania's infamous "Brunswick Green?")

The exact quantity of the E-R production isn't known but it's certainly a lot smaller than the A1G runs. I won't quote any prices here, but here's a table of the three cars with images of each car.

Table of Releases: Click on "Image" to popup an image of the actual car.
Catalog # Popup
Image
Reporting
Marks
Description
70310Image USNX 1016Gray and Silver/Black, U.S. Navy
70311Image US ARMY 211Dark Gray and Silver/Black, U.S. Army Air Service
70312Image ATMX 1018Silver/Black, Atomic Energy Commission

Abbreviations: Hld=Herald, R/N=Roadname, L/R=Left/Right Side of Car


The Micro-Trains Reissues: This body style returned in 2016 as a reissue by Micro-Trains, again using the Roco shell with MTL paint, lettering, trucks and couplers. What Micro-Trains calls its 985 body style was used most notably for their NASA Series Car #3 (985 00 910) (Image here). A version of the car without the simulated tanks also appeared in MTL's "Dr. Mort's Creepy Carnival" train set released in October 2016.