UMTRR November, 2003 || Edited From Subscriber Edition
©2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting Prohibited.Legal Stuff

NOTE: This archive edition covers single car releases only. Reviews of and commentary on Micro-Trains locomotives (including the FTs) and Special Edition sets such as the Evergreen Express are available exclusively in the e-mail subscription edition of the UMTRR.

20667, $12.60 - 40 Foot PS-1 Steel Boxcar, Single Door (Youngstown or "Narrow Rib" Door), Delaware, Lackawanna and Western. Boxcar red with white lettering including reporting marks on left, and "Lackawanna" roadname plus "Route of the Phoebe Snow" on right. Reporting Marks: DL&W 52831. Approximate Time Period: late 1940's (1948 build date given by MTL) to late 1960's. NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

This is a car that comes close to home for me. The Lackawanna Railroad had its eastern passenger train terminus in Hoboken, New Jersey, where my father grew up and my grandfather lived for most of his life. My great-grandfather actually worked for the DL&W. He had the nickname "Dodger" which he earned from his skill at making his way around the active railroad yard. One day, though, "Dodger" didn't dodge, and that was his end. It seems gruesome now but it was all too commonplace then. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I saw Phoebe Snow boxcars as a child, and at least one remained for quite a while on the outskirts of Hoboken Terminal. While Hoboken played host to a goodly amount of freight traffic in addition to the passenger trains, much of the yard trackage (and a small sliver of the passenger terminal) was actually in just to the south in Jersey City. And that's, as you probably already know, is my home town. One of the key buildings was the huge Lackawanna Warehouse which dominated several blocks just north of the Holland Tunnel exit roadways. A seeming maze of trackage filled every available space, and it was all above street level. A number of bridges carried the DL&W rails over the several city streets that connected Jersey City to Hoboken; most of them painted with a black and white checkerboard pattern on the plate girders, presumably so they could be discerned by overheight vehicles, or perhaps people perched on roofs of cars? Hey, there were plenty of bars in both Jersey City and Hoboken... Other than Hoboken Terminal, now the property of NJ Transit, there's very little left of the Lackawanna's presence; most of the former freight yard is now "mixed residential and commercial" as the real estate folks would say. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

As we mentioned when the last MTL Lackawanna car was issued, specifically, the 56320 hopper from September 2001, the DL&W was just one of the "Anthracite Roads" but it was the only one which exploited its own use of the hard coal so masterfully with the train and the character "Phoebe Snow". The Phoebe Snow character was introduced in 1904, but the train with that name didn't debut until 1949, the year after the prototype for the 20667 was built. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Those of you who are familiar with the history of the PS-1 know that this prototype DL&W series pre-dates its introduction, and in fact the real cars were built by American Car and Foundry. After this series was built, the DL&W went to Magor and AC&F in the 1950's to round out their boxcar fleet with some 10 foot 6 inch interior height cars. They did have PS-1s but they were also 10 foot interior height, not the standard ten foot six inches. Future merger partner Erie was another story, of course. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

We go to the July 1950 Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) (Westerfield CD-ROM) for the first look at the series. It was numbered from 52750 to 53259, given AAR Classification "XM" and described as "Box, All Steel, W-Section," that last part referring to the W-shape of the corner post. The inside length of the cars was 40 feet 6 inches, inside height 10 feet even, outside length 41 feet 9 inches, extreme height 14 feet 7 inches, door opening 6 feet, and capacity 3712 cubic feet or 100,000 pounds. There were 510 cars in service in the series. Interestingly, at the time the Lackawanna still had more than three thousand cars described as "Box, Steel Underframe"-- read, wood side. Quite a surprise to me considering how progressive they were in other areas, especially the right of way which included two large "cut-offs" built in the earlier part of the 20th Century. In the January 1959 ORER the steel underframe cars were just about gone, though, numbering a little over 200, and the series we're interested in stood at 500 cars even including eleven that had been equipped with DF loaders. (The 52831 wasn't one of those eleven.) © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

By January 1964, the Lackwanna was part of the Erie Lackawanna, and the DL&W series 52771 to 53259 still stood at a respectable 265 cars. There was also an EL series 52750 to 53259 with the same dimensional data, but with only three cars. It's possible that the plan was to restencil the DL&W cars into EL reporting marks without changing the number but I can't say for sure. In the April 1970 Register there were just 17 cars left in the DL&W series; and assuming that the EL did restencil them with the same number series, that wasn't much better with 29 cars. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

If you're not picky about seeing a car from the exact prototype series and want to see the paint scheme as it appeared in real life, then George Elwood's Fallen Flags site can help. You'll need to look under the Erie Lackawanna section, which is fairly extensive-- I believe that Elwood's monumental 'net efforts began with documentation of the EL. There's a shot of DL&W 52469 from the prior series of cars available for you. Shots of some of the later series from AC&F and Magor can be found in a piece in the July 1999 issue of Rail Model Journal. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Part of this release is a new feature: the National B-1 trucks. These trucks have a unique-looking stabalizer package of springs and wedges. A well-timed article on types of freight car trucks appears in the December 2003 issue of Model Railroader. There's a table of the available trucks by manufacturer as part of this article. Guess who's in the lead in N Scale, by a long shot? Yep. And in fact, across both HO and N, they're second only to their "brother" company Kadee. As long as you're in the December 2003 MR, check out the article on the model of the Lackawanna's world-famous Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct. It was the largest reinforced concrete structure in the world from 1915 to 1936-- when the Hoover Dam supplanted it. Yes, the Hoover Dam! © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

52130, $19.50 - 34 Foot Wood Sheathed Caboose, Straight Cupola, Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific). Brown with white lettering including full roadname tilted rectangle herald and reporting marks on left. Reporting Marks: MILW 0345. Approximate Time Period: late 1920's to late 1950's. NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I may not be able to give you the Approximate Time Period for the caboose, but I can give you the Approximate Time Period for the herald that's on it. The original "tilted rectangle" came over to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul-- no "Pacific" yet-- in 1912 when it absorbed the Chicago, Milwaukee and Puget Sound. That line designed the original tilted rectangle in 1908 according to the RPI Website. When in 1928 the road became the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific, the herald was modified to the version seen on the caboose. The wording inside the rectangle remained the same until 1953 when it was changed to "The Milwaukee Road" with which most folks may be more familiar. So 1928 to 1953-plus would be your Not Very Strictly Speaking ATP. It looks like, based on my casual surfing, the Bettendorf Swing Motion trucks fit the entire time period. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Although, obviously, it's not in the UMTRR Accumlation of Prototype Reference Data, there has been a book written on the subject of the Milwaukee's wooden cabooses. Author Jeff Kehoe has actually done a Milwaukee Road "caboose trilogy", covering the line's steel cabeese, its ribside cabeese and the wooden ones. The softcover books are publications of the Milwaukee Road Historical Association at reasonable prices. The thumbnail of the cover of "Milwaukee Road's Wooden Cabooses" shows a car that resembles the MTL model. Differences I can note include the cupola placement, a little closer to the center on the prototype, and the number and shape of the windows in the cupola. You could certainly do worse than the Micro-Trains model as a starting point for a more correct MILW caboose. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

What's more interesting, and perhaps belongs in the "if I'd only known" file, is that the Milwaukee donated wood caboose number 0359 to the city of LaCrosse, Wisconsin in 1963. It was built in 1883 in Milwaukee and is a 34 foot all wood car with steel center sill and archbar trucks. There's more on this on the "4000 Foundation Limited" website. (This group is working to cosmetically restore the CB&Q steamer number 4000, also in LaCrosse, hence the name.) Why is this in the "if I'd only known" file? Because I was in LaCrosse a few months ago! And sure, now I can't find any pictures on the 'net. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

This isn't the first caboose done for the Milwaukee Road by Micro-Trains, although you'd have to go back to November 1987 for their catalog 50180. It's also done in freight car red, or perhaps "Milwaukee Brown" is more appropriate, but includes the roadname only and not the herald. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

92180, $24.15 - 2 Bay Center Flow® Covered Hopper, Blue Circle Cement. Gray with mostly blue lettering including reporting marks on left. Blue and yellow corporate name and logo (a blue circle) in center. Reporting Marks: BCAX 7. Approximate Time Period: late 1980's or mid-1990's (given 1994 service date) to present. NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

OK, so what's this about the completion of a virtual two pack started in April 2001? Simple. MTL has done a Blue Circle cement car before, as their catalog number 92140, and this release is a variation on the theme. I get to use the same ORER data since this car is in the same series as the 92140, which was BCAX 5. That components of that series changed quite a bit, from being a mish-mosh of different length center flows to being a single set of common (we assume) cars. In the January 2000 Register the group numbered 5 to 18 was all together and just a small part of the 274 covered hoppers registered to the company. The January 2002 ORER shows another big jump, to 617 cars, and a diversification into gondolas and open hoppers as well. The series 5 to 18 is still in place with 14 cars so that "to present" in the ATP should still be good. The vital stats: outside length 39 feet 7 inches, extreme height 15 feet 1 inch, capacity 2970 cubic feet, gross rail load 263,000 pounds. Remember that gross rail load is the sum of the light (unloaded) weight of the car plus the pounds capacity. Also note that covered hoppers don't have as many dimension points listed as with boxcars, for example. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The corporation itself has done some transition as well. You might remember from my commentary on the previous release that the Blue Circle name has only been around since 1978, as the company was previously "Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Limited," a firm from the United Kingdom which bought its way into the United States. When we last left Blue Circle, it had fended off a hostile bid from the French corporation LaFarge, but LaFarge was trying again. Based on MTL's car copy, it seems that this second try worked. A quick check of the 'net confirms this-- the company is now LaFarge Cement UK. "Lafarge holds market leading positions worldwide in each of its four business divisions, Cement, Aggregates and Concrete, Roofing, and Gypsum," says the website. A little too much market share, complained the Federal Trade Commission, as LaFarge was already a presence in the States. They required divestiture of three of the Blue Circle operations in order to preserve competition in the cement and lime industries. One of them was Blue Circle's cement business in and around Syracuse, which went to Glens Falls Lehigh Cement Company; I wonder if any freight cars were involved? The other two were the cement business in the entire Great Lakes region, which includes the area of UMTRR HQ, and the lime business in the Southeast. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

What we don't know, and may not be able to discern, is whether the two paint schemes are/were concurrent or whether one succeeded the other. The answer to this question may modify one or both ATPs. As you can see I've already taken liberties with the front of the ATP, pushing it back farther than the service date of the car to more closely align with the assumption of the Blue Circle name by the US company. Although my net searches didn't turn up anything on that-- is there a Blue Circle employee in the house?!? I did note that there have been several other model railroad products released in various scales, including a British "PCA Bulk Powder Wagon," and at least one Corgi truck in 1:50 scale. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

100060, $24.00 - 56 Foot General Service Tank Car, Southern Railway. Black with mostly white lettering including roadname (with "O" filled in green) and roadnumber on left. Road Number: 995006 (will be "SOU 995006" in website listing). Approximate Time Period: mid 1970's (1974 build date given by MTL) to at least 1985. NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Ah, company service tank cars, my favorite. Usually no roster data, seldom any ORER data, and usually no photo evidence or other information to be found on the 'net. Which leads to a lot of dancing by your faithful slinger of bytes. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

This time, though, we're in better shape. For starters, there is a reference on Tom Daspit's site calling out that this car belongs to the series 995000 to 995007, listed as 26,800 gallon tank cars for diesel fuel. And although it's not an exact match, there is also a shot of tanker 950034 in a similar paint scheme. But the weathering job is really good; one can't tell whether the "O" in Southern was filled in with green at one time. No dice on the ORER lookups, however. Well, two out of three ain't bad. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Add to this Joe Shaw, one of our resident UMTRR southern railways experts, including of course the Southern Railway. He has two items to pass along. First, the Morning Sun Color Guide for the Southern, page 102, has the 995006 as lensed in Lynchburg, Virginia in August 1985. Second, the Southern Railway Freight Equipment Diagram Books add a confirm to the series and that they were built by American Car and Foundry in Milton, Pennsylvania as lot number 19-15087 for, as described, diesel fuel use. Joe took the time to compare an earlier MTL 110er model tanker with the prototype photo and diagrams. His verdict: "Most people won't notice the differences, and most of us that do are willing to live with it." Among those differences: the MTL model as measured over the tank ends is about four feet short. (Way better than the MDC model in this paint scheme which is about 12 feet scale short.) The overall feel including tank welds, ladder placement, and shape of the ends match. Joe says that the difference in the brake rigging arrangement is actually more noticable than the four feet less in length since it's so easy to see that on tank cars. As for rivet counting, well, says Joe, "being an all-welded car, the number of rivets is the same on both: zero!" "I am not a rivet counter," he adds. "As a modern modeler, I count weld seams." Great lines, Joe, especially because they're true! © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.


35070, $11.70 - 40 Foot Despatch Stock Car, Santa Fe (AT&SF). Green with yellow lettering including reporting marks on left. Reporting Marks: AT&SF 68650. Approximate Time Period: late 1920's (1928 build date given by MTL) into the 1960's, or strictly speaking until the early 1940's based on the lettering. Previous Releases: Road Number 68826, February 1974; Road Number 68642, January 1988; Road Number 68845, January 1992; Road Number 68848, April 1999. NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

When the most recent reprint of MTL's Mineral Brown version of the Santa Fe stock car, catalog number 35080, was released back in July 2001, I received a couple of e-mails from trusted ATSF expert sources. (No, these are not the run of the mill internet-based bashers of anything. We're talking actual students of the prototype railroad.) But they wrote in to comment on the green version, not the brown one, noting that as far as they could tell, there was no evidence they'd ever seen that the Santa Fe had ever had any green stock cars. One commented that this could have reached all the way back to Lionel's run of a green ATSF stock car, which was then dutifully copied in the earlier days of the hobby-- by multiple manufacturers in multiple scales, I might hasten to add. The Santa Fe's roster has been pretty exhaustively documented over the years and while I suppose it's possible that a shot of green stock car was never taken (and odds are it would be in black and white anyway), I view that possibility as pretty remote. Meanwhile, I've also been told that the Santa Fe didn't roster any stock cars that close to the 35000 body style. If you want these in HO, you're going to have to use a Sunshine Models 56.4 kit. Russell Crump's "Santa Fe Archives" website has some stock car plans, but not for the Sk-S that MTL says this car is modeling. It looks like these plans are also posted on the web home of the Santa Fe Railway Historical and Modeling Society.

The actual practice of stating the reporting marks as "A.T.& S.F." lasted until 1938 when the ampersand was dropped; the periods after the initials went away in 1944. The April 1928 ORER shows this series with some detail but without any cars. Those details: number series 68600 to 68849, M.C.B. Designation "SC", description "Stock, Double Deck," inside length 40 feet, outside length 41 feet 1 and 1/4 inches, side door opening 5 feet 7 feet, end door opening 2 feet 3 3/8 inches by 2 feet 10 inches. I don't know what the end door was for. The M.C.B., by the way, was shorthand for the Mechancial designation of the American Railway Association, predecessor of the AAR. We can also see from the ATSF's entry that the single deck stock cars were all numbered in the 50000s while the double deck cars took the 60000s; although "SC" meant a stock car convertible from single to double deck, not strictly double deck. We learn from the July 1935 ORER (Westerfield CD-ROM) which is the next closest I have to the 1928 build date, that there were 255 cars in the series. About twenty years later in January 1955, there were 237 cars in the series, and in fact the overall roster of stock cars was still pretty healthy at more than 7700 cars (more than most railroads had in total rolling stock). But by January 1964 that had dropped all the way down to about 1900 total pieces including 205 in the series that included the 68650.

Meanwhile, while wandering around the SFRH&MS site, I tripped over the prototype for the 35000 body style: It's a New York Central rebuild of USRA boxcars circa 1947. This has been dutifully added to the UMTRR website's body style listing. Just the thing to bring up at your next party! Well, maybe not. J. Steven Sandifer has put together an excellent compendium of the Santa Fe's stock operations, including a complete class list, sketch of some specific stock movements, and even a review of HO and N Scale models and their appropriateness for the ATSF. You can see Steve's research via the SFRH&MS site.

46180, $16.20 - 50 Foot Gondola, Fishbelly Sides, Drop Ends, Boston and Maine. Orange with mostly black lettering including reporting marks on left, roadname across center and "Minuteman" herald on right. Reporting Marks: B&M 9066. Approximate Time Period: mid-1970s to late 1980's (a reasonably educated guess).
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued. Previous Release: Road Number 9076, March 1984.

The "Rail Images" slide sales website notes an image available of B&M 9088 from March 1976 at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and that the car was built in January 1976. So perhaps, given that the car was constructed in the Bicentennial year, the Minuteman is more appropriate than we realize!

The B&M listing in the April 1976 ORER notes the series 9000 to 9099 as a "change from previous issue" supporting the January '76 build date. The description of the 100 car group is, however, "Gondola, Solid Bottom and Ends" so the 46er body style with drop ends isn't correct. (Oh, and the prototype is a straight side 13 panel gon as well, more below.) The inside length was 52 feet 6 inches, inside height 4 feet 6 inches, outside length 57 feet 1 inch, extreme height 8 feet 1 inch, and capacity 200,000 pounds. I suspect that the B&M must have really needed the gons, since they were in trusteeship at the time. In the April 1976 listing the only other gondolas on the roster were some 40 foot drop bottom examples.

Jumping all the way to July 1987, there were still 98 cars of the series in the B&M roster, and, believe it or not, the same total shows in the January 2002 ORER. How about that? Well, I wouldn't be too sure that the black on orange paint survives, though. The Northern New England Color Guide by Morning Sun doesn't have a reference photo of these gons. George Elwood's Fallen Flags site does, though, and includes circa 2001 and 2002 examples from this 9000 series in plain old black dip paint with minimal white lettering, i.e. reporting marks only. There is a photo Elwood himself took of BM 9010 in Cleveland, in the orange and black modeled by MTL, but alas, it is undated. Estimates forwarded to me from a couple of 'net groups range from 1986 forward for the changeover to black paint, but all in all the end of the ATP is probably not going to be much better that a guess. Well, that's why it's called the Approximate Time Period...

Some information passed to me by Rich Roberg from the B&M Historical Society indicates that the actual prototype for this car is a group of 100 built by the Southern Iron and Equipment Company in 1976; these were also built for a number of roads that were involved in the steel trade. They're straight sided, have 13 panels versus 14 on the model, and have quite different and fixed ends-- nothing like what MTL has-- plus a larger capacity. MDC offered Thrall mill gondolas in the same B&M paint scheme many years ago, probably circa 1985 if memory serves correctly, and those are long sold out and discontinued from them. So, depending on your tastes, this will be somewhere between a "reject, not close enough for a stand in" and a "so what, I like the paint scheme and I'll buy several." Certainly the aftermarket's been brisk for the original Kadee run, so here's a chance to catch a runner version at a lower cash outlay.


21372, $19.85 - 40 Foot Plug Door Boxcar, Alabame State Car. Aluminum sides, black roof, ends, sills and door hardware. Red and black lettering including reporting marks, state name and outline map on left. Four color process graphics including state flag, state flower (camellia) and state bird (yellowhammer) on right. Reporting Marks: AL 1819. Eighth release in the States of the Union series. NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Prior to statehood, the area now called was split off the Mississippi Territory, and before that, it had been claimed by Georgia. The region was initially claimed by Spain; it was back in 1519 that Alonzo Alvarez de Piñeda of Spain explored the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Mexico, including Mobile Bay. The origin of the state's name is believed to be from a southern tribe of Native Americans that was first contacted by European explorers in the central part of the state. And "Alabama" does NOT mean "Here we rest," say the scholars; that's a popular misconception which first surfaced in the 1850's. It wouldn't seem to fit with the state's motto, "We Dare Maintain Our Rights," anyway. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Mobile began as a French fort circa 1702, and served as the capital of French Louisiana for a time. The territory changed hands from France to Great Britain to Spain and then to the United States, all this between 1700 and 1800. As part of the War of 1812, the British tried and failed to take Fort Bowyer on Mobile Point, then tried again and succeeded... but after the war officially ended. (See, there is something to be said for instant communication.) There was one more war before Alabama statehood, the Creek Indian War which made future President Andrew Jackson famous. Even though he was from Tennessee, hmm, better save the rest for that state's car. In June 1832, the first railway in the state opened, all of two miles from Tuscumbia Landing to Tuscumbia. Would you believe there was a gold rush in Alabama not long after that? No, those two items aren't connected. Montgomery, Alabama's capital, was the first capital of the Confederate States of America, and over 200 miltary "events" took place within the state's borders during the Civil War. Booker T. Washington was the first superintendent of Tuskegee Institute, in 1881; Washington was an early figure in the struggle for racial equality. And the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1965 march from Selma towards Montgomery brought that struggle to international attention. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Famous Alabama musicians include Hank Williams, Senior and Junior, Nat King Cole, W.C. Handy, Tammy Wynette, Lionel Richie, Sun Ra, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and, of course, the country band Alabama. That group had an astonishing 42 number one singles on the US Country chart, 27 during the 1980's alone. Sports heroes include Hank Aaron, Joe Namath, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Willie Mays, Bart Starr, Paul "Bear" Bryant, and Davey Allison. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

My first trip to Alabama turned out to be a bittersweet one after the fact. The eastern border is a relatively short drive from Atlanta, and I found myself setting foot in a small town called Piedmont, where the Seaboard and the Southern both once called. This is the same Piedmont that experienced the disaster of the Palm Sunday Tornado on March 27, 1994, which killed 38 people including 19 gathered for services in a Methodist Church. It occurred less than a year after I visited there, and I remember being more than shocked. My only other trip took place in March 1996 starting in Atlanta again, this time to Birmingham for, and what would you expect, a train show. That was a much happier trip, as the next day we learned that our son Kieran was on the way. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History website will be helpful in discovering more about our 22nd state, including such items as Official State Nut (pecan) and Official Rock (marble). Okay, well there's more than than as well!

38360, $25.95 - 50 Foot Plug Door Boxcar Without Roofwalk, 2003 Holiday Car. Green with white "snow" across car and white "snow accumulation" at bottom of car. Multicolor snowpersons-- and one snow-mouse-- on left. "Happy Holidays" greeting on right. Reporting Marks: MTL 2003. Thirteenth N Scale MTL holiday release. NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

I have to admit that as much as I like this car-- and I do-- it hits a little too close to home. That snow piling up at the bottom of the car is going to be closely resembled by my driveway before too long.

Given that there's "snow accumulation" on the car, in my usual strangely wired-brain way, I thought it might be interesting to check out some snowfall accumulations of interest. I thought I hit paydirt immediately when I searched on "Rochester Snowfall Totals" and got a chart of record highs and lows. But then I saw it was way off my recollections and quickly discerned that I was looking at Rochester, Minnesota, not Rochester, New York. [For the record, the Minnesota Rochester had its all time highest snowfall in a month in December 2000, almost three feet; and its all time season "best" was over the 1996-1997 winter, just over 84 inches or seven feet. Certainly respectable.] © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Okay, let's try that again. The National Weather Service office in Buffalo published the results of the 2002-2003 season, and, well, it ain't pretty. Officially, we in Rochester "enjoyed" 135.2 inches of snow; that's over eleven feet and it was the most in 25 years plus the seventh highest total recorded. And, as a bonus, we had snow on the ground 105 days versus a "normal" of "only" 77 days with the white stuff on the lawn. It was, however, the equivalent of slow torture; the most in one day was 12.3 inches on, guess what, Christmas Day, December 25. Does it therefore surprise you that Kieran's school district made it through the season with just a single "snow day" off-- and that was in April? Unlike our neighbors to the south (and I used to be one so I could say this) who are so wimpy about winter weather that they call a holiday and send out team coverage for the Six O'Clock News when an inch or two is forecasted. Come on, folks, it's just a little white stuff! © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Part of the "fun" we have each season is the annual unofficial snow derby, also known as the Golden Snowball (don't go there!) in which we compete against our fellow Thruway cities. We toasted Buffalo this year, they only had 111.3 inches, almost a full two feet less! Ha! However, we lost again to Syracuse, which racked up 153 inches total. Even that pales in comparison to towns in the Lake Effect snow belts (and we'll leave the explanation of that phenomenon to The Weather Channel). Oswego, on Lake Ontario, piled up 193 inches, Colden, due south of Buffalo, 210 inches, and Sherman, in what we call the Southern Tier of counties-- and, fortunately, in ski country where the white stuff is actually useful, piled up 277 inches. But the "winner" in the area covered by our NOAA office is the town of North Osceola, in Lewis County, part of the "Tug Hill Plateau" that you've probably heard about. They checked in with 319 inches of snow last year. That's--wait, where's my calculator?-- about 26 and one-half feet, or approximately 8.1 meters! We're getting into bobber caboose lengths here! In a word, yikes! © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

So, where do you suppose the world record for seasonal snowfall occurred? OK, not Hawaii. And not Alaska either-- it's too cold to snow. How about Mount Baker, Washington State, USA? Between November 1, 1998 and May 12, 1999, the Mount Baker ski area bested Mount Rainier National Park, scoring a total of-- sitting down? One thousand, one hundred and twenty four inches of snow. Or ninety three feet, or twenty eight and a half meters. In other words, you could stick an autorack into that snow perpendicular to the ground and it would disappear! Is this truly the world record? Well, maybe, maybe not. There may be worse somewhere where measurements aren't taken. But you know, that's bad enough for me! © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Nn3 SCALE (NARROW GAUGE): No releases this month.


New Release: 13625, Marklin Coupler, $27.50, 13625-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $29.30, 50 Foot Plug Door Boxcar Without Roofwalk, 2003 Holiday Car. Green with white "snow" across car and white "snow accumulation" at bottom of car. Multicolor snowpersons-- and one snow-mouse-- on left. "Happy Holidays" greeting on right. Reporting Marks: MTL 2003. 12th Z Scale MTL holiday release. NOTE: This item (both versions) has been sold out and discontinued.

Please see the commentary on the N Scale release above. Note that there was one less Z Scale Holiday release than N (at least assuming that I have the count right, I certainly hope so), so it's 12 for Z and 13 for N.

New Release: 13812, Marklin Coupler, $16.25, 13812-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $18.05, 40 Foot Despatch Stock Car, Great Northern. Sky blue with white lettering including late 1960's block lettering roadname on left. Reporting Marks: GN 56385. Approximate Time Period: late 1960's (1969 rebuild date given by MTL) to early 1980's. NOTE: This item (both versions) has been sold out and discontinued.

Following is a "reprint" of my commentary in the April 2002 UMTRR on the N Scale release of the same road number, which was catalog 35170.

Scott Thompson's book "Great Northern Equipment Color Pictorial - Book One Box Cars and Stock Cars" provides a reference to this series of cars, whether painted vermillion red or sky blue. Scott models the GN in HO Scale as it appeared in Northern Minnesota in the late 1960's, which fits right in with the ATP of this car, so his comments on Lindsay Korst's website are limited to 1:87. He says that the Athearn kit is a starting point for the series, except "scratchbuild new sides." Ouch. Those of you who have Thompson's volume will want to check pages 110 to 112 for further information. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Since we are referring to the 1969 rebuild and repaint of the series 56250 to 56469, I can skip right to the April 1970 ORER and the "brand new" Burlington Northern's listing. This is divided into two groups, 56250 to 56324, and 56325 to 56469. The only dimensional difference between the two is the outside length, which is 40 feet 9 inches on the first group and one foot longer on the second group. Otherwise, they are 40 feet 6 inches long and 10 feet 1 inch high on the inside, have a door opening of six feet and carry 80,000 pounds of livestock. While most railroad's rosters of stock cars had been decimated by this point, especially east of the Mississippi, the GN still operated more than 1300 stock cars at the time that the line went into the BN. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

By April 1976 the two subgroups totaled a still respectable 202 pieces with GN lettering. In April 1981 this was down to only 52 pieces and the subgroups noted above were merged into a single series. I quickly perused the BN reporting marks section of each of these listings, by the way, and found no stock cars in either case having been repainted for the Burlington Northern. I can't say I'm terribly surprised by that. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Reprint: 13511, Marklin Coupler, $16.25, 13511-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $18.05, 50 Foot Single Door Boxcar, Atlantic Coast Line. Boxcar red with white lettering including "Thanks For Using Coast Line" slogan and reporting marks on left and 1960's circle herald on right. Reporting Marks: ACL 31111. Approximate Time Period: early 1960's (1960 build date given by MTL) to early 1980's. Previous Release: Road Number 31457, November 1988. NOTE: This item (both versions) has been sold out and discontinued.

The slogan "Thanks For Using Coast Line," introduced in 1960, is certainly one I remember as a child. These ACL cars would be regularly and around my boyhood home of Jersey City, New Jersey. The ACL circle herald with the emphasis on "Coast Line" predates the slogan by a few years, having appeared in 1957 and displacing the herald where all three words were equally sized. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

As somewhat of a proof of my car spotting as a youngster, there's a photo of ACL 38205 in roughly the same paint scheme (but not from the same prototype series) on George Elwood's Fallen Flags site, snapped a couple of towns away in Secaucus, New Jersey, circa November 1975. Yes, that's well after the ACL and Seaboard got together to form the Seaboard Coast Line. I am a little surprised that the ACL reporting marks remained on the car. Typical practice was to restencil into SCL markings even though the rest of the car might be unchanged. But Elwood's compilation beats that: There's a shot of ACL 37436 without the roofwalk, but with the ACL markings and the "Thanks For" slogan, on CSX trackage in Georgia in July 1985! That's, let's see, four mergers and/or renamings later? ACL to SCL to Family Lines to Seaboard System to CSX Transportation, yep, that's four. And find the exact car ACL 31111 in the book Classic Freight Cars Volume 8 by Henry Maywald, page 10. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The ORER for January 1964 shows the series 31000 to 31599 with AAR Classification "XM" and description "Box, All Steel." The inside length was 50 feet 6 inches, inside height 10 feet 5 inches, outside length 51 feet 10 inches and extreme height 15 feet 1 inch. The door opening was 9 feet 10 inches, a bit unusual and probably meaning a "door thing" of relatively unnoticable proportion in 1:220 size on the MTL model. Capacity was 4818 cubic feet or 100,000 pounds, and there were 598 of a possible 600 in service. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

As you may know from other ACL releases reviewed in these bytes, when the SCL was formed in 1967 the road made the annoying choice of deleting car counts from the predecessor railroads and lumping them into the successor SCL car series, and did this until 1985. There is a renumbering algorithm and it is, for a change, possible to follow it. For these cars, drop a "6" in front of the number and change the reporting marks to SCL; thus ACL 31111 becomes SCL 631111. In January 1985, when the exact number of ACL cars are actually listed once again, there are just three left in the series and four in the restenciled SCL group. By that time the roofwalks should have been off the car as well. I doubt that any of these cars made it to the "SBD" reporting marks of the Seaboard System. © 2003 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.