©2004 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 North Pole Express are available exclusively in the e-mail subscription edition of the UMTRR.
N SCALE NEW RELEASES:
© 2004 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.
Yellow sides, black ends, aluminum roof. Mostly black lettering including reporting marks on left. Black, white and red "Chicago North Western System" ball and bar herald on right.
Reporting Marks: CNW 155059.
Approximate Time Period: late 1980's to present.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.
A photo of precisely this car can be found on George Elwood's "Fallen Flags" site, as it appeared in Elmira, New York in April 1989. According to the MTL car copy, that's three months after the car was serviced, and it looks pretty brand-spanking new to me. Students of the exterior-post boxcar will immediately notice that the ends on the prototype don't match the ones on the MTL model. In fact, the real cars were built by ACF and have the "Precision Design" type ends whereas the MTL cars are based on the FMC-built cars. The start of the ATP can be driven by the 1989 service date or the application of the "Chicago/System" variation on the herald, that is, the words "Chicago" and "System" appear above and below the prominent "North Western" in the herald. Prior to that it was "Employee/Owned" for a while, as the C&NW was.
The Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) for July 1989 shows the main series 155000 to 155099 with AAR Classification "XM" and the description "Box, Steel, Cushion Underframe, 25K". The inside length was 50 feet 6 inches, inside height 10 feet 7 inches, outside length 58 feet even, extreme height 15 feet even, door opening 10 feet, and capacity 5095 cubic feet or 154,000 pounds. There were 89 cars in the main series, and also two sub-series, one of AAR Class "XF" with four numbers and one with a single car just called a "Box, Steel."
In the January 2002 ORER under the Union Pacifc, a total of 78 cars remain in the series with CNW lettering including eight that are simply "Box, Steel". Of course, it's not known whether the 155059 and its brethren have been repainted into the current standard Union Pacific paint of brown with small herald and CNW reporting marks. The Fallen Flags site does have other cars from the series covering the time period through 2003 and still in the MTL-depicted paint though. The CNW 155099 from the group was captured in '03, its yellow paint and herald looking quite the worse for wear. It would be a challenge to fade the red paint so much that you can't really tell what words were in there, and there's plenty of graffiti to add to the bottom of the car as well, should you be inclined to do so.
48110.1 and 48110.2, $16.95 each.
48110.1 and 48110.2, $16.95 each.
Following the rapid sellout of a virtual two pack of loaded gondolas (the duo of Pittsburgh & Lake Erie cars with scrap loads, catalog 105580 from this past March), Micro-Trains hopes lightning strikes twice with this pairing. The stone loads immediately reminded me of the Milwaukee's line down into Southern Indiana, an area of the country where stone was quarried, although that line also gave the Milwaukee a lot of coal.
The ORER for April 1976 shows the series 81000 to 81194 with AAR Classification "GB" and description "Gondola, Steel, Fixed End, Lading Tie Anchors." Fixed end? Uh-oh, the 48000 body style is a drop end. But the other steel gons that MTL produces don't have straight sides, so pick your poison, I guess. The prototype dimensions: inside length 52 feet 6 inches, inside height 4 feet 6 inches, outside length 57 feet 1 inch, extreme height from rail 8 feet 8 inches. Capacity was 2244 cubic feet or 200,000 pounds. There were all 195 possible cars in the group at that time. There's a pretty beat up looking MILW 81119 captured as of May 1988 on the Fallen Flags site (note that George Elwood has the Milwaukee under "M" for, well, Milwaukee). In the July 1992 ORER listing for the Soo Line there were 141 cars remaining in the main Milwaukee road series and two cars carrying coke containers, the 81086 and 81097.
It looks like these cars may have ended up under ownership of First Union Rail, which is better known for its "FURX" diesels than a relatively scattered collection of freight equipment stenciled with sixteen different reporting marks. One of these marks is "GROX" and as of the January 1996 ORER there were 142 cars numbered 81000 to 81193. By January 2002 that was down to just 17, a rounding error among First Union's total roster of nearly 15,000 pieces of rolling stock. Based on what I've seen with respect to the repainting of former Milwaukee cars, you'd do fine just with a lot of weathering of the paint scheme provided by MTL along with fairly sloppily stenciled reporting marks. The "GROX" point first came up on The Railwire, by the way, from which I took my cue on the First Union angle.
Here is a car that is perhaps so new that it does not even appear in my most recent ORER, that is the January 2002 edition. The numbering in the ACF Industries listing for SHPX tank cars in that edition of the Register has a "blank space" between road numbers 204955 and 220528, and the Fallen Flags website has plenty of examples of new cars numbered in that "blank space." So the Shippers' Car Line is clearly adding to its roster. A major clue to the ATP of "the present" is the presence of the "Tank Qualification Stencil" which was required for all tankers no later than July 2000. That and the need to replicate the familiar Chemtrec stencil in black and yellow adds to the price of the car for sure.
But that info doesn't help us all that much. I thought perhaps the website for ACF Industries itself would be of value, and in fact it does have a handy lookup table in which you can type in any valid reporting marks and road number and technical data will be returned. Entering "SHPX 205109" yielded the total capacity of 25,560 gallons (97,096 liters) and the apparent gauge number of "ACF2060I". Whatever that is? Well, actually it's a standard method of measuring the "innage" or "outage" of what's in the tank, in other words, how many gallons of whatever it is in the tank are actually in the tank, and no, I wouldn't have gotten that right if it were a "Jeopardy" question either.
From there I tried to reverse lookup the actual type of tanker that the 205109 is, which is done by checking a compound pulldown list (make one selection and you are given more choices in the next pulldown). But there are not any exact matches to the 25,560 gallon capacity, and the closest is, at 25,500 gallons, "General Service Slope Bottom Exterior Coiled/Insulated." This in turn translates to specifications DOT 111A100W1 or AAR 211A100W1, with a gross rail load of 263,000 or 286,000 pounds, an estimated lightweight of 75,800 pounds, length over strikers of 57 feet 1 3/8 inches, length over the tank heads of 53 feet 10 and 13/16 inches (pretty close to 54 feet, no?), truck centers of 46 feet 3 1/8 inches, extreme height of 15 feet and 3/16 inch, and extreme width of 10 feet 7 3/16 inches. The slope is 1/4 inch per foot, which would mean (where's my calculator) that the center is about 7 inches lower than the ends. That is more than the zero inches on the MTL model which isn't sloped. Oh, well. The tank itself has 4 inches of fiberglass insulation and a heater system consisting of 12 lines of 8 inch exterior half oval duplex system. And this is probably way more than you wanted to know.
But what I wanted to know was why the car is painted blue instead of the usual black. I suspect it is based on what it carries, and based on the number of blue tankers I've seen near a refinery back in New Jersey, it's possible. But in this time of less accessible data on such things, it's not as easy to get this answer as I'd like, let's put it that way. (C'mon webmasters, I really don't want to know about potential Weapons of Mass Destruction, I'm just a railfan, OK? Really.) But we do know from MTL's car copy that the real SHPX 205109 is leased to Premcor, which is the largest independent refiner and wholesale distributor of oil products. One of these is-- guess what?-- high sulfur railroad fuel. So it's possible that this car replaces the "company service" tankers that were once more prevalent on American railroads.
Well, here it is, body style number 99 in a series, and an eagerly anticipated one at that. Although there was a little bit of quibbling about the first roadname out-- as in, how come it's not Florida East Coast given how many of these they have?-- it looks like another winner from behind the red and yellow sign. At just a hair over $20, it's certainly going to be competitive with, say, what a cast resin kit would have cost by the time paint, lettering, trucks and couplers are added. That cast resin offering was looking like it would have been the "best available" for a while before MTL announced this, by the way.
Internet-wise, there is a pretty amazing lack of data on Ortner, which is now part of Trinity Industries. Ortner's fairly unique looking square cars were by no means the first rapid discharge hoppers they built; in fact, by 1980, the year before this car was built, they'd already done ten thousand cars that looked more like the traditional hoppers we're used to seeing. This car sees special duty, in aggregate service, for example, but it does tend to move in unit trains. Which, I know, begs the question "why not a multi-pack" or perhaps "why not a virtual multi-pack", but I suspect that renumbering these shouldn't be terribly difficult. A bit of weathering and you should be all set. Meanwhile, there hasn't been all that much in print either, at least in mainstream magazines; through the Model Train Magazine Index I located a couple of pieces from 1988 and 1996 in Mainline Modeler and Model Railroading (that's "ing" not "er") respectively.
The Southern Pacific's roster of these cars appears to be limited to the number series 481150 to 481399, which numbered 248 out of the possible 250 cars in the January 1985 ORER. Check out the disparity between the inside length, 29 feet 8 inches, and the outside length, 43 feet 10 inches. Annoyingly, there is no inside height specified, but the extreme height is given as 12 feet 10 inches. The capacity is 2300 cubic feet or 199,000 pounds. The lading carried in these cars tended to be heavier than that typically carried in hoppers. Rounding out the ORER checks, there were 246 cars listed in October 1996, and 140 still in place in the SP series under the Union Pacific in January 2002.
I didn't find any 'net photos of the car as painted by MTL; but I did observe on the espee.railfan.net site another car from the series, SP 481250, in paint that's about as plain as you can get: reporting marks only. I wouldn't expect a depiction of that anytime soon from MTL.
N SCALE REPRINTS:
Green with mostly white lettering including reporting marks on left and roadname on right. Multicolor dogwood flower herald on right.
Reporting Marks: BCOL 4180.
Approximate Time Period: early 1970's (1972 repaint date given by MTL) to no later than mid-1990's.
Previous Release: Road Number 4238, May 1986.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.
Well, it's been a while since the Irwin Curse has struck with respect to MTL releases. For those not familiar with this, the Irwin Curse is the release of a reprinted piece of rolling stock shortly after the procurement of the original release into the Irwin Accumulation. Specifically, I finally picked up a reasonably priced runner copy of the first number of the 20580 at the festivities in Chantilly in August, so of course, we have the reprint. That also means we get to do a two for one special on our research.
So let's hit Ian Cranstone's website "Canadian Freight Cars," where we learn that the series 4101 to 4300 was built by National Steel Car from January to April 1958, had an interior length of 40 feet 6 inches, interior height of 10 feet 6 inches, and an 8 foot door opening. and were rostered from 1958 to 1996. From that we can deduce that the cars weren't PS-1s, and that there is the infamous "Door Thing" as well-- 6 feet on the model, 8 feet on the prototype. Ian has these 200 cars on the roster from 1958 to 1996 although between roofwalk removal and the changes from Pacific Great Eastern to British Columbia to BC Rail, the ATP aligning with this release won't be nearly that long. In fact, PGE didn't become BCOL until 1972. This probably calls into question whether BCOL cars like this should ever be modeled with roofwalks at all, given that this would have been past the alleged deadline for their deletion, but I think we'll give it the benefit of the doubt here.
BC Rail is pretty much a fallen flag now, with Canadian National having taken over operations as of August 2004. Quoting from the official press information: "On July 14, 2004, CN completed its $1-billion transaction with the British Columbia government, acquiring BC Rail Ltd. and the BC Rail Partnership, and the right to operate over BC Rail’s roadbed under a long-term lease. The transaction received regulatory clearance on July 2, 2004." The province of British Columbia retains the ownership of the tracks, and I'm assuming this is to prevent tear-out of the line by CN or anyone else. Attempts to hit the BC Rail site are now redirected to CN's, a relatively new aspect to the Fallen Flag concept to be sure, and a rather quick to implement one at that.
Remember the aluminum hopper for the C&O that MTL released a while back (Catalog 86030, July 2001)? Well, this is cut from the same cloth... or at least the same metal.
With our thanks for another yeoman's task of lookups, our C&O Special Correspondent James Pugh offers a citation from the book "Chessie's Road" by Turner, Dixon and Huddleston, pages 293 and 294: "[I]n 1947, the C&O built ten box cars with aluminum bodies at its Raceland [Kentucky] shops. These cars were about five tons lighter in weight than the steel cars then being produced for the railway. They were placed in routine service, and remained active until the 1960's (the last of these cars were retired in 1970)... It presumed that the expense of aluminum offset the advantages of lighter weight and resistance to corrosion when these cars were being built." In other words, it was an interesting experiment but not particularly successful. James also sent along a photo of one of the aluminum hoppers being built, interesting because off to the far left of the photo one can see the end of one of the aluminum boxcars as well. James notes the 1947 build date makes the "new" date of June 1952 that's printed on the car potentially suspect, but also sent along an article citation from the October 1999 issue of the C&O Historical Society magazine that states that the C&O for Progress logo wasn't introduced until 1948, the year after the cars were built! James also noted that except for the "cameo" in the hopper shot in "Chessie's Road," he's never come across a photo of the prototype aluminum boxcar.
The ORER for January 1953 (NMRA Reprint) shows a short series of ten cars numbered 2900 to 2909 and specifically described as "Box, Aluminum". (This means that the original release's road number 2954 would be, ah, incorrect.) The dimensions were typical of boxcars of the time: inside length 40 feet 6 inches, inside height 10 feet and 1/4 inch, outside length 41 feet 10 inches, extreme height 14 feet 6 inches, door opening 6 feet, capacity 3713 cubic feet or 100,000 pounds. Nine of the ten cars are listed in the January 1964 Register, but just one survived into the April 1970 book, validating the data in "Chessie's Road".
I didn't have too look too hard to come up with examples of this paint scheme-- it graces the car on the front cover of the book "Class Freight Cars Volume 3" by John Henderson. OK, so said paint scheme is on a 40 foot steel reefer, not a wood one. But there are also two shots from 1954 of the Swift plant in Sioux City, Iowa which each show a fair number of the wood cars, nearly all of which are red and white. And nearly all of which are the more typical 36 foot meat reefers as well... hmm.
The General American Transportation Company's ORER listing for January 1953 (NMRA Reprint) shows the SRLX series 3500 to 5199 with dimensions that, unfortunately, align more with 36 foot cars than 40 foot cars. Here are the stats: inside length 29 feet 5 inches (makes sense given the ice bunkers), inside height 6 feet 6 inches, outside length 37 feet 5 inches, extreme height 14 feet. The door opening was 4 feet wide by 5 feet 9 inches high. The capacity was 1588 feet or 75,000 pounds and the cars carried up to 6500 pounds of crushed ice-- no chunk ice, please. There were 1517 cars in the series, by far the largest group of cars in service for Swift at the time.
As far as forty foot cars, there are SRLX cars of around 40 foot exterior lengths in higher numbered series: for example there was 7100 to 7140 at 40 feet 3 inches, but I can't be completely sure that these were wood cars. The steel cars that General American leased to Swift appear to be numbered in the five digit range, such as SRLX 15307 that's in one of the Sioux City shots in "Classic Frieght Cars". By the way, that steel car's a "meat reefer" style, with a horizontal row of rivets across the center of the side, that is not available from anyone at all in N Scale.
The replacing and final paint scheme for the Swift cars began to replace this red and white version by the early 1960's, that would be the silver with black lettering and red and white oval "Swift's Premium" logo on the right. Although the lettering is a little more ornate, the base paint is all silver, unlike the combination of red, white and freight car red that probably drove up painting costs of the real thing, and certainly contributes to the relatively high price tag of this model.
N SCALE SPECIAL EDITION RELEASES:
Aluminum sides, black roof, ends, sills and door hardware; blue and and black primary lettering including reporting marks, state name and outline map on left. Four color process graphics including state flag, state flower (Oregon grape) and state bird (Western Meadowlark) on right.
Reporting Marks: OR 1859.
Twentieth release in the States of the Union series.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.
The home state of Micro-Trains Line gets its due on this twentieth release in the States series. The "Oregon Facts" website notes that "To this day there is controversy over the name of the state. World Book Encyclopedia states: The Columbia River was at one time called the Oregon or Ouragan, which means Hurricane in French. Others believe the name was derived from a mapmaker's error in the 1700s. The Wisconsin River was named the Ouisconsink and was picked up by travelers referring to the country west of the Great Lakes as Ourigan."
The first Western European Oregon Territory was by the Spanish during the 1500s, but it was the British who were most instrumental in getting settlements started. And then there was, of course, Lewis and Clark, whose journey west ended at the mouth of the Columbia River on what is now the border between Washington and Oregon in 1805. By 1818 Great Britain and the United States agreed to a "joint occupancy" agreement for the territory, setting the southern border at the 42nd parallel a year later. Missionaries arrived to live among Native American tribes like the Athapascan, Nez Perce, Tillamook, Chehalis, Chinookan and the Flathead, and the United States presence gradually increased. But the US government was sufficently occupied elsewhere and the residents, after several tries, organized a provisional government which the British subjects eventually joined. In 1846, the two countries agreed to divide the territory at the forty-ninth parallel which is today's boundary between the United States and Canada, and two years later, the Oregon Territory was officially designated as part of the US. Two years after that, gold was discovered in the Rogue River Valley which led to settlement of the southern part of the territory. Washington Territory was carved out in 1853, and six years later, Oregon became the thirty-third state, on February 14, 1859.
As was true of many states, the railroads opened up Oregon to settlement and also brought concentrations of people to some areas. Portland was the region's undisputed metropolitan center in 1880 with more than five times Seattle's population; it wouldn't be caught until 1900 in terms of number of people, but remains a vibrant and progressive cultural center. Oregon was particularly influenced by the "populist" movement for the entire 20th Century, though. Meanwhile, timber moved to the forefront of the industrial drivers, and Weyerhauser became one of the dominant companies in that business. The engineering ability to irrigate led to vast amounts of land being "reclaimed" and converted to agricultural uses. The Depression brought hardships everywhere but also brought large infrastructure improvements through the Works Progress Administration, including a number of bridges that linked towns along the coast via the famous Highway 101. World War II brought Henry Kaiser and three shipyards to Portland as well as a large housing development called Vanport-- which caused not a bit of racial issues as the shipyards were integrated. Vanport was destroyed by a flood in 1948. By 1950, though, half of the state's residents lived in Greater Portland. Concerned about environmental issues, in 1973 then Governor Tom McCall and two state senators-- one Democrat, one Republican, pushed through Senate Bill 100 which strictly governs land use.
My first of several forays into Oregon was in 1988 when I took Amtrak down from Seattle for an overnight and day in Portland. Attractions I took in included the American Advertising Museum and of course Powell's Books. Since then I've been back three times, all of which have been connected in some way with a visit to the headquarters of the subject of this column!
Famous Oregonians include John McLoughlin, who built Fort Vancouver for the Hudson's Bay Company; even though it was on the Washington side of the Columbia, he's still called the "Father of Oregon." Matt Groenig, father of "The Simpsons" was born in Portland. Others from the Beaver State include bandleader Doc Severinson, Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, actresses Lindsay Wagner, Jane Powell and Sally Struthers, business mogul Norton Simon, and inventor and toy manufacturer A.C. Gilbert, who brought us Erector sets and American Flyer trains. Hmm, now I know why the National Toy Hall of Fame, now moved to here in Rochester, started at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village in Salem! (Uh, oops, sorry, Oregon.)
Last month we spent some time on the origins of the Twelve Days of Christmas and noted that although numerous 'net references claim that the song is a catechism, it, well, isn't. What might have made the theory a little more acceptable is the reference to the sacrifice of turtledoves in several passages of the Bible, usually as an atonement for sins. Young pigeons were also advised. There is a difference between those two species, though they are of the same bird family Columbidae. Turtle doves are migratory, whereas I don't think pigeons are. Well, at least if the parks of many North American cities are any indication. A description I found on the net goes like this: "Smaller and slighter in build than other doves, the Turtle Dove may be recognized by its browner color, and the black and white striped patch on the side of its neck, but it is its tail that catches the eye when it flies from the observer; it is wedge shaped, with a dark center and white borders and tips. When viewed from below this pattern, owing to the white under tail coverts obscuring the dark bases, is a blackish chevron on a white ground. This is noticeable when the bird stoops to drink, raising its spread tail." Several doves of the same genus are also called "turtle doves" for instance the Asian Eastern or Oriental Turtle Dove. The birds form strong pair bonds, which makes the choice of "two turtle doves" a good one.
Checking PNC Bank's 2003 analysis of the cost of each of the Twelve Gifts again, we find that this duo will run you $58.00, so adding to the $77.50 for last month's Partridge in a Pear Tree, we're up to $135.50 (US Dollars). The good news is that there was no change from 2002 on this second gift. Also note that for the basis of this calculation, you only get the second gift on the second day, another copy of the Partridge and Pear Tree isn't included. What am I, made of money?
And continuing the parody of the Twelve Gifts, Allan Sherman received not Two Turtle Doves, but Green Polka Dot Pajamas. Yikes! I suppose that I should avoid mentioning Bob Rivers' "Twisted Christmas" and its parody of the twelve days, but since I can identify with the Second Pain of Christmas-- "stringing up the lights!" I will bring it up anyway. As is screamed later in the ditty, "One goes out they all go out!" My countermeasure: Buying a tree with the lights already strung. What do you mean, a copout?
Nn3 SCALE (NARROW GAUGE): No releases this month.
Z SCALE NEW RELEASES:
13003, Marklin Coupler, $32.70, 13002-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $34.50.
Red with white and black lettering including reporting marks on left and roadname on right.
Undecorated containers included: one silver 40 foot, one silver 20 foot, and one green 20 foot.
Reporting Marks: CP 524002 (note that the "Short Line" flyer incorrectly has "CN 524002" but car lettering is correct).
Approximate Time Period: early 1990's (1993 build date given by MTL) to as late as the present.
NOTE: This item (both versions) has been sold out and discontinued.
What's probably been the single most successful Z Scale body style in some time for MTL gets its third release this month. MTL picks an unusual prototype for this car, namely, one-third of a three unit set that the CP bought as a test for Windsor, Ontario to Detroit service. If you don't already know, that's a tunnel under the Detroit River between the two cities, which was expanded in size to handle larger equipment. The CP's successful "Expressway" service between Montreal, Toronto and Detroit has added to the traffic through the tunnel, and there's been a proposal to build an entirely new rail tunnel under the river and convert the existing tunnel to use by for road-based trucks.
A bit of geographic trivia: At this point, the United States is actually north of Canada, because the Detroit River runs from northeast to southwest. The "Windsor Watch Spot" page on the Michigan Railroads site shows how CN, CP and CSX share a section of the former Canada Southern line on the Windsor side of the border, leading into the tunnel.
If the set of three was split up, it wasn't between January 1996 and January 2002, as the only entry that's close on the CP's ORER listings is for the three-unit car numbered 524000. That's also the only one I found on the CP roster that has 40 foot wells; the others have 48 foot container capacity. Certainly Micro-Trains won't complain if you pick up three copies of the car and rebuild the as-built trio for service on your Z Scale pike. Although I'm not quite sure where you'll get the decals to renumber, I'd guess that some N Scale CP Rail sets, particularly for diesels, might be of assistance.
A semi-trivial side item: Anyone who doesn't think that MTL prices based on the complexity of the car and its paint scheme should note that the price difference between this release and the previous Gunderson car is all of ten cents! The BN car (13002) was $32.80 and $34.60 and this one is a dime less in both versions.
14722, Marklin Coupler, $22.80, 14722-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $24.60.
14722, Marklin Coupler, $22.80, 14722-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $24.60.
This model is based upon a one of a kind steel center cupola B&O caboose that carried this number. As MTL stated in its car copy, it was purchased from the Chesapeake and Ohio by the B&O. It was originally built by Magor Car Company in 1941 for the C&O and rebuilt at the Raceland Shops (which are C&Os). The B&O used this car in pooling service. There is a photo of this car in the Morning Sun Color Guide to the B&O, circa 1970 in Cleveland. While the MTL caboose is not an exact match for this prototype, it is in fact quite close.
Z SCALE REPRINTS: No releases this month.
Z SCALE SPECIAL EDITIONS:
14932, Marklin Coupler, $21.95, 14931-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $23.75.
40 Foot Steel Boxcar, Plug Door, Second Day of Christmas "Two Turtle Doves."
Pine green with mostly yellow lettering and four color process printing "Second Day" banner with two turtle doveson right.
Reporting Marks: TOOC 2.
Second release in the Twelve Days of Christmas series.
NOTE: This item (both coupler versions) has been sold out and discontinued.
Please see the review of the N Scale release above.