UMTRR December, 2004 || Edited From Subscriber Edition
©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.

77130, $21.30
50 Foot Steel Boxcar (PS-1 Type), Single Door (Eight Foot Superior Door), Without Roofwalk, Louisville and Nashville "Savings Bonds."

Blue with yellow reporting marks and number (on left) and dimensional data. White "Share in Freedom" lettering and red and white torch on right.
Reporting Marks: L&N 109811.
Approximate Time Period: early 1970's (1973 reweigh date on car) into the 1980's.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

This car has been done before by at least one other manufacturer, so I was curious about how much more accurate the Micro-Trains version might be. And this concept-- the promotion of United States Savings Bonds-- has been done before by MTL, in fact on a previous car of this type, the 77010 Northern Pacific from August 1995. At one time, advertising of this easily accessible method of financing the National Debt was much more common on America's Railroads than it is now. For example, how many folks along the Northeast Corridor remember the "Savings Bonds" GG-1 electric locomotive?

Let's pull the April 1976 ORER for the data on this car. It was part of the series 109765 to 109868, with description "Box, Device, 25K" and AAR Classification "XL." The inside length was 50 feet 6 inches, inside height 10 feet 5 inches, outside length 54 feet 3 inches, extreme height 15 feet, and capacity 4844 cubic feet or 110,000 pounds. The introduction of an eight foot Superior Door is a nice touch, and will be a handy addition to the detail roster once MTL makes it available as a spare part (which I think will occur eventually), but alas, we also have a "door thing" since the prototype's was ten feet wide and a PS-1 type door. There were 185 cars in the group in '76 plus six more with pallets and panels. There were 119 cars in the roster in 1985 under the Seaboard System banner, but just a couple of strays left by the October 1991 Register as part of CSX. That's not surprising considering that these cars were equipped to carry paper. By the 1980's the boxcar technology had changed significantly. Although I wouldn't be surprised if the attractive "Share in Freedom" scheme didn't last this for this whole time period, I would be surprised if these cars were ever repainted out of the L&N reporting marks.

The book "Classic Freight Cars Volume 8" includes an undated photo of L&N 108911 and notes the 1964 build date of the car. The ATP doesn't start there, of course, because the roofwalk would have been in place then; it's certainly not present in the photo. With the exception of the "door thing," MTL does well in capturing the look and feel of the sides of the car including nearly all of the lettering.

81730, $26.15
48 Foot Container, Burlington Northern "Cityview" Montreal.

White with multicolor lettering including large four-color process cityview mural across side. Red and blue BN herald on ends.
Reporting Marks: BNAU 289549.
Approximate Time Period: mid-1990's (1996 paint date given by MTL) at least.
Container manufactured by Deluxe Innovations, painted by Micro-Trains.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

This third release in the Cityview container series is the first to go "north of the border" to honor a Canadian City (Toronto is the other city and it seems to me that it can't be far behind). Montreal was a favorite destination for me in the 1980's, and I distinctly recall being at baseball games between the New York Mets and the Montreal Expos where there were more Met fans than Expo fans. (Which explains why the Expos will most likely be in Washington, DC starting next season.) I've always enjoyed being in the "just different enough" culture of the city that combines the heritage of the Old World with the bustle of a very modern metropolis.

Native Americans who lived in the area were part of the "Five Nations," later "Six Nations" confederacy of tribes, the oldest living participatory democracy. French explorer Jacques Cartier was among the first Europeans to view what is now called the island of Montreal circa 1544, and Samuel de Champlain tried (and failed) to set up a trading post about 1614. The first permanent European settlement, called Ville Marie, was not founded until 1639, changing to Montreal about 1701. The mountain "Mount Royal" is just one of the stories of how the city came to be called Montreal, by the way. The area was a fur trading post at first, and remained in French hands until Canada was ceded to the British as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. As more English speakers came, more French speakers left. There was still a delicate balance between the two cultures-- at least, when viewed optimistically. Montreal became a transportation center, with rail built to the south, east and west. McGill University was founded and the city briefly served as the capital of the United Provinces of Canada.

The "Lonely Planet" website notes that the 1950's through the 1970's were a key turning point for the city, with new construction and high profile events like the 1967 World's Fair and the 1976 Olympic Games helping to rebuild its international status. But the "Quiet Revolution" toward a larger influence by the French Canadian citizens-- and we can't leave out the separatist movement that sought to take Quebec out of Canada-- has led to uncertainties. But for me the co-existence of the two cultures has always been part of the appeal of the city.

Meanwhile, back on the BN container, the number 289549 may seem a bit "off" compared to the other containers in the series, but according to the QStation site this is the correct one. That site calls out just the one container, by the way, so I wouldn't expect others to follow as reprints, unlike with the trailers, where it's at least theoretically possible.

108160, $20.60
3 Bay 100 Ton Steel Hopper, Canadian/Canadien National.

Mineral red with mostly white lettering including roadname (English or French) and reporting marks on left and large herald on right. Simulated gravel load included (note that label says "coal load").
Reporting Marks: CN 326323.
Approximate Time Period: mid-1980s (1985 rebuild date given by MTL) to early 2000's.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The Morning Sun Color Guide (MSCG) to the Canadian National, Volume 2, includes two photos of the series of cars from which MTL draws its inspiration, including the very road number 326323 as captured in July 1985 in Toronto. The observer will quickly note that the prototype car seems a bit taller than the 108000 body style, and that would be correct. While the car builder Hawker-Siddeley followed the Pennsylvania Railroad's H39 design (a model for the 108000) including 13 side ribs, the sides were built taller in order to increase the cubic capacity. The prototype's height is really noticable considering the way the roadname and herald hug the top of the car.

Hawker-Siddeley built 500 of these cars in 1964 according to both MTL and Ian Cranstone's Canadian Freight Cars website. Cranstone has the renumbering that MTL mentions (from the series 111100 to 111599) as taking place in 1967, and the last date of service as 2003. (Oh so close to "the present.") We'll grab an entry from the Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) dated April 1970 for some vital statistics: Inside length 39 feet 10 inches, outside length 43 feet 7 inches, extreme height 12 feet 1 inch, capacity 3000 cubic feet or 165,000 pounds. Yes, that wouldn't be a "100 ton hopper," but the trucks used help determine the overall capacity. There were 368 in 1970 but just one left in January 2002.

113040, $15.95
40 Foot Skeleton Log Car with Log Load (Load #6, eight logs).

Cast in black, no paint, no lettering.
Reporting Marks: None.
Approximate Time Period: Most of the 20th Century.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

Please see the previous reviews of skeleton log cars for more information, including February, April and September 2004.

120710, $15.30
40 Foot Box Car, Single Door, ARA Style, Plate Ends, Overlapping Flat Panel Roof, Vertical Brake Wheel, Pennsylvania Maintenance of Way Service.

Yellow sides and ends, aluminum roof. Black lettering including reporting marks on left and plain (non-shadowed) keystone on right.
Reporting Marks: PRR 489546.
Approximate Time Period: 1950's to 1990's.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The backstory on the body style of this car is, to me anyway, more interesting than the car itself-- and that's something considering it's a Pennsy boxcar.

Micro-Trains actually first released this particular body style variant back in 2001, as the "Surprise Car" of the N Scale Collector Convention in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As such, it was announced at the convention and was only available to the membership who attended the convention (or if you had a friend). There was a second road number issued as a special variant and presented to the contributors to the N Scale Collector magazine as the 2001 "Author Car" (yes, I have one of these). But then the 120700 body style seemed to go into the vaults, and I wondered whether it would ever come out. And yes, it has, and, in fact, in the same paint scheme as the Surprise Car! Although not the same road number; the Surprise Car was 489545 and the Author Car was 489547. The body style represents the venerable X-29 class of Pennsy cars, of which the "P" Company once had thousands.

There is nothing of interest to report from the ORER Accumulation since, as you might recall from previous MTL releases of Pennsy cars in company service, the road just grouped them all together into one line in the Register. An example from the ATP is 3594 total cars numbered from either 488870 to 499954 or 994654 to 999953, this from the January 1964 ORER. So I'm going with MTL's own car copy on the ATP of the car in this paint scheme, including the switch from gray to yellow for maintenance of way cars.

We have several photo references courtesy of Joe Levitsky. First, the Morning Sun Color Guide to the Pennsy, Volume 1, includes a circa 1991 shot of PRR 489545 at Wall, Pennsylvania. The caption notes that the original build date was 1925. The plate end and vertical brake wheel are clearly visible in the image. On the net, there are two shots of the same 489545 and two of the very 489546 that MTL depicted on the Fallen Flags website. "I presume that MTL had a better/earlier picture from which to work," Joe commented, "since it's not obvious from any of these shots that the car might once have had a silver/aluminum colored roof." Actually, in at least one of these shots, the primary color appears to be rust! I should also add that the "MW" to the right of the door may have been an afterthought, as it wasn't present in the photo of the 489545 in the MSCG.



N SCALE REPRINTS:

25010, $19.80
50 Foot Boxcar, Exterior Post Type, Single Door, Railbox (RBOX).

Yellow sides and ends, aluminum roof. Black lettering including RailBox trademark and reporting marks on left and "The Nationwide Boxcar Pool" slogan on right. Black, red and blue original version "Next Load Any Road" device on right.
Reporting Marks: RBOX 17787.
Approximate Time Period: mid 1970's (1975 build date) to mid 1980's.
Previous Releases: Road Numbers 17715, 17723, 17771, 17783, 17792, and 17834 in a six pack, February 1981.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

Here's another reprint that will make accumulators happy. The only previous release, the six pack from 23 years ago, is rather pricey indeed, so this offering brings an MTL version back into a more comfortable price range. While the ATP for this particular series of cars is pretty short, as we will see from the ORERs, the Railbox concept in general is still around. So if you're willing to bend the rules, I won't tell anyone.

As you might already be aware, Railbox was set up as the large railroads' counter to the "Incentive Per Diem" boxcars that were being leveraged by leasing companies and American shortlines to address a massive rolling stock shortage in the 1970's. (Thirty years ago? Yikes.) Trailer Train, which was already jointly owned by most of the Class I's, set up Railbox as a subsidiary and procured literally thousands of boxcars from several manufacturers. These cars were free of loading and routing restrictions (one of which, for example, is that cars should be routed back to their "home" or owning railroad), which gave lines much more flexibility.

Among those builders for RBOX was FMC, and the MTL 25000 series body style is a model of the FMC 5077 cubic foot single door boxcar-- therefore I would think we have a match here, with few if any quibbles. The Fallen Flags website has an undated shot of sister car 18278, complete with FMC trademark at the lower left of the side, as captured at North Little Rock, Arkansas.

The series RBOX 17700 to 19499 was listed in the August 1976 ORER with the following stats: inside length 50 feet 6 inches, inside height 10 feet 7 inches, outside length 55 feet 5 inches, extreme height 14 feet 10 inches, door opening 10 feet, capacity 5077 cubic feet or 154,000 pounds. There were 1800 cars in the series at that time. But less than ten years later in January 1985, the group was down to 212 cars, and by 1986, the listing was gone altogether. That doesn't mean the cars were, though. When the Incentive Per Diem movement collapsed-- a collapse at least partly brought on by the appearance of Railbox itself-- the railroads took direct ownership of the cars from Railbox. An example of this from Micro-Trains is catalog number 25502, a three pack of cars that were restenciled for the Missouri Pacific but otherwise stayed painted in Railbox colors.

32180, $15.75
50 Foot Boxcar, Plug Door, Western Pacific.

Freight car red (brown) with yellow and orange lettering including roadname and reporting marks on left and "Rides like a feather" slogan on right. Orange feather device on right.
Reporting Marks: WP 55933.
Approximate Time Period: 1959 (build date) to early 1970's.
Previous Releases: Road Number 55943, November 1987; Road Number 55935, December 1993.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

There is a strange-- even for me-- connection I have with these cars. It's not because I consider the WP to be my adopted western railroad-- wouldn't anyone reach that conclusion after seeing the Feather River Canyon? No, try this one: Back in the 1990's I worked on a special project for my then employer, one of the favorite times of my entire working life. For much of this project we were given a "war room," which had four telephones. Two of the extensions on those phones were two of the road numbers on the MTL releases-- 55933 and 55935! See, I told you it was strange, even for me.

The ORER for January 1964 shows the series 55926 to 55950 with all 25 possible cars. They were listed as "Box, All Steel, Insulated," with inside length of 50 feet 1 inch, inside height of 9 feet 4 inches (less than usual given the insulation), outside length of 51 feet 10 inches, extreme height of 15 feet, door opening of 8 feet 7 inches, and capacity of 4290 cubic feet (again the insulation lowers this) or 100,000 pounds. Notations indicate that the cars had roller bearing trucks, relatively unusual for the time, and compartmentizers. In the April 1970 Register, 24 of the 25 cars remained but by the April 1976 book they were all gone.

Chuck Ciacco provides to us a quote from the Morning Sun Color Guide on the WP by Jim Eager: "In August 1955 Pullman-Standard built the WP's first 20 insulated PS-1 box cars, equipped with Compartmentizer bulkheads and were numbered 55901-55920. A second group of fifty more followed soon after and then an additional 100. The two later groups, were however, built by Pacific Car & Foundry. 55951-56000 were completed in April 1956 and 56001-57000 in December 1957." Chuck notes that the picture in the MSCG as well as one on the Fallen Flags site (road number 56027) have the Evans DF logo on the door which is missing from the MTL car. Chuck also called out that this was a "grocery car" for the WP, not a "standard box car" as MTL states. That's more of a nomenclature, uh, standard for MTL, though; they tend to call cars based on the PS-1 their "standard" cars. Actually, it's debatable as to whether there is or ever was a "standard" boxcar at all, but that's another story entirely.

62030, $14.70
50 Foot Gondola, Composite Fishbelly Sides, Drop Ends, Santa Fe (AT&SF).

Mineral brown with white lettering including reporting marks on left.
Reporting Marks: ATSF 176677.
Approximate Time Period: decade of the 1950's as numbered, see text.
Previous Release: Road Number 176650, May 1991.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The May 2002 edition of Rail Model Journal contains prototype reference data for both classes of the Santa Fe's "war emergency" gondolas. As you may know, the "war emergency" type gons swapped steel for wood for the sheathing; this was meant to save steel for other purposes. The Santa Fe was among a number of roads who had these cars, most of which have been covered by MTL at some point. The RMJ piece notes that no two roads' cars were alike, and there are some differences between prototype and model in the case.

The Santa Fe's Class Ga-61 was built by Pullman-Standard and numbered 169500 to 169699, while the Ga-63 class came from General American and was numbered 169700 to 169899. The main difference was the trucks used: Barbers on the 61s and Nationals on the 63s. Both classes were apparently called "mill type" by the railroad, perhaps given their length or given that they had a solid floor. Many of these cars were resheathed with steel siding circa 1957, so we're calling the ATP done at that point.

But wait, George, you may be saying, this MTL model isn't numbered in either one of the classes that you mention! That's right. There was panic at UMTRR HQ upon finding this out, no, please, not a "number thing." However, the MTL car copy gives us a critical clue: "serviced in 1952." Sure enough, a trip to the ORER for January 1953 (NMRA Reprint) reveals the short series 176650 to 176713 with just 37 cars in auto frame service, although with fixed ends. Those ends could simply have been welded shut; without a photo, I can't be of much help there.



N SCALE SPECIAL EDITION RELEASES:

21385, $19.85
40 Foot Steel Boxcar, Plug Door, Louisiana State Car.

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 (Magnolia) and state bird (Eastern Brown Pelican) on right.
Reporting Marks: LA 1812.
Twenty-first release in the States of the Union series.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

Lousiana was, in my sequence, the forty-ninth state in which I set foot and one of the few states to which I needed to make a special trip (as opposed to gerrymandering business travel, for example). The actual direction of my visit was, perhaps more than any other state, directed by a song, specifically Poco's "Heart of the Night" from their album "Legend." There was something about the line, "There's a full moon in sight, shining down on the Pontchartrain." That's Lake Pontchartrain, of course, and there is a causeway that runs across it that was opened in 1956 and is the longest bridge in the world. Once I saw it on the map I knew I had to drive it, and once I got to Louisiana, that's exactly what I did. I also took in New Orleans, including the fabulous Aquarium of the Americas, a ferry across the Mighty Mississippi, and of course Bourbon Street, and I did a little bit of driving in the general area. But driving the causeway is like going out to sea while still in your car, and I enjoyed every moment of that car trip.

An official site states, "No other state has a more varied or colorful past than Louisiana," and while I suppose everyone has their biases, they've got a pretty good claim. Ten different flags have flown over the territory, including that of Spain, France, the USA, the Confederacy and even that of an independent republic for six weeks in 1861.

Native American tribes that called what is now Louisiana home include the Biloxi, the Atakapa and the Choctaw. Western European eyes first sighted the area around the time when Alvarez de Pindea discovered the mouth of the Mississippi in 1519. In 1682 Robert Cavalier traveled down the Mississippi and claimed it for France. New Orleans was founded in 1718, the same year that the St. Louis Cathedral was built, the oldest in the United States. The system of "parishes" was established; all the other United States use counties. Sugar cane was introduced in the 1750's and continues to be an important crop; other products include shrimp, sulfur, natural gas and oil, and a dash of Tabasco Sauce (from Avery Island). The territory went from France to Spain and back to France until the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, roughly doubling the size of the United States overnight. The "District of Orleans" became the State of Louisiana in 1812.

New Orleans is of course famous for the Mardi Gras, and the first parade was held back in 1838. But Baton Rouge became the capital in 1849. And you can't forget New Orleans Jazz either; the word "Jazz" was first used to describe that type of music circa 1915. And Louisiana's own Louis Armstrong is one musician who immediately comes to mind. Other famous, or perhaps infamous, Louisianans include Huey Long, senator and, well, let's just say colorful personality; early rocker Jerry Lee Lewis; and writer Truman Capote. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was born in New Orleans; so was trumpeter Al Hirt, newscaster and sportscaster Bryant Gumbel, journalist Cokie Roberts, and quarterback Kordell Stewart.

21503, $19.15
40 Foot Steel Boxcar, Plug Door, Third Day of Christmas "Three French Hens."

Red with mostly yellow lettering and four color process printing "Third Day" banner with two french hens on right.
Reporting Marks: TOOC 3.
Third release in the Twelve Days of Christmas series.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

Hmm, so as part of the research for the third and last car in the first installment of the Twelve Days, I type "Three French Hens" into a certain search engine, and I am presented with... a thumbnail guide to keeping hens, in France! I'm not making this up; it's part of a British website called FrenchEntree.com, "a complete guide to property and life in France." (What do they call "French Fries" in France... never mind.) Anyway, the site notes that "Hens have to be the most productive and easily managed animals to keep for the novice livestock owner; they yield fresh eggs, they cost 'chicken feed' to keep, and most dry secure outbuildings can be converted to keep them. What's more, if kept on a small scale, they realise amusing personalities and are a colourful addition to even the smallest garden." OK, if you say so, but I don't think the Ellison Park authorities would be very amused. Meanwhile, there is also a webpage which describes how to cook French Hens, but I don't think I will go there. Incidentally, there doesn't seem to be anything biologically different between French and Any Other Kind of Hens, at least nothing that showed up in the first few pages of 'net surfing.

Good news: We can now report on the 2004 estimates of the cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas, as the PNC Bank website has been updated! Unfortunately, the price of Three French Hens has shot up a whopping 200% to $45.00 from last year's figures... yikes! Fortunately, the entire Christmas Index was helped by a nearly thirty percent decline in the cost of the Five Golden Rings, and rose a modest 2.4% overall. Which is still 2.4% more than my income from the UMTRR rose.



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

Z SCALE NEW RELEASES:

14014, Marklin Coupler, $100.50, 14014-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $102.30.
F-7 Diesel, Powered, Milwaukee Road.

Orange and black with black lettering including roadname and number on side. Red and white herald.
Road Number: 83C (will be "MILW 83C" in website listing).
Approximate Time Period: 1960's and 1970's as painted (a guess).
NOTE: This item (both versions) has been sold out and discontinued.

This orange and black paint scheme is the one that seems more familiar on second generation diesels like the Milwaukee's SD-40's. There is an undated photo of 83C as depicted by MTL on the Fallen Flags site. I couldn't get a good handle on the start date for this paint scheme since a number of orange- and yellow-based schemes appear to have co-existed. I'm guessing at the ATP based on some data on other units which received the "simplified" orange and black.

A MILW all-time diesel roster shows that the 83C is at the Indiana Transport Museum in Noblesville, but their website didn't confirm this.



Z SCALE REPRINTS:

13806, Marklin Coupler, $16.25, 13806-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $18.05.
40 Foot Despatch Stock Car, New York Central.

Freight car red (brown) with white lettering including reporting marks on left and small New York Central System herald on right.
Reporting Marks: NYC 28022.
Approximate Time Period: 1947 to mid-1960's.
Previous Release: Road Number 28463, May 1988.
NOTE: This item (both versions) has been sold out and discontinued.

The 13800 Z Scale body style mimics the 35000 N Scale body style, and as such it is as exact a match as possible for the New York Central stock car that is reprinted this month. The car is in fact a model of the Central's conversion project, as I discovered when I was researching an N Scale 35er some time ago. Most stock cars are either single deck or double deck, but the prototype was actually "either".

The ORER for January 1954 shows the series 28000 to 28499 with the unusual-- but accurate-- description of "Stock, Steel Underframe, Adjustable Deck," with AAR Classification "SC". We'll start with the inside height, for which there were two values: with the adjustable deck raised, the clearance was 7 feet 9 inches; with it lowered to create two levels, the top was 4 feet 3 inches and the bottom was 3 feet 11 inches. Not too comfy for people, but certainly sufficient for small livestock. The inside length was 40 feet 6 inches, the outside length 42 feet 2 inches, and the extreme height was 13 feet 7 inches. The door opening was 6 feet wide and the height, like the inside height, varied based on the configuration of one or two decks. There were 498 cars in the group in '54 which was about 30 percent of the Central's total stock car fleet.

By January 1964, the stock car business in the east was very much on the wane, and the numbers reflect that: just 52 cars were left in this group and something around one hundred total stock cars remained in the NYC's roster. None of these cars made it to the Penn Central merger.



Z SCALE SPECIAL EDITIONS:

14933, Marklin Coupler, $21.95, 14931-2, Micro-Trains Coupler, $23.75.
40 Foot Steel Boxcar, Plug Door, Third Day of Christmas "Three French Hens."

Red with mostly yellow lettering and four color process printing "Third Day" banner with two french hens on right.
Reporting Marks: TOOC 3.
Third release in the Twelve Days of Christmas series.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

Please see the review of the N Scale release above.