UMTRR December, 2007 || Edited From Subscriber Edition
©2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting Prohibited. Trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Legal Stuff

NOTE: This archive edition covers most single car releases only. Reviews of and commentary on most Micro-Trains locomotives, most Special Editions such as the U.S. Navy Sets and the Canadian Province & Territory cars are available exclusively in the e-mail subscription edition of the UMTRR. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.


030 00 200, $20.95
Reporting Marks: BN 223939.
50 Foot Steel Exterior Post Boxcar, Double Door, Burlington Northern.

Green with red Superior doors. Mostly white lettering including BN herald and reporting marks on left. Green couplers and draft gear.
Approximate Time Period: mid-1990s to present.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

I've located a photo of this exact car, complete with non-green doors, as lensed in July 2005 in Bison, Montana in and posted on the And oh, those doors... well, there are possibly multiple "door things" here. There is one definite delta: the double doors are more centered with a difference of just one exterior post between the side left of the doors (six posts) and the side right of the doors (seven posts). On the MTL car, the doors are shifted more to the left (count is four on the left, seven on the right). What might be added to that is that the doors in the photo are more boxcar red than brown, and that they are six panel Superior doors, not Youngstown doors. But doors are changed over time and there's no saying that the 223939 didn't have doors as depicted by Micro-Trains at some other point in its career. Other cars in the same group had Superior or Youngstown doors, or both, and more red, more brown, or green doors, according to posted images of said cars. And then there's the 2007 photo of BN 223932 on, which shows the car sporting one red Superior door and one green Youngstown door. Oh, and a fair amount of "aftermarket painting," if you know what I mean. I guess my point is that the modeler can have a lot of fun with multiple copies of this car, since there are enough road numbers with which to play. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

While MTL states that the car was built in June 1980, I don't pick up the series until my Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) for January 1996. It's possible that the BN picked up these cars second-hand; other cars in the 220000s were restencils from other roads, particularly shortlines. I did a quick pass through all of the Rail Model Journal issues that contain exterior post boxcar articles that include the BN, and did not find a reference to any sale of double door x-post boxcars. This particular design was much less common than the offset double door version, especially in a 50 foot version, so I thought I might have found something, but we'll have to leave that for Incremental Information. Other cars of this design were used for lumber loading. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Anyway, the series 223900 to 223999 numbered 76 cars with AAR Classification XP and description "Box, Nailable Steel Floor." The dimensions: inside length 50 feet 7 inches, inside height 10 feet 11 inches, outside length 55 feet 8 inches, extreme height 15 feet 3 inches, door opening 16 feet, capacity 5283 cubic feet or 154,000 pounds. I was scratching my head wondering whether these cars would have been originally painted in the more familiar (and more interesting) scheme with roadname, but if these came online in the early to mid 1990's I think they would have had only the herald and reporting marks as done by Micro-Trains. A "Paint Shop" article in the June 1990 Model Railroader actually describes the "reporting marks only" BN decoration, if we can call it that. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The number of photos from the last couple of years suggested to me that "to present" was the correct call on the Approximate Time Period. Indeed it is, or at least close, as the January 2006 ORER entry for the BNSF Railway shows 37 cars in a trimmed back number series of 223925 to 223999. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

053 00 730, $27.90
Reporting Marks: MR 9149.
60 Foot Centerbeam (Truss Beam) Flat Car, McCloud River Railroad.

Blue with mostly white lettering including reporting marks on left. Simulated partial lumber load included.
Approximate Time Period: 1988 (build date given by MTL) to present.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The area south and east of Mount Shasta in Northern California has been rich with valuable woodlands for many years. Any number of lumber companies harvested the firs, cedars and Ponderosa Pines. The McCloud River Railroad began a fairly turbulent history as a part of one of those operations. It's beyond the scope of this commentary to provide a complete rundown of the routes opened and closed by the line, but one of its longer lasting versions was shown in the June 1963 Official Guide of the Railways. From Mount Shasta, where connection was made with the Southern Pacific, the line stretched to Burney, about 78 track miles away, and more importantly to Hambone some 47 miles from Mount Shasta, where connection was made with the Great Northern and, nominally, the Western Pacific, via a branch from Lookout on the "Inside Gateway." The accompanying map shows the Mount Shasta to Hambone line as arrow straight, and believe me, it wasn't! © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Initial construction was built in 1897 connecting with the then Central Pacific Railroad. The McCloud River Lumber Company built the McCloud River Railroad. It also built its own company town, initially called Vandale but later McCloud. The railroad was both a common carrier and a logging line, with the common carrier portion gradually expanding over time. The common carrier McCloud River Railroad was "spun off" to the lumber company's shareholders in an early use of that business tactic. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

A connection with the Great Northern's "Inside Gateway" proved to be a boon to the line as a new outlet for lumber traffic and a lever for better rates versus the sole connection with the Southern Pacific (successor to the Central Pacific). There was an expansion of the line in 1955 into the "Burney tract" to reach more timberland. But the purchase of the McCloud Lumber Company and the McCloud River Railroad by U.S. Plywood in 1963 resulted in a de-emphasis of the use of rail for log hauling in favor of trucks. Meanwhile, a steam locomotive, Number 25, which had been retired by the line was restored to service in 1962 for tourist operations and ran until it was again retired in 1975. It was back once again for third party operation on the line's rails and eventually became a key item in the Great Western Railroad Museum in McCloud-- for a while. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The next and final phase of the McCloud River Railroad was ownership by Itel Corporation which lasted from 1977 to 1992. Itel leveraged the line as part of its plan to provide Incentive Per Diem boxcars to American railroads and also liked the maintenance capabilities of the road. But the core business of common carrier hauling shrank substantially as mills closed down and customers dwindled. The end of the Incentive Per Diem scheme led to a great deal of boxcar storing on the McCloud River, including but not limited to their own attractive brown and white boxcars that carried a variation on their official "bear and Mt. Shasta" herald. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

But that's still not the end of the story: former Itel executive Jeff Forbis purchased the line from Itel in 1992 and renamed it the McCloud Railroad (without the "River"). The line survived on varying levels of freight traffic including a short mini-boom in sugar beets, again hosted third party tourist excursions, and even got back the Number 25 and then its former Number 18 which had gone to the nearby Yreka Western Railroad. But a substantial amount of bridge traffic was lost when the Burlington Northern Santa Fe gave up on the interchange in Hambone (the WP never did exercise interchange rights). With carloadings dwindling further, the McCloud Railroad filed for abandonment of everything east of McCloud, a petition which is still in process. Other parties may be interested in that trackage, so the final chapter of this lumbering line might not yet be written. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Now, to the story of these cars. A photo of sister car MR 9164 from the same series appears on Page 8 of the April 1998 issue of Rail Model Journal. It was taken in October 1998 and shows the car new with all the tiedown cables where they are supposed to be. The car is by Thrall, so it is technically a "Center Beam" which is their trademark. But it uses the truss beam that Thrall adopted in 1987 instead of the "solid" beam with oval holes that is the more common type MTL models. I had to catch myself from calling it a "center partition" car, a name given to Gunderson cars built for the Union Pacific and previously offered in the 537xx body style by Micro-Trains. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The ORER for July 1989 shows the series 9100 to 9299 with AAR Classification FBC and a description of just "Flat." A bit of an under-description if you ask me. Speaking of "under," the MTL model is a noticeable bit undersize as the prototype has a 73 foot inside length and a 79 foot 8 inch outside length. Capacity is 198,000 pounds. There were 155 cars in the group at that time. MTL's insert label gives an "Era" to the present, and the January 2006 ORER indicated 124 cars in the series remaining in service. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

078 00 120, $18.35
Reporting Marks: CONX 50004.
50 Foot Steel Boxcar, Double Doors and End Doors, Conoco.

Pale blue with white lettering including reporting marks on left. Red and white triangular "CONOCO" trademark on right.
Approximate Time Period: mid-1960's to mid-1970's.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

You might be familiar with one time advertising executive Bill Fries, who is better known as the recording artist C.W. McCall. Yes, the one who brought the world "Convoy." He recorded a number of novelty songs in the seventies produced by Chip Davis. (Davis went on to fame and fortune with his group Manheim Steamroller, the sound of which is heard in McCall's not so novelty song, "There Won't Be No Country Music" which also charted. To think that one of the top selling Christmas artists of all time began with songs involving CB radios!) What does this have to do with the subject of this commentary? Plenty, if your mind works as weirdly as mine. In McCall's song "Crispy Critters" (based somewhat on actual events) he notes, "We all got in the Marshall's Plymouth, which is always at the Conoco station" and in "Classified" the narrator buys a junker pickup truck that runs so badly that "It took two full quarts of forty weight oil just to get her to the Conoco station." © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

There would have been plenty of Conoco stations to choose from in the Rockies, as this was its home territory. Founded in 1925 by Issac E. Blake to bring kerosene from eastern refineries by rail (!) to Utah, the Continental Oil and Transportation Company quickly expanded into the San Francisco area. It was taken over by the Standard Oil trust in 1885 and forcibly divested in 1913 by Supreme Court order. By then it was a top refiner and marketer of petroleum products including that newfangled gasoline needed by motor cars. It built the West's first filling station in 1909 and built one thousand more after that. "Each station was emblazoned with the trademark Continental soldier," reports the ConocoPhillips website. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Wait, the what? What about that triangle? Well, it came from the Marland Oil Company, which had been founded in Ponca City, Oklahoma in 1911 by E.W. Marland, a geologist who moved in from Pennsylvania to strike oil in Native American Territory. His first well produced from 1911 until 1976. Marland began refining oil in 1918. He was ahead of his time in employee benefits including free medical care. The Marland Oil Company was what we now call "vertically integrated"; it explored, produced, refined, transported and sold petroleum products. By 1927 there were 500 filling stations, all triangle shaped and all impeccably landscaped, and all using the triangle trademark. Financier J.P. Morgan liked it so much, he bought the company in 1928 and ousted Marland. The next year, merger with Continental Oil and Transportation took place, forming the Continental Oil Company, keeping the triangle, but replacing the "Marland" with "Conoco." Perhaps the best known advertising campaign of the company-- reproduced in an issue of Model Railroader many years later-- was the "Gentlemen Prefer Bronze" billboard, advertising a brand of their gasoline. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Conoco was an independent company until weakened by financial maneuvers in the late 1980s, but leapt into the friendly arms of DuPont in what was then the largest merger in American history. The companies split up again in late 1998 after agreement that they were worth more separately than together. Continental Oil Company did not remain independent for long, merging with Phillips Petroleum in August 2002 to form ConocoPhillips, third largest publicly traded oil company in the United States. The Union 76 brand was added to the mix when Phillips bought Tosco in 2001, putting three famous oil trademarks under one corporate roof: the Conoco (Marland) triangle, the Phillips 66 highway shield, and the Union 76 orange ball (now red and blue). But that's not all, railroad fans: the company purchased and merged Burlington Resources in 2006. That company had grown out of the original land and mineral rights of the Burlington Northern's predecessor Northern Pacific, granted back in 1864. Both Conoco and Phillips have museums devoted to the formerly independent companies and their famous brands. Conoco's is, not surprisingly, back in Ponca City, Oklahoma. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I knew I was in trouble on this car, so I went directly to MTL for help, which provided a shot of the real CONX 50004 which I later located on Tom Stolte's webpages. Could Ponca City have been the location of the photo? Well, no; a better bet would be Enid, Oklahoma, based on the "Enid Terminal" building in the background of the shot. But I digress; there is the car, and its double door and end door, in blue, and with the red and white triangle trademark and the correct reporting marks for the Continental Oil Company. However, there is a discrepancy: no roofwalk on the prototype car. It probably wouldn't have been the wooden one MTL uses on the 078 body style anyway. Next question: could this car really be legitimate, or just a decoration for a display somewhere? © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Well, to answer that question, here's a quote from the ORER of April 1970, way back on Page 1009 where the listings are in small blocks in two columns of listings: "The box (AAR Mechanical Designation XM, AAR Car Type Code B202) cars of this company are marked 'C.O.N.X.' and numbered 50001 to 50051 inclusively (Note A), inside dimensions: length 50 feet 6 inches, width 9 feet 3 inches, height 10 feet 6 inches, side door openings width 15 feet, height 9 feet 10 inches, capacity 4937 cubic feet, 110,000 pounds. Total, 25 cars." And Note A is the capper: "Cars numbered 50001 to 50051 are equipped with loading and unloading devices, forklift truck pallets, platforms or skids which are considered part of the car." How about that-- an end door "automobile" boxcar, with then-up to date loading equipment, in revenue service in 1970! That's quite a story in itself, never mind the paint scheme. These cars don't come up in the January 1964 ORER, so they had to have been added to the roster sometime between then and 1970. Data MTL has says it's 1966 for the start of the ATP. This does not verify the paint scheme, of course, since it still seems to me that the 50004 is parked somewhere as an exhibit. The presence of a Conoco three dome tank car with a "Don't Climb" sign coupled to the boxcar does have me wondering. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

At any rate, sixteen boxcars survived among 1040 total pieces of rolling stock owned and operated by Conoco in the July 1974 ORER, the vast majority of which are, as you might expect, tank cars. The road numbers for the boxcars have contracted to 50001 to 50024 but that still includes the 50004. The same sixteen cars remain in the July 1975 Register but they're all gone by the April 1976 ORER, putting a fairly definite end to the Approximate Time Period. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

A contributor to the "N Scale Talk" chat board commented that "Conoco, along with many other oil companies shipped drums of aviation fuel, drums of lubrications, chemical products, etc. by box car to either the end customer or Conoco's jobbers, distributors and retailers." But it was also reported by former employees that these boxcars were only used inside the Ponca City refinery. This story may not yet be complete, but it's been fascinating so far. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

083 00 020, $18.45
Reporting Marks: SOO LINE 67267.
40 Foot Steel Drop Bottom Gondola, Soo Line.

Brown with white lettering including reporting marks on left and large roadname in center. Includes simulated pulpwood load.
Approximate Time Period: 1953 (build date) to late 1970's.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

As built, these cars should have been lettered with the billboard style road name as it was already in use by 1953. And still in place was the Soo's practice of using only even numbers on house cars-- that is, box and stock cars-- and using only odd numbers on other freight car types. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The ORER for January 1953 already shows the series that we're interested despite the MTL car copy saying that the group of gondolas was built in June 1953. Could the Register have received advance information for a change, instead of playing catch up? Anyway, the group of 100 cars numbered 67201 to 67399 was described fairly fully as "Gondola, All Steel, 16 Drop Doors, Odd Numbers (Chicago Division)" with AAR Classification "GS". The inside length was 41 feet, inside width 9 feet 6 inches, inside height 4 feet 11 inches, outside length 42 feet 4 inches, extreme height 9 feet 4 inches, and capacity 1933 cubic feet or 100,000 pounds. There were another 100 cars of the same type numbered just above this group in 67001 to 67199 differing only in capacity, 1905 cubic feet. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The number of cars held steady through the fifties and was down only two to 98 in the January 1964 ORER. Just one was lost into April 1970. In that listing there is also a list of exceptions that have extended end racks for pulpwood loading. The 67267 is not one of these, but this does seem to answer my question about why the pulpwood load Micro-Trains included with the car would be an appropriate load for drop bottom gondolas. Assuming the MTL car copy didn't already answer the question with its information about the paper mill service in Wisconsin. The April 1975 Register showed 79 cars in the main series and 12 more with the extended end racks. But the April 1981 shows a big drop in the group, to 12 cars in the main series, two exceptions, and six with the end racks, for a total of 20 cars. That's where I stopped looking and it corresponds with MTL's car copy item that "a few of these hard working cars survived into the 1980's." © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

If these cars were around until the eighties, then, humph! Why aren't there any photos of them out on the net? It looks like a source for images may have been the book "Freight Cars of the Soo Line" by the Soo Line Historical Society. There is an oh-so-tiny sample gondola page that has a drop bottom gondola in a later paint scheme; in fact the description of the page indicates that it is among the repaints shown there. But I don't know whether this book was ever published as the web page describing it was last updated in 2006 and the planned publication date was "late 2006". The one data point we can get out of this is that the paint scheme may have changed from the one with taller, more square Soo Line to the one with the less tall, rounder Soo Line roadname. Yeah, I know, that's a really technical description! © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

109 00 070, $22.35
Reporting Marks: DODX 39829.
Heavyweight Depressed Center Flat Car with Commonwealth Trucks, Department of Defense.

Gray with black lettering including reporting marks on left side of depressed portion. Includes simulated "covered military load."
Approximate Time Period: mid-1970's to present.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

Micro-Trains states in its car copy that the Department of Defense acquired 31 depressed center flat cars in the mid-1970s. Most of the series to which MTL refers in its car copy is in the April 1975 ORER in two groups, 39810 to 39825 and then 39826 to 39829, the second group of course including the road number selected. Interestingly, that second group had a special duty reported in that particular ORER. "Cars are equipped with a permanently attached container and framework as an enclosure for radioactive material. Container and framework are 31 feet 0 inches long, 10 feet 8 inches wide, and highest point of container is 13 feet 10 inches above rail, and weighs 96,000 pounds. Container, framework and car are weighed as a unit and weigh 227,000 pounds on the rail. Wow! I can see why I was having trouble finding photos. And the first subset of the group? "Cars are equipped with a framework as a shield for radioactive material." Oh, I almost forgot: 58 feet 6 inches outside length, 15 feet 4 inch extreme height (counting the container), and capacity of 203,000 pounds for the cars with the container and 39,000 pounds for the cars with the shield. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

In the April 1976 and April 1981 Registers, the notations are the same; the last two of the 31 cars MTL notes having been added in the '76 book also. By the April 1985 ORER, some of the series of cars including the 39829 were shown as just plain depressed center flat cars, with no end notes, no permanently attached enclosures, no shielding, and no radioactive material. In the October 1996 Register, there are only 23 cars left out of the original 31, but they are again showing the attachment of a "container"-- this time, no mention of what might be in it. Hmm, perhaps the "need to know" was not as broad as the entire population of readers of the ORER. But then in the January 2000 ORER, it's back to 23 just plain flat cars, and it stays that way through the January 2006 Register. Keep 'em guessing! © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

A undated photo I found on shows DODX 39831 in the Navy gray and black that MTL utilized, and carrying a covered load that had better not be radioactive! The "look and feel" of the car vs. the model seems about right but I'd wager that the real car was all steel without the simulated wood that can be the interpretation of the MTL model's depressed section. The 39831 was trailed by a caboose (also photographed) when spotted in Worcester, Massachusetts so perhaps it was part of a special Defense Department train. I read elsewhere that armed guards might accompany such trains in the caboose, which I'll bet also discourages photography. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.


045 00 060, $15.30
Reporting Marks: D&RGW 23022.
50 Foot Steel Flat Car, Fishbelly Sides, Rio Grande (D&RGW).

Brown with white lettering including reporting marks on left and "speed lettering" roadname on right. Simulated concrete beam load included.
Approximate Time Period: 1956 (build date given by MTL) to early 1990's.
Previous Releases: as catalog 45108/45060, Road Number 23015, August 1975; as catalog 45060, Road Number 23019, February 2001.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

You know you're behind on your completing your project list when you haven't yet weathered the previous release of a car before the next reprint is issued! © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

While this is your basic workaday flat car, we noted back in February 2001, when the previous reprint was done, that from Rail Model Journal reported that the Rio Grande had a number of flats equipped for and dedicated to specific service. For example, some carried containers of molybdenum concentrate (and please don't ask me to pronounce "molybdenum"!) and others were fitted with bulkheads. This accounts for the "FMS" designation, the "S" referring to "where cars are equipped with permanent racks for stowing parts, or specially modified or equipped to provide for loading of a particular commodity." © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

It's the January 1959 ORER where we pick up the series 23000 to 23099 described as "Flat, Steel Underframe" but with that "FMS" designation. This car falls into one of the more typical deltas between MTL flat cars and their prototypes, with the "inside length" a bit shorter than the real thing and the overall length a bit longer. The inside length of the prototype was 53 feet 6 inches and the outside length 54 feet 6 inches. Capacity was 100,000 pounds; cubic feet isn't terribly relevant when dealing with flat cars. All 100 cars are present in the January 1959 Register, there are 99 in January 1964, and 98 in April 1970. By April 1981 the "FMS" is back to an "FM" designation, and the length over the couplers has increased from the original 54 feet 6 inches to 56 feet 8 inches, indicating that extended draft gear or cushioning could have been added, The series is still at a healthy 87 cars. But in 1991, it's down to 46, and just two remain in the October 1996 ORER. I believe that the main paint scheme remained constant during this time, but add ACI Labels and consolidated stencils as appropriate. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The table of flat cars on the website of the Rio Grande Historical and Modeling Society indicates that the cars were built to an AAR design by American Car and Foundry. The sides have 15 pockets. The MTL model has 13 on the brake wheel side and 14 on the opposite side. The June 1999 issue of Rail Model Journal contains a photo of D&RGW 22087, which isn't part of the series modeled by MTL, but illustrates the general accuracy of the paint scheme used on its Rio Grande flat. The photo was taken in 1962 and the 22087 is looking a little bit "distressed," particularly with respect to the wooden floor. Getting that weathering right can be a challenge, which might explain why I haven't gotten to the February 2001 reprint yet... and so much for trying to let myself off the hook. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

055 00 310, $17.95
Reporting Marks: RDG 83005.
33 Foot Steel Two Bay Hopper, Offset Sides, Reading.

Black with white lettering including reporting marks on left and roadname in center. White, red and black "America's Largest Anthracite Carrier" surrounding Reading diamond herald on right.
Approximate Time Period: early 1950's (1955 build date given by MTL, but see text) to .
Previous Releases (as catalog 55310): Road Number 83008, January 1990; Road Number 83002, March 1995.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The community next to the one where I used to live in Suburban New Jersey is called Port Reading for a very obvious reason: it was where the Reading Railroad reached the tidewaters of Greater New York City. Located on the Arthur Kill between Carteret and Perth Amboy, in the town of Woodbridge, this yard's principal purpose was the delivery of coal to barges for final delivery somewhere in the Metropolitan Area. It was reached via the Port Reading Railroad, built by the Reading from Bound Brook, and completed in 1892. The original coal dumper was replaced by the one used by the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad, and believe it or not there was a videotape transfer of the original promotional film available! (I can do without the added "heavy metal" soundtrack accompanying that silent film, though...) I'm sure between the opening and closing of the coal transfer operation following the absorption of the Reading by Conrail, the final number of carloads was well into the millions. I'm not sure what the date of the last coal shipment was, but I do remember and perhaps even have video of coal being dumped from three bay hopper cars during the 1980's. In an earlier time, there is almost no question that the prototype of this hopper Reading 83005 and all of its many brethren passed through Port Reading at some point in its career. Today Port Reading Secondary is important as a part of the alternate route into the congested North Jersey transportation hub, but with double stacks and general freight instead of coal. Some of the once sprawling Port Reading yard remains, but what you'll likely see there is a sizable number of tank cars needed to support the Amerada Hess refinery next door and other industries along the Chemical Coast. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The ORER for July 1950 shows similar cars, but not this exact series. We need to go to the July 1953 Register to find the group 83000 to 85999, which numbered 2997 cars and easily takes in this reprint and the previous two runs as well. They were described not just as hoppers but as "Coal Hopper, Steel" with AAR Designation HM. They had an inside length of 33 feet, inside width of 10 feet 4 inches, outside length of 34 feet, extreme height of 10 feet 9 inches and capacity of 2145 cubic feet or 110,000 pounds. MTL's car copy, and the previous two releases of the car, show a build date of January 1955 so we have a bit of a disconnect here. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The Morning Sun Color Guide to the Reading affords several different views of Reading offset side twin hoppers, none exactly in the paint scheme that MTL chose. But it did exist according to the Color Guide. In 1950 and 1951 the decoration was as modeled, with the Reading roadname done in railroad roman. After that, the roadname was in the larger "speed lettering", but with the red, white and black (from the car color underneath) "Anthracite" herald. If this is all accurate, than the paint scheme doesn't match up with the number and a choice from one of the earlier Reading series of Class HTu or HTv class hoppers would have been better, such as 80000 to 82749. Nitpicking? Probably. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Anyway, let's stick with the hopper series from which MTL did select. It was shown in the April 1970 ORER as 83000 to 87999. There were 1956 cars plus another 148 that had been converted to sand service by refitting the car with a flat floor, effectively making them gondolas. None of the road numbers MTL used were in this converted subseries. By the April 1976 Register, all of these cars were gone so none made it into Conrail. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

N SCALE SPECIAL EDITION RELEASES: These releases are covered exclusively in the subscriber edition of the UMTRR.

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


503 00 011 and 503 00 012, $21.65 each
Reporting Marks: ICG 416084 and ICG 416108.
40 Foot Steel Boxcar, Single Door, No Roofwalk, Short Ladders, Illinois Central Gulf.

Orange with mostly black lettering including large roadname and reporting marks on left. Large "solid rail" herald in black and white on right.
Approximate Time Period: Approximate Time Period: early 1970's (1972 merger date for ICG, also 1972 repaint date given by MTL) to mid-1980s.
Note: This item (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

Since August 2002, when the N Scale reprint of this car was issued, an image has appeared on the 'net, namely on Fallen Flags, which has a June 1978 image of ICG 416685 from the same series. My first thought was that the door on the prototype car is different, but it's actually not that far off on the MTL model. However, while the roofwalk is gone, the ladders are full height. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

MTL's car copy calls out the number series as 416017 to 416356, while the ORER for April 1974 shows the group as 416000 to 416999. As long as we're here, let's grab the dimensions: inside length 40 feet 6 inches, outside length 44 feet 4 inches, inside height 10 feet 6 inches and extreme height 15 feet 1 inch. And we have a "door thing"-- an 8 foot door opening on the prototype versus a 6 foot door on the model. I thought so from the photo of the 416685. At this time there are 442 cars in the series, which is noted as a "change from previous issue" in the ORER. This number is down slightly to 430 cars in April 1976, slipped to 267 cars in April 1981 and a mere three cars in October 1986, when 40 foot boxcars were quite out of style. So the group apparently never reached its full possible count of 1,000 cars. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The difference in the number series can easily be accounted for, at least in theory, by considering that a rebuild and repaint of a group might not have taken place all at once. We also see this in new builds, where, for example, a group that reaches 500 cars is brought online one hundred cars at a time. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Back in August 2002 I also wrote that there didn't seem to be a donor series from the Illinois Central that was rebuilt into these cars, based on the lack of eight foot door opening boxcars on the IC's roster. I speculated that perhaps the cars came from the other part of the ICG, the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio. Well, call that a Long Term Oops. MTL sets it straight by stating that the IC's 3000 series cars were used. And guess what, those cars, numbered 3000 to 4999, did have eight foot door openings, and are down to 408 cars in April 1974 out of a possible two thousand which allows for transfer into the 416000's series. The caption from the appropriate Morning Sun Color Guide helped Micro-Trains here. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

527 00 031 and 527 00 032, $20.45 each
Reporting Marks: CPI 317137 and CPI 317161.
60 Foot Bulkhead Flat Car, Canadian Pacific (International Service).

Red with mostly white lettering including reporting marks left of center and CP Rail roadname on right.
Approximate Time Period: early 1970's (1973 build date given by MTL) to mid-1980's as painted, then to present with "CP" reporting marks, see text.
Note: This item (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

This is certainly a month in which I can draw from my 2002 issues of the UMTRR to help with the Z Scale items, as all of the freight car releases can be referred back to similar N Scale items from that year. So from the May 2002 UMTRR's research we know that this series of cars were originally painted with CPI reporting marks, which denoted Canadian-built cars that were to be used exclusively for international service between the USA and Canada. We also know that the cars are longer than the MTL model: the dimensions from the April 1976 ORER call out an interior length (between the bulkheads) of 66 feet versus my estimate of about 57 feet on the model. (I don't own one of these cars so this is a guess.) The outside length of the prototype was given as 76 feet 10 inches. These cars had load limits set by length of what was being carried. For example, a five foot long load could weigh up to 125,000 pounds; a ten foot load, 130,000 pounds, and so on. For loads forty feet in length or more, the weight allowed was the full load limit of 187,000 pounds. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I have more ORERs to reference from after the given build date of November 1973 than I did in 2002. In July 1974 the series 317000 to 317389 was shown as having a change from the previous issue and numbered 346 cars. In April 1975 and April 1976 there were 350 cars. The series was cut back to 317000 to 317199 with 198 cars in April 1981 and 191 in January 1985. We know from Ian Cranstone's "Canadian Freight Cars" site that the group was relettered to "CP" from "CPI" by October 1988 and sure enough, the series CP 317000 to 317199 numbered 187 cars including one subseries differing in capacity. There were 182 in October 1996 and 176 in January 2000, and getting as up to date as we can via ORER's, there were 132 in the January 2006 edition. "To present" with a change in reporting marks looks like a pretty good bet. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Meanwhile, the Morning Sun Color Guide to the CP has a photo of CPI 317138 from the group and some potentially conflicting information: according to the caption, the car had been built five months before its picture was taken in February 1988? Uh, no, perhaps it had been serviced five months previously, as it looks like "CP 9-87" is stenciled on the car; let this be another instance in which a grain of salt is taken with reference material! Also painted on the car is the word "Leased" and the caption, borrowed by MTL, includes a reference to leasing by North American Car to the CP, which ended when CP bought the cars after 1989. That might explain the reporting marks change as well. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Fallen Flags has three shots of the CP 317029 in different places (!): North Little Rock in an undated photo, and Louisville and Geneva, New York both in early 2004. Though the railroad's name has reverted to Canadian Pacific from CP Rail, the CP Rail roadname remains on the car. It looks like the simplest of paint-outs has been executed on the "I" in "CPI" to make that change; easily duplicated in Z Scale with a reasonably close shade to "Action Red" paint and the smallest size paint brush one can locate! © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

But hold on one more moment: the photo taken in Geneva shows something I hadn't seen before: the other side of the CP 317029, where the "CP Rail" and the reporting marks trade places. That is, the "CP Rail" is on the left and the reporting marks are on the right. Could this have been a manifestation of the "multimark" concept, in which that device was always at the same end of the car? And why would that paint scheme be used without a multimark? Hmm, perhaps this story is not yet fully told, but we'll need to stop here for now. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

982 01 041 and 982 01 042, $185.95 each
Road Numbers: 800 and 801 (will be preceded by "MILW" in website listings).
GP-9 Diesel Locomotives, Milwaukee Road.

Black and orange hoods and cab, black frame and details. Road number in white in center of black band near dynamic brakes and in numberboards. Red and white "The Milwaukee Road" tilted rectangle herald below cab window. Small "GP9" designation in black and silver near short hood.
Approximate Time Period: early 1970's to about 1981, based on road numbers.
NOTE: The 041 number of this item has been sold out and discontinued.

One hundred and twenty eight GP-9 locomotives were built for the Milwaukee Road between 1954 and 1959. Many of them were renumbered at least once. The 800 and 801 began as the 2426 and 2427, then became the 200 and 201. Based on information in "Don's Rail Photos Milwaukee Road" the two renumberings occurred in 1959 and 1973 respectively (based on information on sister units 2429 and 2432 going to 203 and 206 then 803 and 806). That gives us a pretty short ATP as the units appear to have left the Milwaukee Road in 1981 based on the All-Time Milwaukee Road Roster compiled by Fred Hyde. Well, without decals that is! By the way, I hadn't come across either of these resources before that I can recall and it looks like Don's Photos has quite an assortment of prototype images. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I thought this renumbering meant I was going to need to worry about variations in the paint scheme, as some units have a largish "MILWAUKEE" in black block lettering on the long hood flanked by "THE" and "ROAD" in smaller lettering. That lettering below the herald is probably "17.5-ERS" with the 17.5 most likely referring to the 1750 horsepower that these units generated, the "E" for EMD and the "RS" for Road Switcher. (Thanks to Ken Secrest for the translation.) The Milwaukee designation was changed to "20E-RS" apparently kept for those units that were rebuilt to GP20-m's and traded the high short hood for a "low nose" appearance. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Both the 800 and 801 are shown on Fallen Flags as they appeared in Bensenville, Illinois in January 1981. Both photos are in black and white and show the units and others in the 800 group looking retired and forlorn. But the images also illustrate one major delta between model and prototype: lose dynamic brakes, add "torpedo tubes" in their place atop the long hood. "Torpedo tubes" were roof-mounted air reservoirs deployed when either a larger fuel tank or a steam generator displaced them from their normal location under the engine frame. And yes, one does need to wade through a large number of submarine references when looking up the term on one's preferred search engine! © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.


506 00 161 and 506 00 162, $27.55 each
Reporting Marks: NYC 45335 and NYC 45358.
50 Foot Steel Boxcar, Double Door, New York Central.

Boxcar red with white lettering including reporting marks on right. Black, white and yellow "Earlybird Fast Freight Service" insignia on left. Simulated interior pipe load included.
Approximate Time Period: 1957 (build date) to early 1970's at least.
Previous Release (as catalog 13716/13716-2), Road Number 45390, August 1996.
NOTE: This item (both road numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

[Note: Some of this material first appeared in the review of the N Scale reprint of this car in October 2002.]

Only the second Z Scale reprint for the entire year 2007 is a pair of reprints of a car that was built just up the road from UMTRR HQ, in East Rochester, New York at Despatch Shops, Incorporated. The town was originally known as "Despatch" after the huge shop erected there by what was properly a subsidiary of the New York Central Railroad-- tax treatment, you know. Despatch Shops closed in 1970 and is now an industrial park with hardly any track left. On the south side of the tracks is the actual town of East Rochester, complete with wide-streeted business district (cars park diagonally!) and a collection of modest houses. A historical marker commemorates what once was, near the place where an underpass allowed workers to get from home to work without crossing the mainline at grade. There is quite a photo of six of these brand new Earlybird boxcars being eased out of Despatch Shops in February 1957, found in the Morning Sun Book "The Color Photography of Ed Nowak Volume 1". © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

In the Morning Sun NYC Color Guide there's a three-quarter view of the 45390, MTL's first release. The Emery Gulash photo is captioned as "one of the more memorable of 'boxcar red' boxcars" and I, NYC fan that I am, won't disagree. NYC purists may find a few nitpicky things off between the real and the model, but they are pretty nitpicky in this case and I'm not complaining. Alright, maybe one thing: the prototype doors offered a 15 foot opening versus the model's 16 feet. It just doesn't seem that noticeable here, even though the prototype appears to have had a 7 foot plus 8 foot arrangement for its double doors. The softcover "Freight Equipment of the New York Central Volume 1" confirms the 1957 build date and offers a couple more photos of examples of the car in glorious black and white. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The ORER for January, 1959 shows the series 45000 to 46249 plus two more series going to 46399, which all had inside length of 50 feet 6 inches, outside length of 51 feet 10 inches, extreme height of 15 feet 1 inch, and capacity of 100,000 pounds. The 45335 and predecessor 45390 fit into the "plain jane" group of 1,256 cars, while the other two groups were equipped to handle automobile engines (106 cars) and automobile axles (34 cars) for a sum of 1,396 cars. Add 494 more pieces in the group 46250 to 46899, which also fell under NYC's lot 862-B, and you have 1,990 cars total. Yeah, I guess there can be reprints for a while! © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The January 1964 Register shows this group down to 1,491, and under Penn Central in April 1970, down to 989 with some of them upgraded to 110,000 pounds capacity. At this point they were pretty tired, but some of them were still in the original livery. I know this from experience, having seen them as a child in the Central's Weehawken yards (former West Shore) just across the Hudson from Manhattan. And 501 total cars survived into Conrail as shown in the April 1976 ORER, and 94 made it all the way to April 1981. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Now, as for those pipe loads: My first question upon seeing them was not, how do you get them out of the car (answer: just remove the body from the floor assembly, as with the N Scale boxcars), but how would the prototype have gotten pipes into a boxcar? If they were short enough to work through the double doors, sure, no problem, I suppose. Long bulkhead flat cars such as what MTL models weren't yet around, so pipe seems like a reasonably commodity, although not one I would have expected to see. Based on the MTL image it looks like these loads are different in each car. © 2007 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Z SCALE SPECIAL EDITIONS: These releases are covered exclusively in the Subscriber version of the UMTRR.


New Release:
855 00 022, $29.60
Road Number: 813 (will be preceded with "WP&Y" in website listings).
30 Foot Flat Car, Composite Frame, White Pass and Yukon.

Brown with yellow lettering including road number (only) on right. Note that neither reporting marks nor any other marking indicating WP&Y ownership appear on this car.
Approximate Time Period: 1940's to 1960's.
Note: This is the second road number released. This item has been sold out and discontinued.

Please see coverage of the first road number release in the November 2007 UMTRR.