UMTRR March, 2009 || Edited From Subscriber Edition
©2009 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, Runner Packs, most Special Editions such as the Presidential Series and the Z Scale State Cars are available exclusively in the e-mail subscription edition of the UMTRR.

© 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.


054 00 171 and 054 00 172, $22.35 each
Reporting Marks: BCOL 11211 and BCOL 11216.
54 Foot Bulkhead Flat Car, BC Rail.

Green with mostly white lettering including reporting marks on left and small roadname on right. Simulated covered wood loads included.
Approximate Time Period: 2001 (build date) to present.
NOTE: This item (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

Ian Cranstone's "Canadian Freight Cars" website calls out BCOL series 11200 to 11246 as having been built in October 2001 and still being in service. There is an immediate delta presented as well: the inside length is given as 66 feet, which is a noticeable amount longer than the MTL model.

Next, we go to the BC Rail Ltd. entry in the Official Railway Equipment Register of January 2002 and find two adjacent series that are identical in all listed dimensions, namely 11200 to 11246 and 11247 to 11269, adding to 70 cars. These are described as "Flat, Bulkhead" with AAR Classification FBC and AAR Car Type Code F383. The 66 foot inside length is made worse by a 76 feet 10 inch outside length, meaning that the Micro-Trains models are considerably shorter than the prototype. The extreme height on the cars is 14 feet 10 inches and Gross Rail Weight is 263,000 pounds.

The latest ORER I have, from October 2007, shows several changes. First, the former British Columbia Railroad cars are now listed under the Canadian National Railways registration, in keeping with the CN's takeover of BCOL's operations. Second, the main series has been extended to 11200 to 11299, but is described as "66 Foot Log Cars" with AAR Classification FL and AAR Car Type Code F373. That "FL" is a pretty large category: "Flat logging car or logging truck. This is either a straight deck flat car, with or without bulkheads or load restraining devices, or car consisting of two trucks fitted with cross supports over truck bolsters; the trucks connected by a skeleton or flexible frame and logs loaded lengthwise on cross supports." Uh, OK! There are exceptions that do not appear to include either number Micro-Trains chose, called out as just "Flat" cars with AAR Classifications FB or FBS. There are a total of 68 cars across the main series and three subsets.

A photo of sister car BCOL 11264 in October 2007, found a long way from home in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is on the "Canadian Freight Car Gallery" site. I think the floor of this car is steel, versus simulated wood on the MTL depiction. The prototype was built by Marine Industries. Photos of BCOL 11221 and 11269, both from 2006, are on There are conspicuity stripes on the 11269. There is an intriguing July 2008 shot of BCOL 11231 from its end but with the caption "converted to wood chip car" on It does appear that this car has been given sides, but I can't be completely sure. On the same site are images of the 11221, 11232, 11248, 11258, 11259, 11266 and 11269, pretty good documentation for a series that was only 70 cars long.

Though the ORER information suggests that the Approximate Time Period might not really extend to "the present," the photographic evidence seems to indicate otherwise, and so I'll stick to my estimate that the cars could run Today. The supplied "covered wood loads" are just one possible cargo for these cars; for example one of the shots of the 11221 has it loaded with steel "pilings" (think very large diameter pipes) destined for a building project in Boston.

075 00 160, $21.30
Reporting Marks: WSOR 503175.

50 Foot Steel Boxcar, Double Plug Doors, No Roofwalk, Wisconsin and Southern / Model Railroader 75th Anniversary.
Blue with white lettering including roadname, small herald and reporting marks on left. Multicolor "Model Railroader 75 Years" device on right.
Approximate Time Period: October 2008 to present.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The Wisconsin and Southern seems to have carved out a niche for itself with special commemorative boxcars. The latest honors fellow Wisconsin business Kalmbach for the 75th Anniversary of Model Railroader magazine. Model Railroader posted a subscriber-only video, during which it's explained that the 75th Anniversary logo is actually made of vinyl and attached to the car-- kind of like a modern, 1:1 scale decal, dontcha think? It's a nice bit of work by the folks at Horicon, as usual, but as WSOR boxcars go, this one is actually pretty tame-- have you seen the one they've decorated for Sargento Cheese?

The 503175 was photographed outside the WSOR paint shop in Horicon, Wisconsin on October 12, 2008 two days after its official unveiling. Images are on the "Heartland Rails" site. has more images and a place for posting of sightings of the real 75th Anniversary Boxcar. It was on the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend in Chicago on January 9, 2009 with a load of corn meal-- a bit unusual for a boxcar these days, and not the canned goods that it would normally be carrying. Before that, it was spotted in Willard, Ohio, on November 9, 2008; there's a photo on the site

The ORER for October 2007 shows the series 503005 to 503191 with AAR Classification RBL and description "Refrigerator"-- although they're actually insulated boxcars. The inside length is 52 feet 5 inches, inside height 10 feet 5 inches, outside length 60 feet 3 inches, extreme height 15 feet 5 inches, door opening 16 feet, and capacity 5100 cubic feet with Gross Rail Weight 220,000 pounds. Overall, the prototype car is proportionally larger than the MTL body style.

076 00 100, $21.65
Reporting Marks: D&RGW 63136.

50 Foot Steel Boxcar, Combination Plug + Sliding Doors, No Roofwalk, Rio Grande (Denver and Rio Grande Western).
Orange, aluminum roof, black ends; mostly black lettering including reporting marks on left and speed lettering "Rio Grande The Action Road" herald on right.
Approximate Time Period: late 1960's to early 1990's.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

According to the Rio Grande Historical and Modeling Society website, the series 63100 to 63199 was built between March and April 1968 with welded sides, 4/4 inverse Dreadnaught ends, a seven foot Youngstown plug door plus an eight foot Youngstown sliding door per side, and a 20 inch cushion underframe. The cars were painted in orange with the "stacked Rio Grande" herald that was introduced in the same year of 1968. The cars were placed in general service.

The April 1970 ORER shows the series with 98 cars, an inside length of 50 feet 6 inches, inside height 10 feet 6 inches, outside length 55 feet 3 inches, extreme height 15 feet 1 inch, door opening 15 feet, and capacity 4941 cubic feet or 150,000 pounds. End notes call out the cushion underframe, combination doors and roller bearing trucks. The same 98 cars were on the roster as of April 1981. Ten years later in October 1991 there were 85 cars, but just two are shown in the October 1996 Register.

There are images of three examples of this series posted on George Elwood's "Fallen Flags" site including the very 63136 that MTL depicts as of March 1989 in Elmira, New York. There's also a 1987 picture of the 63128 and the 63171 as of July 1991. The Morning Sun Color Guide to the D&RGW, Page 43, has a photo of sister car 63145.

The cars are all in their original paint of orange sides, black ends and silver roof, or I should say what's left of their original paint in the case of the 63136. The herald is almost obliterated, and the three rightmost panels appear to be more "rust" than orange. Much of the silver is off the roof as well. A fidelity note: the side and end ladders do not reach to the roofline. The 63171 looks quite a bit cleaner. But note that the plug door and sliding door are each different shades of orange and both differ from the orange of the car side. That would be an interesting modeling project.

099 00 070, $19.15
Reporting Marks: USLX 20983.
Evans Covered Hopper, Comet Rice.

Gray with mostly black lettering including reporting marks on left and large "COMET RICE" across side. Red and black "Comet Rice" logo at top left.
Approximate Time Period: decade of the 1980's, a guess (build date 1981).
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

Comet Rice? SOS! Well, I actually mean Grupo SOS, the second largest "quoted food" (what?) company in Spain and an international player, and owner of American Rice Company, the marketers of Comet Rice at the present time. The notion that "SOS" doesn't translate well from Spanish to English, despite it being an set of initials, probably doesn't matter a whole lot here in the States since "Grupo SOS" is not likely to be seen by consumers-- unlike, for example, the howler of General Motors attempting to market the "Nova" in Spain, where of course "No Va" means won't go!.

The website of the American Rice Company states that "since 1902, Comet Rice has been a favorite among good cooks and their families. Originating in Galveston, Texas, Comet was originally delivered by horse and buggy and soon became the first rice to be packaged in consumer size packages... Comet is a brand leader in the Southeast and Southwest United States and is also available on the West Coast." I wasn't sure I wanted to look at the "Product Specs" PDF file-- come on, it's rice! But no worries, it's all about the size and weight of the shipping cartons and pallets. Phew. The Comet Rice trademark, white lettering inside of a red swirl that's on the MTL car, remains in use. American Rice is the result of the combination of a number of milling and marketing operations including the original Comet Rice Company.

Freight Cars Journal Issue 41 is devoted to the Evans Covered Hopper production and calls out the series USLX 20960 to 20989 as having been built in March 1981 and leased to Comet Rice Mills. A David Casdorph photo of the 20983 as found in Chino, California in July 1983 is included in that FCJ issue. The lettering looks good, including the somewhat improvised large "COMET RICE", except that-- and you just know I'm nitpicking here-- the "C" in "RICE" (but not in "COMET"!) is a little more rounded than on the model. Based on the market distribution of Comet Rice I'd say you're good running this car anywhere in the Southern and Southwestern United States, not so much in my neck of the woods.

The ORER for April 1981 actually does include these cars in the Evans Railcar Leasing Company listing, and how about that for timely updating. The series USLX 20960 to 20989 had an inside length of 54 feet 1 inch, outside length of 58 feet 9 inches, extreme height of 15 feet 1 inch and capacity of 4780 cubic feet or 200,000 pounds. Since this is a true Evans hopper, I would expect the MTL model to be correct on all major attributes. I was hoping that we would get a clue about the length of the lease term by how long those 30 cars stayed in their own line in the ORER, but alas, the very next book I have from April 1984 has the numbers 20020 to 20989 all jammed into a 607 car conglomeration along with some assorted subsets. At least we know when the lease started, which is more than we usually have! I'll be what I think is somewhat conservative and guess at an ATP of the decade of the 1980's.

112 00 160, $28.95
Reporting Marks: TTRX 913609.
89 Foot Tri-Level Open Auto Rack, Trailer Train/Frisco (St. Louis-San Francisco).

Yellow flat car and rack. White on black lettering including reporting marks on left and Trailer Train name on right. Black "Frisco" herald on yellow placard on left of racking.
Approximate Time Period: early 1960's through 1970's.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The story of the auto racks in service for the Frisco can be found in the February 1989 issue of "All Aboard," the publication of the Frisco Railroad Museum. (I tripped over this online looking for images of the car-- lucky!) The SL-SF started with experimental car number 3000, built by Pullman-Standard back in 1959. Test runs successful, the railroad went back to Pullman-Standard in 1960 for 130 more tri-level flat cars and assigned them to seven auto assembly plants, most or all of which were offline (for example, Studebaker at South Bend). The Frisco picked up 60 bi-level auto racks from Thrall in 1962 and 1963 for its own fleet, and even installed racks on some of its 40 foot piggyback flat cars. Some of the bi-level cars were retained all the way into the Burlington Northern merger. There's a 1967 photo by Jim Sands of SL-SF 3003 on Northeast.Railfan.Net and also on Fallen Flags.

The Trailer Train connection started by June 1962 according to the article. The Frisco leased flat cars and topped 70 of them with tri-level racks and 46 more with bi-level racks. The bi-level racks sat atop cars with BTTX reporting marks and the tri-levels were on cars with RTTX reporting marks. The road numbers were intermixed and scattered among the 200000s, 400000s and 500000s. In 1964, the Frisco added bi-level racks to BTTX 910842 to 911002 and tri-level racks to RTTX 911864 to 911993. Hey, wait, the road number of the MTL car isn't in those series!

Not to worry. David Carnell checked the Morning Sun Color Guide to the Frisco and Katy and on Page 108 there is a photo of the TTRX 913609. He notes that the prototype had "X" cross bracing behind the placard on which the "Frisco" coonskin herald is painted, three panels in from the "A" end of the car. There was also cross bracing four panels in from the "B" end of the car. These details aren't present on the model.

The article in "All Aboard" goes on to note that by the late sixties and early seventies, autoracks were beginning to be enclosed to guard against theft and damage. When that occurred, the Trailer Train reporting marks were changed from RTTX to ETTX. While not specifically of the MTL car, there is an image on that shows the evolution of the auto rack. In the center of the image is TTRX 941524 with a Burlington Northern rack which has aluminum side panels only. To the left is the very end of an open auto rack and to the right is the end of a fully enclosed auto rack. I think that helps us with the ATP. In addition, the TTRX reporting marks have been repurposed to spine cars; as we've previously learned, the different initials correspond to specific types of Trailer Train equipment.

451 00 060, $18.55
Reporting Marks: ICZ 501299.
45 Foot Trailer, Illinois Central Piggyback.

Silver with black "Illinois Central Piggyback" on white panel on sides. Orange, black and white "pig on wheels" with split rail herald on right. Black reporting marks near nose. Simulated refrigeration unit on nose.
Approximate Time Period: late 1960's to late 1970's at least.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

I'm not all that much into intermodal, but this is one of my favorite piggyback schemes. That herald is what's so appealing; ok, maybe a bit cutesy, but it tells the story well. A pig on wheels, with the new-for-the-time Illinois Central logo, and a smile. The IC yielded to the Illinois Central Gulf in 1972 but I think it's reasonable to expect that the "Illinois Central Piggyback" stayed around. The smiling pig stayed around, albeit with a solid rail logo, for a while; eventually the "Death Star" logo replaced it on trailers.

David Carnell tells us that the Morning Sun Color Guide to the Illinois Central and GM&O, Page 63, includes a photo of ICZ 501299 and ICZ 501261 riding on a brown Trailer Train Flat TTX 154925. The photo was taken at Council Bluffs Iowa on May 4, 1969 and the trailers are both new. They are listed as having a capacity of 2020 cubic feet and were part of series ICZ 501200 to 501299. They have a 39 foot inside length and are equipped with Thermo-King nose mounted refrigeration packages and meat rails. David says that the lettering on the models is a close match except for the ACI label located under the second L in ILLINOIS. The actual trailers have black or brown refrigeration units with under slung fuel tanks located behind the landing gear.

Ah, yes, that's a new detail item for MTL, the inclusion of a nose mounted refrigerator. I suspect that this might be a Deluxe Innovations detail part, as the two companies have shared non-conflicting products before. You're on your own for the fuel tanks, though.


051 00 140, $20.05
Road Number: 18308 (will be "RI 18308" in website listings).
34 Foot Wood Caboose, End Straight Cupola, Rock Island.

Brown with black frame and details. White lettering including roadname across top of side and road number at bottom center. Black and white herald above road number.
Approximate Time Period: 1928 through 1950's.
Previous Release (as catalog 51140): Road Number 18305, April 1981.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The Morning Sun Color Guide to the Rock Island gets us somewhat close to this exact car with photos of RI 17965 from the series 17950 to 17999, and RI 18353 from the series 18338 to 18397. Yes, both the original and reprint road numbers fall between those series. Both cars that are photographed are offset cupola wood cabooses with steel underframes, and carry the paint scheme executed on the MTL car. The MSCG calls this the "classic paint scheme" and notes that it lasted from 1928 through the 1950's-- which is how I get the ATP.

Both cabeese pictured show a cupola design that is also found on all of the other wood cabooses found in the MSCG and is the first delta I saw between the prototypes and the model. On the real RI cabeese, the cupola is narrower than the width of the car, and there is a walkway completely around it. Window arrangements vary on the examples in the Color Guide but I didn't see any that aligned perfectly with the MTL body style. Ah, such is the typical with cabeese built prior to more standard designs. The lack of accent paint on the grab irons and handrails is OK in some cases; those details are white in other pictures.

058 00 010, $23.30
Road Number: 2812 (will be "SRL 2812" in website listings).
36 Foot Wood Refrigerator Car with Truss Rod Underframe, Swift Refrigerator Line.

Yellow with brown roof and ends and brown Arch Bar trucks. Black lettering including "Swift Refrigerator Line" and road number on left and "Fresh Meat Express" (accented with red and white star in circle) on right.
Approximate Time Period: 1890's to 1930's.
Previous Release (as catalog 58010): Road Number 2813, September 1995.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

I thought we'd seen the end of this body style back in February 2001 when the last release on the variant with the straight steel underframe was issued. You might recall that it was one of the Pepsi-Cola cars. You need to go back even further, to November 1997, for the last release in the truss rod version, which was the "Meat Packers of Chicago" three-pack. What happened? Well, in my estimation, it was the flood of releases of a less expensive (and cheaper, if you know what I mean) version from another manufacturer. So I am quite surprised by the return of this car. We'll see what the marketplace thinks.

You might already know that Gustavus Swift introduced the railroad refrigerator car to the world. This was one of two major meat packing breakthroughs he pioneered, the other one being "disassembly line" processing of animal carcasses. (It's claimed that Henry Ford took and reversed this idea to create the Model T assembly line.) The need for innovation didn't end with just the refrigerator car, though, if Swift was to reach his goal of slaughtering livestock in Chicago and shipping it east. Ice didn't last all the way from Chicago to the East Coast, so Swift had to put himself in the ice business by building five stations along the route. That route wasn't so easy to come by, as railroads that had heavily invested in livestock transportation were not interested in a paradigm shift. The Grand Trunk was the first to give it a try, and carried Swift's refrigerator cars across Michigan and into Canada. Swift also needed to develop refrigerated storage facilities, so he did. The result was that by 1894, more dressed beef traveled east than live cattle. And he needed to create a brand to compete with the local, and largely highly trusted, individual butcher shops.

The first refrigerator car delivered to the Swift Refrigerator Line was built in 1880 by a predecessor of American Car and Foundry. Micro-Trains notes that the prototype for this particular car was built some time in the 1890's, and Art Griffin's decal listing from builder's photos (via the "Great Decals" site) gives the same decade for the paint scheme. I'm a bit surprised that there was apparently no listing for the Swift Refrigerator Line in the June 1885 ORER and there's no page in the Westerfield CD-ROM of the ORER for June 1905. On the other hand, the October 1919 Equipment Register page is of very little help, only confirming SRL refrigerator cars numbered 1 to 1499 with no other data or even so much as a car count. Because meat packing plants and destination facilities were built with door spacing to accommodate 36 foot cars, they stayed in service longer than we might think. But the Approximate Time Period for this car would most likely end with the banning of billboard refrigerator cars in the 1930's, or perhaps the outlawing of the Arch Bar Trucks that are supplied with the Micro-Trains model which took place in 1938.

The former Swift properties have been through so many corporate upheavals that one needs the proverbial program. Here goes: It metamorphosed into Esmark, then was taken over by Beatrice Companies; both of those were conglomerates-- remember them? In 1990 Beatrice was purchased by ConAgra, a company that itself grew out of the former Nebraska Consolidated Mills. Gustavus Swift must have been set to spinning in his grave when that transaction took place, for it put Swift brand products in the same stable as those of arch-rival Armour and Company, which ConAgra purchased from Greyhound in 1983. (No hot dog jokes, please.) In fact, for a time you could look closely at your next package of Swift meats and you might find an "Armour & Company" in dimensional data sized print somewhere on the label. I've probably missed a few more twists and turns, but I can tell you that Swift and Company is now part of JBS Swift, which is in turn owned by the Brazilian firm JBS SA. That company bought Swift in 2007 and sought to acquire two more US-based meat packers in 2008 in a move to dominate the domestic industry.

These releases are covered exclusively in the subscriber edition of the UMTRR.

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


506 00 241 and 506 00 242, $25.90 each
Reporting Marks: NH 40500 and NH 40502.
50 Foot Box Car, Double Door, New Haven.

Orange with black sills. White lettering including roadname and reporting marks on right. McGuiness era herald of large black "N" over large white "H" on left.
Approximate Time Period: 1956 through mid-1970's.
Note: This item (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

Those of you who recall the story behind the prototype series of boxcars for the Chesapeake and Ohio "Cameo Cars" that were produced in 2008 know that these cars were that small part of the 515 car order that actually went to the New Haven. The original order in 1955 included these fifteen double door cars and 500 single door cars, however an audit revealed that the NH couldn't afford all that, so they wound up with only the fifteen cars in this series instead.

Although there are just fifteen cars in the group, we're in luck: there are photos of NH 40501 and NH 40509 in the Morning Sun Color Guide to New Haven Freight and Passenger Equipment. The photos are from 1971 and 1972 respectively. Both cars are still in their original paint scheme-- although it's worn quite badly, especially on the 40509 which has most of the red paint gone from the roof, exposing what looks to be a galvanized steel roof. The roofwalks and full ladders remain in place. I suspect they stayed there right to the end of revenue service. Add ACI labels by this time, if desired.

The earliest ORER in which I pick up these cars is January 1959, so let's go there: the series 40500 to 40514 is shown as "Box, Steel" with AAR Classification XM. The inside length was 50 feet 6 inches, inside width 9 feet 4 inches, inside height 10 feet 5 inches, outside length 50 feet 9 inches-- mighty short couplers, or more likely a typo; extreme height 15 feet, capacity 4927 cubic feet or 100,000 pounds, door opening 15 feet. Hmm, it seems that we have a "door thing" here; yes, the prototype had an eight foot door and a seven foot door, whereas the MTL model has two eight foot doors. And yes, that is an actual difference of 0.055 inch on a Z Scale model. (And neither Z or N Scales has such a configuration.)

Since the 1971 and 1972 photos in the MSCG shows that at least one car in the group still existed then, we can jump all the way to the April 1970 ORER to find in the Penn Central registration. All fifteen cars remain, in four subsets yet. There is the main series, if I can call it that with just six cars, then three groups of three each based on end notes. Well, upon further review, both of those end notes are exactly the same and both the 40500 and 40502 are impacted. They've had DF loaders installed and their auxiliary door either removed or more likely just permanently closed to yield a door opening of eight feet. See, the 0.055 inch difference has just become even smaller! By the July 1974 Register it looks like the 40500 has been retired, but the 40502 remains among the 13 cars in the group and is still called out with DF loaders. Oh, the outside length has been corrected by this time to 54 feet 6 inches, a bit more like it. Those same 13 cars make it into the first registration for Conrail, April 1976. But by the April 1981 ORER only one car, the 40508, is left.

540 00 081 and 540 00 082, $36.45 each
Reporting Marks: NOKL 210110 and NOKL 210152.
Gunderson Husky-Stack Car With Containers, Northwestern Oklahoma Railroad.

Brown with mostly white lettering including reporting marks on left and "Husky-Stack" trade name on right. The 081 release includes two 20 foot Maersk containers and one 40 foot APL container; the 082 release includes two 20 foot Maersk containers and one 40 foot Hapag-Lloyd container.
Approximate Time Period: 2000 to present.
Note: This item (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

A look at the October 2007 ORER confirms that both of these cars, from the series 210100 to 210249, are in fact singles and not part of an articulated set, so no worries there. The "48" printed on the cars is correct as that's the inside length of the cars, with the outside length being 71 feet 7 inches, unloaded extreme height 7 feet, and gross rail load 220,000 pounds. There were 147 cars of a possible 150 in the series at that time. Now, to go backwards in the Equipment Register to locate the start of the Approximate Time Period. Ah, here we are, it's the January 2000 ORER for the first appearance that I see while they're not in the April 1999 book.

Photos of both numbers MTL has selected for these cars were found straight away on, taken, respectively, by Paul Graf and David Casdorph. Both photos show cars that look a fair bit more red than brown, so I am not sure that MTL used the right shade of paint on this offerings. Other photos of other cars in this group also look more red than brown to me.

These cars were almost certainly restenciled from somewhere. My first guess was the Southern Pacific, as many of their well cars were red, however, they only had one single unit car. The previous series of NOKL Husky-Stack cars were apparently ex-Arizona and California (reporting marks AZRC), but based on my ORER checking it doesn't look like these two came from there. We'll have to leave it to some Incremental Information, since as we know from other MTL releases for the NOKL, it's really the "holding railroad" for First Union Leasing, and therefore the Husky-Stacks may have some interesting lineage.

550 00 030, $32.90, Smoothside 6-6-4 Sleeper Car, Great Northern (Empire Builder).
551 00 030, $32.90, Smoothside Dome/Chair Car, Great Northern (Empire Builder).
552 00 030, $32.90, Smoothside 44 Seat Coach, Great Northern (Empire Builder).
553 00 030, $32.90, Smoothside 71 Foot Baggage Car, Great Northern.

Each car has the "Empire Builder" scheme of Pullman Green and Omaha Orange bands with delux gold stripes and lettering. All except the baggage car lettered "Empire Builder" at top center; baggage car lettered "Great Northern" at top center. Decals for all possible car names and road numbers will be included with each car.
Approximate Time Period: mid 1950's to about 1970.
NOTE: The Sleeper (550 00 030), Dome Car (551 00 030) and Coach (552 00 030) have been sold out and discontinued.

The name "Empire Builder" certainly ranks among the most famous among railroad passenger trains. Named for James J. Hill, one of the most famous Empire Builders in railroad history, the train was inaugurated in 1929 as a replacement for the Oriental Limited. In 1957 the train left Chicago at 2PM local time and arrived in Spokane, Washington at 11:25 PM local time on the second day out. The train was split into Seattle and Portland sections at Spokane, arriving at each city before 8AM on the third day out in time for business meetings or a full day of vacation. Returning east, trains left in the 3PM hour from both Portland and Seattle, joined in Spokane at 11:15PM that night, and arrived in Chicago at 2PM the third day out. It must have been quite a sight to view departing and arriving Empire Builders in the Windy City! The Empire Builder was advertised as having a passenger representative, coach porter service and radio and tape-recorded music. All for no extra fare, but all seats were reserved.

In terms of the ATP for these models, we're primarily interested in the period from 1955, when the "Great Dome" coaches and lounge cars were added to the train, to the GN's final operation of the train in the 1969-1970 season. The train was Numbers 1 and 2 until 1956 when they were redubbed 31 and 32 to align with the train numbers given to the Chicago to St. Paul part of the route by operator Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. Considering that the 1/2 designation was more prestigious, and that the GN was a part-owner of the CB&Q and not the other way around, it's interesting that the decision went that way, but it did.

The lack of specific names and numbers on the cars are a help to those who want multiple copies of the cars, but more than a bit of a hindrance to those of us who are trying to pin down something more exact. Fortunately, the Morning Sun Color Guide to the Great Northern helps out with some photos. The coach model appears to be close to the 1209-1214 series on the GN, built by American Car and Foundry in 1950 and 1951. The prototype "great dome" cars were built by Budd and numbered 1320 to 1335, but the last three in that sequence were lettered for the CB&Q and not the GN, keeping the "Empire Builder" scheme. The Burlington actually owned an entire Empire Builder train set given its participation in the route-- a tidbit for those of you who want a little more variety in your car lettering. I did not find any specific matches to Pullman-Standard 6-6-4 sleepers operated by the GN in my web travels including an all streamliner roster on the "Great Northern Archive" website but there were some 8-4-4 Pullman Standard sleepers owned by the GN and given two word names ending in "Glacier". The MTL baggage car model is probably no more than a stand in for what the GN operated.

Although the Great Northern yielded to Amtrak in 1971, that was not the end of the Empire Builder equipment. Some including the full length great dome cars stayed in intercity service, but a number of Great Northern passenger cars found their way to, of all places, near me New Jersey for commuter trains! The cars kept their Pullman Green and Omaha Orange for some time, with the railroad identification painted out, and became known as "Jersey Builders". Not quite the Incomparable Empire Builder, but as Bugs Bunny is wont to say, "It's a living."

981 01 150 and 981 01 160, $195.95 each
Reporting Marks: SP 6533 and ATSF 2858.
GP-35 Diesels, Southern Pacific and Santa Fe (SPSF Merger Scheme).

Both diesels: red and yellow "war bonnet" with black roof and frame, yellow details, and yellow road number on cab. SP diesel has large "SP" in center of long hood and ATSF diesel has large "SF" on right of long hood.
Approximate Time Period: 1984 through 1990 (SF) or mid-1990's (SP) (for the SPSF paint scheme, see text for the individual locomotives).
NOTE: This release (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

I get to use one of my all-time favorite one liners I've heard with respect to North American railroads: "SPSF stands for 'Shouldn't Paint So Fast.'" The overwhelmingly overconfident leadership of the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation, the holding company formed in 1984 for the rail and non-rail assets of Santa Fe and Southern Pacific, thought it had every reason to believe that approval of the consolidation of ATSF and SP was just a formality, and so began to paint diesel locomotives in what would become its post-merger scheme. The "SF" and "SP" were placed on the units such that the other railroad's initials could easily be added. The Santa Fe was so particularly optimistic that it began to renumber units into the SPSF combined roster!

Uh, not quite, said the Interstate Commerce Commission, which, in a move that stunned the nearly-already married partners but didn't surprise most others, rejected the merger on July 24, 1986, citing too many parallel routes. Oopsie! Shouldn't paint so fast! What didn't happen was repainting so fast, and some of the SP/SF units stayed in the red and yellow warbonnet for a while. The Santa Fe elected to put this, ahem, episode behind them and decreed that all of the units would be returned to blue and yellow by the end of 1990. A few may have "escaped" to other roads, such as the Toledo, Peoria and Western, which the AT&SF bought in 1984 and spun back out in 1989.

We now turn things over to David Carnell for a guest commentary on this release, start quote:

The planned Southern Pacific Santa Fe merger of the early 1980s was a response to Union Pacific's merger with Western Pacific and Missouri Pacific, and Burlington Northern's acquisition of Frisco. Both Santa Fe and Southern Pacific saw friendly connections acquired by long term rivals. At this time the Santa Fe was in much better financial shape than the Southern Pacific. While both railroads appeared to be doing well financially, the Southern Pacific was losing important agricultural traffic in southern California to trucking and there had been changes in industrial development in southern California as industry shifted from manufactured goods such steel, cars, and consumer goods to high tech industries such as aerospace and semiconductors. Both railroads were major land owners in the southwest, owning large holdings in gas, oil, coal and other minerals as well as industrial real estate. SP had developed pipelines and the Sprint telecommunications system, and had trucking lines such as Pacific Motor Transport.

The two railroads announced their plans to merge on May 15, 1980 and merged the holding companies in December 1983 to form Santa Fe Pacific Corporation. They decided on a unified paint scheme and locomotive numbering plan that was heavily influenced by SF. As you can see from the Kodachrome scheme the only SP influence was the use of SP scarlet while the warbonnet and the rest of the paint scheme was primarily Santa Fe. The first test painting was done in July 1985. The Santa Fe started painting locos November 1985 and SP started painting locos in January 1986. The two railroads managed to paint 413 locomotives in the Kodachrome paint scheme, so named because it matched the railfan's K5 Kodachrome film cardboard boxes. SF painted 317 locos and SP painted 96. The one glaring error on the MTL models is that the locomotive trucks are not painted silver. All Kodachrome locomotives had silver trucks.

SF repainted 11 rebuilt GP35Us in the Kodachrome scheme: 2814, 2835, 2842, 2848, 2858, 2867, 2879, 2923, 2932, 2946. These locos were briefly renumbered into the 3561 to 3599 series in anticipation of the merger but were quickly renumbered into the 2800 series after the merger was denied.

Santa Fe had purchased 151 GP35s in 1964 and 1965 as mainline freight locos in the number series 1300-1460. In 1969 the remaining 149 GP35s were renumbered into the series 3301 to 3319 and 3321 to 3460. In the late 1960's, they were operating in mainline service and in local and switching service in California, Arizona and New Mexico. The Santa Fe undertook a rebuilding program at the Cleburne, Texas shops in 1978 and renumbered the locos into the 2800 series. At this point their appearance was altered with the addition of cab top air conditioning units, amber rotary beacons, ground plates with antennas of the air filter, Farr exhaust lifters around the turbochargers and air intake hoods. These were added to help improve performance but were removed several years later because they were maintenance intensive. The locos were repainted into the yellow bonnet scheme in the late 1980s. SF 2858 was built in May 1965 as 1358, a Phase 1c GP35, was renumbered to 3358, then to 2858. Since SF had rebuilt the locomotive and used them as yard switchers and in local service and maintained them well, most of the fleet were in use at the time of the BNSF merger in 1995. On February 2, 1998 this locomotive was renumbered to BNSF 2558. As of 2009 it was still in service with BNSF. The ATP for this loco would be late 1985 to early 1990. The MTL model accurately replicates the paint scheme. A picture of 2858 shows that it did not keep the Farr Exhaust lifters or intake hoods when repainted to Kodachrome colors. Look for a photo on the ABPR archive of

Southern Pacific had the largest fleet of GP35s with 185 units owned by SP and SSW and purchased in 1964-1965. The 2500 hp GP35 were bought for high priority freight service and ended up being jack of all trades serving as switchers and hauling locals through out the SP empire. SP 6533 was part of SP's first order for 57 GP35s Class EF425-1, EMD order number 7695, put into service in January 1964. This loco was originally numbered 7421 and renumbered to 6533 following the 1965 general renumbering. It was not rebuilt into a GP35R by SP. The SPSF planned to put the 90 non-upgraded GP35s into number series 3400-3486. It was one of 8 non rebuilt GP35s (6533, 6566, 6577, 6606, 6619, 6622, 6640 & 6644) painted in Kodachrome colors. Unlike the SF, SP couldn't afford to repaint the Kodachromes into the standard Scarlet & Gray paint scheme and they kept this scheme into the mid 1990s before SP started retiring them. SP 6588 was repainted into this scheme in around January 1986 and was retired on December 18, 1996, closing the ATP.

There is a picture of the freshly painted loco at Richard Percy's "Espee Modeler's Archive." It was sold to Republic Locomotive Works on March 4, 1988 where it was rebuilt with a GMC engine as an RL2000. It was sold in October 1989 to Jamalco Aluminum Company, renumbered 1012, and sent to Clarendon, Jamaica. The MTL model accurately replicates the paint scheme but lacks the standard SP 5 light nose headlight and rear headlight packages.

982 01 170, $195.95
Road Number: 761 (will be "AMTK 761" in website listings).
GP-9 Diesel, Amtrak.

Platinum mist with black roof, frame and details. Red, white and blue stripe across long hood. Road number in black on cab and roadname in black on ends.
Approximate Time Period: 1980's at least, but see text.
NOTE: This release has been sold out and discontinued.

The paint scheme rendered on this locomotive looks like a "Phase III" to this relatively uneducated eye. Also called the "tri-stripe," Phase III's key spotting feature is the equally wide red, white and blue stripes. While Phase III was introduced in 1979, it's a pretty safe bet that this unit wasn't painted then! A photo of it from July of that year shows on the Fallen Flags site, and all we have is a small "Amtrak" stencil, or perhaps even a decal, over a painted out Frisco paint scheme. Oh, one other, ahem, issue: the unit is a GP-7, not a GP-9; and without dynamic brakes, either. Uh-oh.

The "Amtrak Photo Archive" has more of the story: the unit was built in 1952 and was numbered 652, went to Precision National as its 652, and then to Amtrak. By August 1981 it was in the decoration that MTL modeled; unfortunately, the photo in the archive is of the nose! The other photos I can find on the 'net are of the Frisco paint-out, but the online article "Images of Amtrak" shows sister unit 760, also a GP-7 from the SL-SF, in service at Washington Union Terminal in 1986. "Few non-revenue locomotives wore Amtrak's Platinum Mist with red-white-and-blue striping," remarked author Doug Riddell. An all-time Amtrak roster as of 1990 shows the unit, but what appears to be a more recent Amtrak Roster at the website "On Track On Line" does not show any GP-7s or GP-9s. Many other photos of Amtrak Geeps show them in orange, as in the forthcoming MOW Set from Micro-Trains, or in platinum mist and black, as in the previous month's Micro-Trains offering. So I'll be conservative and give the ATP for this scheme as the 1980's, but mind that "at least" part as well.

Z SCALE REPRINTS: No releases this month.

These releases are covered exclusively in the Subscriber version of the UMTRR.


855 00 040, $35.30
Reporting Marks: NCNG 155
30 Foot Flat Car, Nevada County Narrow Gauge.

Brown with white lettering including reporting marks on left. Simulated wood stack load included.
Approximate Time Period: 1927 to 1942.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad was chartered in 1874 to connect the "twin towns" of Nevada City and Grass Valley to the Central Pacific at Colfax, California. Completed and opened two years later, the NCNG did well hauling gold-bearing quartz, lumber and general cargo. In his book "American Narrow Gauge Railroads," George W. Hinton notes that the line was built without public assistance of any kind, quite unusual in railroad history. Also unusual were some of the place names: a tunnel at You Bet and another one at Town Talk. The line was doing well enough to construct a bypass around its worst grades in 1908, and continued to prosper into the decade of the 1910's, during which time it had the first ever female railroad president, Sara Kidder, daughter of the line's builder John Kidder.

Highway competition weakened the road's circumstances-- where have you read this before?-- and the then out of town owners in Oakland sought to shut it down. Local interests purchased the NCNG back and, using a bit of financial sleight of hand, purchased all but two of its bonds, defaulted on interest payments and forced the line into receivership. Sort of a pre-packaged bankruptcy, I guess. The NCNG stayed in receivership only from March to October 1927 and aggressively sought to grow its business. The Southern Pacific was converting or downsizing its slim gauge lines and sold to the NCNG locomotives and rolling stock, including, presumably, the prototype for this flat car. Gold prices actually increased during the Depression, which helped the railroad, but the mines were closed with the outbreak of World War II and other circumstances, not the least of which was the rising price of scrap, led to the abandonment of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge in July 1942.

But the NCNG lives on in a sense, via the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Museum, and its website includes a roster of what's on display there. This roster includes a flat car numbered 255 painted similarly to the NCNG 155 modeled by Micro-Trains. The thumbnail history of the 255 does not seem to indicate that it ever spent any time in the real NCNG's roster-- built by the SP in 1917 as its number 472, converted to a gondola about 1920, renumbered to SP 255 in 1946 (after the NCNG was gone), and sold to Universal Studios about 1955. It's in the SP's ORER listing for January 1953 as well, and it is a 30 foot outside length, 20 ton capacity flat car. The NCNG Museum acquired the flat in 1986 and did extensive repairs in 2006. See the museum's website for more. Although the line doesn't appear to me to have been any slouch in terms of customer service, it did get nicknamed "Never Come, Never Go."

The book "Nevada County Narrow Gauge" by Gerald M. Best contains a complete photographic roster of the line and I didn't doubt that's where MTL sourced the prototype photo. There's also an NCNG Project formed in 1983 by a group of modelers who have constructed an historical exhibit at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley.