UMTRR October, 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.


Beginning in January 2010, the UMTRR will become subscription only and archive editions such as this one will no longer be posted to the UMTRR Website. Please take a moment to subscribe now using the link above, and don't miss out on a single issue! And yes, the UMTRR will continue to be free (and worth at least that much).
© 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.


075 00 170, $21.15
Reporting Marks: WSOR 503196.
50 Foot Double Plug Door Boxcar Without Roofwalk, Wisconsin & Southern "Making Strides Against Cancer."

Pink with aluminum roof. Black lettering including reporting marks and pink ribbon device "Making Strides Against Cancer" on left, and roadname with wording "Is In It For The Long Haul In The Fight Against Cancer" (in all caps).
Approximate Time Period: the present.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

I usually try to withhold direct suggestions, but I'd really like to see this car sell out right away. (And it has... thanks!) Micro-Trains will be donating ten percent of the proceeds from the sale of this release to the American Cancer Society. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and organizations from Avon to Sony to the National Football League are working to raise money and provide information to stop this dreadful disease. I'm glad to see Micro-Trains offering its support as well.

For the record, I do need to mention that the MTL model, at fifty feet, is shorter than the prototype, which is of 52 feet 5 inch interior length and 60 feet outside length counting the extended draft gear couplers (with the draft gear also in pink). But I assume you won't mind if I downplay this. My extended family has been affected by cancer too.

The prototype for this car, like others in the WSOR fleet, travels the country. Last month it was reported in Seneca Falls, New York, not far from UMTRR HQ. (Coupled to it was the "Air Force" car that the Wisconsin and Southern had painted to honor that branch of the Armed Services.)

There are several photos of the car on including a particularly poignant one taken at the Wisconsin and Southern's own Horicon Shops in November 2007. The photographer came upon the car, captured an image, and dedicated it to his late wife who had died of cancer just four days previously. I don't think there's anything I can, or should, add.

108 00 191 and 108 00 192, $20.90 each
Reporting Marks: NS 146557 and NS 146559.
100 Ton 3 Bay Steel Hoppers, Norfolk Southern.

Black with white lettering including "speed" initials herald and reporting marks on left. Simulated coal loads included.
Approximate Time Period: 2008 to present.
NOTE: This item (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

David Casdorph is one of the premier experts in modern freight cars, and freely shares a great deal of his work. You might know him for his extensive efforts on "Freight Cars Journal", for example. One of David's efforts of which I was not previously aware is a compendium of freight car deliveries from 2001 to 2008, which very conveniently for us includes an entry for this group of hoppers.

The series NS 146500 to 148329 was built between January and August 2008 at the Roanoke Shops of FreightCar America, Incorporated. FCA has a rich history reaching back to 1901 and the formation of the Cambria Steel Company. For many years it was the freight car division of Bethlehem Steel. The freight car division became Johnstown America and in December 2004 was renamed to FreightCar America. FCA is a publicly traded company and its Roanoke facility is leased from Norfolk Southern. Under its various corporate entities the firm has manufactured more than one hundred thousand aluminum railcars. The company's website has a history timeline and at this writing its header graphics include images of cars from the Norfolk Southern hopper series that MTL depicts this month.

Going back to David's item listing for this series, which was provided to the compendium by our own UMTRR Gang Member Joe Shaw, we find that FreightCar America built a total of 1830 of these cars, which carry AAR Type H350 (unequipped hopper with load limit of 185,000 pounds or more, without rotary couplers) and Norfolk Southern class H65, under job file number 1466-151. They are of 3744 cubic foot capacity which leads to what could be considered a "see text." The prototype cars are a considerable bit larger than the model represented by the 108er body style. MTL's hopper is closer to the Norfolk and Western's H11a class which was of 3418 cubic foot capacity. Our own UMTRR Gang Member Joe Shaw provided this information to David Casdorph.

We'll let you judge for yourself, as usual: on there is a photo of NS 146559, one of the two hoppers MTL chose, as of May 2009. There are fourteen panels on this car as there are on the model. I note a horizontal rivet seam across the middle twelve of those panels. The lettering and conspicuity stripes line up; the only thing missing from the MTL car is a tiny red and yellow panel next to each of the far left and far right stripes. We'll let that one go as it looks like inch high lettering on the prototype car. Interestingly, a couple of ribs on the real 146559 are already showing a bit of rust, so some weathering of that type would add incremental realism to your N Scale model.

140 00 010, $19.35
Road Number: 35 (will be "GN 35" in website listings).
Heavyweight Railway Post Office Car, Great Northern.

Pullman Green with black roof. Delux gold lettering including roadname along top letterboard and legend "United States Mail / Railway Post Office" and road number at bottom center. Black heavyweight trucks with 36 inch small flange wheels.
Approximate Time Period: 1918 (build date given by MTL) to 1950's at least.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The first entry into the N Scale passenger car business for Micro-Trains after nearly thirty-seven years (!) of manufacturing freight cars is a model of one type of one of the most important types of equipment to ever ride North American rails. Although railroads carried mail without sorting it as early as 1831 (and in 1830 in Great Britain), it was in July 1862 that the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad began the sortation of mail as it was being carried. (That line, a predecessor of the Burlington, also carried the first letter to the famous Pony Express.)

If you haven't been inside one of the numerous preserved Railway Post Office cars, for example the one at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, or the one at the Railpark in Bowling Green, Kentucky, or the one at the Illinois Railroad Museum, or even the partial car inside the National Postal Museum in Washington, well, you should avail yourself of the opportunity. It will give even the casual observer an appreciation of what went on inside these cars, and we know we're not just casual observers!

Back in 1951, Simmons-Boardman published a book called "Mail By Rail" by Bryant Long with William Dennis. I'll quote just a bit of the opening paragraphs which describe the railway mail clerk: "As average Americans, we know about as little about concerning this mail-key railroader and his amazing, vitally important job as anyone could deem possible. These expert superpostmen of the rails, who sort America's mails in transit at mile-a-minute speeds to save precious hours and days, are seldom heard of or even noticed... America's thirty thousand postal transportation clerks are trained experts employed solely by the United States Government... with their officials, they constitute our nation-wide Postal Transportation Service-- known as the Railway Mail Service until 1949-- and handle 93 percent of all non-local mail matter. It is small wonder that [they are] famed as 'the backbone of the Postal Establishment'." RPO lines were everywhere, including suburban lines like the Lackawanna's Gladstone Branch in New Jersey, trolley lines and even the two-foot gauge lines in Maine. But it was all over in 1977 when the final RPO service rolled into history, and so much for the "backbone of the Postal Establishment." It had been replaced by air mail and trucking.

"Mail By Rail" calls out the longest RPO route of the time to be the Williston and Seattle, at 1169 miles, and guess what is pictured to illustrate the line but a Great Northern RPO, Number 38! This is from the same series of cars numbered 23 to 36 that includes the 35 MTL chose. My first thought, other than "bingo" that is, was "oh, no, the window arrangement is wrong." No, it is not! This is not apparent from the single image in the Micro-News and on the website: the Micro-Trains model has different window arrangements on each side. The side facing the buyer while the car sits pristine in its plastic case has a 3/3 configuration, that is, three windows on the left and three on the right. Release the car (and the factory air) from its case and turn it over, and you'll see a 2/4 arrangement, that is, two windows on the left and four on the right. It's this side that aligns with the Great Northern RPO captured in a book that was published more than five decades ago. The car is attached to a trio of GN's F-units in the famous Empire Builder scheme, on the GN's "Oriental Limited" train according to the caption of an otherwise undated and unplaced photo.

That Empire Builder scheme would eventually become the norm for much of their passenger equipment. From 1924 to 1947, Great Northern all-steel "heavyweight" passenger equipment consisted primarily of Pullman Green cars with gold leaf lettering, as MTL depicts, and this matches the photo of car 38 in "Rail By Mail." I'm going to assume that this was also the as built scheme, and that at some point in the 1950's these cars went over to Empire Builder paint. It's certainly possible that as larger streamlined RPOs (such as the 42 which is the one on display at the California State Railroad Museum) came on line, the smaller, older heavyweight cars were relegated to more local routes and were never repainted out of straight Pullman Green. So we hedge the ATP with that "1950's at least." But note that the Post Office required changes to RPO designs it didn't like, and apparently this design was one that they didn't like. So it's possible that the ATP for this car could have ended significantly earlier than what I'm calling out.

140 00 020, $20.15
Road Number: 3280 (will be "NYNH&H 3280" in website listings).
Heavyweight Railway Post Office Car, New York, New Haven & Hartford (New Haven).

Pullman Green with black roof. Delux gold lettering including roadname along top letterboard and legend "United States Mail / Railway Post Office" at bottom center. Road number at bottom left. Black heavyweight trucks with 36 inch wheels.
Approximate Time Period: 1918 (build date given by MTL) probably through 1940's but no later than 1960.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The year 1872 marked the merger of the New York and New Haven with the New Haven and Hartford to form the New York, New Haven and Hartford. More railroads were added to the mix which eventually got the NYNH&H up to Boston, onto Cape Cod and west of the Hudson River. But the name was kept, at least officially, and that's why you see it on this RPO in what is probably its as delivered paint. A photo of the car can be found in the 1925 Car Builder Cyclopedia. As mentioned above, the two sides of the MTL RPO model each have different window arrangements so I can't validate that both sides are correct. The side with two windows at left and four windows at right is in the prototype photo. The caption reads "Steel Postal Car. Weight, 133,800 pounds; Length Over Buffers, 64 feet 5 inches. Builder, Laconia Car Company." The length is something we can check against the MTL version, and assuming it is an interior length, the model is about three scale feet short. The underframe detail differs as well, but all the parts appear to be there so if desired some creative rearranging could be attempted.

The RPI website notes that in 1936, the "NYNH&H" legend was replaced with "New Haven". Eventually the full railroad name would be replaced with just "New Haven" on passenger cars, as shown by any number of examples in the Morning Sun Color Guide to the NH. I don't have an exact date on this change, nor do I know when or whether there was relettering done on this car. We do know from the Morning Sun Guide that in 1950 newly purchased RPO/Baggage cars were delivered with white "New Haven" lettering and not the full railroad name.

The website "The Connecticut Railfan" has some information on the New Haven's operation of RPO cars which should also help us with the ATP. "In the [Employee Time Tables] there was a symbol that looked like an exclamation mark; i.e. '!'. This symbol goes back to the days of RPO's (Railway Post Offices) on passenger trains and indicated where mail would either be thrown from the train (in pouches, of course) to an awaiting local mail carrier and at the same time picked up from a wooden stand along side the track in which the mail pouch would be suspended to enable the hook (which would be pushed out in place near the door of the mail car by one of the attendants) to snag the pouch and be brought inside the car for sorting of the contents. This symbol could be found next to stations such as Lime Rock, Cornwall Bridge, Redding, Georgetown and Cannondale on the Berkshire. Unfortunately, it all came to a screeching halt in early 1960 when the U.S. Post Office yanked the service and turned most of the mail handling over to trucks." The last postmark on a New Haven RPO was January 8, 1960. That would mark the "no later than" end of the ATP, although I suspect this car might have been retired earlier as the RPO routes on the NH dwindled down, and of course there is the matter of the paint scheme. However, as mentioned above with respect to the GN version, the Post Office required changes to RPO designs it didn't like, and apparently this design was one that they didn't like. So, again, it's possible that the ATP for this car could have ended significantly earlier than what I'm calling out. In fact, this data point came up with respect to this car, as Brian Busséy came up with an official railroad diagram of this car circa 1949 which shows the windows blanked out and doesn't match the photo reference I have. Isn't estimating Approximate Time Periods fun?

I haven't mentioned thus far that the model comes with new heavyweight trucks, with the mounts off center between the first and second axles counting from the end of the car. The 36 inch wheels have a lower profile flange which do not have an issue with the Atlas Code 55 track on which I tried the car. The car also has body mounted couplers and weighs 1.40 ounce according to my semi-reliable postal scale. It's reported that this car is based on drawings which appeared in the magazine "Model Railroading" and represents a "USRA" prototype. That's a bit of a misnomer as the United States Railway Administration did not develop standard designs for passenger cars, only freight (and even the freight car "standards" are somewhat relative based on the manner in which they were executed by builders). However, the Federal Government did have standards for Railway Post Office cars, which I'm sure we'll cover as more releases of this MTL body style are released.


020 00 980, $19.50
Reporting Marks: NP 27552.
40 Foot Steel Boxcar, Single Superior Door, Northern Pacific.

Boxcar red with white lettering including curved roadname and reporting marks on left. Small black, white and red "monad" herald on right. Simulated hay bale interior load with figure included.
Approximate Time Period: 1942 (build date) to mid-1950's at least.
Previous Release (as catalog 20980): Road Number 27588, September 1989.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

It was back in 1989 and well before the UMTRR was begun when the first N Scale release of this car was issued. However, in October 2005 that first N Scale road number 27588 was used for the initial Z Scale release of the same car (catalog 500 00 210). So we can sort of reprint from ourselves here.

But first, a word about that "man on hay bale" interior load... hobo? Okay, how about "non-paying passenger"? Maybe not, but that's the first thing that came to my mind. Technically, a hobo is a migrant worker who uses railroads and other forms of transportation to travel from place to place in search of employment. This means that a hobo is not a bum or a tramp. And yes, there is a website, one of many I suppose, which discusses the hobo culture past and present and the National Hobo Convention. That event has been held since the year 1900 (!) in Britt, Iowa-- a location still "reachable" by rail service, although this is officially discouraged by the organizers. Cue "King of the Road" by the late Roger Miller: you know the song, it starts "Trailers for sale or rent..." and come to think of it, includes the line "third boxcar, midnight train". Maybe that's Miller on the hay bale? He knows every engineer on every train, or so goes the song.

The population of hoboes probably peaked during the Great Depression, and so if I might nitpick, the Approximate Time Period of this car is a little late for that man on the hay bale. The practice of hitching rides on freight trains is still extant today, but made far more dangerous with the coming of plug door boxcars which can't be opened from the inside. Unfortunately, this fact is demonstrated regularly, and fatally so.

And now let's get to the reprinted boxcar. The Morning Sun Color Guide to the NP shows this scheme, and tags it as existing from 1942 to 1948 (duly noted by MTL in its car copy), but not on a steel sided boxcar! Instead, there are shots there and online of this paint scheme on single and double sheathed wood boxcars. I don't doubt that the scheme could be found on steel boxcars; I just couldn't find any photos. As a data checkpoint, though, the CDS Lettering Guide gives an ATP of 1942 through mid-1950s for this scheme, and even shows NP 27588, the originally run road number, as its example car.

In 1948 the NP changed the paint scheme to include a four foot herald and the slogan "Main Street of the Northwest. And in 1955 the slogan changed to "Route of the North Coast Limited" and the lettering around the herald went from "Northern Pacific" to "Northern Pacific Railway" and was made bolder at the same time. The Approximate Time Period for this particular scheme, then, would start at the car's build date of 1942 and extend some time past there. I'm calling out the mid-1950's "at least" as a bit of a guess, as I haven't located any photographs of steel boxcars in the scheme MTL chose.

The ORER for January 1945 shows the series 27500 to 27999 of 499 cars with inside length 40 feet 9 inches, inside height 10 feet 6 inches, outside length 41 feet 9 inches, extreme height 15 feet, door opening 6 feet, and capacity 3925 cubic feet or 100,000 pounds. No, they're not PS-1s, they're too early for that. In January 1953 there were 492 cars along with a mark that "denotes reduction". And in January 1964 there were 478 cars. In fact, the April 1970 Register shows that 329 of the cars made it into the Burlington Northern merger, although probably not in this paint scheme.

072 00 220, $37.60
Reporting Marks: TTAX 972220.
89 Foot COFC Flat Car with Two 40 Foot Containers, Trailer Train.

Flat Car: Brown with mostly white lettering including reporting marks on left. White with yellow Trailer Train logo in center.
Containers: Blue with large white lettering "CAST" in approximate MICR font across side.
Approximate Time Period: late 1960's to mid-1980's for the flat car; 1970's and 1980's for the containers.
Previous Release (as catalog 72220, part of "two pack" 72223, see text): Road Number 972210, March 1992.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

How about that, a road number that almost matches the catalog number? The last five digits of the road number for this Trailer Train car, 72220, match the previous catalog number, 72220, now of course expanded to the eight digit 072 00 220. Ah, but many of us "old folks" still have that five digit catalog number in our internal database. As long as we're on useless trivia, I'll clarify that the first release of this car is considered by Micro-Trains to be a "two pack" with the inclusion of a NOL (Neptune Orient Lines) container, under catalog number 72223. And yes, I had to go back to the March 1992 Short Line to verify this.

At any rate, the brown paint scheme with full Trailer Train roadname places this car more or less in the 1970's. TTX's own website gives the start of the switch to yellow paint as 1970. So let's begin with the ORER for April 1970. There were 814 flat cars with TTAX reporting marks and road numbers 972000 to 972815, with "inside length" of 89 feet 4 inches and "outside length" (over the couplers) of 94 feet 8 inches. These were of Trailer Train's own class "Psh10a" which according to some posts on forums, was Pullman-Standard's first batch of all purpose flat cars built between 1968 and 1970. You might recall that the many reporting marks used by Trailer Train and then TTX each meant something. In this case, the TTAX denotes "flush deck flat cars equipped with movable Foldaway container pedestals, knock-down hitches and bridge plates; for transporting trailers or containers or combinations of both"-- this right out of the April 1970 ORER.

The July 1974 ORER shows this series of Psh10as increasing to 1123 cars numbered TTAX 972000 to 973125, and number of cars is 1119 in the April 1976 book. By that time, I expect that some of these would be repainted to yellow. In the April 1981 book this group balloons all the way to road numbers 970000 to 993649, with 2836 cars in the main series and another 11,440 "exceptions" in five subsets! These differ on at least one dimension, which I won't go into, but suffice to say that at some point there's not only room for Runner Packs, but Runner Hundreds.

And then the air is quickly let out of the balloon. Just three years later in the April 1984 Register, the TTAX series is down to "only" 6226 cars (and you don't want to know about the individual number listings... they consume more than an entire page in the ORER). In the January 1985 book, this is down to only 1840 cars and it's nearly all over in October 1986 with a mere 40 cars in the entire series that once held over fourteen thousand units. What happened... a mass scrapping? No, a change in the reporting marks, from TTAX to TTWX, keeping the same numbers. There was also somewhat of a repurposing as well, as the TTWX initials are denoted as "flush deck cars... capable of handling two 45 foot dry trailers with 36 inch kingpin spacing." No mention of containers. Well, there were these "double stack" cars, you see. Anyway, between the change to yellow paint and the flip of the reporting marks, the Approximate Time Period is basically over by the mid-1980s for the MTL release as painted, and that's perhaps being a bit liberal. As TTWX cars the 972000s were still in service into the next century, as evidence by a photo of TTWX 972223 taken in 2007 and found on

The CAST containers are kind of interesting. In the 1970s and 80s, Cast Container Line was known for its Blue Box System, whereby it offered complete door-to-door service between most cities in North Europe and destinations in Quebec, Ontario and the Midwest. Both the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific invested in CAST. Not much later, a brutal rate war took a serious financial toll on the shipping line and wiped out CN's stake. CAST's parent Eurocanadian Shipholdings Ltd. collapsed under a huge debt load and took CAST with it. Cast (1983) Limited rose from the ashes of the previous firm. A quick lookup showed that the company is now considered to be a Belgian flag shipper; the white lettering on blue background remains its trademark.

130 00 011, $32.85
Reporting Marks: SP 4745.
Bay Window Caboose, Windowless Sides, with Battery Box, Southern Pacific.

Mineral red sides, orange ends, mineral red trucks, end railings and details, white side grab irons. Mostly white lettering including reporting marks on left and roadname on right.
Approximate Time Period: 1980 (build date) to the late 1990's at least.
Previous Release: Road Number 4759 (catalog 130 00 010), June 2009.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

This item was opened for pre-orders in June 2009. Please refer to the June 2009 UMTRR (subscriber and archive versions) for coverage of the original release.

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

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


500 00 610, $25.40
Reporting Marks: MP HERB-1, or more properly, MP 129685.
40 Foot Steel Boxcar, Single Youngstown Door, Missouri Pacific "Herbie".

Brown with white lettering including legend "Help Every Railroader Become Injury Exempt" on right. Small red and white "buzzsaw + screaming eagle" herald at top right. Multicolor depiction of "Herbie" on left.
Approximate Time Period: 1979 through the 1980's at least.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

There probably aren't too many single boxcars that earned themselves a webpage, but this one has. It's part of Todd Greuter's "Screaming Eagle" website and I suspect that Micro-Trains found it too and used the information for its car copy. Except perhaps it's not a single boxcar after all.

You might already know the story: in 1979, the Arkansas Division of the MoPac sponsored a safety poster contest. An MP carman named David Newborne submitted "Herbie" and management liked it so much they decided to paint a car as a traveling reminder to Help Every Railroader Become Injury Exempt. In May 1979 car number 129685, a forty foot boxcar, was pulled from the roster and the sides painted with the Herbie design. Here's something I didn't know: the official reporting marks were kept on the car ends. So if we want to, we can do an Equipment Register lookup.

Of course we want to do a lookup! The May 1976 ORER shows 2164 boxcars in the series 129109 to 131188. These had a 40 foot 6 inch interior length, 10 foot 6 inch interior height, outside length of 44 feet 4 inches, and door opening of 8 feet-- oops, a "Door Thing" there. A look at the photos of the car on its web page show an OK match to the car. There is lettering "Ark. Division" on the bottom of the car to the right of the door which isn't present on the MTL model. There is no herald at the top right of this car's side either.

And then it gets interesting. It appears that there was a second HERB-1 car painted up no later than March 1983. This one doesn't have the "Ark. Division" which makes me wonder whether it roamed the entire MP system. But does have the "eagle + buzzsaw" MP herald that MTL included. It's another forty foot boxcar with eight foot door, but definitely not the same exact body style as it looks a bit less tall. It also has an air conditioner sticking out of one end! This, without extended draft gear couplers. It must have been a mighty close clearance in a train. At any rate, what we have here is the paint scheme from the version of HERB-1 that's less close to the MTL body style being released by MTL.

The Union Pacific merger with the Missouri Pacific was approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1982, but we already know that this paint scheme was around after that so calling an end to the Approximate Time Period will be difficult. We also know that the UP put its own herald on HERB-1, or perhaps yet another boxcar with that motif, and I suppose that could have been as late as the official absorption of the UP into the MP which took place in 1997, but without a dated photo we can't be sure of this either. There is an undated photo of the UP's Herbie on Fallen Flags, but I note that it doesn't look exactly like either of the MP's two cars.

522 00 211 and 522 00 212, $23.40 each
Reporting Marks: LV 33354 and LV 33452.
50 Foot Steel Gondolas, Fishbelly Sides, Drop Ends, Lehigh Valley.

Brown with mostly white lettering including reporting marks on left and roadname in center. Small black and white diamond herald between "Lehigh" and "Valley" in roadname. Simulated scrap iron loads included.
Approximate Time Period: early 1970's to early 1980's in this paint scheme.
NOTE: This item (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

If the Central Railroad of New Jersey was the closest to my home in suburbia, the Reading was next, and the Penn Central was third, then in fourth place by distance would have to be the Lehigh Valley. The LV had a branch from its mainline over to Perth Amboy, where they did a substantial amount of switching in the shadow of the Outerbridge Crossing. On at least one occasion, I felt ambitious enough to ride my ten-speed bicycle all the way down there from my house, but most views of the area were quick glimpses out the car window on the way to somewhere else. Among the cars in the LV's Perth Amboy yard were the famous "Bakelite Plastics" covered hoppers-- yes, they certainly did exist. I'm confident that among the cars delivered to Perth Amboy were these gondolas, as there were heavy industries including steel fabrication.

The ORER for January 1953 shows two series of drop end gondolas with identical dimensions, the first of 500 cars numbered 32850 to 33349 and the second of 350 cars numbered 33350 to 33699. We'll focus on the second group since that's where the MTL releases fit. The full description was "Gondola, Steel Sides, Steel Drop Ends, Flat Bottom, Wood Floor" with AAR Mechanical Designation "GB". The inside length was 52 feet 6 inches, inside height 3 feet 6 inches, inside width 9 feet 6 inches, outside length 54 feet 7 inches, extreme height 7 feet 4 inches, and capacity 1745 cubic feet or 140,000 pounds. Jumping all the way to the April 1976 Equipment Register, mostly because I know I can, we see that 235 of the original 350 cars made it into Conrail's first equipment listing. However, that was all the way down to just nine cars in the April 1981 book, so we'll call the Approximate Time Period right there. I suspect that some of these gondolas were moved into the Conrail roster.

When originally delivered in the early fifties, the LV's gondolas wore black or oxide red paint and white lettering with a smaller roadname. But as Lehigh Valley fans know, there was quite a bit of variety in decoration of both the line's motive power (think "snowbird" ALCo Centuries in black and white paint) and freight cars. So before the Conrail takeover, some gondolas were black, some oxide red, others tuscan ("boxcar") red, and still others green, and finally a few were gray. A query I posed on affirmed my estimate of the early 1970's for the repaint into the scheme that Micro-Trains chose. In addition, it's noted on a webpage devoted to the LV's mill gondolas that the scheme in question large roadname was the latest to be applied.

The Morning Sun Color Guide to the CNJ and Lehigh Valley, Page 76, shows a bad ordered LV 33185 from the previous series of cars, as it appeared under Conrail ownership in 1979. We've got a pretty good match to the prototype here, with fourteen panels, fishbelly sides, drop ends and the end mounted full brake wheel. And we can do better on a proto photo on Fallen Flags which has exactly one of the two road numbers released, LV 33452. It was also lensed in 1979 and the MTL lettering work is a match except for the yellow U-1 inspection dot and ACI label.

531 00 111 and 531 00 112, $21.80 each
Reporting Marks: ISPX 10004 and ISPX 10005.
PS-2 2 Bay Covered Hopper, United States Silica Company.

Gray with mostly black lettering including reporting marks on left and legend "U.S. Silica Co. / Colorado Springs Colorado" in center.
Approximate Time Period: early 1980's to early 1990's.
NOTE: This item (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

If you pick up both of these covered hoppers, it appears that you have two-thirds of the series of cars ISPX 10004 to 10006. The ISPX 10004 was captured in service for the United States Silica Company in July 1983 in Denver and its photo published in the book "Classic Freight Cars Volume 4" by John Henderson. It's noted that the 10004 was built in 1969--that's fairly late for a car of this design-- and was owned by the Western Company of Fort Worth, Texas. On the prototype there is multicolor placard, with a large "W" and the words "Western Pacesetters", not present on the model, and perhaps also not present on the reference material that MTL has in its possession, either. The caption goes on to note that the car is leased to Kerr Manufacturing-- whatever company that is. As you'll see, I don't even get back to that data point!

The ORER for April 1981 shows the ISPX reporting marks registered to The Western Company of North America (with capitalized "The") of Fort Worth, Texas. While that's an impressive sounding name, the entire roster of the firm is sixteen covered hoppers numbered 10001 to 10016. All of them have a 29 foot 3 inch inside length; the outside length varies from 37 feet 9 inches to 37 feet 11 inches and the capacity ranges from 2003 cubic feet to 2100 cubic feet. The three cars we're most interested in, 10004 to 10006, are a car series of three within the total of sixteen, and have a capacity of 2100 cubic feet.

The April 1981 ORER turns out to be the earliest I have for both these cars and the ISPX reporting marks. So, as you might have already suspected, these cars are not in the as delivered paint scheme. Going forward from there, then, we have the same sixteen cars in the April 1984 Equipment Register, and it stays that way until the July 1989 ORER where the group is down to fifteen cars. It's thirteen cars in October 1991, but the listing is completely gone in the 1992 Register. That's not because the cars or the reporting marks are gone; no, it's because the freight cars of The Western Company of North America were no longer being listed in the ORER. Ah, phooey. The best I can do is check for the disappearance of the ISPX reporting marks, which looks like somewhere between the October 1996 and July 1998 ORERs.

Through all of this, The Western Company, not United States Silica, is listed as owner and shipper, but the Colorado Springs location is not listed as a home point for the car. Huh? Well, that was enough-- I looked up The Western Company and found out it was in business to provide technical services to the petroleum industry. In 1995, it was sold to another petroleum industry services company, BJ Services, formerly the Byron Jackson Company. The founder of Western, one Eddie Chiles, might be better known as a one-time owner of the Texas Rangers major league baseball team or as a pioneer of the "Management By Objectives" corporate philosophy.

But what about the actual company lettered on the car, George? Well, there are references to both a United States Silica Company and a "U.S. Silica Company" online and based on my quick review I'm not sure these are the same firm. The U.S. Silica Company was formed only in 1987 through the merger of Pennsylvania Glass Sand and Ottawa Silica Company. That Ottawa is in northern Illinois, and the United States Silica Company is mentioned as being located there and part of the Silica Sand Producers' Traffic Association of Illinois. I'll bet you didn't know there was such a group. Well, in 1920 there was, and they took action with the Interstate Commerce Commission against the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy and other railroads, claiming unfair shipping rates. For example: "Rate of $3.40 per ton from the Ottawa district to Charleston W. Va. is and for the future will be unreasonable and unduly prejudicial to the extent that It exceeds or may exceed the rate to Pittsburgh Pa." Specifically, the Illinois silica producers complained that their competitors in Missouri were getting a better deal on rates. The ICC decided partially in favor of the shippers on August 4, 1920: "non-prejudicial adjustment of rates prescribed" to some destinations. As background information to the ICC decision, there's a lesson on silica sand and its various grades included in the text, plus some detail on how sand was shipped in 1920. That would not be in PS-2 covered hoppers!

970 01 021 and 970 01 022, $195.95 each
Road Numbers: 6701 and 6704 (will be preceded by "BN" in website listing).
SD40-2 Diesels, Burlington Northern.

Green with black roof, top of short hood, frame and trucks. White lettering including herald and small roadname on cab and large road number at back of long hood. Diagonal stripes on front of short hood and rear of long hood.
Approximate Time Period: early 1970's or 1974 (build date for these two units) to late 1980's at least, see text.
NOTE: This release (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

Internet accounts of the total number of SD40-2's acquired or in service for the Burlington Northern vary a bit, but they all fall under the general classification of "a lot." I checked in with Charles Biel who looks after an online roster of BN units. He has photos of 489 of the 838 units rostered at one time or another for the BN. 838 units! That's more of a single model of locomotive than the total rosters of the majority of all North American railroads.

Photos of the 6701 and 6704 on Biel's site and elsewhere kept me from committing an Oops. The zebra stripe on the nose was eventually replaced by the BN herald, and there were changes from black to white on parts of the basic paint scheme as well. This would be what's commonly referred to as the "Whiteface" scheme and was introduced in 1989, on an SD40-2.

It looks like the 6704 was given the white face well before the 6701, though. An April 1992 image on shows the 6704 in that scheme. But in July 2001, the 6701 in tired looking but original paint was caught coming through Bogota, New Jersey leading an autorack train, also on

Comparing photos to models, we note some of the usual and perhaps unavoidable in mass production deltas, such as air horn and bell placement. A 1995 shot of the 6701 also reveals a small "waving" American flag on the side of the nose, before the cab door. Finally, some paint mismatches: the ends of the handrails need to be touched up with white paint and the steps and pilots are black, not cascade green. In an internet forum posting, MTL R&D head Joe D'Amato admitted that while those details were omitted, the extra painting would have non-trivially driven up the cost of the models.

The BN 6704 became BNSF 6704 by way of a simple patch over on the cab, no later than 2006 and possibly earlier. But the 6701 got a full repaint into BNSF orange and green heritage colors no later than July 2003 when it was found in Springfield, Missouri, and again, possibly earlier.

The overall Approximate Time Period for a fleet of diesels this large is hard to pin down. Keeping in mind that there were production variations across the build years for this model, the BN took delivery of SD40-2s from 1972 to 1980. The Whiteface scheme debuted in 1989 but as we can see from just these two units adoption was not quick or complete. I suspect that there will be some renumbering of units by BN fans-- after all, there is plenty of room for more of these on the roster!-- so I'd advise taking a look at photo evidence to be sure that a specific unit operated in this paint in your ATP, if you're so inclined.

Z SCALE REPRINTS: No releases this month.

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


New Release:
855 00 060, $35.30
Reporting Marks: SVRy 145.
30 Foot Flat Car, Sumpter Valley Railway.

Brown with white lettering including reporting marks on left and road number on right. Simulated timber load included.
Approximate Time Period: or early 1970's to present.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

The story of the "new" Sumpter Valley Railroad is remarkable. Founded in 1971 and starting with not much beyond a decaying roadbed, the Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration (a non-profit incorporated in its home state of Oregon) has rebuilt more than five miles of line. Over that line it operates two 2-8-2 Mikado locomotives that had been purchased new by the original SV in 1920 and then sold to the White Pass and Yukon in 1940. The Union Pacific Railroad has been of considerable help to the operation, donating track, supplies and transportation including that of the Mikados from Seattle to Baker City, Oregon after being floated down from Alaska. The group is not done yet; they are well underway with a restoration of West Side Lumber Company oil tank car Number 5. See their website for more about the current operation.

The story of the original Sumpter Valley Railway can be found in my usual primary resource for narrow gauge information: the book "American Narrow Gauge Railroads" by George W. Hilton. The SV was a larger railroad than I would have thought: 80 miles from Baker on the Union Pacific to Prairie City, both points in Eastern Oregon. While integrated with the Oregon Lumber Company it was a common carrier and hauled timber for its parent and other companies as well as mine traffic and cattle. Timber was its key commodity, though, so the timber load supplied by MTL is appropriate. The railroad did well through the 1920's but like most narrow gauge lines declined from there, and was gone by the end of 1947 except for a small portion of trackage near Baker which was converted to standard gauge and used until at least 1961. The SV had some interesting equipment including the articulated locomotives acquired from the Uintah Railway and switched from tank to tender steamers.

Since the SV was a common carrier, I thought I would take a shot at locating their flat cars in my ORER accumulation. The July 1935 edition shows some 30 foot flat cars described as being for wood. However, these are numbered from in the 5000s and 7000s. The largest group is 23 cars in the series 5320 to 5353, with 28,000 pounds capacity. The lowest road number on any of the SV roster listed is 1006, though, so I think we might conclude that the 145 is the number given to the current version of this car.


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