UMTRR November, 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.


023 00 311 and 023 00 312, $25.65 each
Reporting Marks: GN 38773 and GN 38780.
40 Foot Steel Boxcars, Double Door, Great Northern.

Omaha Orange sides with Pullman Green trim. Black ends and roof. Black and Pullman Green lettering including roadname and reporting marks on left. Black, red and white "See America First / Glacier National Park" side facing goat herald on right.
Approximate Time Period: 1947 (build date) to mid-1950's at least.
NOTE: This release (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

New release, but produced as a Special Run with road number 38783 for the N Scale Collector and released February 2002, NSC ID 02-14, as part of the "Western Road Pack #2". Also, a variant road number (38700) of this special run was the NSC "Author Car" for 2002 (NSC ID 02-14A).

If you've been watching the PBS series "National Parks: America's Best Idea" you might be aware of the relationships that several large railroads cultivated with the parks along their right of way. Well, maybe "leveraged" is a better word. I didn't realize that the coming of World War I presented the chance for railroads to try to reverse the thinking that The Rich Go To Europe On Vacation. When a trip across the ocean became a far less safe choice than it had been, several western railroads were right there with an alternative for the well to do traveler. The Great Northern's opportunity was reflected in the version of their herald that's on this boxcar: "See America First / Glacier National Park." © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The series of one hundred cars numbered in the 38700s were not among the first to receive this slogan herald. In fact, they were among the last. But these cars were also the first not in dedicated merchandise or express service that were painted in a colorful scheme, according to Hank Stevens. Stevens, a GN expert, wrote up descriptions of the this Great Northern double door paint scheme for the January / February issue of the N Scale Collector's magazine. This is one of six cars produced as Special Runs for the NSC in 2002. (We've already seen the first "rerun" from this six pack, the vermillion red and black car with white lettering, released in February in N Scale as catalog 023 00 280 and this month in Z Scale, see below.) Stevens notes that these were the only plywood sheathed double door boxcars ever produced for an American railroad, and I note that the 023 body style is therefore not a match to the prototype. True enough, but a one shot body style is not likely to find a taker for commercial production in plastic, even if it could be done up in several paint schemes. Painted plywood may not be that easy to discern from steel in a scale of 1 to 160. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The MTL car copy describes the successor schemes to this orange, black and green, information taken right out of the same January/February 2002 NSC Magazine that I'm using. Note that the next scheme in the list was already in place in 1948, the year after these cars were produced! That could severely limit the Approximate Time Period, but I don't expect that the GN repainted every one of the one hundred cars in the series right away. I'm taking a guess at the mid-fifties for a reasonable end to that ATP, but mind the "at least" phrase there as well. Hank Stevens also notes that many of these cars survived into the Burlington Northern merger. But that doesn't save a trip to the stack of Official Railway Equipment Registers. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Let's start with the ORER for July 1950 which is the closest one I have to the build date of 1947. The series GN 38700 to 38799 is shown in two groups of 39 and 61 cars each. The smaller group is described as "Box, Steel Frame" with AAR Classification "XM" and the larger group is "Automobile, Steel Frame, Staggered Doors" and "XMR". That second group is equipped with Automobile racks, which validates the "Automobile" legend on the model car. The key statistics are the mostly the same: 40 foot 6 inch inside length, 9 foot 2 inch inside width, 10 foot 8 inch inside height, 41 foot 9 inch outside length, 15 foot 1 inch extreme height, and 3969 cubic foot or 100,000 pounds capacity. When the automobile racks are folded up in those cars that have them, though, the usable inside height drops to 9 feet 6 inches and the capacity to 3556 cubic feet. An end note calls out the 61 cars that, at the time, had the automobile racks. Both numbers that MTL modeled are included in that list. However, what's also interesting is that the note calls out that the 61 cars in the subset also have the double doors for a 14 foot 4 inch total opening, whereas the other cars in the series do not! (But we do have a "door thing" as the MTL car has 16 feet worth of doors, 8 feet each.) The plain "Box, Steel Frame" cars are shown with a door opening of 7 feet, which I thought was just a typo until I read the end note. So as the GN pulled the Boom Type "F" Evans Automobile Loading Devices out of the cars, it also reduced them to single door, either with a physical rebuild or with a sealing off of the second door on each side. Or did they? © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

How about this for the next data point: in the January 1953 ORER, the number of cars in the 38700 series with loaders actually went UP by two, to 63, versus 37 without loaders. If that's true, I think we can surmise that it was just a case of the second door being sealed, not removed. And in the January 1955 ORER, all 100 cars have automobile loaders! Maybe I should conclude that the loaders were still being installed in the early 1950s, not removed from their install in 1948. For the record, the January 1959 ORER shows 99 cars remaining in the group, all still with Boom Type "F" Evans Automobile Loading Devices installed. Since by this time the Great Northern was already at least two paint schemes away from the "as delivered" depicted on this car, that's where I stopped looking. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

058 00 090, $24.30
Reporting Marks: MCPX 2000.
36 Foot Wood Double Sheathed Ice Refrigerator Car, Truss Rod Underframe, Mandan Creamery and Produce Company.

Yellow sides, brown ends, roof, and sill below door. Black door details. Black and red lettering including company name and reporting marks on left, and products on right ("Turkeys, Eggs, Butter, Poultry"). Black solid outline of turkey on lower right.
Approximate Time Period: 1934 to as late as the late 1930's.
NOTE: This release has been sold out and discontinued.

Mandan, North Dakota is just across the Missouri River from Bismarck, close enough that the two cities share a convention and visitors bureau. It was in 1915 that Hoy Russell started operation of the Mandan Creamery and Produce Company on the corner of 4th Avenue and West Main Street. According to the website of the Mandan Historical Society, the firm "became one of the largest butter manufacturers and turkey processors in the United States... Around 30,000 pounds of butter was the average year round daily production of the Mandan and Minot plants with peak production of 60,000 pounds daily being reached during the summer months." Changes to the dairy and grocery industry led to... no, not the usual stories of the company going out of business or being absorbed. Instead, the company stopped processing turkeys after World War II, then moved out of the dairy business as well, choosing to focus on premium pork products. The company changed its name to Cloverdale, using a brand that they had already established as Mandan Creamery. Still operating on the outskirts of Mandan, Cloverdale Foods continues to tell "The Story of Good Taste" across much of the western United States. And it is still operated by the Russell Family. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I figured that the prototype for this car would be found in the excellent work "Billboard Refrigerator Cars" by Richard H. Hendrickson and Edward S. Kaminski. (You can kind of "blame" me for this release, as I was one of the folks that recommended this volume to Micro-Trains.) And sure enough, there it is on Page 54 of that volume. We immediately see, however, that the real MCPX 2000 was not a truss rod refrigerator car. I'm not sure why MTL didn't utilize its steel underframe version of this car, the 0585 body style in the "new" nomenclature. Also easily observed is the use of two hinges per door on the actual car versus three hinges per door on the MTL model. The lettering, as usual, looks spot on, with the caveat that the photo of the prototype is in black and white, however I don't think there are any worries there. The caption that accompanies the photo is lifted directly for the MTL car copy. That might make the reference to "NAC" a little confusing as it's taken out of context. It's a reference to the North American Car Company which was a major supplier of lease cars to private owners during much of the 20th Century. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Hendrickson and Kaminski noted that MCPX 2000 "was assigned to Mandan Creamery for a short period beginning in April, 1934." The North American Car Company registration in the July 1935 ORER shows the series MCPX 2000 to 2019 and not a lot else: just an inside length of 30 feet 6 1/4 inches, inside width of 8 feet 3 5/8 inches and inside height of 7 feet 7 inches, plus capacities. The number of cars in service was not given. An end note adds that these cars had brine tanks and were not suitable for chunk ice. The January 1940 ORER did not include a listing for the MCPX reporting marks. So that "brief period" referenced seems to check out and the Approximate Time Period appears to be rather short indeed. Of course, that's generally not the point for those of us who like these cars, myself included. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

130 00 050, $25.40
Road Number: 18434 (will be "PC 18434" in website listings).
Bay Window Caboose, Windowless Sides, without Battery Box, Penn Central.

Jade green sides and ends, black roof. White lettering including roadname on right and road number on left.
Approximate Time Period: no earlier than 1971 to no later than 1983.
NOTE: This release has been sold out and discontinued.

I guess I could be tagged as a Bad Influence here, as in the review of the Conrail version of this body style (catalog 130 00 020, June 2009) I traced the history of the N5H class of bay window cabooses. They started out on the Southern Railway. Some were purchased by the Penn Central for yard use and classed "N5H". That was in 1971 giving us the start of the Approximate Time Period. Conrail took over in 1976 and used these cars until no later than 1989 according to a listing of CR cabeese by class on the "Fallen Flags" site which shows zero N5H's remaining. But a 1983 listing of cars also on Fallen Flags tells us which N5Hs were still in service then: 18432, 18433, 18435, 18437, 18438, 18441 and 18442. Notice a road number missing... specifically, the one depicted by Micro-Trains? So that pulls the end of the ATP incrementally inward, to no later than that 1983 roster listing. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I have previously discussed the deltas between the actual N5H car that was in service for Conrail and the Micro-Trains model, of which there are several which might add up to a "stand in" or worse for the individual modeler. But let's look specifically at the PC 18434, found in a 1973 photo on Fallen Flags. As with the Conrail car, the windows are plated over and not smooth, the end railings are not very close, and the smokejack and steps are different including the paint (silver for the smokejack, yellow for the steps). We do pick up a build date of January 1946 which might be useful should a Southern Railway version of this car be released (I expect it will need windows). The rather spartan lettering looks correct between prototype and model though an ACI label could be added below the "E" in "PENN" and about even with the lower end of the bay window's side window. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Besides the 18434, there is also a photo of sister car PC 18430, already out of service when photographed in Massachusetts, on the "Penn Central Railroad Online" site. The one key data point this photo yields is that the car has four windows on each side. I suspect it came that way from the Southern as there is a rebuild date of 1971. That may actually further shorten the Approximate Time Period to later than 1971, meaning that the windows were plated over later. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

140 00 030, $19.35
Road Number: 2322 (will be "CB&Q 2322" in website listings).
Heavyweight Railway Post Office Car, Burlington (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy).

Pullman Green with black roof. Delux gold lettering including "Burlington" 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: 1917 (build date given by MTL) into the 1930's at least, see text.
NOTE: This release has been sold out and discontinued.

There may be some scholarly discussion about exactly when and where the first Railway Post Office car was operated, depending on your definition of Railway Post Office. And some of that discussion can be found in the 1951 book "Mail By Rail" by Bryant A. Long with William J. Dennis, which I leaned on rather heavily in last month's column. Guess what, I'm back in that book's pages again. An entire chapter of this volume is devoted to the topic, "America's First Railway Post Office." © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

First, it's useful to understand that there were locations called Distributing Post Offices, or DPOs, starting in 1810 and numbering fifty by 1859. DPOs packaged mail for shipment elsewhere, which would have worked alright for expediting purposes had it not been true that DPO superintendents received commissions for each item that passed through their doors. This resulted in some rather illogical, and circuitous, routings for the mail, as each supervisor tried to run up their own compensation. A direct result of the attempts to reform this situation was the creation of Railway Post Offices, which would sort the mail en route to large cities instead of depending on DPOs. You can imagine how DPO supervisors felt about that. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The actual carriage of mail on railroad cars dated back to the 1830's, with some dispute about exactly which occurrence was "first", again depending somewhat on how that is defined. (And the first carriage in England was by 1830.) By 1838 every railroad in the country was declared to be a "post road." But they only transported sealed mail bags and pouches from place to place and did not perform any processing. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Next we go to Cairo, Illinois, and the establishment of a Distributing Post Office to handle mail for the Union forces that assembled there during the Civil War. It is hypothesized but not confirmed based on available evidence that there was some sorting of mail from pouches carried from Chicago down the length of Illinois to Cairo. By some accounts, that was the first "Railway Post Office" and that makes George B. Armstrong, Assistant Postmaster at Chicago and leader of the DPO there, the "father of the RPO." We'll come back to him in another commentary, assuming that there are more RPOs to be released by Micro-Trains. That's a pretty safe assumption. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

After the Civil War experiment involving the Cairo DPO, the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad was authorized in 1862 to operate a service conceived by one William A. Davis, a local assistant postmaster. Before this, the Hannibal had a "route agent" or person who traveled along with the sealed mail pouches but didn't otherwise process them. Davis obtained a modified baggage car from the railroad, which was outfitted with a table and a case with sixty-five pigeonholes. According to a later account, Davis and others were given "authority to open the brass-lock sacks and the St. Joseph distributing post office packages, taking therefrom all the California letters, going by the overland stage route." (This pre-dated the Transcontinental Railroad by seven years but followed the Pony Express.) The book "Mail by Rail" continues: "According to the Burlington, Davis used a local case for sorting of way mails also, and his car was lettered 'US MAIL-NO. 1'." © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

And that's how this story ties in with this month's release. The Hannibal and St. Joseph's service did not last very long, done in by saboteurs (it was still the Civil War) and poorly maintained railway, and ended in either 1863 or 1865. But the route eventually became part of the Chicago and Kansas City RPO route-- on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, successor to the Hannibal and St. Joseph. So by many accounts, the Railway Post Office began on the Burlington. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I've also been told that the prototype for the Micro-Trains body style is in fact one that was in the employ of the Burlington Route. MTL says that the cars were built in 1917 by American Car and Foundry. We catch a break in the October 1919 ORER as there is a short group of five cars numbered 2320 to 2324, listed as Mail cars 60 feet long, in the Passenger Equipment section of the CB&Q's listing. (The "Official Register of Passenger Equipment" had not yet debuted.) While this doesn't tell us anything about what the 2322 looked like, it does tell us that there was such a car. In the April 1928 ORER, there's a more consolidated entry of mail cars "60 feet and under 70 feet," thirty-six cars numbered 2303 to 2346. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The Morning Sun Color Guide to the CB&Q, Page 10, shows two cars of the original five in the series 2320 to 2324. Both of these have been modified from their original configuration. Bryan Busséy was first to me with the reason why: "I've discovered that the CB&Q cars were built to that window configuration, but the USPS disapproved of the design and they were changed to blank out the windows at the front end." And sure enough, the 2320 and 2323 are shown with 0/5 window arrangements, not 3/3 as on the MTL model. It's quite obvious from rivet patterns where windows have been plated over. The photos are dated 1967, which is fifty full years from the 1917 build date. That gives us an awfully long span in which to guess when the change took place! However, we can tie in a bit of incremental information from Bryan, who found an official drawing of a similar New Haven car, which was a 1949 revision of a 1939 document. That drawing shows windows blanked out and doesn't match the as-built photograph. The Post Office's displeasure with the 3/3 window arrangement "may have been a universal issue," Bryan reports. I agree! In addition, the paint scheme is updated from Railroad Roman lettering to what the CB&Q was using at the time, a somewhat unusual extended serif font. (This isn't the same lettering style that was used on the California Zephyr equipment.) Without some more Incremental Information, we won't know when the change to the window arrangement occurred, I'll venture an "at least" ATP of the 1930's, but count that strictly as a guess. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.


054 00 070, $24.15
Reporting Marks: CPI 317138.
62 Foot Bulkhead Flat Car, CP Rail.

"Action" Red with white lettering including reporting marks on left and roadname on right. Simulated pipe load included.
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.
Previous Releases (as catalog 54070): A six pack (54072) with road numbers 317027, 317029, 317054, 317060, 317125 and 317161, May 1988 (reporting marks "CP" not "CPI" on these six); CPI 317135, January 1994; CPI 317137, May 2002.
NOTE: This release has been sold out and discontinued.

This car was last issued in May 2002 and like the previous rerun from 1994 was a "not a reprint" versus the original six pack of cars by virtue of the reporting marks. According to Ian Cranstone's "Canadian Freight Cars" site, the CPI reporting marks were introduced in 1968 to denote Canadian-built cars in international service. ("CPAA" cars were USA-built cars in international service; that reporting mark came in 1967.) That's before the 1973 build date of these cars so I believe they would have started with the CPI markings. Cranstone notes that by 1988 these cars were carrying CP reporting marks but stayed in the same number series. I picked up the same change in my review of the various ORERs in which these cars appear. MTL's own car copy provides one clue with respect to this: "These cars were leased from North American Car Company by CP Rail." I doubt that they remain under a leasing arrangement; perhaps when it expired and assuming that the line purchased them outright, I could understand a change from CPI to CP at that point. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

We'll grab the April 1976 Register which is within the Strictly Speaking ATP for these cars and note that the prototype has a 66 foot inside length and an outside length of 76 feet 10 inches, a fair amount longer than the Micro-Trains model. The series stood at 317000 to 317349 in the April 1976 book with 285 cars, but was cut back to 198 cars numbered 317000 to 317199 on or before the April 1981 ORER. In the July 1987 Register the cars remain under CPI markings, but by the July 1989 Register the cars are listed with CP reporting marks instead and total 189 cars. The last ORER in which I found these cars is January 2007, the latest one I have. There's still a respectable 99 total cars in service, so I think the "to present with CP reporting marks" ATP I called out in 2002 remains good. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

I also noted in '02 that bulkhead cars carried more than lumber, and the pipe load MTL provides with this reprint is an authentic example of this. I've seen these cars with rebar steel, steel square columns and various other products used in construction. A shot of CPI 317029 on the Fallen Flags site showed it with some rather large pipe. Some of the Equipment Register listings indicate that a concentrated load can be placed in the middle of these cars, varying in weight based on the overall length that they require. 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 load limit of 187,000 pounds. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

092 00 160, $27.55
Reporting Marks: C&O 605556.
2 Bay ACF Center Flow Covered Hopper, Chesapeake and Ohio/Chessie System.

Yellow with dark blue bottom sill. Mostly dark blue lettering including reporting marks on left, "Cat in C" logo in center, and Chessie System roadname on right.
Approximate Time Period: mid-1970s to late 1980's at least (1976 build date given by MTL).
Previous Release (as catalog 92160): Road Number 605527, December 2002.
NOTE: This item has been sold out and discontinued.

I noted upon the original run of this car in 2002 that while this car certainly has the look and feel of your typical two bay Center Flow, it isn't one. The C&O, the B&O and the Detroit and Toledo Shore Line (itself part owned by the C&O at the time) were the only takers of the CF2700 variation on the theme. As you might have surmised, the CF2700 has a 2700 cubic foot capacity and is 2 feet 8 inches shorter than the "standard" CF2970's and CF2980's although it rides on the "standard" two bay frame. The key spotting feature of the car is that the body doesn't come all the way out to the ends, leaving a gap between the hopper and the ends. It's unlikely that a more correct form of this car would be released in widely available plastic in N Scale, but of course we never say never around here. So a "stand in" of sorts it is. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The Fallen Flags website has shots of several sister cars in the series which show this "short" car pretty clearly. Other than the absence of ACI Labels, on their own panel at the lower right of the hopper body, the paint and lettering look good. There are also several examples of what these cars looked like with restenciling or repainting to CSXT. When moved from Chessie to CSX, the series changed from the 605000s to 225483 to 227592. This was all done by no later than the January 2002 ORER listing, although based on the photo evidence, there were still "cats" left beside the CSXT restenciling. (And perhaps underneath the "unauthorized aftermarket decorations", that is, graffiti.) © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

A photo from March 1988 and caption in the Rail Model Journal for August 1995 illustrates that the CF2700s were eventually repainted into CSX tan with black lettering. At least for a while, these cars carried the unusual combination of CSX paint and "herald" and B&O or C&O reporting marks. The photo, taken in March 1988, shows extended draft gear. It was simulated with medium length trucks on the previous release, but not on this reprint. (A simple fix if body mounting the couplers, by the way.) © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

But we'll back up to the ORER for April 1976 which shows the C&O's "new addition" of the series 605500 to 605899, of 400 cars, AAR Class LO and description "Covered Hopper." Key dimensions were: inside length 32 feet 1 inch, outside length 41 feet 11 inches, extreme height 15 feet 1 inch. The B&O had a similar series numbered just in front of the C&O's, taking 605000 to 605499. The April 1981 Register showed a total of 397 cars out of the original 400, with five of those specifically called out for sand service. That was one of their purposes in life; the other was hauling roofing granules. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

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

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


501 00 131 and 501 00 132, $29.15 each
Reporting Marks: GN 15460 and GN 15466.
40 Foot Steel Boxcars, Double Superior Doors, Great Northern.

Vermillion (red) with black roof and ends. White lettering including reporting marks on left and large slanted roadname on right. Small black and white herald on left.
Approximate Time Period: 1963 to mid-1970s.
NOTE: This release (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

MTL leverages both a recent N Scale release and a paint scheme originally commissioned by the N Scale Collector's Society. In 1:160 this car was done as part of the "Western Road Pack #2" announced in the January/February 2002 issue of the NSC Magazine. A photo of sister car GN 15467 appears in that issue, as does information from GN expert Hank Stevens. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The A.A. Morrison Company purchased former Erie Lackawanna ex-Erie Railroad boxcars, fixed them up, painted them, and leased them to at least two railroads: the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern. The GN took delivery of their leased boxcars in 1963. These were steel sheathed boxcars, which was typical on many railroads. Not so much on the Great Northern, though, which had on its roster a large quantity of plywood-sheathed boxcars in support of its large wood products customers. Also not typical of GN boxcars was the use of black roof and ends. Hank Stevens wrote that he thought this might have denoted the cars as leased. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

It appears that during the refurbishment process, the cars were modified. They are shown as single door cars in the Erie Railroad's entry in the January 1959 ORER. But they are double door cars in the Great Northern listing in the ORER for January 1964. As long as we're there, here are the rest of the vital statistics: Series 15000 to 15449, 548 cars, inside length 40 feet 6 inches, inside width 9 feet 2 inches, inside height 10 feet, outside length 41 feet 10 inches, extreme height 15 feet, capacity 3720 cubic feet or 100,000 pounds, door opening 12 feet. Note that the model has Superior doors. Although I suspect it is a "door thing" in play here, we can't say for certain whether the entire fleet had the same type of door. The photo of the 15467 in the NSC Magazine shows it with Youngstown doors, but that's not one of the road numbers MTL chose. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

In the Burlington Northern listing for April 1970, the Great Northern series has 516 cars of the original 550, not bad. But a bit over four years later, in July 1974, that was all the way down to 125 cars, and just nine months later in April 1975 the group was down to 92. By that time you'd probably be looking at roofwalk removal anyway, but for the record, the series is gone no later than April 1981. Based on how fast it was dropping, though, I'm going to call the ATP at the mid-seventies. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

524 00 051 and 524 00 052, $21.70 each
Reporting Marks: MTTX 90771 and MTTX 90777.
60 Foot Straight Side Flat Car, Trailer Train.

Brown with mostly white lettering including reporting marks on left. White "Trailer Train" logo with yellow "TT" on right. Includes simulated "covered mechanical" loads (red on the 051, blue on the 052).
Approximate Time Period: 1975 (build date given by MTL) through mid-1990s.
NOTE: The first number of this release has been sold out and discontinued.

Well, it looks like it's time once again for another episode of "Fun With Trailer Train Reporting Marks"! The reporting marks in the header of both the Micro-News and the MTL website are incorrect; the car reads "MTTX" and the copy reads just "TTX". Wish I'd seen that before my unsuccessful online image search for "TTX 90771"... © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The ORER for April 1975 shows the series MTTX 90210 to 92628 as a "change from previous issue" with 450 cars in the series. These were of Trailer Train class "F60ah" but were listed in that issue with an inside length of 54 feet 7 inches and outside length of 64 feet 19 inches. Capacity was 150,000 pounds. At the time, the MTTX reporting marks referred to "60 foot flat cars with stake pockets and lading strap anchors for general service, or 85 foot flat cars with sixteen stake pockets, eight per side, for transporting long pipe." In April 1976 this group inched up one piece to 451 cars. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

In the April 1981 ORER the inside length was the full 60 feet implied by the Trailer Train class F60ah. There were 425 cars in service at that time. But there may have another change to these by this time, and that's to yellow paint. As noted in past issues, the official TTX website gives 1970 as the year for the start of the movement from brown to yellow paint, although with a fleet as large as theirs this wouldn't have occurred very quickly. One question that pops out though: if the cars were built in 1975 why were they delivered in brown paint and not yellow? © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Anyway, we'll cover a few more ORER car counts for the series. The Equipment Register for October 1986 showed 271 cars with end of car cushioning and another 143 without that feature but with capacity upped to 155,000 pounds, for a total of 414 in the series. That total is down by more than half to 210 (109 and 101 in the respective subsets) in the October 1991 ORER. The total was down again to 158 in the October 1996 ORER. The January 2000 TTX listing showed 135 cars remaining in service but I seriously doubt that any of them were still in brown paint. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

And in fact, of the several dozen photos of these cars available for your perusal on the usual websites I check, there are just a few showing the cars in brown and white paint. Two date to the 1990's. And there's one each of MTTX 91260 of MTTX 91265 from June 1985. Otherwise, it's several different varieties of yellow and black paint, some with "Trailer Train" and some with "TTX." © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

What is very interesting about the group of photos I looked over, mostly on and, is the wide range of loads that they carried. The 91260 and 91265 noted above each carried an Electro-Motive Diesel for example! They were without its trucks and covered with a tarp which advertised "General Motors Locomotives" and as you can guess every inch of the width of the car was needed for these units, which according to the caption were destined for Turkey. There were also several instances of upside down open hoppers being transported, perhaps away from the scene of a wreck. And then there were what I think inspired MTL's choice of loads-- large covers under which there were aircraft parts. I note that the prototype cars carry "Excess Height" warnings. Some of the other loads defied my identification, while others were obvious-- rapid transit cars for the Chicago "El" for instance. I guess what I'm saying here is that you can let your imagination run wild when loading these flatcars. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

553 00 075, $26.60.
Reporting Marks: SP 6637.
Smoothside Baggage Car, Southern Pacific.

Gray with light gray lettering including roadname at top center and reporting marks at bottom center.
Approximate Time Period: 1959 (build date given by MTL) to early 1970's.

According to Richard Percy's "Espee Modeler's Page," the Southern Pacific had a number of different paint schemes across its passenger car fleet, corresponding to the specific trains to which they were assigned. And you can guess what then happened starting in the mid-1950s: cars were assigned to other trains, and rather non-uniform looking consists resulted. In 1958 the SP opted for a single scheme-- well, if you can call two different colors "a single scheme." (And even that had an exception in cars assigned to joint UP/SP "City" trains.) Lee reports that "the Red/Stainless Steel 'Sunset Limited' scheme was adopted as the standard for non-headend cars, and solid dark gray for headend cars." And that brings us to this baggage car, the second MTL offering for the SP this year. MTL says it was one of a fleet of fifty cars built in 1959 and 1960 by the St. Louis Car Company. Fifty cars is a modest number for freight cars, but for passenger cars that's quite the large order. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Although not from that series, SP 6792 is pictured as of 1979 on Fallen Flags in the same paint that MTL uses for this model. However, we get a lot closer to what we want via an unusual source: an announcement of an HO brass model which includes more prototype information. These were called "economy" baggage cars and were built for the Southern Pacific and the Rock Island. A key spotting feature is the use of one double baggage door and one single baggage door per side, which is an immediately noted delta between the real and the MTL model. It also seems to me that the prototype cars were more "square" than the Micro-Trains body style, looking more like a converted troop sleeper (which they are not!) than a streamlined baggage car. If I am correctly interpreting the SP Class for these cars, 66-B-1, they were 66 feet long, a bit shorter than the model. As with the previous Espee release, the Z Scaler will need to decide how near or far from the real SP 6637 they're willing to accept. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

970 01 031 and 970 01 032, $185.95 each
Road Numbers: 641 and 646 (will be preceded by "KCS" in website listing).
SD40-2 Diesels, Kansas City Southern.

Gray with black frame and details. Yellow chevron stripes on ends; yellow stripe along bottom of body. Red lettering including large "KCS" on long hood and road number on cab. Red and white "Kansas City Southern Lines" herald on cab just below window.
Approximate Time Period: mid 1990's to present (given paint scheme).
NOTE: This release (both numbers) has been sold out and discontinued.

The Kansas City Southern Historical Society's website bills itself as "a group of KCS railfans following the growth and development of one of the few railroads that has not succumbed to mega-mergers"-- a description that is both accurate and a little cheeky at the same time. The KCSHS has a roster of the railroad's diesels including the SD40-2s that MTL depicts this month. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The 641 and 646 were both part of the very first order for SD40-2s according to the KCSHS, and were built in January 1972 with frame numbers 7226-5 and 7226-10 respectively. (The 637 was the first production SD40-2.) These and other units have been rebuilt into SD40-3's. I don't have a specific date on this but other KCS units acquired second hand were flipped to "Dash-3s" in the mid-1990s. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Speaking of "flipped" though, sometime between 1986 and 1990 the paint scheme was changed from mostly white to mostly gray. A June 1990 photo found on shows the 641 in the scheme that MTL did, with one exception: instead of the KCS herald, there is a red and white octagon reading "STOP" and something else I can't see, although I imagine it might be "...and live". I got rather frustrated by not being able to see the rest of the "STOP" sign clearly and even went to the Microscale Decals online catalog to locate it... only to find that I still couldn't see the rest of the verbiage. But it did get me a timeframe of 1989 to 1995 for this decoration. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Other photos include a May 2000 shot showing the KCS herald on the unit replacing the "STOP" sign. Shots of the 646 show the "STOP" sign on the cab as of 1993 and the herald as of 2000. That makes the ATP a bit shorter than I thought it would be. But we're good "to present" as there is a July 2009 image of the 646 also on At least until the "Heritage" paint scheme is applied to the units, assuming that it will be at some point. Other photos on other sites didn't add any more to the story. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

In terms of the model's prototype fidelity, I did not see anything amiss with respect to physical features like the dynamic brakes or the horn placement, well, at least initially with respect to the horn since it looks like the KCS changed the mounting from over the cab to near the dynamic brake at some point. The pilot and steps are black on the real SD40s whereas they are gray on the model; fixing that is relatively easy. Add a bit of yellow to the edges of the steps while you're at it, if you can. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

Z SCALE REPRINTS: No releases this month.

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


New Release: 860 00 060, $41.60
Reporting Marks: C&S 4527.
30 Foot Gondola, Colorado and Southern.

Brown with white lettering including road number on left and large "C. & S." initials in center. Simulated steam engine scrap load included. Some final assembly required.
Approximate Time Period: 1910 (build date given by MTL) through the 1920's at least.

A steam engine scrap load?!? Why, that's blasphemous! Well, no, it's probably accurate. Even before the wide scale succession of steam locomotives by those blasted "diseasels" there was the general turnover of older models for new. And then there were the less common but sometimes more spectacular-- and tragic-- ends to which steam locomotives came, such as wrecks, and explosions. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

MTL mentions that these gondolas were listed as "coal cars" but as evidenced by what the model is carrying, had wider uses, including as, well, gondolas. Coal was a common commodity for gondolas of all types from the midwest on westward, and certainly not limited to three foot gauge cars. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The ORER for October 1919 is the closest I have to the build date of 1910 that MTL supplies in its car copy. In that listing there is a series 4498 to 4547 which includes the number depicted this month. Sure enough, they're described as "Coal" with no specific MCB Designation. The inside length was 29 feet 6 3/4 inches, inside width 7 feet 1 3/4 inches and inside height 3 feet 4 inches, with outside length of 30 feet even, overall height from rail of 9 feet even, and capacity of 704 cubic feet or 50,000 pounds. There were 49 cars in the group at the time. There were also two groups numbered 4002 to 4407 and 4408 to 4497, with dimensions that differed by a bit, all adding to 464 coal cars which was over one-third of the total Colorado and Southern narrow gauge roster of 1127 pieces. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The ORER for April 1928 shows all 49 cars between 4498 and 4547 intact but a large drop in the overall coal car population to 257 as the narrow gauged roster slimmed (if you'll pardon the expression) to 895 cars. The latest Equipment Register I own which lists C&S narrow gauge equipment is the July 1935 edition, and within it all 185 remaining coal cars have been gathered into one group numbered 4095 to 4613. The Colorado and Southern was done with three foot operations by 1943 (with the Georgetown Loop route gone by 1941) so I think it's safe to say that at least a few coal cars were in service until the end. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.

The large "C&S" paint scheme is what helps with the Approximate Time Period, and might make it a lot shorter. The block lettering was adopted in 1907 for the entire system, but was supplanted by the "button herald" starting in 1920. Most cars had been repainted by the end of that decade. However, some cars were never relettered, leading to the "at least" part of the ATP. The Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette for May/June 1980, not in the UMTRR Research Library, contained an article on the C&S coal cars. © 2009 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Reposting prohibited.


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