©2001-2015 George J. Irwin. All rights reserved. Legal Stuff
In this page I hope to answer a few of the more common queries I've received over the years(!) that I've written the UMTRR. More questions and answers will be added as time permits. I've organized them into what appear to be logical sections.
QUESTIONS ABOUT MICRO-TRAINS
1. What is the history of Micro-Trains?
2. Why do you think there is such an interest in Micro-Trains?
RANDOM QUESTIONS ABOUT SPECIFIC MICRO-TRAINS PRODUCTS
1. What's the most popular release ever?
In terms of number of releases, you'd have to put the 20090 Southern Pacific "Overnights" boxcar in as #1 since it's been released in 26 road numbers-- that's 26 cars in total with that paint scheme counted several multi-packs and a Runner Pack as of January 2015 and they've always sold out quickly. Not bad considering that technically that's not even the right boxcar on which to paint that scheme.
In terms of number of releases for a specific body style, the far and away leader is the 20000 PS-1 boxcar series, which is the one with which Micro-Trains started in 1972. There have been so many releases that MTL ran out of catalog numbers under its standard numbering convention back in 1990! And they may run out of catalog numbers again using their modified system before too long. As of July 2003 there were more than 400 different releases on more than 200 different paint schemes through 2014. Which body style is in second place depends on how you count.
In terms of measuring popularity by how fast something sells out, I have a few ideas, including the original run of the 93040 Sclair® Center Flow® covered hopper, the 21320 Illinois State Car, and several of the early Burlington Northern "Fallen Flag" sets. But I'd have to mention that sellout speed is a factor of both production run size and appeal to dealers (as a proxy for appeal to their customers). We don't know much about the actual run sizes of MTL releases, but we do know with reasonable certainty that they're not of equal quantities across all cars.
By the way, I don't think I could pin myself down to just one "favorite" release.
2. When did MTL start painting door detail on its refrigerator cars?
3. What's this about freight car kits?
In March, 1992, all releases became ready to run only according to "The Short Line" for that month. That means that the final kit releases for MTL were from February 1992:
It took a number of years for all of MTL's kit stock to sell out; in fact I don't think the last one left the factory until the late 1990's. While it's relatively rare to see MTL cars in kit form in hobby stores these days, it's still not out of the question. Kits are great purchases for the accumulator since most collectors aren't interested in them.
4. What's the rarest Micro-Trains car?
What I consider to be the rarest of the regular release cars is the 47180 "Oregon and Nationwide" wood refrigerator car. It is not done for a prototype railroad at all, but a modeller's own line, and it's widely been reported (but never actually confirmed) that there were only several hundred pieces made. It regularly goes for $500-plus on the collector's circuit and quite a bit less as a runner but still a non-trivial amount of money.
Then there's the 20370 West India Fruit box car in brown and white-- not to be confused with the other WIF box car releases from the 1990's. The story on this one is that it was issued in low numbers in 1983, when Kadee was generally doing shorter runs. It's topped out at over $600 as a new in box, and to be honest, I've never seen a runner sold or auctioned. Unlike the Oregon and Nationwide, there are other West India Fruit Micro-Trains cars to choose from, so runners need not be terribly concerned.
A third candidate--and by no means does this exhaust the list-- is road number 180199 of catalog 20047, a plain old New York Central 40 foot single door box car. Its numbers are supposedly so few that I can't decide whether it really was intended to be a regular run release-- and since the 1970's era records of Kadee weren't that detailed, I don't know whether they could ever tell us either. That car has garnered right around $2000 (!) in past auction action, but again, there are plenty of other road numbers available to the accumulator, not the least of which is the more accurate March 1998 reprint.
All of the above counts only for regular issue cars, not production samples, mistakes and other oddities that have gotten out of the factory over the years; that's a whole 'nother question. Special runs, which generally have known production quantities of at least 300 or so, don't count here either.
5. What are "rib-back wheels" and why should I care?
The molding for the rib-backed wheels broke in July 1987 and was never fixed. Micro-Trains went to the current version of its wheels, called "smooth backed" to distinguish them from the "rib backed" predecessors. However, as there was a large supply of rib-backed wheels still available at the factory, a number of MTL cars issued from September 1987 still may have come with rib-backed wheels. Or they may have come with smooth-backed wheels. No one knows exactly when the last rib-backed wheel was used on a factory-issued MTL car, but I think it's a safe bet to say that they were gone by the time the Kadee/Micro-Trains split occurred in 1990.
Meanwhile, remember that Micro-Trains also sold trucks and wheels separately. I still find the occassional old package of trucks with rib-backed wheels at hobby shops and swap meets, more than fifteen years after they were last manufactured!
6. What is/was the "Class of '72"?
For the record, they are as follows: November, 20018/20010 Grand Trunk Western, 20058 Rock Island, 20089/20070 Union Pacific, 20093/20080 Southern Pacific; December, 20029 New Haven (NYNH&H), 20039 Norfolk and Western, 20047 New York Central, 20062 Southern, 20072 Santa Fe (AT&SF). The 20000 Undecorated was also released in November 1972 but that's not really a roadname, eh? The online Micro-Trains database on their site has more details including exact road numbers by release.
Note that many of these cars were not great sellers at first. Many of them hung on for years and numerous price increases from the original $3.00 and $3.25 in fact. Several of them were offered under the "new" catalog number system as well; those are the ones with the two numbers before the roadname (the first catalog number is the original one which was to denote the roadname in the fourth and fifth digits). "Car One" GTW took perhaps the longest time of all to sell out. You can see it in the Micro-Story "Car One" elsewhere on the site.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE UMTRR
1. How did this get started?
By the way, the exact date of the first posting to Prodigy or r.m.r, or the "birth" of what's become the UMTRR, isn't known-- I never bothered to keep track, since I didn't expect that it would continue for more than a few months. (Fortunately, my kids' and my wife's birthday are better committed to memory.) Therefore, I've selected January 1996 as the "official" start of the "unofficial" reports. The first column actually titled "The Unofficial Micro-Trains Release Report" was the January 1997 edition, and I started numbering the issues in July 2002 (Issue #67). The milestone 100th issue was in April 2005 and the 200th issue was "published" in August 2013.
2. OK, I'll bite. Why did this get started?
3. How many readers do you have?
4. What does Micro-Trains think of the UMTRR?
5. How about other magazines? Aren't you competition for their product reviews?
6. How long do you expect to continue writing the UMTRR?
Have any questions you'd like to see answered? Send them in!