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Houston Tinplate Operators Society - Lionel, Trains, Layouts: Newsletter

Newsletter: July 1998

In this issue:


by Jim Herron

It has been almost forty years since the last electric interurban railway in the West was abandoned. Before buses and cars, the electric interurban moved people around the city and played a vital role in the development of the cities themselves. The Pacific Electric was, in its prime, the largest electric interurban railway in the world. At its peak, it operated The history of the Pacific Electric began with Henry E. Huntington, wealthy nephew of Collis P. Huntington, president of the Southern Pacific RR. Together with friends, he procured valuable lands around Southern California which had not yet been developed or reached by public transportation. In 1901, the Pacific Electric Railway was formed to develop these land holdings. In 1910, SP purchased Henry Huntington's interest in a chain of electric railways in the four-county Los Angeles basin. On September 1, 1911, Southern Pacific consolidated all of its Southern California holdings into one system, the new Pacific Electric.

After the merger, PE embarked on a major program of reorganization and improvement. New lines were built to link up the isolated railways in San Bernadino and Riverside Counties. New cars were acquired and the famous red paint appeared on the cars throughout the system.

The decline of the Red Cars actually started in the 1920's when urban transport became extremely unprofitable. The Great Depression accelerated the decline. Marginal routes were converted to bus. Maintenance was deferred and schedules reduced.

In the period between 1937 and 1941, PE made a major effort to modernize the system. More unprofitable rail lines were abandoned and replaced by buses. Some bus operations were sold to other operators. The profitable lines were overhauled. Cars were refurbished and 30 new PCC streamliners acquired.

World War II caused an incredible renaissance of rail traffic, both passenger and freight. PE broke all prior records for the number of passengers carried and the tons of freight moved.

Between 1949 and 1951, the bulk of the remaining lines were either abandoned or converted to bus operation. The Pacific Electric Railway passed away as a passenger carrier in October 1953. For five years afterward, its remaining lines were operated by Metropolitan Coach Lines, a company primarily interested in the operation of buses.

Many of the PE cars and locomotives were rescued by museums. Sections of the PE remain as Southern Pacific (now UP) freight trackage and there are countless other locations where a weedy vacant lot or out of place building provides a few clues to the existence of the Big Red Cars.

Not too well known throughout the world, PE Big Red Interurbans are now being produced in O gauge by K-Line electric Trains. Detailing, scale and graphics all look pretty good. There are nice sign boards, operating marker lights, realistic interiors and overhead StreamLighting illumination. The pair of cars include powered (dual motor) and dummy passenger cars of the heavyweight variety, and operate on 042 track. They are due out in July.

(Portions of this article courtesy of the San Diego Model train Museum)


by Jim Herron

In 1950 the Budd Company introduced air conditioned stainless steel Rail Diesel Cars, or RDC's, in four body variations. There were passenger cars, baggage and railways post office combines called RDC-4. Each of the cars were propelled by two 275 HP, GM-Detroit type 2 diesel bus engines. The cars proved to be extremely popular for commuters as they offered air conditioning and other desirable amenities, along with even better economy than the earlier decades' gasoline/electric self-propelled rail cars. They substantially reduced the operating costs of branch lines, shuttles and other limited volume passenger operations.

Lionel decided to produce its model of the Budd RDC car in 1956 as a powered coach No. 400, lettered for the Baltimore & Ohio R. R. That railroad used the cars for commuter and intermediate distance passenger service. The following year, a three-car train was offered with a powered RDC-4 baggage/railway post office combine as No. 404, with two No. 2559 coach trailers. A variation also appeared in 1958, the last year of production, with a powered #400 coach and a #2550 combine trailer and a #2559 coach trailer. It was powered by GP-7 trucks and engine, 60 scale feet long. It was also provided with Magna Traction which enabled a single motor to pull two non-powered cars.

In 1977 Fundimensions introduced a Service Station Special set - a B & O set in the original markings, Nos. 8767, 8768 and 8766. Soon afterward, Fundimensions issued an 8764 powered passenger coach and a # 8765 dummy baggage car. In 1978, Fundimensions issued another set, this time in colorful Amtrak markings, Nos. 8868, 8869, 8870 and 8871.

The Budd cars were very attractive and ran very well because of the premium type I separate motor and power trucks. The principal operating difference between the modern era and post-war Budd cars is the lack of Magnatraction on the MPC version. They are not too hard to find, look nice on a layout and are extremely quiet, quick and fast.

Interurbans, RDC cars, and now MTH Electric Trains coming out with the NYC Subway Set, PCC Electric Cars and the Doodlebug give O gaugers plenty of ways to move passengers from one station to another!


by Walt Sklenar

The AtlasO 6-Bay Cylindrical Hopper arrived on retailer's shelves in mid-June. The second freight car in the Atlas Big O Rolling Stock Series is sure to be as big a hit as their 3-Bay hopper is.

The 6-bay hopper is available in six roadnames - Burlington Northern, Chessie System, Frisco, Great Northern, Illinois Terminal and Wabash - as well as undecorated. It measures 14" in length, just over 3 1/2" in height. These cars should easily negotiate curves as small as 0-31.

Detailing on this car is as good as it gets! Start on top with see-through roof walks and opening inlet hatches. Grab irons on each end of the car are separately applied (not to be handled too roughly). There are die-cast sprung trucks and couplers. A nice touch is that the trucks are attached to the car body from underneath, rather than having to remove the body. Undercarriage detail - the 6 outlet bay doors - is precise.

You would be hard pressed to find a cleaner paint job than on this model. The Chessie System version lettering and logo were crisp. The detail in lettering is evident on the car body sides, ends and especially along the undercarriage.

At first glance, you might expect a plastic car body of this size, even with die-cast trucks, to be relatively light. Not so! AtlasO has ingeniously added weights inside the car body to make it heavier and thus allow it to track truer.

Whether you are modeling grain transport or just like highly detailed freight cars, the AtlasO 6-Bay Cylindrical Hopper could be for you. Check one out while they are still on dealer's shelves. MSRP is $49.95

K-Line's Peabody Short Line Scale Die-Cast Hopper is part of a second run of roadnames for this all metal freight car. Other roadnames include Santa Fe and a 3-pack Pennsylvania Railroad. Its weight and low center of gravity allow it to track extremely well.

The car is 11 1/2" long and 2 3/4" high, capable of negotiating 0-27 curves. It features die-cast sprung trucks, four spring loaded outlet hatches, separately applied grab irons and ladders and plenty of rivet detail.

Paint on the Peabody hopper is neatly applied - the green and red lettering is distinctive against the yellow of the car body. The interior of the hopper is painted black, making for an overall attractive paint scheme.

If you are into coal transport, this hopper is for you. MSRP is $49.95


by Walt Sklenar

Anyone expecting to see a bevy of new items in the MTH Electric Trains 1998 Volume III catalog will surely be in for a disappointment (i.e., a chance to give our bank accounts a breather?). This 55 page catalog - about 1/3 smaller than the previous two - mostly contains a rehash of merchandise offered in earlier 1998 catalogs. Despite not having a large new offering, MTH continues to give the buying public more for the money.In their diesel lines (both RailKing and Premier), MTH has lowered prices by up to $100. Diesels in the Premier Line will come with added detailing - spinning roof fans, lighted number boards, lighted marker lights or ditch lights, stainless steel grills and painted handrails.

New engines in the RailKing Line include the EMD NW2 switcher in Union Pacific and Chicago & North Western paint, the Union Pacific "Forty-Niner" 4-6-2 streamlined steamer (the 6th RailKing streamlined steam engine), and a Santa Fe 4-8-4 Northern steam engine. All these engines come optionally equipped with ProtoSound and ProtoCoupler. Those looking to purchase the RailKing Amtrak Genesis set will like the addition of an 0-27 Superliner Sleeper/Diner set. In the RailKing rolling stock, the '98 Holiday Box Car will be a nice addition to your Christmas rolling stock.

Probably the highlight in the Premier Line is a scale Amtrak Genesis diesel and Superliner passenger set. Both the diesel and passenger cars are 18 1/2" long (the Genesis can negotiate 0-31 curves, the passenger cars 0-42). A scale Southern Pacific Gs-4 steam engine (negotiates 0-54 curves) and 5-car 70' passenger set is also in the offing. This passenger set features an all new body design. Snow removal gets more help with the addition of a Pennsy and Union Pacific Snow Plow (a different design than the Jordan Spreader featured in Volume II). Other new O-scale rolling stock includes a 3-bay cylindrical hopper, double door boxcars and a 33,000 gallon tanker (very similar to the recently announced AtlasO version).

In the Tinplate Traditions, probably the most sought after item will be the 436 Powerhouse.

Additions to the RiteTrax line include a 30" straight section and an 0-31 1/2 curve section.

Two new scale operating accessories are a cantilever crossing signal (similar to the Lionel version) and a block signal with 3 position light indicators.

Lionel LLC has announced additional items in their 1998 Classic selections, and are scheduled for release during the second half of this year.

Three ready to run train sets are offered - a Norfolk and Western 4-4-2 set, Delaware and Hudson 4-4-2 set and an Alaska Railroad GP-7 set.

The lone new Classic engine is the Pennsy GP-9 non-powered B-unit. Tractor-trailers with the Lionel, American Flyer and Linex logos highlight the accessories. New rolling stock includes the C & NW Animated Stockcar & Stockyard, Lenny the Lion Hi-Cube and a 2-pack 6464 Overstamped Boxcar set.




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