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

Newsletter: April 1999

In this issue:


By Jim Herron

Construction of the station was substantially complete by August 1, 1910. The quantities of some of the materials that went into the building helped to convey its immense size. The structural frame took a total of 27,000 tons of steel. 64,000 barrels of cement were used in concrete for the structure and almost a million cubic feet of stone and cinders went into fireproofing the concrete. Crews of masons set in place 17 million bricks and almost 600,000 cubic feet of granite, marble, travertine and artificial stone. Some 560,000 square feet of granite, marble, travertine, cork and maple flooring were put in place. Metal and tile roofing totaled 450,000 square feet and there was another 83,000 square feet of skylights. Glaziers put 80,000 square feet of glass in the windows and painters covered 2.8 million square feet of surface. It took over four years and 1800-plus men to build it.

When it was finished, the station received widespread if not universal praise. In simplicity, unity of design and richness of materials, the building was unrivaled. On opening day, there were only a few minor delays and the following day the Pennsylvania proudly reported that practically every train left the station on schedule to the minute. In addition to paying passengers, the station was thronged with over 100,000 sightseers on the opening day.

At long last, 39 years after it had reached the west shore of the Hudson River, the Pennsylvania Railroad had equaled its rival the New York Central with a splendid station of its own on Manhattan. It was called the "Manhattan Gateway" and with the completion of the tunnels and station, the Pennsy was able to operate train service throughout the east, south and west. Soon thereafter it became the gateway to America.

The growth in traffic through Penn Station in the years following seemed to justify the lavish scale of its planning. At the end of the first year of operation 112,000 trains - an average of 300 a day - carrying over 10 million passengers passed through the station. As a gateway to America's largest city and the origin or destination of the principal limiteds of the Pennsylvania's great passenger fleet, at Penn Station something was always happening.

The station even found its way into popular music. The great old Glenn Miller favorite - Chattanooga Choo Choo - leaves from Pennsylvania Station 'bout a quarter to four. The movie makers came, too. The Clock was filmed there in 1945 by MGM. Others followed.

Penn Station reached an unprecedented level of activity during World War II when it accommodated a steady, growing flood of travelers that finally reached a peak of over 109 million people in 1944. The optimism that prevailed at the end of World War II about the future of the railroad passenger business quickly vanished as passenger traffic plummeted from the wartime peak.

Two events of the war years led to the decline in passenger travel. One was the passage of the 1944 Federal and Highway Act which led to the development of the 40,000 mile national system of interstate highways, making the auto a preferred way to travel. The other was the four-engine commercial airplane. Air travel came with sudden swiftness. It grew so rapidly that a little more than a decade later airlines were the dominant intercity carriers.

As passenger traffic fell, Penn Station started to look like the white elephant predicted when it opened in 1910. In 1962, Madison Square Garden bought the air rights to Pennsylvania Station and began tearing it down. Newspapers, politicians and architects all tried without luck to preserve the building. As the New York Times wrote in a bitter article, "We will not be judged by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed." To those who decried the loss of Penn Station, the PRR was clearly the villain in the unhappy story. The once-rich railroad simply couldn't afford to keep it going any longer.

Pennsylvania Station is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. With the advent of Amtrak, new, fast and sleek trains started moving passengers along the Washington to New York to Boston corridors again. Road congestion and intercity speed all helped the revival. Now, a proposed new Penn Station will occupy a location across the street from the old Penn Station on 8th Avenue. The James A. Farley Post Office Building built by McKim, Mead and White will be modified to create a New York gateway for trains entering New York City on Amtrak. Ramps, taxi access, gates and tracks will all interact with the old Pennsylvania Station.

Whatever the specific plans for Penn Station's future, it seems certain that rail service is again on the rise.

THE LATE, GREAT PENNSYLVANIA STATION, PART I, can be found in the March 1999 HTOS newsletter.


By Walt Sklenar

Test your knowledge of postwar 6464 boxcars.

Match the following product numbers with the appropriate roadname.

1. 6464-125 A. Rutland
2. 6464-150 B. Boston & Maine
3. 6464-175 C. Rock Island (Silver)
4. 6464-225 D. NYC Pacemaker
5. 6464-300 E. Rio Grande
6. 6464-325 F. NYC (Jade Green)
7. 6464-375 G. B & O "Sentinel"
8. 6464-475 H. Central of Georgia
9. 6464-650 I. Missouri Pacific
10. 6464-900 J. Southern Pacific "Overnight"

The New Haven 6464-725 had several variations. Which is deemed most valuable?
A. Black body
B. Orange body
C. Green and orange body

You find a Western Pacific 6464-1 boxcar with ORANGE lettering. You have:
A. A highly sought after piece
B. One of the more common 6464 boxcars
C. A fake - ORANGE lettering was not used on this car

The year the B & O "Sentinel" 6464 boxcar was produced:
A. 1953
B. 1956
C. 1959

This car had a "watermelon" paint design:
A. Central of Georgia
B. B & O "Sentinel"
C. Missouri Pacific

Which of these Western Pacific boxcars is most prized by collectors?
A. Blue body, orange feather
B. Silver body, yellow feather
C. Orange body, blue feather

Answers published in next month's HTOS newsletter.


By Jim Herron

At times, the designation "heaviest in the world" is nothing but an empty boast. For the Union Pacific Big Boy, a 4-8-8-4 articulated locomotive, it is an accurate description. The Big Boy was truly the heaviest locomotive in the world. With a weight of 1.2 million pounds, including tender and the most powerful steam traction -- it developed 6360 horsepower at 42 miles per hour, enabling it to haul trains from 7700 to 9900 tons.

The Big Boy had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, including from front to back, a four-wheel leading truck, two groups of eight driving wheels and a four-wheel trailing truck. The tender was a 14-wheel "centipede" model. The arrangement of driving wheels in two groups of eight made it possible to articulate the locomotive. That is, the second group of drive wheels was firmly attached to the locomotive and the first group could pivot and move laterally in curves.

In the early 1940's railroads were faced with a heavy increase in freight traffic. The powerful Union Pacific Railroad, which then ruled much of the West, had to solve the problem of traction for heavier trains that traveled without helpers over the 1.14 percent grades of the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

The Big Boys were built for power, accomplishing the work of three smaller engines. The Big Boys were build in Schenectady, New York by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) to the Union Pacific's design. ALCO delivered the first twenty in 1941 and the remaining five in 1944. The name was written on one of the drive rods by an unknown worker at ALCO.

With power comes weight, large cylinders, pistons, drive rods and boiler firebox. Steam locomotives manufacturers added more wheels, both of which were powered drive wheels with unpowered idlers. The extra wheels added length. Long engines had difficulty squeezing through the sharp corners in mountains. A French designer named Anatole Mallet added a hinge to the middle of the locomotive to allow it to bend. Two pairs of cylinders supplied power to the two sets of drive wheels.

However, even the Union Pacific's excellent track had its limits. As a result, if powerful locomotives were needed, it was necessary to lengthen them to support the weight on the largest number of wheels possible in order to protect the track. The idea of an articulated locomotive was certainly not new, but the Union Pacific perfected that idea with the Big Boy. Capable of running at up to 80 m.p.h., which was exceptional for these type of heavy locomotives, the Big Boy provided their maximum power at 60 to 70 m.p.h. They were seen hauling 4400 ton 120 car trains at 20 m.p.h. per hour on steep grades and 3,300 tons trains at 70 m.p.h. on level ground. Under these conditions 20 tons of coal and 25,000 gallons of water in the tender were used up in two to three hours.

The twenty-five Big Boys were built to pull long, fast freight trains. They served there until 1959 when new diesel-electric locomotives took over. The Big Boys were not the most powerful engines, though they were the heaviest. No engine ever came close to matching Big Boys' combination of speed, power and agility.


During the month of March, revamping of the portable layout - both topside and underneath - proceeded at a steady clip. On top, removal of all the old "grass" was finished early in the month. Location tags were attached to all the track and switches prior to removal. Then some real fun! Kids aged 6 to 60 (Carl Olson won't let on to his real age) helped paint the cork roadbed a medium gray to simulate ballast and to help hide staples and nails. Painting of the plywood areas began March 30th. At least two coats of a medium brown paint - to simulate dirt - will be applied. While the final coat is wet, grass will be sprinkled. Underneath the table, rewiring is moving along. What do you say about guys who do some of their best work lying on their backs? Most of the old wire has been removed and, with the help of a detailed wiring diagram, laying of new wire has now commenced. If all goes according to plans, most (hopefully all) of the work will be finished by the time you read the next HTOS newsletter.


The United States Postal Service has announced its "All Aboard" series of 33-cent stamps depicting five famous Art Deco era streamliners. Painted by noted artist Ted Rose, the streamliners include:

  • the SP Daylight with GS-4;
  • Pennsy's Congressional with GG1;
  • NYC 20th Century Limited with Dreyfuss J-3a;
  • Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha with a 4-6-4; and
  • Santa Fe's Super Chief with an E1 in Warbonnet livery.

A brief text of each locomotive and train will be printed on the gummed side. Release is set for August 1999.


K-Line has released its 63-page 1999 First Edition catalog. Highlights of this catalog include the introduction of 15" extruded aluminum passenger car sets lettered for the Pennsy "Spirit of St. Louis" and Long Island RR. These cars have fully-detailed interiors.

For the first time, K-Line is offering a sound system - Real Sounds -on their new diesel and steam locomotives. And speaking of engines, check out the two new steam locomotives offered in this catalog. The Santa Fe 4-6-2 Pacific and the NYC 4-6-4 Hudson are all-new castings with excellent detail. (Check out the review of the Hudson in the May issue of CTT).

K-Line's selection of intermodal rolling stock has increased with the introduction of the RailMate System, allowing trailers to instantly convert from road-use to rail-ready through the use of single axle Bogies.

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