Friday, 7 April 2017

Flashback Friday - CN at Rymal Part 3

Tonight's Flashback Friday (late version of Throwback Thursday...) is a bit special, not only because it's written by my dad, but again covers the namesake station location for this blog. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do! 


The only through train on the line towards the end, the Hamilton-Nanticoke steel train heads south past the old station sign at Rymal, by this time reduced to a place to spot  the occasional lumber car for offloading for local businesses. The train is approaching Rymal road with it's classic ABA F7's and a caboose on each end of the train to ease in maneuvers at Nanticoke.

Recently, our local newspaper (MOUNTAIN NEWS;, in conjunction with Canada’s 150th anniversary included an article on the origin of Hamilton’s railway infrastructure. This led me to conduct some additional research on the origin of the former Canadian National branch line from Hamilton to Port Dover.

As is commonly known, Sir Allan MacNab is widely credited with having the tremendous foresight to view the mid 1800’s then-newfangled railway technology as the means to achieve city building, even nation building. Deploying shrewd political persuasion along with considerable investment prowess, MacNab was able to have the construction of the Great Western Railway Niagara Falls to Detroit line routed through Hamilton, with rails arriving in the harbour town in January of 1854. MacNab would subsequently become president of the Hamilton and Port Dover Railway (originally chartered in 1835) in 1855 and immediately formulate a plan to join the two adjacent Great Lakes, Ontario and Erie by steel. Such a link would provide access to the United States, in particular the Appalachian coal fields in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The task would prove to be both formidable and lengthy. The initial hurdle, surmounting the 330 foot high Niagara escarpment, would require five miles of right of way, consume approximately one million 1860’s dollars, and take some three years to complete. Having overcome the first obstacle, further progress of the line stalled, pending the sourcing of additional funding. In 1869, with several additional Hamilton financiers in the fold, the Hamilton and Port Dover Railway (having already absorbed the virtually identically chartered Hamilton and Southwestern Railway Company in 1856) became the Hamilton and Lake Erie Railway Company. Further to championing the next geographical challenge, bridging of the Grand River in Caledonia, service to Jarvis was established by 1873. Attaining the by then long time goal of reaching Port Dover on the shore of Lake Erie would consumer another five years and involved yet another amalgamation; combining the 1872 chartered Hamilton and Northwestern Railway with the Hamilton and Lake Erie Railway in 1875.

The vision and legacy of Sir Allan MacNab is hard to overstate. As mentioned, he orchestrated the economically vital path of the Great Western Railway to include Hamilton. Further, he persuaded the railway to locate their major rolling stock and locomotive construction/repair shop complex in his fair city. The GW facility would establish an industrial base and spawn enterprises that still have descendants located in the city to this day. Most noteworthy would be Canada’s best known steel makers Stelco (The Steel Company of Canada) and Dofasco (Dominion Foundries and Steel Company). Access to Appalachian coal and the natural harbour facility together with the expanding railway network were cornerstones in Hamilton becoming the Steel Capital of Canada. Sadly, Sir Allan MacNab would not live to see much of his Great Lake joining vision unfold. MacNab would pass away at age sixty-four in 1862 just as his Hamilton and Port Dover was mired in the process of climbing the Niagara Escarpment. However, his spirit may still have an eye on the Hamilton railway scene; his home, long ago preserved as the museum known as ‘Dundurn Castle’ overlooks the Canadian National Railway’s Stuart Street Yard complex (currently sub-leased to Genesee and Wyoming’s Southern Ontario Railway). Not sure he would be pleased about the presence of the American interlopers, however.

- Keith.

As shown on the map below, atop the escarpment, the H&LE chartered line runs virtually arrow straight to Caledonia. Despite increasingly sporadic service on the line, the track structure and subgrade was well maintained right up until the very end.

Lifting of the rails from the connection to CN’s lower city main line to Caledonia began in the mid 1980’s and was completed by 1993. However, owing to industrial development along the Lake Erie shore in Nanticoke, the line from Caledonia south is still in place and very active. Track work shown in the photo stub ends several hundred feet beyond the last of the trio of CN boxcars. In the early 1980’s CN decorated four boxcars along with a couple of other pieces of equipment with insignia promoting the upcoming EXPO 86 being held in Vancouver. The scene has changed significantly otherwise however, as the large structure in the background was razed several years ago. Good news wise, the Caledonia station, unseen to the right, has been fully restored to its as built condition and is open to the public as a museum.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Railfan Report - The Halifax Trip

After clearing the crossing, a swarm of traffic races past CN 9639, shoving containers into the port.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Halifax with my sister. Though most of the time was spent wandering around the downtown area, and checking out whatever tourist shops (and pubs) were open, I did find some time to do some railfanning, though some of it was merely a result of being in the right place at the right time, with camera ready to go. Overall, the weather was cooperative - not really all that cold - and the people were extremely friendly, and the railfanning not bad to boot.

On the second day in town, I rode the ferry to Dartmouth, where CN maintains a small yard next to the Alderney ferry terminal. Primarily serving an auto terminal nearby, the yard mostly handles autoracks with cars to be loaded for import/export. The day I was there was clear and sunny, and I was lucky to catch CN 8843 & 5768 moving around the yard. I believe the 8843 had developed engine trouble as it wasn't running and had a few CN employees inspecting the open hood doors. CN 5768 then went on to do some switching further north.

CN 8843 and 5768 are dwarfed by the Angus L. MacDonald bridge in the background. 

On the third day in Halifax, I was able to catch two different yard movements (one, in not both, was L501 I believe) that were servicing the container terminal at the south end of the peninsula. The first job had GP38-2W #4772, in relatively new paint, and ex-GO Transit GP40-2W #9673 for power and they lifted 42 cars out of the container terminal (loaded containers from arriving container vessels) for movement westward. Later in the day, CN GP40-2W #9639 brought 38 loads down into the terminal. After leading the movement into the yard (the Young street bridge offers a terrific view of the port area), the locomotive ran around the cut of cars before shoving them onto an empty track on the dock. Shortly after CN 9637 arrived, VIA 15, the westbound Ocean departed at 13:00 with VIA 6452, 6437, and 6431. 

CN 9639 makes a runaround move past its' train before shoving it into the container terminal.

The view from Young Street overlooks the container terminal and much of the old docklands in south Halifax.

After getting hosed on the view I had initially planned when CN 9639 showed up with its' train, I had to settle for a slightly more telephoto shot than planned.

I was amazed to discover that Marginal road runs pretty much through the middle of the port terminal. At first I thought the road was strictly for truck traffic bringing containers into the port, but after observing many joggers running down the sidewalk (from the Young St. bridge), it dawned on me that it was open to the public. The road, complete with wide sidewalks) offers a rare and fascinating view of the inner workings of a modern port. Among the things I was able to observe were the Canada Steamship Lines vessel ATLANTIC HURON, a dock where CN was importing rail and loading it on 85' flatcars, a Parish & Heimbecker mill, and an X-ray scanner through which trucks bringing containers into the terminal had to drive. In all, for any student of modern industry, a walk down Marginal road fascinating way to spend a morning.

'Til next time,

CSL's Atlantic Huron was moored in Halifax during our stay in town. The pier just out of view to the right had several loaded CN rail flatcars waiting to be picked up. This view was from the sidewalk on Marginal road.

Looking about 180 from the previous photo, we can see the distinctive Young street bridge in the distance. The tracks in the foreground are used for empty well car storage.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Throwback Thursday - Alberta Gas Chemical Cars Remembered

Tonight's Throwback Thursday is penned by my dad Keith. A slightly different layout for a TT, rather than discussing a single photo from my collection, presented below is a short history of the Alberta Gas Chemicals tank car fleet. 

'Til Next Time,

Undoubtedly, among the most instantly recognizable North American rail photo locations is Morant’s Curve located in the province of Alberta. Named for the legendary Canadian Pacific Railway corporate photographer, the iconic ‘S’ shaped right of way is located NW of Calgary in Banff National Park, adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway. If one happens to venture to Canada’s oil producing province, directions are as follows; travel westward on the Trans-Canada approximately 200 km from Calgary until you reach the Lake Louise turn off. Double back to the first right, Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), and continue for about 4 km to the Outlet Creek viewpoint. Note that the sign is only visible when traveling eastward. For those so equipped; GPS coordinates: N 51 deg 23.980 min, W 116 deg 07.638 min.

Shown in the above photo (CP Corporate Archives E6736-2) is a trio of CP’s once ubiquitous SD40-2’s at the head end of a methanol unit train. Unfortunately there is no date on the photo. However, there are several helpful timeframe clues. Number 587X can be made out on the rear of the very clean middle unit and all three locomotives are decorated with the smaller ‘Pac Man’ multimark and larger 8” wide diagonal stripes. GMD London delivered SD40-2 nos. 5865 – 5879 in October/November of 1984. As information, diagonal end stripes were revised from 5” to 8” in 1977 and CP standardized on the small MultiMark in 1979.

The unit train is comprised of 30,000 gallon (nominal/usg) non-insulated tank cars, mostly decorated with the large red and white ‘ALBERTA GAS CHEMICALS’ logo. The consist is a mixture of AGCX tank cars, owned by Alberta Gas Chemicals, and PROX tank cars owned by Procor. Note that both AGCX and PROX tank cars sport the large AGC emblem. Note also that four of the PROX tank cars simply have ‘Alberta Gas Chemicals’ spelled out as lettering – see below. Also as shown below, the Procor owned tank cars were originally stenciled with UTLX reporting marks - ‘PROX’ was introduced in 1981. In 1990, Procor purchased the entire AGCX fleet which at the time consisted of fifty cars built by Procor Oakville in 1978 (AGCX 10000-10049) and one hundred and eighty cars produced by Hawker Siddeley Transport in Trenton Nova Scotia, 1981/1982 (AGCX 10050-10229). A quick identifier of the Procor built tank cars, both AGCX and PROX, is the prominent reinforcing ring at each end). The new owner was obligated to paint out the AGC emblem ASAP.

Alberta Gas Chemical was a 1970’s origin subsidiary of Nova Corporation of Alberta, whose beginnings date back to 1954 when it was incorporated as The Alberta Gas Trunk Line Company Ltd (AGTL). Methanex Corporation acquired in whole Nova’s methanol business and operations in 1994.

Date of the photo? As related above, the date bookends are 1984 and 1990. All clues factored in, and based mostly on the very clean appearing 587X and relatively pristine condition of the trailing coupled unit: 1985.

Now for some close-ups:

AGCX 10021 was built by Procor Oakville in August of 1978.

AGCX 10198 was built by Hawker Siddeley Transport (HST) at their Trenton, Nova Scotia manufacturing plant in December of 1981. 
PROX 40655 was built by Union Tank Car at their East Chicago, Indiana facility in August of 1975. Note the ACI label and large COT&S B&W block. Note also, aside from the re-stenciled ‘PROX’ reporting mark, still original paint.

PROX 40825 was built with UTLX reporting marks by Procor Oakville in November of 1974.

UTLX 46491 was built by Procor at their Oakville, Ontario manufacturing plant in June of 1974. Above the tank test information on the right hand side the car is stenciled ‘METHANOL ONLY’. This car would be remarked to ‘PROX’ in 1988. Note difference in the COT&S block compared to PROX 40655 above. Given the limited amount of wheel spray, the methanol hauler may be on its first trip from the factory. Note also the similarity to AGCX 10021 below.


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Weekend Project – Athearn Tank Car “Repaint” (100th Post!)

Over the weekend I turned an Athearn RTR UTC 30,000-gal tank car that was originally decorated for DODX into one decorated for Procor (PROX). 

Lately my free time has been reduced a bit due to work demands, so I thought I’d attempt more small projects that I could reasonably accomplish in the span of a weekend. This past weekend I wrapped up the first of what will hopefully be a series of regular updates on this sort of thing. And, as it turns out, this is my 100th post - how time flies!

This week’s project involves redecorating an Athearn RTR Union Tank Car prototype 30,000 gal general purpose tank car. I say redecorating because I didn’t actually repaint the car. Instead, I took a ready to run model that was painted for the US Department of Defense (DODX) and used a Badger air eraser to scrub off the unwanted lettering. The air eraser is essentially a small grit blaster that can use baking soda or aluminum oxide as a blasting media (I use baking soda, it’s much cheaper than aluminum oxide). I carefully masked the areas to be removed, which allowed for preservation of most of the car’s original finish. I specifically chose the DODX car to start with as it had substantially less graphics to start with compared to other paint schemes of the same car. Also, it’s somewhat less desirable, so it was much cheaper to buy than some of the other RTR schemes.

After masking the areas to be removed, I blasted off the unwanted lettering outdoors. Doing so does take a sizeable air compressor due to the amount of air required, at relatively high pressure. After I was done, I rinsed the car with water and let it dry overnight. I then used Microscale’s set 87-1466 (Procor/PROX, Various Tank Cars) to reapply the desired lettering. The set is a great improvement over some of their previous offerings for Procor equipment, but still contains a number of inaccuracies. Using the air blaster, I was able to preserve some of the original graphics such as the “2 INCH HF COMP SHOES” on the side sill and the COTS decals. Lettering was pretty straightforward, using prototype photos found on Chris Vanderheide’s Canadian Freight Car Gallery website. I found a car only two numbers away; I chose PROX 44815 since the number was already aligned in the decal set and wouldn’t require any splicing of individual digits. In prototype, the car is used to carry condensate, essentially a thinning agent used in crude oil pipelines to improve viscosity. The real-life car was built in 2007 at UTC’s now-closed East Chicago, IN plant, and is one of many so-called “short GP30’s” in the fleet (General Purpose, 30,000-gal capacity, less than 60’ in length over pulling faces).  I enjoy decal work since it’s easy to see the results of one’s work, and in this case, pretty quick; the car was decaled in less than an hour. After decaling I used Testor’s gloss coat to seal the decals to the car. I will eventually weather the car lightly, as I model up until 2010, so the car would still be relatively clean and shiny in my modeling era.

‘Til next time,


Monday, 5 December 2016

HO Model Review - Walthers Mainline 4650 CF Cylindrical Grain Hopper

Okay, time to get back to something actually model railroading-related. I hope to have more HO-themed articles in the next few weeks and less 1:1 scale posts, not that there's anything wrong with real-world railroading, but the intent for this blog was to be primarily about 1:87 scale railroading. Progress on the layout and various HO locomotive projects has been slow, but I have a lot of things "nearing completion" I hope to feature in the near future.

Walthers' recent Mainline-series release, the so-called 59' Clindrical Grain Car, produced in droves in prototype by Marine Industries.

Anyway, with the relatively-recent release of Walther's so-called 59' grain hopper, I was keenly interested to get my hands on one and see what the model would be like. No doubt this would car would have a tough act to follow in that Intermountain has cranked out models of the same prototype for years. Walthers' Mainline series is their budget-minded line of less-detailed but more affordable products (such as it is today with prices subject to fluctuations in both the US and Canadian dollars), so admittedly, expectations weren't that high to begin with. This is not intended to be a A-Z review, but rather a narrative describing things Walthers got right and things they got wrong. 

The first thing I noticed about the car was the price - retail is $29.98 US, which works out to about $40 CAD, plus tax. For a budget car, that's a bit steep, especially when the far better-detailed Intermountain version of the same car can still be found without much difficulty at train shows for $30 or less (same paint schemes, too). The car comes well-packed in a somewhat-larger-than-necessary box with a plastic two-piece shell holding the car in place. One thing that was known when the model was announced was that it would come with plastic "end cage" (roofwalk supports and grab irons) detail, and plastic roofwalk. While this does solve the common problem of etched-metal roofwalk warp, the trade-off is a noticeably-thicker profile. Admittedly, if you view the car at a 90-degree angle, it's not too bad, definitely better than the old Athearn blue-box details, but as soon as one sees the car at an angle, it's easy to see just how thick the "engineering plastic" is - pretty thick. On the B-end, the brake dear is present and reasonably-well done, but the plumbing connecting the brake components again suffers from chunky-plastic syndrome. That trait further extends to the grab irons and stirrup steps. One thing done fairly well (among others) is that the top hatches are relatively well-detailed, and apparently more reliable than the Intermountain version (I can't seem to keep those hatches in their hinges). Another thing done fairly well are the brackets supporting the roofwalk along the length of the car. The car comes equipped with Walthers free-running 100-ton trucks and Kadee-like metal couplers. Early tests indicate that the Walthers version of the car doesn't suffer from the common problem the Intermountain cars faced wherein the the inboard wheelsets on each truck contact the brake piping detail underneath the car, sometimes leading to derailments. 

A side view of the car reveals a noticeable gap between the side sill and the hopper sheets, most prominent at the middle of the car.

A couple flaws, at least on this particular sample, serve to detract from the car's overall appearance. The first and more obvious, there is a noticeable gap in the seam between the car's side sill and the hopper sheets. It appears that Walthers chose to cast these as separate pieces, and the fit-up between the two leaves a bit to be desired (and would likely be difficult to correct). The second issue is with the graphics; while generally well-executed, a few spots had fuzzy or even blurry contrast between the two colours, most notable between the yellow and brown, but also between brown and black at the BL-corner of the car. A further, more subtle detail, is that the prototype car has 9 weld seams between the hopper sheets, while the model has 12; again, this is not a rivet-counter's car, but is something that could have been accounted for at the factory prior to production. 
Note the fuzzy colour separation, particularly at lower right between yellow/black, yellow/brown, and at the stirrup step, between black and brown.

At anything but a straight-on view, it's hard to overlook how thick the engineering-plastic components are, particularly the brake piping and handrails between end ladders. Also note that the crossover running board is void of any texture.

A top-down view of the roofwalks illustrates the size and coarse nature of the roowalk grid pattern.

In short:


  • It closely matches prototype dimensions (well, it is a scale model...)
  • Tracks well
  • Some elements are well-executed such as top hatches and roofwalk supports
  • Lettering is generally sharp
  • Sloppy fit-up results in gap between side sill and hopper sheets
  • No way to hide how thick the plastic components are, such as roofwalk, end cage details
  • Sloppy paint application in several places
  • Wrong number of hopper sheet weld seams
  • For what it is, relatively high price

This isn't meant to be a knock against Walthers - in truth, they have done some incredibly well-executed models such as the 52' bulkhead flatcar. In this case though, I'm not sure what they were aiming for, offering a middle-of-the-road model that has already been done in much better quality, for nearly the same price (there is a price difference between a new Intermountain version and the Walthers', but not what I'd expect given the detail differences). Aside from being a rerun, the execution of the model leaves a fair bit to be desired in several areas, so it appears that Walthers was intent on offering "something" to the budget-minded modelling crowd, but may have only been interested so long as profit margins allowed. While the poor fit-up and paint may be exclusive to this single sample (doubt it), the fact is that other areas such as the roofwalk are hard to overlook. As food-for-thought, Scale Trains recently, with their Operator line, offered an entirely new model (never before made in HO) with better execution and at a substantially lower price; thus it is possible to do a budget car well. 

Verdict: I'm sticking to my Intermountain version. 

Hope this review helps some potential buyers,

'Til next time,

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Throwback Thursday #31 - CN Goes to Kansas City in 1977

We're in Kansas City, KS, on August 4, 1977, and observe a rather unorthodox consist moving around the west end of ATSF's Argentine yard. Former passenger service U30CG is joined by CN "4115" (GP40 #4015 cleverly disguised to avoid a numbering conflict with with its' lessor), and GP39-2 #3626. While the two more interesting units have long faded into history, the old ATSF 3626 survives as BNSF 2791, and even still wears it's proud ATSF colors (as of February 2016). Uncredited Kodachrome, author's collection.

Tonight’s Throwback Thursday takes us to Santa Fe’s Argentine Yard in Kansas City, KS. It’s August 4, 1977, and we’re at the west end of the yard where we find an unorthodox consist that includes ATSF 8002, a rare U30CG, CN “4115”, a GMD-built GP40, and ATSF 3626, a GP39-2. Interestingly, both CN and ATSF were known for their fondness of six-axle cowl units – CN ordering Bombardier HR-616’s, GMDD SD50F’s and SD60F’s, and GE C40-8M’s, and ATSF acquiring a fleet of new F45’s and FP45’s, U30CG’s, and used SDP40-2F’s from Amtrak (traded for a number of switchers and CF7’s). The U30CG is perhaps a bit more special than the other cowls though, one of only six delivered as ATSF 400-405 in November 1967. Looking sharp in their silver and red Warbonnet paint, their passenger train careers were cut short in February 1969 when a U30CG derailed while leading the Grand Canyon Limited at Chillicothe, IL. The derailment, at least partially, was attributed to the design of the U30CG – a fate the SDP40-2F would later share – and the units demoted to freight service. This meant a repaint, and the standard blue and yellow freight colors now cover the fluted stainless side panels. Evidently, the Santa Fe was short of power in 1977, as evidenced by the CN GP40 in the consist. Actually, the middle unit is CN 4015, temporarily renumbered to avoid a number conflict with ATSF’s fleet of SD39’s at the time also numbered in the 4000-series. CN was no stranger to leasing spare units, and throughout the late 1970’s leased locomotives, primarily GP40’s, SD40’s and even some six-axle MLW’s, to Conrail, ATSF, and L&N. Interestingly, the likelihood that this consist could be repeated would be short-lived. The oddball GE would be traded back to its builder three years after this photo on an order of B36-7’s, meanwhile the GP40 was leased to L&N in 1978. It would eventually be retired by CN by 1998 (likely earlier), and presumably scrapped. Today, the former ATSF 3626 soldiers on as BNSF 2791, interestingly still in the classic ATSF blue and yellow paint scheme as of February 2016 (!). 

The photo below was taken the day after the photo above, ironically, near Canadian, TX. We again see the same cowled U-boat and CN visitor, paired this time with U36C #8789 and a GP20. It seems the ATSF was intent on getting the most out of the borrowed GP40 while they could! In any event, it seems that the summer of 1977 was a good time to be a railfan along the Santa Fe and I'm fortunate to have these interesting images to study.

'Til next time,

We're somewhere near Canadian, TX, the day after the photo above and again see our unusual duo sandwiched in an enhanced consist with U36C #8789, and an unidentified GP20. Canadian, TX, is almost 450 miles from Kansas City  - the photographer must have been on an epic railfanning trip to cover that distance in less than two days! Photographer unknown, author's collection.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Scale Trains Crude Oil Tank Car - Review & Comparison of the Rivet Counter & Operator Series

End detail comparison between the Operator version (left) and the Rivet Counter version (right). 

Okay, time to get back to something more relevant to my primary focus for this blog (well, in theory anyhow) – model railroading.

Tonight I thought I’d take a look at some of the differences between the Scale Trains Operator and Rivet Counter lines which offer differing levels of detail for their “crude oil tank car” model.

The Prototype

The advent of easy to reach light sweet crude oil in the Bakken formation extending over much of the United States and Canadian prairies spurned a boom in the need to move this oil to refineries. Whereas pipelines offer greater capacity, they are stubbornly fixed in place, while railcars can be routed anywhere on the North American rail network. This is particularly beneficial to refineries beyond the reach of pipelines, such as those near the Pacific or Atlantic coasts (many pipelines tend to run generally north-south). 

While some of this demand could be met by existing equipment, new tankcars were required to handle this boom in oil traffic. Light crude is less dense than some other bulk liquid commodities so capacity could be expanded to just over 31,000 US gallons (30,000 gallons was the previous standard size). An industry-lead move to enhance tankcar safety resulted in the so-called CPC-1232 standard, whose key features over a standard 111A100W1 tankcar include: half-height head shields, fittings protection (in the event of a rollover), and increased tank thickness (9/16” vs previous minimum 7/16”). One builder of this new standard of car is Trinity Industries (the prototype Scale Trains modeled), which produced thousands of CPC-1232’s to meet the oil boom demand.

VMSX 310781 (owned by Valero Marketing & Supply) eastbound at Bayview Jct, ON, on 9 October 2016 with a load of ethanol (UN 1987). This car is the same prototype modeled by Scale Trains.

The Model

As noted previously, two versions of the car are offered: a basic model (“Operator” line) and a more detailed version (“Rivet Counter” line). I could tell you that “the model closely matches prototype dimensions”, but this isn’t Model Railroader. Instead, this post aims to identify some (not all) differences, and comment on the execution of each model. For this review, I acquire one of each version of the car, DPRX 259272 (Operator Line, Deep Rock Refining), and TILX 350417 (Rivet Counter Line, Trinity Industries Leasing fleet).

Side-by-side comparison of the two boxes for the Operator and Rivet Counter lines. It's easy enough to tell the difference from the front, but a difference of colours would make it even easier to tell the two lines apart.

            Operator Version

I think the concept of the Operator line is a brilliant move on Scale Trains’ part, especially for a car such as the crude oil model, which like the prototype is likely to operate in unit train consists. This appeals to someone wishing to run an HO version unit train, which would probably be prohibitively expensive to do with a solid train of Tangent-like quality. The Operator line comes with the same basic details including handrails metal wheels, side ladders, wire handrail stanchions, and most of the graphics. What it lacks compared to the Rivet Counter version includes:
  • Coupler operating levers
  • Double-shelf couplers
  • Rotating roller bearing caps
  • Wire grab irons
  • Placard decals
  • Mesh running boards
  • Thicker head shields (only slightly)
  • Complete brake gear (rods/plumbing)
  • Some graphics (such as “2 inch HF comp shoes” on side sills)
  • AEI tags

Overhead view of Scale Trains' Operator line. Note that this model incorrectly lacks the yellow reflective striping applied to all new cars built after 2005.

This is not to say that this is a “cheap” version in any way – this model still exceeds the quality of some other RTR models, even including some newer Walthers releases (prior to their Proto line). The graphics are still razor sharp, and if desired, the modeler can still add most of the omitted details (e.g. hazmat placard decals, cut levers, air hoses). In fact, I think for the retail price of $22.99 US, this is indeed a bargain, especially considering it’s a new model, not a re-release.

            Rivet Counter Version

Whereas the Operator line is a basic-detail version, I’d say the Rivet Counter line is above par compared to other high-end HO manufacturer’s in terms of details offered and their execution. Several details are noteworthy and not common to many other HO offerings including:
  • Car ID stenciled on truck sideframes
  • Rotating roller bearing caps (Athearn Genesis did have these, but not blue ones)
  • AEI tags on side sills – that’s cool!
  • Full brake gear including rods, levers, and brake hangers
  • Orange dot painted on handbrake chain – how cool is that?!

I’d say that the level of detail in the Rivet Counter line exceeds any other modern HO tank car previously offered, including the Athearn Genesis modern LPG tank car which is also a highly detailed model. Retail price for the Rivet Counter line is $38.99 (US).

Side view of the Rivet Counter model. Check out all the wire details - brake gear, grab irons, handrails, as well as coupler cut levers and double-shelf couplers.

General Comments

While Scale Trains did go above and beyond in some of their details, there was one gaff of note: some cars did not come with the yellow reflective conspicuity stripes. These stripes were made mandatory on new equipment starting in 2005, long before these CPC-1232 cars hit the rails. First built in 2012, all CPC-1232’s are equipped with the stripes; I believe the omission of stripes from some models was an erroneous effort to make the model applicable to modelers who want to depict the pre-stripe era.

Overhead view of the two models - not much different from this angle as the basic tank shell casting and fittings and manway cover appear to be the same between the two models. 

Both lines come with well-designed packaging that includes a soft plastic sheet to prevent scuffs from plastic packaging shell (the manufacturers finally seem to have made this somewhat-standard on new models). The colour scheme and product numbering scheme for the two lines is similar, at first glance it’s difficult to tell which line is which. Personally I think two different colours would be a better way to differentiate the two lines, but it’s easy enough to do when looking at the front of the boxes.

A comparison of the ends of the two models illustrates the differences including: couplers, grab irons, graphics (stenciling on had shield and placard decal), roller bearing caps, and air hoses.

From above, the thinner head shield on the Rivet Counter line is obvious, though in my opinion, the head shield on the Operator line is not obstructively or obviously thick. Also note the wire vs cast plastic crossover platforms, and the grab irons on the Rivet Counter model.


This was Scale Trains’ first RTR offering in HO, and being a tank car (with a lot of exposed details), it’s not an easy thing to get right. And that they did – I think the split offering satisfies modelers at both ends of the spectrum, some desiring a few highly detailed models, others a whole train of slightly-less detailed models. The models are well-executed and if this is an indication of things to come from Scale Trains, Atlas, Athearn, Walthers, and others should take note that there is a new, serious, player in the game. I think their recent announcement of a carbon black hopper will only continue the success generated from the Trinity 31,000-gal crude oil tankcar.

'Til next time,