Freight Car Friday – Evans “Breadbox” Coil Cars

25 07 2014

The subject for this week’s post is a very obscure prototype that actually found its way into the Lionel product line in the 1970s. Although only 60 of the prototype cars ever existed, they have been reproduced by the thousands in HO scale by Lionel and other manufacturers.

Steel coils are a challenging load. They are heavy, shift or topple easily in transit and often require protection from the elements and careful handling to avoid scratches and dents that will incur costly claims on these expensive loads. Car builders, railroads and steel companies began looking for more efficient ways of handling steel coils in the 1960s. Traditional gondolas offered easier loading but lacked the restraints necessary to support the coils or protection from the elements. Boxcars were difficult to load and presented a poor car weight / capacity to load-limit ratio.

coil car

From the Lionel Archives, the 5-8620 “B&LE Cable Car” captured the unique shape and features of these Evans coil carriers.

Evans Products would emerge as a leader in coil car design and production, but all of their designs weren’t as successful. Evans’ first coil cars came in 1964. In 1967, they produced an experimental car which more closely represented a traditional gondola. This single 42′ prototype led to slightly larger 50′ cars that same year.

The inside of the gondola held a wooden trough which ran the length of the car to support the sides of the coils. Adding to the load protection were large cushioned coupler draft gear boxes on the ends of the car. But the cars’ most distinctive feature was the large retractable steel canopy which could be closed over the load in transit. The distinctive roof gave the cars the nickname “breadboxes.”

Unlike other cars whose covers were separate pieces, the integrated design of the breadbox was conceived as a way to correct the problems these covers caused at the mills. Separate covers required additional storage space. They were frequently mismatched with other cars when being replaced which led to some colorful cars but an accounting nightmare. The hoods were also subject to rough handling by crane crews this damage could cause the covers to leak or not fit properly on the car.


Lionel’s HO model came with opening doors and a simulated cable reel load. While not a common lading, these cars did haul other products which could fit in the cradle and required cover.

The breadbox hoods were designed to be manually opened and closed by a worker at the end of the car. This eliminated the need to use cranes and, since the open hoods stayed attached, also eliminated the need to store and sort the hoods. The potential for reduced damage claims was enough for the steel hauling-giant Pittsburgh and Lake Erie to lease 50 of the cars in 1967. Bessemer and Lake Erie took another 10.

While the cars were designed so that no mechanical assistance was needed to open or close the lids, hasty mill workers often used overhead cranes to do so anyway. This damaged the closing mechanism so that when the hoods were reopened again, instead of a controlled and gradual opening they came crashing apart as soon as they were unlocked. The resulting clash of steel on steel inside a mill had to be not only deafening but put the worker on the car’s end platform at extremely high-risk of injury.

In 1973, the P&LE sent all the cars back to Evans and terminated the lease. The hoods were removed and the cars were used for transporting hot coils which did not require protection from the elements. P&LE bought the reconfigured cars and used them through 1990 when the remaining cars were purchased by H & S Railroad. Bessemer also removed their covers but did supply their 10 cars with new removable hoods. Despite the changes up top, the old breadboxes always stood out in a train with their cushioned draft gear, fishbelly side sills and a pair of large, curved side posts which once supported the opening doors. Most remained in service into the 2000s.

Although their time in the spotlight was brief, these cars commanded a lot of press and promise at their introduction. P&LE featured a rendering of one of the cars on their 1968 Annual Report. With the distinctive look and added play value of the opening hood, Lionel included these cars in two sets in the 1976 HO Catalog – one in P&LE and one in B&LE lettering. Cars were also sold separately. The tooling for the models has since been used by other manufacturers and collectors can still easily find these cars at shows and online auctions.


New Product Spotlight – Boston & Maine Paul Revere GP9 Set

21 07 2014

One of six sets that will be available only through our Lionel dealers, the Boston & Maine Paul Revere GP9 set combines a rugged conventional locomotive and traditional line of cars with bold new graphics. Designed in partnership with Lou Caponi, the late President of the Lionel Collectors Club of America and friend to train collectors everywhere, these sets capture the spirit and excitement of the classic toy train set.

Lead by a GP9 in the bright McGinnis paint scheme with a matching caboose bringing up the markers, this freight train is ready to head down one of the B&M’s charming New England branch lines to provide personal service to the many small customers along the way. These locals were the critical first and last legs of the journey for rail shipments and the customers’ contact point with the railroad. Their colorful consists constantly changing as they meandered along from siding to siding – what could be a more perfect train for hours of fun on a toy train layout?

BM set

6-81021 Boston & Maine Paul Revere GP9 Set

The freight cars in this train include a B&M boxcar and 4-bay hopper. The hit of the consist has to be the State of Maine aquarium car decorated in the Bangor and Aroostook’s instantly recognizable red, white and blue and carrying a load of one of Maine’s tastiest exports! This latest twist on the classic aquarium car features Maine lobsters “swimming” around inside the illuminated interior.

The GP9 locomotive features:

  • Transformer-controlled forward-neutral-reverse operation
  • Railsounds RTR™ sound with diesel revving and user-active horn, bell and crew dialog
  • Battery backup for sounds
  • Powerful maintenance free motor
  • Operating headlights
  • Operating couplers
  • Metal frame and handrails
  • Die-cast metal trucks
  • Traction tires
  • Interior illumination

Freight car features include:

  • Die-cast metal sprung trucks on hopper and boxcar
  • Die-cast metal trucks on aquarium car and caboose
  • Operating couplers
  • Metal frame and opening doors on boxcar
  • Stamped metal ends on hopper
  • Removable molded coal load on hopper
  • Interior lighting in aquarium car and caboose
  • Motorized interior belt makes lobster decoration appear to swim inside aquarium car

The set will run on O-31 curves and retails for $499.99.  Your Lionel dealer is the only place you can pick up this and the five other dealer exclusive sets featured in the 2014 Signature Catalog. See yours to place your order today!

Freight Car Friday – Freight Cars of Indianapolis

18 07 2014

This week Lionel and the LCCA are racing to Indianapolis for the LCCA’s 2014 Convention. While this city is best known for a different sort of “track” there is plenty of railroad history and contemporary action to entertain any rail fan.

Indianapolis Union Railway

X31 boxcar

Indianapolis was an important stop of the Pennsy’s route from Pittsburgh to St. Louis.

To get a good picture of the total Indianapolis railroad scene you just have to start with one company, the Indianapolis Union Railway. Indianapolis was the first city in the world to host a “Union Station” – that is a station which served more than one company equally. When opened in 1853, the new station offered the citizens of Indianapolis a single, central station from which they could catch a train on a number of different railroads which radiated out of town like the spokes of a wheel. For travelers making connections in Indianapolis, the unified facility meant catching another train was never much more difficult than walking to a different platform instead of arranging transportation across town to another rail head.


The Monon was among the smallest of roads to enter Indianapolis, but it wore its Hoosier State pride proudly.

The IU was organized in 1850 as the Union Track Railway Company with a total of about 3 miles of track built or ceded by three railroads. The name changed to Indianapolis Union in 1853. Over the coming years, more railroads would be added as the efficiency of Union Station spurred commerce in and around the city. By the early 2oth Century, the list of owners included the Pennsylvania, New York Central, Baltimore and Ohio, Nickel Plate, Illinois Central and the Monon.

Conrail PS-2

In 1976, Conrail took over most of the remaining rails in and around the city.

In the 1930s, ownership of the IU was consolidated down to just the Pennsylvania and New York Central, with the other companies paying rent and continuing to run into the station. In 1968 the IU became a wholly owned subsidiary of Penn Central then passed to Conrail and finally to CSX.  The passenger trains of course ran under only the Amtrak banner after 1971.

Today’s Operations

Norfolk Southern

Despite the perceptions of endless farm fields, southern Indiana and Illinois topography offers hills, grades and coal. Between mines and utilities, coal trains remain a common sight in the region.

Today’s freight operations include Norfolk Southern and CSX as well as the regional Indiana Railroad and shortlines Indiana Southern and Louisville and Indiana. The latter three roads all began as Conrail shed duplicate main and branchlines around the city in the 1980s and 1990s. CSX inherited most of the remaining Conrail property in the city in 1999, with Norfolk Southern operating on trackage rights.


CSX is the major player in town today. Covered hoppers are in constant supply, bound for numerous grain elevators in the region.

Avon Yard, on the west side of the city near the airport, serves as the major classification point for traffic heading east-west as well as connections north-south. While much of the traffic still passes right through the heart of the city thanks to the elevated right-of-way built for the station more than a century ago, connecting lines and branches can provide a different look in any direction as you travel around the area. Whether you’re after heavy action on a Class 1 railroad with an urban backdrop or a local freight on bucolic rural branch line, all can be had within a short drive and from safe, public vantage points.

New Product Spotlight – Major League Baseball Boxcars

14 07 2014

Tomorrow the game’s best will battle it out in the annual MLB™ All-Star Game™. Lionel’s newest licensed Major League Baseball™ trains will be a home run on your layout too!

White Sox

6-81924 Chicago White Sox

New for 2014, Lionel is introducing boxcars decorated in official Club logos for every team in the American League and National League. Whether you collect the entire series or just your hometown heroes, these colorful cars are going to look great in any train or baseball collection. Best of all, as befits cars that salute our national pastime, each of these cars is printed and assembled here in the USA from domestic and imported parts.


6-81919 Pittsburgh Pirates

The new cars feature:

  • Made in America from domestic and imported parts
  • Cast metal sprung trucks and operating couplers
  • Opening doors
  • Metal frame and brake wheel
  • Minimum Curve: O-27

For illustrations of every team’s car, see our 2014 Ready to Run catalog online or at your local Lionel dealer. These cars retail for $69.99 each.

American League Teams

  • 6-81912  New York Yankees™


    6-81937 Tampa Bay Rays

  • 6-81914  Oakland Athletics™
  • 6-81916  Boston Red Sox™
  • 6-81920  Detroit Tigers™
  • 6-81922  Baltimore Orioles™
  • 6-81923  Minnesota Twins™
  • 6-81924  Chicago White Sox™
  • 6-81927  Cleveland Indians™
  • 6-81929  Toronto Blue Jays™
  • 6-81931  Angels™
  • 6-81933  Texas Rangers™
  • 6-81937  Tampa Bay Rays™
  • 6-81938  Seattle Mariners™
  • 6-81942  Kansas City Royals™

National League Teams

  • 6-81913  St. Louis Cardinals™
  • 6-81915 San Francisco Giants™
  • 6-81917 Los Angeles Dodgers™


    6-81928 New York Mets

  • 6-81918  Cincinnati Reds™
  • 6-81919  Pittsburgh Pirates™
  • 6-81921  Atlanta Braves™
  • 6-81925  Chicago Cubs™
  • 6-81926  Philadelphia Phillies™
  • 6-81928  New York Mets™
  • 6-81930  Miami Marlins™
  • 6-81932  San Diego Padres™
  • 6-81934  Milwaukee Brewers™
  • 6-81935  Houston Astros™
  • 6-81936  Colorado Rockies™
  • 6-81939  Washington Nationals™
  • 6-81940  Arizona Diamondbacks™

Major League Baseball trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.  Visit

Freight Car Friday – Pacific Car and Foundry

11 07 2014

Pacific Car and Foundry, best known in its later years for its mechanical refrigerators and insulated boxcars, had its roots in the logging industry. The small company has had ties to major carbuilders and projects but for most of its history was a family business.

log car

It should come as no surprise that PC&F’s first freight cars would serve the logging industry.

The Pacific Car and Foundry name first appeared in 1917 as a result of a merger between the Seattle Car and Foundry Company and its top regional competitor, Twohy Brothers Company. The corporate history however dates back to as early as 1901 when William Pigott first established the Railway Steel & Supply Company.

This firms first railcars were logging disconnects. These cars were not much more than trucks which were placed beneath either end of a large log. The first skeleton log cars came in about 1908 under the Hercules trade name. These cars were much safer than the disconnects yet still had a much lower tare weight than conventional flat cars.

SP 691752

PC&F’s “Beer Cars” are one of their more common designs. For a view of the opposite side of this car, see last month’s blog on the subject.

Logging cars would continue to make up the majority of sales for the then Seattle Car and Foundry Company from 1911 through the merger in 1917. Total production had averaged less than 800 cars per year. Shortly after the merger however, the new United States Railway Administration delivered the company an order for 2000 boxcars.

In the 1920s, the company began to develop two different but successful product lines. Its Renton plant continued to turn out quality products in large quantities for the logging industry. Increasingly however, the trucks were of the rubber-tired variety. Meanwhile its Portland plant had developed a successful line of refrigerator rail cars.


Lionel reefer

A PC&F car originally built for Pacific Fruit Express served as the prototype for Lionel’s O and S scale models.

American Car and Foundry acquired PC&F in 1924 but the company continued to operate and market its cars under its own name. Pigott’s sons, William J. and Paul, bought the company back from ACF in 1934. That decade would challenge every car builder of course, but PC&F remained intact. Declining car sales were offset by ventures into other manufacturing and corporate diversification from the 1930s through the 1960s. Following ACF control, the primary railcar product remained reefers. Notable among the other operations was the structural steel division which produced steel for Seattle’s Space Needle and New York’s World Trade Center.


Although best known for insulated boxcars and reefers, PC&F also built cars for other service. This auto parts car is one example.

The third generation of the Pigott family, Paul’s son Charles, assumed control of the company upon his father’s death in 1961. In 1972, PC&F was reorganized as PACCAR, and Pacific Car and Foundry became a division within the company and continued to build freight cars until 1984. Although the company is no longer serving the rail industry, PACCAR remains a major supplier for its trucking competition.

Although they have been out of production for thirty years or more, many of PC&F’s boxcars and reefers can still be found roaming the rails. A few earlier examples of their craftsmanship have found their way into museums.

New Product Spotlight – Victorian Christmas LionChief Set

7 07 2014

How about a little Christmas in July? Lionel’s complete new 2014 Christmas Catalog is available for viewing on our website. Here’s a look at one of our new sets to get you thinking about this year’s Christmas train display!

Victorian ChristmasUsing our Hall Class 4-6-0, this new set brings all the charm of an English Victorian Christmas home. (For more background on the actual locomotives, see this earlier blog on our new Albert Hall set!) This train will be a natural complement to many of the Christmas village collectables as part of a larger display.

The set includes a LionChief-controlled “Saint Nicholas” Hall Class 4-6-0 and tender, two coaches, a combination car, wall-pack power supply, remote control, and a 40 x 60 inch oval of FasTrack with eight O-36 curves, three 10 inch straight and one plug-in terminal track. Adding to the fun, the train plays British Christmas music in addition to its train sounds!


6-81280 The Victorian Christmas set includes a locomotive, tender and three matching passenger cars.

This new Lionel set captures the graceful lines of these beautiful trains beset with all the warmth and charm of Christmas’ past. Controlled by the LionChief Remote, the new train is easy to control and comes with many great features:

  • Electric locomotive controlled by remote


    The LionChief Remote puts all of the controls in the palm of your hand.

  • Operating headlight
  • Puffing smoke with ON/OFF switch
  • RailSounds RC with steam chuffing and background sounds, whistle, bell and user-activated announcements
  • ON/OFF switch for steam chuff and background sounds (all other sounds are only activated by pressing the buttons)
  • Operating coupler on rear of tender
  • Maintenance-free motor
  • Cab window “glass”
  • Die-cast metal locomotive body and tender frame
  • Two traction tires
  • Separately applied details including buffers, coupler air lines, brake stands, marker lamps and valve gear

The user-friendly LionChief remote features a single forward/reverse/speed control knob and three separate buttons for the whistle, bell and announcements. The sounds for this set will have a distinctly British flair, from the shrill whistle to the Christmas music selection. The remote requires three AAA batteries, not included.

Retail for the set is $399.99. See you local Lionel dealer to order one today!

Happy Fourth of July!

4 07 2014

Best wishes for a very safe and happy July 4th to you all. In celebration, enjoy this earlier Freight Car Friday post on Patriotic Freight Cars!