New Product Spotlight – LEGACY SD70MAC

18 08 2014

As AC traction motor technology improved in the 1990s, the SD70MAC emerged as ideal power for heavy trains.

Prototype Background

6-81134 Burlington Northern

6-81134 Burlington Northern

Billed as the biggest technological development since the switch from steam to diesel, improvements in AC traction motor technology promised major changes in how railroads ran trains and assigned power.

Diesels with conventional DC traction motors can develop a lot of power at low speed, but only for a short period of time before the motors will overheat. AC traction motors on the other hand can run at full power without overheating for a long time. This gives AC motored locomotives an advantage in hauling heavy drag freights like coal trains. After testing EMD’s SD60MAC prototypes, Burlington Northern determined they could replace five aging SD40-2 and C30-7 locomotives with just three new SD70MACs on their Powder River Basin coal trains. Burlington Northern’s initial order for 350 SD70MACs brought AC traction to the spotlight in a big way.

6-81138 BNSF

6-81138 BNSF

Along with the AC motors, the SD70MAC featured improved anti-slip control which greatly improved the locomotives’ adhesion. In other words, the SD70MAC didn’t pull more because it was more powerful, it pulled more because it made better use of the power it produced. The SD70MACs could dig in and pull when conventional locomotives just spun their wheels. It wasn’t long before other railroads were trying out AC as well.

6-81141 Conrail

6-81141 Conrail

While Burlington Northern and most of the other railroads which purchased the SD70MAC did so for coal and other heavy drag freight trains, the locomotives often wander into other service corridors as well. Unit grain trains and general merchandise are common assignments. Perhaps most unusual are those on the Alaska Railroad which sometimes find themselves pulling passengers.

Lionel’s Model

Our latest release brings the model up to date with today’s LEGACY control and other great features, including:

  • LEGACY Control System – able to run on LEGACY, TMCC or Conventional control layouts
  • Odyssey II Speed Control with On / Off switch
  • LEGACYRailSounds including
    • CrewTalk andTowerCom dialog

      6-81153 CSX

      6-81153 CSX

    • 6 Official railroad speeds
    • 8 Diesel RPM levels
    • Quilling Horn
    • Bell (single hit and continuous)
    • Sequence Control
    • Current speed and fuel dialog
    • Refueling sounds
  • Dual maintenance-free motors
  • Traction Tires
  • Refined Conventional Control mode with lower starting speeds
  • Front and Rear ElectroCouplers
  • Fan-driven smoke with adjustable output
  • ARR

    6-81153 Alaska

    IR Transmitter (works with the new SensorTrack)

  • Directional lighting
  • Marker Lights
  • Lighted cab interior with crew
  • Many separately applied metal detail parts
  • Metal frame, pilots, trucks and fuel tank
  • Minimum Curve – O31

Another notable improvement over previous SD70MAC runs, we’ve lowered the fuel tank to a more realistic appearance.

The SD70MAC is being built to order. They were presented in two road numbers for Alaska, Burlington Northern, BNSF, CSX, and Kansas City Southern (one in the gray and one in the Southern Belle scheme). A Conrail SD70MAC is available as part of the Big Blue Auto Parts Boxcar Set and as a single number for separate sale. Look to see them later this year at your local Lionel dealer with a suggested retail price of $549.99.





Freight Car Friday – The Juice Train

8 08 2014

Thirsty for a more efficient way of moving fresh product, Tropicana Products teamed with the railroads to create a novel service which remains one of the most distinctive unit trains to be found anywhere, the “Juice Train.” While the cars, the routes and even the railroads have changed since its inception, one thing has always remained constant; keeping “the Juice” moving is a dispatcher’s top priority.

Juice Train

The Juice Train highballs north on CSX on a late spring evening. The train has just crossed the historic Thomas Viaduct near Baltimore and its sweet contents will be on local delivery trucks by tomorrow morning.

The unique operation began in 1970 when Tropicana started shipping juice from its Bradenton, Florida processing plant north in large insulated boxcars. By 1971, 150 new dedicated cars from Fruit Growers Express gave the company enough equipment for several complete unit train sets. The roster was soon expanded to 250 cars, some with refrigeration units added to help maintain temperatures on the hottest days of the year when insulation alone wasn’t quite enough.

Initially the train used Seaboard Coast Line, Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac and Penn Central rails on its run from Tampa to Kearny, New Jersey. The last part of the run put the train under the catenary and GG-1 and E44 electric locomotives could often be found on the point.

modern Tropicana car

Tropicana’s newest cars returned to the white color of the first train but with today’s instantly recognizable trademark graphics. The satellite-controlled refrigeration units were but a dream when the original cars were delivered however.

Railroad mergers changed the names to CSX and Conrail. As Conrail rolled back its freight operations on the Northeast Corridor, the route shifted to the nearly parallel CSX, former B&O line north of Alexandria, Virginia before riding former Reading and Lehigh Valley rails. Because of the priority schedule of the train however, it will be rerouted if a derailment or major construction project prevents timely service on the normal route. It has run as far west as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on its trip north.

What started with just two 60-car trains a week has grown to as many as 10 weekly trains, including new runs to Cincinnati, Ohio. Train lengths can vary from as few as a few dozen cars to well over 60 depending on the season. In 1999, a new Jersey City, NJ facility was opened on the north end. A new facility in Ft. Pierce, Florida now sees connecting cars coming from the Florida East Coast Railway as well. And in addition to the New Jersey and Ohio unit trains there are several carloads of juice shipped daily to California’s City of Industry via CSX and Union Pacific – often on the head end of priority double-stack trains for fast handling.

insulated boxcar

Many of the older cars still carry the orange paint scheme. Note the small refrigeration units added below the floor of these insulated boxcars.

Empty cars returning south receive less priority but must still be moved efficiently to ensure a constant supply. At times the cars have returned in solid unit trains. Other times cars were sent back as they were emptied as part of regular mixed-train consists.

Even people who don’t know a lot about trains can easily relate to the taste of fresh orange juice. That makes the Juice Train the perfect marketing tool for all companies involved. And the freight cars themselves are really a major part of this train’s appeal.

CSX reefer

CSX owned reefers show up in the trains as well, some with Tropicana markings.

The Juice Train isn’t just a rolling refrigerator, it’s also a gigantic billboard. The large cars have worn a variety of paint schemes featuring the Tropicana logos – modern “billboard reefers” for sure! At times painted white, orange or even dark blue, the long train of bright cars with the familiar trademarks makes quite a statement as it rolls along its heavily populated corridor. In 2012 the train’s unique character made it the perfect subject for a promotional article and video for General Electric’s locomotives as well as CSX’s performance and service.

There have been several different types of cars used on the Juice Train since 1970, from insulated 50′ boxcars to modern mechanical reefers. In addition to Tropicana’s cars, leased cars from CSX and FGE have also been employed when needed during peak times. The initial order of cars came from FGE. Since then PC&F and Trinity have supplied equipment. Today’s train often includes a mix of the modern white Trinity cars along with some of the older PC&F and FGE cars in a mixture of the new white and older orange schemes.

Whether you enjoy studying freight cars, railroad operations or just a refreshing glass of OJ, the Juice Train is certainly a fun part of the railroad scene!





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.

Monon

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

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 – American Flyer ES44AC

7 04 2014
BNSF

6-42581 BNSF 6423 (#6438 also available)

We introduced the new American Flyer ES44AC last year as part of the Norfolk Southern Heritage Series. This year we’re bringing more paint schemes from many of this modern standard’s other operators.

Since its introduction in 2003, General Electric’s ES44AC has become a common sight on railroads all across North America. While AC traction motor-equipped locomotives are generally preferred for slower, heavy freights like coal trains, you will see these locomotives on almost any type of train. And with railroads frequently interchanging the locomotives along with the rest of the train today, it is not at all uncommon to find “foreign power” on your local line.

CP

6-42582 Canadian Pacific 8744 (#8730 also available)

This year’s lineup of American Flyer ES44ACs will include some great names from coast to coast: BNSF, Canadian Pacific, CSX, Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific. Powered locomotives for each roadname will be offered with two different numbers. For the KCS locomotives, one number will wear the Southern Belle scheme, the other a “what if” version of their gray paint scheme.

The American Flyer ES44AC is packed with features.

CSX

6-42584 CSX 924 (#937 also available)

  • LEGACY Control System – able to run on LEGACY, TMCC or Conventional power. The models are also DCC enabled.
  • AF Speed Control with on/off switch for maintaining an even speed through curves and grades
  • LEGACYRailSounds featuring
    • CrewTalk and TowerCom announcements with varying scenarios based on the train’s motion
    • Eight diesel RPM levels
    • LEGACY Quilling Horn
    • Single hit or continuous mechanical bell
    • Independent volume control
  • Two maintenance-free motors
  • Front and RearElectroCouplers

    KCS

    6-42586 KCS 4692 (#4696 also available in gray paint)

  • Mounting holes and support plate for scale couplers (sold separately)
  • Pivoting Pilot allows for operation on tight curves with better appearance
  • Operating headlight, ditch lights, illuminated number boards and detailed cab interior
  • Traction Tires
  • Metal Frame
  • Fan-driven smoke unit
  • Die-cast metal trucks, pilots and fuel tank
  • Separately applied metal details
  • Cab window glass
  • Engineer and conductor figures
UP

6-42589 Union Pacific 7494 (#7523 also available)

All locomotives will negotiate S-36 curves. All come with American Flyer wheels but can be switched to scale wheels which will be available separately through Lionel Customer Service.

ES44AC locomotives retail for $529.99. If you are looking for colorful modern power for your American Flyer layout, it doesn’t get any better than this.