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.





Freight Car Friday – Eastern Ohio Rails

16 08 2013

If you’re headed to our Customer Service Open House tomorrow in Canfield, Ohio you may want to save a little time for some real train watching as well. Northeastern Ohio is a still a busy railroad area with plenty of Class 1 railroads as well as several local shortlines providing lots of action and variety. Several promising train watching locations can be found within just a few minutes’ drive from our Ohio facility.

Norfolk Southern

roadrailer

A Norfolk Southern Roadrailer train heads east against a summer sunset in Columbiana – just south of our facility. With the long summer days, you can enjoy the open house and still get in plenty of train watching!

Today’s Norfolk Southern has several historic ties to the region. The closest rails to Canfield are both former Pennsylvania Railroad lines acquired through Conrail. Just a few miles south of town you can catch lots of mainline action on the former PRR mainline to Chicago and St. Louis. You’ll see freight cars of just about every type here. Intermodal trains are quite common, including double stacks and Roadrailers. You’ll also catch unit trains of coal, oil and ethanol, stone, autos and occasionally grain. There is frequent mixed freight action coming and going from Conway Yard, not far away across the Pennsylvania line. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited also uses the line but normally passes here in the dark.

hazelton

Traffic at Hazelton Yard in Youngstown still shows lots of cars serving steel industries.

Heading east towards Youngstown, you can also catch Norfolk Southern on the Pennsy’s former Youngstown Line. Traffic here is a little lighter but includes a few daily mixed freights, plenty of coal and ore trains along with empties, as well as local runs serving a variety of industries. Although the steel trade is not what it once was, steel products are still make up many of the loads. Gondola, coil cars and flatcars are most common.

For a completely different look, you can travel a few miles in the opposite direction to the large GM assembly plant in Lordstown. Although the plant is served by Norfolk Southern via a small branch line, most of the traffic is delivered to CSX’s nearby mainline. If you’re looking for big boxcars and autoracks, this is the place.

CSX

csx

One of the many auto trains on CSX heads races east ahead of threatening skies. The small town of Lowelville offers a pleasant place to catch all the action – along with the NS Youngstown Line.

CSX comes through the area on former B&O and P&LE tracks. Part of their mainline west from Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C., you’ll see a great variety of traffic here too. In the Youngstown area, CSX and the NS Youngstown line are often close by. With the help of a scanner you can easily catch trains on both lines all day. The lines cross at Center Street in Youngstown and the junction is easily and safely viewed from a public overpass.

CSX traffic includes lots of coal, coke, auto and intermodal trains in addition to mixed freights and locals. Lines east of Pittsburgh have clearance restrictions which limit double stacks to pairs of the shorter international containers. Scenery on this line also varies from quaint small towns to wooded hills, to the urban backdrop of Youngstown to open farmland. If you want a different view, it can usually be had in just a few minutes’ drive.

Youngstown and Southeastern

Lionel boxcar

Here’s one you just can’t shoot anywhere else!

Looking for something completely different? The Youngstown and Southeastern offers a chance to watch some first-generation Geeps hauling large unit trash trains down a single-track branch line. The line was originally the Youngstown and Southern, eventually part of the P&LE and handed down through a long string of owners after 1991. Today the line’s primary function is to serve the Total Waste Logistics trash incinerator. Trash cars are interchanged with CSX and NS in Youngstown.

When not in use, the line’s locomotives can usually be found next to the old station in North Lima. While you’re there, make sure to see the Lionel Lines and LGB boxcars!

We hope you’ll all be able to make it to our 3rd annual open house. There are lots of other great train (and non-train) activities in the region too, so make a weekend of it!





Freight Car Friday – Fire on CN 137405

18 01 2013

Today’s blog is a little different from the normal Freight Car Friday. We won’t be looking at one type of car, or even one class of cars, but just one car. Canadian National 137405 is a nondescript gondola, but on June 21, 2008 it made for an exciting morning to be watching trains on CSX’s Sand Patch grade. I hope you’ll enjoy this story of the challenges of a mountain railroad.

You know it’s going to get interesting when you arrive at your favorite train watching spot, switch on the scanner, and jump into the middle of a conversation like this,

hi-rail

The utility of the hi-rail truck was proven on this day as an inspection crew headed up the line to meet the train.

“CSX AV Dispatcher to Q374. Over.”

“Q374.”

“What is your current location?”

“Stopped west of Falls Cut.”

“Car inspectors are coming on the rails at Fairhope Crossing on track one. Once they give us the report, you’ll be ok to proceed at restricted speed to Fairhope Road. They’ll follow you down to the crossing. Hyndman Fire Company will meet you there.”

“Q374 copies.”

emergency crews

This railroad crossing was the only available location to meet the train and douse the fire. First responders were ready.

This grade crossing at the small community of Fairhope, PA was the only road access to the railroad between Hyndman and the train’s location about 3 miles to the west.

Every year, several friends and I traveled to this beautiful stretch of railroad for a few days surrounding the Summer Solstice (taking advantage of the extra hours of sunlight) and CSX seldom disappointed. We were just a few hours into our longest day of railfanning, based out of the lovely rental lodge located just adjacent to this crossing.

train

The troubled train limped down to Fairhope behind an impressive array of power.

While the exact details of what was transpiring up the mountain weren’t yet clear, the situation certainly seemed serious, but under control. Fortunately our location afforded us a safe view well out of the way of all the action.

Moments later a CSX hi-rail truck had arrived and was copying his track permission from the dispatcher. Soon he was on the rails and headed west.

Very shortly thereafter, equipment from the Hyndman Volunteer Fire Company and several volunteer fire police showed up at the scene from the town at the base of the slope.

Now all any of us could do was wait for the train’s arrival.

inspectors

Car inspectors kept a close eye on the smoldering car as they made their way to the crossing.

Subsequent radio chatter revealed the nature of the problem. A westbound train had spotted smoke rising from the corner of a gondola on Q374. Overheated journals or a sticking brake shoe are common problems on a train descending this steep mountain grade. But when the conductor walked the train, he found something much more challenging.

The floor of the gondola, loaded at least to its limit, was pressing down on the flange of the wheel. The resulting friction and heat sparked a fire in the car itself, which was now smoldering.

fire

The fire was quickly extinguished with the help of the Hyndman Volunteer Fire Department.

In that remote location, there was no way to get help in and no place to quickly set the car out. The only option was to continue to move the car to the closest point where the fire could be safely extinguished.

Quite a while later, the train finally came into view around the S-curve at Fairhope. As an added railfan bonus, the train had quite the lash-up of six units which included a BNSF engine, an aging B30-7 and a slug set. About 30 cars back from the power, the problematic gondola came into view. With the car inspector riding beside it on the neighboring mainline, a whiff of white smoke could be seen coming out of the rear corner of the gondola.

foam

With the fire extinguished, the train would be able to proceed to Cumberland where the car could be set out.

The crew spotted the train with the car in the middle of the crossing. The fire company proceeded to douse the car in water and foam for several minutes. Water could be seen pouring out of a hole in the side of the car – whether caused by the fire or a pre-existing condition.

After the fire had been successfully extinguished, the train was given permission to proceed at restricted speed the rest of the way to Cumberland, MD. Fortunately this major CSX facility and car shop was only a few more miles downhill.

Then the dispatcher got back to work, moving all of the trains that were stacking up around Q374 on either side. Amtrak’s Capitol Limited was the first by the scene, passing on track two before the freight had even cleared the road.

Capitol

As soon as the rails were safe, the dispatcher got to work moving trains. The Capitol Limited was the first to pass – before Q374 had even cleared the crossing.

Sand Patch has had its share of disasters since the days of the B&O. Thankfully, this story ended without any major catastrophe. The response of all involved made it look like just another day at the office. (Which thankfully, it is not!)

It is just that sort of preparation and professionalism that keeps the railroad moving safely despite all of the obstacles the mountains can throw at it. From the keen eye of a conductor on a passing train, to a quick thinking dispatcher, to volunteer first-responders ready to go at a moment’s notice – this problem was contained before any more serious damage could be done and without injury.

Keep them in mind the next time you’re trackside. Safety needs to be everyone’s first priority around the railroad. And watch how much scrap you load in those gondolas!





New Product Spotlight – Command Control Speeders

5 11 2012

“Speeders,” self-propelled cars used by track gangs, have come in many shapes and sizes. Today, they are as popular to preserve full-scale as they are in models.

speeder

6-37066 Maintenance of Way

The speeder, or track car, replaced the hand-powered pumpcars and velocipedes, beginning in the 1920s. The first cars were not much more than a small engine, four wheels and a bench. Often they were home-built in railroad shops. Crude as they may have seemed, compared to pumping your way several miles just to get to the work site, these were a welcome relief to those who used them.

6-37064 CSX

Over time, the speeders evolved into larger and more elaborate vehicles. Roofs, windshields, and eventually side walls enclosed the passenger compartments. Larger cars could carry six or more men. Some speeders had top speeds of more than 40 mph and were often powerful enough to tow an extra cart or two with tools, spikes, etc.

6-37065 BNSF

Starting in the 1950s, the traditional rail-only speeder began to be replaced by larger and more-versatile hi-rail vehicles which could run on both rails and roads. By the mid 1980s, most had been replaced on the larger lines. Today, hundreds of the little speeders have been preserved in museums and tourist lines and by private owners who often gather for excursions.

They are one of the most affordable ways to get into 1:1 scale railroading as a hobby. And while some have carefully restored their cars to the original appearance, others have applied unique paint schemes based on favorite prototypes or complete fancy.

6-37067 New York Central

There are lots of uses for these little cars on your layout. Whether you want to have one for your section gangs to inspect your railroad, or gather a fleet and model a modern excursion, the new Lionel command control speeders will add a fun element to any model railroad. They’ll even look great sitting beside the tracks on a set-out when not in use.

For small cars, these critters are packed with features:

  • 6-37063 Pennsylvania

    Run with Command Control or Conventional

  • Forward and Reverse operation
  • Directional headlights
  • Blinking strobe light
  • Interior light
  • Die-cast metal frame
  • Maintenance-free motor
  • Traction tire
  • Detailed Interior
  • Driver figure

The speeders will negotiate an O-27 curve and come decorated for seven popular railroads past and present and a generic Maintenance of Way scheme.

6-37061 Union Pacific

  • Union Pacific (6-37061)
  • Norfolk Southern (6–37062)
  • Pennsylvania (6-37063)
  • CSX (6-37064)
  • BNSF (6-37065)
  • Maint. of Way (6-37066)
  • New York Central (6-37067)
  • Canadian National (6-37068)

The speeders retail for $149.99 and should ship next month. Pick one up and tour your layout in style!

6-37062 Norfolk Southern

6-37068 Canadian National