New Product Spotlight – Pennsylvania GLa Hoppers

28 07 2014

The Pennsylvania Railroad owned an impressive roster of more than 30,000 GLa class hoppers which served from the 1900s into the Penn Central years. As if the PRR’s own roster wasn’t impressive enough, the car was copied directly by several other companies and became the inspiration for several other popular hopper designs which blanketed the United States in the first half of the 20th Century. We’ll cover the interesting prototype history of these cars later this week and in subsequent Freight Car Friday posts. Today, let’s look at Lionel’s upcoming model of this car – one we think will be as popular as its prototype!

Capturing the Variety

GLa drawing

A 3-D drawing of the GLa version shows the many details these cars will feature.

These new hoppers will be the most detailed Lionel has ever produced. Starting with all new tooling, we’ve planned ahead so that we can not only capture the PRR’s GLa accurately, but also capture the key detail changes found in many of the cars which built off of this design.

Lionel’s design team worked from Pennsylvania Railroad drawings to create an accurate GLa. From the overall dimensions, to the distinctive boxy end sills, to proper 2D-F8 truck sideframes, this car will be PRR through and through.

1905 drawing

In 1905, builders began producing cars of similar design for other companies. Compare this plan with the GLa to see the detail differences. This view also shows how the cars will look if you install scale couplers.

When several car builders began building near-duplicates of the GLa in 1905, a car which has subsequently been dubbed the “1905 Common Design” by historians, the overall dimensions remained very close to the GLa, but there were several structural differences to be found – especially on the ends of the cars. By the time these designs had evolved into the USRA’s standard two-bay hopper in 1918, again dimensions were within a few inches of the GLa with more minor detail changes around the ends and hoppers.

Lionel is tooling these models so that the later car designs, using the GLa body, can have other details which more closely capture the look of the cars on these other roads. This will include the end sills, end posts, hand brake and grab iron arrangements and hopper door mechanisms.

Scale Improvements


The underframes have been designed for easy application of a standard scale coupler box.

In addition to the overall high level of detail on these cars, which will even include cross braces and rivet details on the interior of the car, Lionel is adding some new design features to these cars which will make them much friendlier to the 2-rail and 3-rail scale crowd.

Although the cars will come equipped with our standard operating couplers, mounting pads will be provided on the metal underframe of the car so that scale couplers can be easily added by the modeler if desired. No extensive body modification or even drilling new holes required!

We’ve also addressed another little detail that is sure to please many of the prototype-focused modelers; the “Built by Lionel” date stencil has been moved to the underside of the car. It’s still there for the collectors, but won’t detract from the rest of the graphics which have all been carefully researched from prototype photos.

We’re quite proud of these new cars, and think you’ll agree they are some of the finest scale models we’ve produced. Other features include:


PRR and other GLa version cars will feature correct PRR 2D-F8 truck sideframes.

  • Die-cast metal sprung trucks and operating couplers with hidden uncoupling tabs. PRR GLa cars will have appropriate PRR truck sideframes.
  • Plastic carbody and die-cast metal underframe
  • High level of separately applied detail parts including many road-name specific variations
  • Opening hopper doors
  • Removable plastic coal load insert
  • Molded pads for easy conversion to scale couplers
  • Individual road numbers on each car in multi-car packs
  • O31 Minimum curve

The new GLa hoppers will be available as part of the Pennsy M1a Coal Hauler set (three PRR and one Berwind White Coal) as well as for separate sale in the following road names and quantities:


A third version of this car will be detailed to match USRA era details.

  • 6-81686 PRR (circle keystone scheme) 3-Pack GLa version
  • 6-81858 PRR (shadow keystone scheme) 3-Pack GLa version
  • 6-81793 Berwind White 3-Pack GLa version
  • 6-81687 Lehigh Valley 2-Pack USRA version
  • 6-81688 CB&Q 2-Pack USRA version
  • 6-81689 C&O 3-Pack USRA version
  • 6-81789 New Haven 2-Pack GLa version
  • 6-81824 P&WV 2-Pack 1905 Common Design version

Suggested retail price on the 2-Pack cars is $145.99. 3-Packs retail for $219.99. See your local Lionel dealer to place your order now, and look for some more background on these interesting cars starting this Friday on the blog!

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.

Freight Car Friday – Magor Car

20 06 2014

The Magor Car Corporation may not be the best known of America’s car builders, but it had many important achievements to its credit in its sixty-five year history. Located in Clifton, New Jersey, the builder produced everything from diminutive narrow gauge cars for export to record-breaking covered hoppers.

dump car

Still hard at work in 2013, Magor built 50 of these side dump cars for the Chicago & Northwestern in 1965. Dump cars were a major part of Magor’s business.

Early History

What would become Magor Car began as an 1899 partnership between Basil Magor and Robert Wonham. In 1902 the two men incorporated as the Wonham-Magor Engineering Works. That company would become Magor Car Company in 1910 and Magor Car Corporation in 1917. Incidentally, it’s properly pronounced “May-gor.”

The new company emerged at a pivotal time in the history of car builders. 1899 saw the consolidation of thirteen smaller builders into American Car and Foundry. It was just the first and largest of a growing trend. Over the next two decades, a handful of large companies like AC&F, Pullman Standard, North American Car and General American would come to dominate the marketplace.

composite gon

The USRA composite gondola had unloading doors in the floor making it suitable for a variety of loads including coal. It fit well with Magor’s product line and the company built 1000 under USRA contract.

The consolidation came with good reason. The first decades of the 20th Century also marked the beginning of the switch from wood to steel in car construction. Even composite cars with steel frames would require larger facilities to produce and greater production runs to secure economies of scale than the early family run shops could support.

Basil Magor himself would leave the company in 1911 and go on to found the National Steel Car Corporation of Canada. NSC would go on to become one of Canada’s largest car builders and is still in business today. Basil’s brother Robert Magor would take over the reigns in New Jersey and not-surprisingly, a good cooperation existed between the two companies through Magor’s inclusion in Fruehauff in 1964.


The Big John would thrust Magor into the spotlight in the 1960s. Car 7966 still carries its original paint with few modifications in 2008 – a testament to Magor’s quality.

Yet in the midst of this change, there was still room for a smaller builder like Magor to make a name for itself. Most of its orders would come from the jobs too small for the large shops to want. These “cast offs” included industrial, mining and export cars but also orders which were simply beyond the capacity of larger builders in peak times.

For the first fifty years, Magor Car’s primary business was export cars. Proximity to New York harbors and a willingness to take on small orders and innovate helped the company. Unable to go head-to-head with an ACF or Pullman on large orders for big American customers, it hunted out other “niche” products for which it could compete. These included sugar-cane cars for Cuba, steel cabooses, car repair / rebuilding services, pneumatic side dump cars and later, aluminum-bodied covered hoppers.

The company also handled many government and military contracts including USRA drop-bottom gondola cars and a 250 ton-capacity car for carrying Naval guns during World War I. Between the wars, Magor became the largest builder of export freight cars in the country, capturing better than 40% of that market. Following the war, Magor’s car orders are a window into our foreign policy; 1,000 cars for Russia under Lend-Lease, 3,000 for France as part of the Marshal Plan, then 5,000 for the US Government for shipment to Korea in the 1950s.

Post War Years

DEEX gondola

Fruehauf built 150 of these immense coal gondolas for Detroit Edison unit trains in 1971. Some can still be seen in trash service today.

In addition to government contracts and exports, Magor saw increases in its domestic production following WWII. And by 1959 its innovative thinking would open up a new line of production.

Partnering with Reynolds Metals and the Southern, Magor completed the first mass-produced composite aluminum – steel cars in the U.S. This was an order for 455 covered hoppers in 1959. Over the coming years, Magor would emerge as a leader in this construction method with more than 5000 aluminum cars built by 1971. Most notable of the cars were the subsequent “Big John” covered hoppers for the Southern. (Read about these history-making cars in this past blog!)

G47 gondola

Built for Penn Central in 1971, this G47 gondola was one of the last projects completed by Fruehauf. Aside from rebuilt ends and new paint, it looks much as it did forty years and two owners earlier.

These new lines offset declining export sales, which were discontinued entirely in 1963. In 1964, Magor was sold to Fruehauf Corporation. Fruehauf expanded and standardized the product line and in 1968 the new owners enlarged the plant, planning for additional capacity.

Things looked bright through the first years of the 1970s with major gondola and boxcar orders to fill for Penn Central. But these would end up being the last new cars built at Magor. With the freight car market entering a downturn, Fruehauf pulled out in 1973. Some assets were sold to other builders, but aside from rail cars which still ply the rails in the USA and around the globe, little remains of Magor’s corporate legacy. Ever the underdog, Magor proved that with innovation and resourcefulness, even a small company could have a big impact on railroad history.

Freight Car Friday – Reporting Marks Quiz

6 06 2014

The school year is winding down, so let’s get in one more quiz before summer vacation arrives! Nothing too complicated here, just your ABC’s. Let’s see how well you recognize your favorite railroads by their reporting marks.

weight data

Reporting marks are a subtle but essential part of railroad operations.

Reporting marks are the unique set of initials assigned to every company that owns a railroad car. Containers and trailers which ride the rails get them too. Along with the road number, these marks identify the car and provide the railroads’ operating departments a way to route and track it correctly.

Usually the reporting marks are related to the railroad or company name or initials. In some cases the marks seem strange, particularly where the initials are based off of the official roadname and not necessarily the one with which we’re most familiar, like Cotton Belt’s “SSW” for example.

Here is a list of 26 historic and contemporary reporting marks. In addition to well-known railroads, there are some smaller companies, private car owners, intermodal shippers and leasers included to make it a little more challenging. How many do you know?


When cars are sold, often the reporting marks are changed without completely repainting the car.

  1. AA
  2. BN
  3. CSX
  4. DTI
  5. ETTX
  6. FW&D
  7. GM&O
  8. HLCX
  9. ITC
  10. JBHU
  11. KCS
  12. LBR
  13. M
  14. NOPB
  15. ONT
  16. P&WV

    X31 boxcar

    Some roads, like the Pennsylvania and Southern, spelled out their entire name on cars into the 1960s. Automated car tracking systems and computers would make such a practice impractical and reporting marks are now limited to 4 letters.

  17. QC
  18. RDG
  19. SFRD
  20. TRRA
  21. UTCX
  22. VC
  23. WC
  24. XOMX
  25. YV
  26. ZCAX

How did you do? Check out the answer key to check your work and learn a little more. If you want some more chances to test your knowledge, look for the next issue of the LRRC’s Inside Track – coming to members later this month!

Freight Car Friday – Trinity Rail

30 05 2014

Trinity is one of today’s leading freight car builders. Despite not building their own equipment until the late 1960s, the company has been on an amazing path of growth over the past fifty years and through its acquisitions has one of the most experienced pedigrees in the business.

TILX 566304

Part of Trinity’s lease fleet, TILX 56304 traces its design back to earlier Pullman Standard designs.

Trinity didn’t start with railcars. The modern Trinity Industries formed in 1958 from a merger of the Dallas Tank Company and Trinity Steel. The company’s major focus was on tanks for the petroleum and natural gas industry as well as supporting equipment. This included building tanks for rail car use.

After supplying components, Trinity went all-in for their first complete tank car in 1977. Building the complete car offered better profit margins and the company expanded its construction aggressively. By 1980 they were among the top five builders in the US. While building their own line, the company expanded through the acquisition of other car builders through the highly turbulent markets of the 1980s.

Trincool Reefer

Reefers may not be as common as tank cars, but Trinity’s TRINCool reefers are certainly among the most recognizable modern freight cars.

This impressive list includes:

  • Pullman Standard – 1983
  • Greenville – 1986
  • Standard Forgings of Chicago – 1986
  • Ortner – 1987
  • Transcisco Industries – 1996
  • McConway and Torley – 1998
  • Thrall – 2001
Tank Car

Tank cars remain an important part of Trinity’s business and should be for years to come.

In addition to building rail cars, Trinity has been a leasing cars to the railroads and private companies since 1979. Rail car construction tends to run in hot / cold cycles. Having the lease operation provides a financial buffer for the lean years. Their lease cars, with TILX reporting marks, are a common sight on trains all across North America today.

bulkhead flatcar

Many of Trinity’s products retain a strong resemblance to their predecessors like this bulkhead flat inherited from Thrall.

As you would expect, many of Trinity’s cars look very similar to the designs previously built by the companies they have absorbed. This includes iconic designs like Pullman Standard’s boxcars, Ortner’s rapid-discharge hoppers and Thrall’s well cars. The contemporary Trinity product line includes autoracks, hoppers, boxcars, flatcars, tank cars, gondolas, covered hoppers, coil cars, and well cars. You would be hard pressed to find a freight train on a mainline in North America today that doesn’t include some of their products.

rapid discharge car

Trinity’s acquisition of Ortner gave them access to a proven rapid-discharge car design for aggregate service.

With the growth in crude oil and ethanol shipments in the past decade, Trinity’s roots in tank manufacturing are proving to be a great asset. Tank cars make up more than half of all new car orders today. With new regulations for cars due later this year however, expect to see some changes to the designs. You can also expect Trinity to adapt quickly to meet what might amount to unprecedented demand for the new cars. Earlier this month the company announced plans to reopen a plant in Cartersville, Georgia to build new tank cars.

While the tank car boom should prove lucrative for the company over the next several years, Trinity has hedged its bets for the long term with their other product lines and the leasing operations. In addition to their railcar operations, Trinity Industries still maintains its other industrial operations including tanks and piping, structural and marine products. By all forecasts, we should be seeing Trinity’s cars on the rails for decades to come.

Freight Car Friday – Strange and Unusual Part 2

16 05 2014

Sure there are many freight cars that look alike and many versions of cars that only the “rivet counters” can tell apart. But every now and again something completely different passes by in a train to reward the watcher who doesn’t put their lens cap back on as soon as the locomotives go past. We featured four of these odd characters on a Freight Car Friday post in 2012. This week, let’s look at a few more specialty cars that have evolved to meet the unique needs of customers.

Calcium Carbide Car

calcium carbide

CCKX 720 carries an interesting load of calcium carbide casks through Nebraska.

The small casks on this car look similar to the coke casks available for Lionel’s scale gondola car. The load isn’t coke however,  but calcium carbide (CAC2).

Calcium carbide is primarily used in the making of acetylene. This is created when the calcium carbide is mixed with water – hence the dangerous when wet placards on the containers. Calcium carbide is also used in some steel making operations. Toy collectors may also know it from its use in some toy cannons.

Thirty small 5,000 pound casks are loaded on a flatcar and tied down with four large covers. Although hard to see, there are small bulkheads at the ends of the car to keep the loads from shifting. When they arrive at their destination, the casks can be placed on top of a small tower and emptied from the bottom hopper.

Notice that each container and the flat car carry warning placards. The flatcar is also labeled “DO NOT HUMP.” The reporting marks belong to Carbide Industries. This car was spotted heading east along the edge of Union Pacific’s massive yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

Can Stock Car

Canstock car

CSX 504123 shows its offset door.

All boxcars look alike? Not really. While it was traditionally the railroads’ catch-all car, boxcars have become increasingly specialized since the 1960s. Whether it’s a giant high-cube for auto parts, or a kaolin car with roof hatches, the demands of different loads can create many interesting construction variations. One of the more rare modifications to boxcars are a select few customized for can stock service.

Can stock is, as the name implies, thin steel or aluminum used primarily in making metal cans. Unlike other steel coils carried in coil cars or gondolas, these are best transported by boxcar. In order to maximize the payload in these cars, the B&O went to Pullman Standard with a request for new cars in 1972. Moving both doors closer to one end of the car better accommodated the lift trucks and pushed the capacity to 8 coils from 6.

With the doors both offset toward the “A” end of the car (without the brake wheel) a plexiglass panel was added to the roof near the “B” end to allow some light in to the far end of the car. These panels were later replaced as along with the light, they also let in water.

Only 75 of these offset door cars were built. Over the years they have worn B&O, Chessie and CSX emblems.

Vinegar Tank Car

Vinegar Tank

SBIX 1634 is preserved at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis.

Looking like something from another era, wood-sided tank cars remained the best mode of transportation for vinegar well into the mid-1900s.

Vinegar is highly corrosive to metal and would have destroyed the early steel tank cars. Today, special liners can be applied to prevent this problem. Steel was used for the frame and bulkheads however which gave the car the structural integrity necessary to be handled in trains of all-steel cars. Although not all cars were painted this way, the silver paint seen on SBIX 1634 was a common way of keeping the contents cooler by reflecting the sun’s rays.

At least three vinegar tanks survive in museums in St. Louis, Toronto and North Freedom, Wisconsin.

Hot Ingot Car

hot ingot car

Looking like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, LHFX 25000 carries a steel ingot fresh from the furnace.

The steel industry is a haven for interesting railroad equipment. These hot ingot cars are no exception! Looking like something designed to haul top-secret military loads or nuclear material, it’s just hot steel now. But when Lehigh Heavy Forge is finished, that steel could easily be headed to a Navy yard or nuclear power plant.

Lehigh Heavy Forge operates out of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. They are the only open-die forging company in the Western Hemisphere and produce an amazing variety of heavy forged parts for power generation, the military and industrial applications. Formed in 1997, the company carries on the rich steel legacy in this historic steel town.

The special steel used in many of their applications is produced not far away in Steelton, PA. The ingots are shipped hot to Bethlehem for forging. These heavy cars, originally belonging to Bethlehem Steel, carry the ingots inside well insulated covers. The cars can also be used to ship product to other regional mills for finishing. Because of the time-sensitive nature of the loads, it was not uncommon for Conrail or Norfolk Southern to run a dedicated train or place the cars on the head-end of priority intermodal trains to get them to their destination quickly.

Lehigh Heavy Forge has a handful of cars like this, but in classic steel industry tradition, no two are exactly the same. They would certainly make an interesting, and challenging, modeling project.

Cars like those seen this week are a great example of what makes freight cars such a great learning tool. What starts off as a curious car in a passing train can open a window into the history and operations of a whole new industry. What will the next train teach you?


Freight Car Friday – Asphalt Cars

2 05 2014

Spring is finally here and road crews across the country are busy patching potholes and repaving roads. The asphalt that paves our roads often takes its first trip on the rails.

asphalt tank car

GATX 89282 carries a load of asphalt. Judging from the paint burned from the top of the car, those “HOT” warning placards are well heeded.

The car of choice of course for asphalt service is the tank car. Despite similar exterior appearances, tank cars are among the most specialized rail cars due to the unique qualities of the different loads they carry. Asphalt service tank cars are typically in the 23,000 to 26,0000 gallon capacity size and are insulated and heated. Both for heat retention and to minimize the weathering effects of the load, black is the paint color of choice. When loaded, asphalt cars carry “HOT” placards.

utlx tank

This UTLX tank is in asphalt service for only a few months. An outer “skin” hides the heating coils and insulation which are wrapped around the actual tank itself.

Asphalt is produced at refineries all around the country. From there it typically moves in bulk aboard rail cars to regional distribution centers or manufacturing facilities. In addition to paving, asphalt is also used for roofing materials, and as a coating or component on many other building materials and products as diverse as battery cases and tires. If the final use site isn’t directly served by the railroad, as in most road projects, the asphalt can be transloaded into tank trucks for delivery. These unloading operations may be modeled with very minimal space and can work well for an easy industry on a model railroad.

While the insulation in the tank cars keeps the asphalt from completely hardening in transit, additional heat is often necessary to get the sticky liquid to unload efficiently. Typically the car is warmed by filling the heating coils along the exterior of the tank with steam. Other heated liquids or gasses can also be used. Once heated, the asphalt can be pumped out of the bottom of the tank and into stationary storage tanks on site or waiting trailers.

CGTX 18492

The equipment boxes around the end sills on this CGTX car contain equipment for the heating coils.

As you can probably imagine, after emptying the tank there will still be some stubborn residue left inside. Typically about an inch of material will be left at the bottom. Cleaning the interior of an asphalt tank car must surely not rank high on anyone’s list of desirable jobs, but it must be done.

Before anyone can enter the tank to clean it, the car must be allowed to vent for several hours. The vapors inside the car are not only toxic, they can also ignite. Steam, hot diesel oil, caustic soda, detergents and cold water can all be used. Between the venting and cleaning, it can take several hours to prepare an asphalt tank car for its next load.


Burned off paint and thick tar stains are common tell tales of asphalt service.

The latest method is to cool the car by pumping cold water into the coils and into the tank itself to a temperature of around 40°F. This hardens the asphalt so that it can be chipped and swept out as a solid. This is much faster and safer than the other techniques.

Aside from the “HOT” placards and other loading markings, asphalt tank cars can usually be picked out easily in a train. It doesn’t take too many trips before the cars develop thick black streaks down the sides near the loading hatch from spilled asphalt. It is also common to see the paint on the car burned off from the heat of the load. For those who like to weather their models, this is all part of the fun!

So the next time you have to dodge a pothole on the way to work, just think of all the business it means for the railroads!