Freight Car Friday – Pennsylvania GLa Hoppers

1 08 2014

With Lionel’s forthcoming models of the GLa and its copies, it’s worth taking a more in-depth look at the car itself. If one only looks at production numbers alone, the GLa has to rank near the top of any list of notable coal car designs. But of course the big picture is so much more interesting than that.

PRR GL

The precursor to the GLa was the GL. These were the first all-steel hoppers on the PRR. Despite similar classes, the GLa represented a major shift in the engineering behind the cars.

Rapid Innovation

The PRR began building its roster of GLa hoppers in 1904. The design emerged from previous GL, GLc and GLca cars which date back as early as 1898 and marked the beginning of steel hoppers on the PRR. The “G” in GL stood for gondola and the hopper as a car type in general was still early enough in its evolution from the gondola that the name hadn’t yet become common. Also, like the drop-bottom gondolas from which they grew, the strength of these early cars was still found in the frame,  with the sides being just extensions to contain the load.

plans

The GLa introduced an important new design change which allowed the sides of the car to carry more of the load.

Although the  class nomenclature would make it appear that this was just another subset, the GLa was really the start of the next era of PRR hopper design. It lacked the “fishbelly” side sills of the earlier car and instead relied upon the side sheets and posts to provide the structural integrity and support the load. This reduced the light weight of the car and increased capacity. In just a few short years, engineers had already made major strides toward maximizing the efficiencies of steel car design.

By the end of production in 1911, the PRR owned 30,256 GLa cars. Some of these were purchased slightly used from several coal companies. They were among the most common hopper on the railroad for the next fifty years.

Unprecedented Longevity

GLa

By its numbers on the PRR alone, the GLa was the most common hopper in the world at one time.

Despite being an “early” design, the cars held up well and had long careers. How many other car types could have locked couplers with both a H3 Consolidation and an SD45?

From 1917 to 1932, the only retirements seem to be due to wreck damage or normal wear. In fact, the PRR bought some additional GLa cars from some of the coal companies which had clones built for their own service. The fleet dropped by about 4000 during the Depression and then again leveled off for about two decades. Large retirements did not begin until the late 1950s. In 1956, the roster still included some 21,840 cars. To put this into perspective, consider that in 1956 the coal-hauling Reading owned 13,015 hoppers total.

shadow keystone

The PRR introduced the “Shadow Keystone” scheme in 1954, hundreds of GLa’s were repainted.

As late as 1973, 77 cars of this class still showed on the record books for Penn Central. All were likely by that time in company service and so far, no photo of one in PC paint has ever surfaced.

There were some production changes over the years. The more modern Berwind cars for example had power hand brakes and straight profile side posts. Other cars were modified over the years with changes in door locks and coupler draft gear. They were also upgraded from K to AB brakes relatively early. Overall however, the design of the cars remained remarkably consistent over their long careers.

Only one of the 30,256 GLa cars is known to survive. It can be found at the Western New York Railway Historical Society in Hamburg, NY.

Setting the Standard

Berwind

Berwind White owned one of the largest fleets of GLa “clones.” They were a common sight on PRR trains.

The impact of the GLa on the PRR wouldn’t end with just these 30,000+ cars. The GLa also influenced future production on the PRR. Though at first glance they are very different, the H21 four-bay hopper design is essentially a stretched GLa. These cars, huge by standards of the day, made use of the steel manufacturing lessons learned with the GLa. When all subclasses are considered, the H21 represents an additional 39,699 car extension of GLa engineering.

To build its massive roster, the PRR farmed out construction to any builder who could handle the project (which for all-steel freight car construction was a relatively small pool in 1904.) Consequently, these builders each had access to the design and also began building similar or identical cars for other customers. Many of these customers were coal companies in the PRR’s own territory. Berwind White Coal was the largest and most well-known. It had new cars built to GLa dimensions as late as the 1930s and some of their cars lasted into the 1970s. Others would be bought second-hand by the PRR itself.

As builders refined and resold the design, a new “standard” hopper was being developed. Looking back it is easy to see the evolution of what is now known as the “1905 Common Design” cars. We’ll take a closer look at these as the next chapter of the GLa’s story in a future Freight Car Friday blog.

 

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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

couplers

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:

sideframes

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:

USRA

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 – 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 – LEGACY Pennsylvania M1A Steam Locomotives

9 06 2014

Always known for its independent engineering and distinctive style, the Pennsylvania Railroad produced many notable steam locomotives. The M1 4-8-2s certainly rank among their most successful designs.

Prototype Background

PRR 6755

The Pennsylvania set one M aside for posterity – No. 6755 was built as an M1A in 1930 and later converted to an M1B.

The Pennsy had already found its primary passenger power in the form of the K4 Pacific. A design perfected over decades of engineering and revision, 425 K4s provided one of the largest stables of passenger  locomotives to be found anywhere. As good as they were however, the K4s still had their limits. As passenger trains grew longer and heavier in the 1920s, the railroad was forced to double and even triple-head the Pacifics over its mountain grades. Larger power was needed.

Appropriately, the solution for the problem would come in the form of a Mountain-type (4-8-2) locomotive. The Pennsylvania’s M1 was more than just a K4 with an extra pair of drive wheels however. The M1 took from the best of several existing designs, but most heavily from the I1 Decapods.

Lionel's M1 captures the locomotives' beautiful look prior to front-end modernization.

6-81245 PRR 6771 – Lionel’s M1 captures the locomotives’ beautiful look prior to front-end modernization.

After building a prototype in 1923 and two years of thorough testing and refinement, the railroad ordered 200 new locomotives. Only 20 of these would be regularly assigned to passenger service however. Most found a home as the railroad’s new premier fast-freight engine.

The engineering department never let up however, and in 1930 an order was placed for 100 more 4-8-2s, classified M1A. These locomotives included a feedwater heater and increased boiler pressure. They were also delivered with the monstrous “coast to coast” tender which was nearly as long as the locomotive itself. Again, only 10% of the new locomotives were assigned for passenger duties, though all were equipped to handle the varnish.

M1 set

No. 6755 is available as part of set 6-81247 – complete with all new PRR hoppers and a N5B cabin car.

Following the war, 40 M1A’s were upgraded to M1B’s with a further increase in steam pressure. Rebuilt or not, most of the M1s received the new modernized front end during the war years which made access to the headlight and generator much easier. All of the M1s put in good service to the end of steam. They were among the most versatile of PRR steam locomotives and could be found on the point of just about anything from a passenger train to a fast freight to coal trains.

Ultimately the arrival of even more versatile and efficient diesels in the l940s and 1950s spelled the end for the M1 fleet in 1955. Only one M1 survives today. No. 6755, built in 1930 by Baldwin as an M1A and later upgraded to an M1B was set aside by the Pennsy for its historic collection and can be seen today at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg. It is the largest surviving PRR steam locomotive.

Lionel’s M1A

6764

6-81246 PRR 6764

Lionel is pleased to bring back the pride of the Pennsy with this latest release of the M1A. For the first time, this locomotive will be available with LEGACY and whistle steam! Each of the models will capture the locomotives’ appearance prior to their modernization in the 1940s.

Additionally, the models will feature:

  • LEGACY Control System equipped – able to run in LEGACY Control mode, in TrainMaster Command Control mode, or in Conventional mode with a standard transformer
  • Odyssey II Speed Control with On/Off switch
  • LEGACY RailSounds system featuring:
    • CrewTalk dialog and TowerCom announcements, each with different scenarios depending on whether the locomotive is in motion or stopped
    • Six official railroad speeds with Crewtalk dialog
    • DynaChuff synchronized with 32 levels of intensity as the locomotive gains speed
    • LEGACY “Real-Time Quilling Whistle” control with instant response for realistic signature ‘quilling’ and correctly timed warning signals
    • Single hit or continuous mechanical bell sounds
    • Sequence Control plays the sound effects of an entire trip, including warning sounds and announcements, based on the movement and speed of the locomotive
    • Current speed and fuel dialog, refueling sound effects
  •  Whistle Steam effect
  • Powerful maintenance-free motor with momentum flywheel
  • Wireless Tether connection between locomotive and tender
  • ElectroCoupler on rear of tender
  • Directional lighting including operating headlight and back-up light on rear of tender
  • Illuminated classification lights on the front of locomotive and tender
  • Traction tires
  • Fan-driven smoke unit
  • Adjustable smoke output
  • Interior illumination in cab and tender “doghouse”
  • Die-cast metal locomotive body, pilot, and frame
  • Die-cast metal tender body and trucks
  • High level of separately applied metal details
  • Separately applied builder’s plates
  • Authentically detailed cab interior
  • Glowing ashpan and firebox in cab
  • Cab glass windows
  • Engineer and fireman figures
  • O-54 Minimum curve

The Pennsy M1As are being built to order. They featured three road numbers (6755, 6764, 6771) and as an undecorated Pilot model. Look to see them at your dealer later this year. Nos. 6764 and 6771 are available individually with a suggested retail of $1499.99. No. 6755 is being sold as part of a new Pennsy coal train set which will also include all new PRR GLA hoppers and an N5B cabin car – look for more information on these exciting new models (also available for separate sale) in upcoming blogs!





New Product Spotlight – LionChief Plus Diesels

12 05 2014

Lionel’s new LionChief Plus steam locomotives have quickly earned a reputation for their power, features and easy operation. Soon diesel fans will have comparable choices for their railroads as well! The new LionChief Plus GP-7 and RS-3 will offer amazing performance and value on two of the most common early road-switcher locomotives.

Prototype History

RS-3

LionChief Plus RS-3 pre-production sample.

In the 1940s, a new type of diesel locomotive was coming to the rails. Alco was the first to introduce the “road switcher” with its RS-1 model in 1941. The locomotive was essentially a stretched switcher with a small hood added to the back of the cab and larger trucks. The short hood offered room for a steam generator or dynamic brakes.

The new road switcher was a true jack-of-all-trades, capable of handling freight or passenger trains on the mainline, branch lines or in the yard. The narrow hoods offered better visibility from the cab in either direction and easier access for maintenance. Although few could have predicted it in 1941, the basic standard for the future of the diesel locomotive had been born.

GP7

LionChief Plus GP7 pre-production sample

EMD countered the RS-1 with its “General Purpose” GP7 in 1949. The new “Geeps” were just what the railroads needed to replace their steam locomotives and orders were strong. In 1950 Alco unveiled their third version, the RS-3. EMD’s updated GP9 came in 1954. Together, the new road switchers made it possible for railroads to replace nearly all of their steam locomotives by the end of the decade. While EMD greatly outsold the competition, both models have maintained a good reputation and many examples of each can still be found at work today.

NYC RS-3

6-38779 New York Central RS-3

LionChief Plus Locomotives

Like the prototypes, the new LionChief Plus diesels should be the perfect fit on many railroads – though thankfully in our world there is no need to retire your steam!

With its LionChief™ Remote they can run on layouts powered by the LionChief™ wall pack, a conventional transformer (set to 18V) or a Command Control system. Flip a switch on the locomotive and you can run it conventionally with a transformer as well. (For more information on the LionChief™ Plus control system and how it relates to others, see this earlier blog.)

CBQ GP7

6-38827 Burlington GP7

It’s not just the control system that sets the new LionChief™ Plus locomotives apart. Like the LionChief Plus steam locomotives, these new diesels are excellent pullers. Our test samples had no trouble taking 35 scale freight cars on our layout, including up a FasTrack grade.

These new diesels are packed with features including:

  • User selected operation – Conventional AC transformer control or LionChief™ Wireless Remote (included)

    DRGW RS-3

    6-38819 Rio Grande RS-3

  • RailSounds RC™ with diesel revving and background sounds, horn, bell and user activated announcements
  • Fan-driven smoke operates low at idle and increases when the locomotive is in motion
  • Speed Control maintains a constant speed on curves and grades automatically
  • ElectroCouplers on each end controlled by the remote
  • Operating headlights

    UP GP7

    6-38825 Union Pacific GP7

  • Maintenance-free motors
  • Die-cast pilots and trucks
  • Stamped metal frame
  • Lighted cab interior
  • Engineer and fireman figures
  • Traction Tires

The LionChief™ Plus RS-3 will be available in Chicago and Northwestern, Denver and Rio Grande, New York Central and Pennsylvania.

NP GP7

6-38824 Northern Pacific GP7

The GP7 will come decorated for the Burlington, Northern Pacific, Santa Fe and Union Pacific. The LionChief remote is preprogrammed specifically for each locomotive. You can have one of each on your layout – or any number of the other LionChief™ or LionChief™ Plus locomotives – without a signal conflict.

The new locomotives will retail for $329.99. See your local Lionel dealer to place your order today. The diesels should be available by mid Summer.

 





New Product Spotlight – Weathered Locomotives

21 01 2014

Hard work and harsh weather quickly take their tole on trains. It doesn’t take long before the gleam of fresh paint is covered in soot, dust and grime. And before you know it, the rust starts creeping in. All of this weathering alters the look of a locomotive and makes each one unique. Recreating these effects in miniature is an art.

4-12-2

Weathered for a realistic in-service appearance, the massive 4-12-2 is even more impressive!

Weathering is one of the best ways to add realism to any model. While attacking the perfect finish of a fine model can be intimidating, by selectively highlighting certain details, weathering often enhances more of a model’s original beauty rather than obscuring it. And, like the prototype, each weathered model is unique.

We’ve presented some tips on weathering here on the blog in the past. While starting with an inexpensive freight car is a great way to learn, stepping up to a LEGACY locomotive can be scary. Lionel has partnered with artist Harry Heike to bring you the look of some hard-working locomotives without any fear.

4-12-2

Subtle weathering effects call out the many small details on the 4-12-2’s massive boiler.

A life-long enthusiast and modeler, Harry has turned his love and talents into a commercial venture since 1998. He has already produced more than 75 prototypes for Lionel so there’s a good chance some of his handiwork is already on your layout! Now you can see his artistry first-hand with three new weathered locomotives.

We’re launching this weathering effort with some unique locomotives. For steam fans, there is the massive Union Pacific 9000. These 4-12-2’s earned their keep along the midwestern plains. For more history of the prototype and all of the features of these amazing models, see this earlier blog post.

PRR Sharks

Battles with the Alleghenies kept the Pennsy’s freight diesels in an almost constant coat of grime.

We’ve chosen an equally distinctive diesel prototype for weathering as well. The Baldwin RF-16 “Sharknose” A-A diesels powered freight trains over many northeastern lines. Weathered versions will be available for both the B&O and Pennsylvania. For more background and model features, see this previous post.

B&O Sharks

Weathering doesn’t have to be excessive to be impressive. Subtle effects greatly enhance the details on even the B&O’s classic paint scheme.

The locomotives are being weathered to reflect a few years of operation – hard working but well-maintained machines. Note that each model will be hand-weathered by the artist, so no two will be exactly the same.

Take your roster to the next level of realism with these new weathered locomotives. Just be forewarned – after seeing how good these look you might be tempted to try your own hand at the process.

The weathered AA (Powered and Non-powered) Sharks retail for $829.99 and the weathered 4-12-2 for $1299.99. See your dealer to order your custom masterpiece today.





Freight Car Friday – Horse Cars

6 12 2013

When Lionel fans think of horse cars, stock cars and even a flat car probably come to mind. Railroads did transport horses, but these prized animals usually received much better treatment than other livestock.

Off to the Races

horse car

The Santa Fe once had a large fleet of horse cars. This one served the MOW department before preservation in Barstow, CA.

Railroads had a long history with horse racing. Some even sponsored races. Today, CSX and Norfolk Southern both still send special trains to the Kentucky Derby each year.

In addition to attending the races, the railroads were once the primary means for getting the horses there as well. Several railroads rostered special horse cars dedicated to these speedy equines.  The largest and best known fleets belonged to the Pennsylvania and Santa Fe.

Horse Cars looked more like baggage cars than stock cars. They were designed to be handled in passenger trains for the shortest travel times possible. These were very valuable loads and were treated accordingly.

end doors

End doors were common on horse cars to accommodate large props.

Most cars featured at three sets of large side doors. End doors at one end of the car were also a common feature. These were used primarily for the stalls and in some cases props used at the events. Horses used the side doors.

The interior of the cars could be arranged in different ways depending on the number of horses being moved. Stalls were typically arranged parallel to the tracks and when possible, horses were put 3 or 4 across in the car. The narrow space reduced their chances of falling over as the train rocked from side to side.

Saratoga Springs

The Pennsylvania named their cars after racetracks. “Saratoga Springs” is preserved at Strasburg, PA.

In addition to the horses there was room for water tanks and hay and of course a traveling attendant to tend to their needs. One has to imagine that this was a much more comfortable ride than those poultry car drovers experienced!

At their peak, these cars stayed quite busy hauling race horses. Not only did the railroad serve a region with numerous tracks and stables, but owners could also charter the PRR’s cars for use anywhere in the country – even between two points the Pennsy didn’t serve.

Beginning in the 1950s, trucks and even airplanes became the preferred travel method for race horses. Most of the railroad horse cars were converted into standard head-end cars for baggage, mail storage, etc. A few wound up in company service and a handful have found a home in museums across the United States today.