Freight Car Friday – Freight Cars of Fort Worth

4 01 2013

Since we’ll be attending all of the World’s Greatest Hobby Shows this year, each show week we’ll feature some freight from the host city. We hope you can join us! Maybe next year we’ll be coming to your home town.

The Dallas – Fort Worth Rail Scene

The cities of Dallas and Fort Worth are about as close together as any two metropolitan areas in the big state of Texas. The region is dominated by two industries – oil and cattle. Both have a long history with the railroads that have called the cities home.

Today Fort Worth is home to both of the major western roads, BNSF and Union Pacific, along with several shortlines. These rails have a long history.


covered hopper

Trainloads of grain for animal feed remain a common sight in the Fort Worth area – many of them on the rails of the old FW&D.

The Fort Worth and Denver Railroad began construction westward out of the city in 1881 as the Fort Worth and Denver City. At the Texas – Colorado border, it connected with the Denver and New Orleans, predecessor of the Colorado and Southern. The C&S would take ownership of the FWD in 1899.

Due to a Texas law requiring all railroads operating within the state to be headquartered there, the FWD retained its separate identity, even after the C&S itself became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. The two roads retained their own “independence” until finally merged into Burlington Northern in 1982. (That is why you will see some early BN-painted cars carrying FWD reporting marks.)


Santa Fe

Fort Worth was an important stop on Santa Fe’s North-South routes.

BNSF has roots in Fort Worth from the other side of its family tree as well. The Santa Fe served the city on a north-south mainline connecting the Texas Gulf Coast with Oklahoma and Kansas. Additionally, a branch left the city to the southwest to connect with other trunk lines serving western Texas. While these routes may have received less historical attention than the big Chicago – California mainline, this route was an important traffic funnel for commodities originating or imported through Texas.

Today BNSF maintains its corporate headquarters in Fort Worth. The beautiful modern facility includes executive offices, a dispatching center and storage for the road’s office car fleet.



Railroads like the T&P were an important part of the western story – herding cattle to the railroad created one of the great American icons of all time – the cowboy.

The Texas and Pacific’s mainline bisected the city east – west on its way between New Orleans and El Paso. A line also branched off to the north and then east. Along with connections, this route represented a significant trunk line from California  and the Midwest to the Gulf Coast.

Chartered in 1871 with the intent of reaching San Diego, the railroad never made it past the Texas border. Instead it interchanged with the Southern Pacific for the remainder of the journey west. The railroad also had a long-standing partnership with the Missouri Pacific, dating back to the days Jay Gould controlled both properties. The MP finally absorbed the T&P in 1976. The MoPac, including its former T&P properties,  became part of Union Pacific in 1982.

Monuments to the T&P still abound in Fort Worth. Most prominent is the passenger terminal and office building downtown. Commuter trains call on this station daily, and the offices have become condominiums.



The Katy moved everything it could through Texas, including of course that sweet Texas Tea.

The “Katy” got its start in 1870 and was the first railroad to enter Texas from the North. The railroad continued to grow across almost all of its history. It’s last major project was a line northwest from Fort Worth to Salinas, Kansas following the Rock Island bankruptcy.

The Katy cooperated with many railroads in the region as it moved traffic between the Gulf and Texas cities and the rail gateways at St. Louis and Kansas City Missouri. Perhaps most notable was the Texas Special run in cooperation with the Frisco.

The railroad that started with the purchase of the Union Pacific Railway, Southern Branch became UP property again in 1988. On paper, the MKT was acquired by the Missouri Pacific. Although the MP itself had been merged into the UP in 1982, that MP still existed as an independent company on paper due to outstanding bonds until 1997.

Cotton Belt

The Cotton Belt operated as a railroad within a railroad for much of its life but has a loyal following nonetheless.

The Cotton Belt operated as a railroad within a railroad for much of its life but has a loyal following nonetheless.

The third Union Pacific predecessor in Fort Worth was the Cotton Belt. The St. Louis and Southwestern originated from several shortlines in the Tyler, Texas area in 1891 and built east and north into Arkansas. Eventually the line reached East St. Louis where it could connect with many roads via the Terminal RR and the Alton and Southern (More on these next week!)

The Southern Pacific gained control of the company in 1932 and used it as a major connection for traffic from its own mainline from California including the famous “Blue Streak Merchandise” trains. The Cotton Belt was wholly owned by SP and it’s equipment reflected that, but the two operated separately until 1992. The SSW property was purchased by Union Pacific with the SP merger in 1996.

New Product Spotlight – Rock Island Rocket Set

24 09 2012

The Rock Island line is a mighty fine line – and this is a mighty fine set! Our new Rock Island Rocket Ready-to-Run set is one of our most colorful.

Rocket Set

6-30179 Rock Island Rocket – a colorful and fun set that captures the essence of one of America’s great railroads.

We start off with a FT locomotive in the bold colors and graphics of the Rock Island’s famous “Rocket” trains. The locomotive features our Railsounds RTR which includes a revving diesel engine, horn, bell and user-activated crew dialog. Other features include:

  • Transformer controlled Forward, Neutral, Reverse
  • Operating headlight
  • Operating front and rear coupler
  • Dual maintenance-free motors
  • Die-cast metal trucks, pilot and fuel tank
  • Metal frame
  • Lighted cab interior
  • Engineer and Conductor figures

The set also has one of our more interesting assortments of rolling stock. A boxcar in the Rock Island’s traditional Rocket advertising slogan scheme features opening doors. Next comes a four-bay hopper decorated for Mid-West Power and Light, complete with Reddy Kilowatt and a removable coal load. The attention-getting Allis-Chalmers heat exchanger car and load comes in the Rock Island’s later blue scheme. And finishing it all is a lighted wide vision caboose in a paint scheme which complements the locomotive and a detailed interior.

All of the cars feature Die Cast trucks (all are sprung too except on the caboose) and operating couplers and come individually packaged in their own boxes.

The set also features a CW-80 transformer and a 40×60″ oval of FasTrack. You’ll have everything you need to start or expand your empire. The set retails for $399.99 and will be rocketing towards your dealers very soon. Whether it’s streaking across the Midwest or your layout, the Rock Island Rocket is sure to be a memorable train.

New Product Spotlight – LEGACY GP-9s

25 06 2012

Through the history of railroading, there are few locomotives that can stand up with the GP-9 for its longevity, versatility and impact on the industry. Perfect in their simplicity, these locomotives could be found just about everywhere.

Santa Fe

6-38579 Santa Fe

The GP-9, and its immediate predecessor the GP-7, were not the first of the “road-switcher” design locomotives, they didn’t introduce a new diesel engine or other ground-breaking technology, and their styling was such that even EMD didn’t expect these utilitarian locomotives to sell. In fact, the simple no-frills locomotive was exactly what the railroads were looking for.

While the move to replace steam began well before the “Geep” was designed, it was these locomotives more than any other that drove the final nail. The GP was everything a steam locomotive was not. It was a versatile locomotive, capable of handling just about any assignment given. Unlike steam locomotives that were specifically tailored to a specific operation or even a specific operating territory, the GPs performed equally well as freight, passenger and switch engines in mountains, across the plains or shuttling around urban yards.

Great Northern

6-34664 Great Northern

The new locomotives were also efficient. The simple design made maintenance much easier on a locomotive that was already miles ahead of its steam counterparts. Multiple units could be coupled together and operated as one, increasing both the versatility and efficiency. Operating cost fell quickly as railroads replaced remaining steam locomotives with new Geeps.


6-34666 Louisville and Nashville

Although style was not a prime consideration in its design, by their numbers and longevity, the GP-9 has become one of the most recognizable faces in railroading. And while to those who watched these ubiquitous diesels replace beloved steam, they “all looked the same,” there was a surprising amount of variety in the basic Geep. EMD and GMD built 4,095 GP-9s and many enjoyed exceptionally long careers, being rebuilt numerous times. You can still find these landmark locomotives in service today on shortlines, regional railroads and industrial sites.


Rock Island

6-34662 Rock Island

In our latest release of this popular model, we’ve tried to capture some of the many variations in details on these locomotives, and some paint schemes that haven’t been offered in the past. Details like exhaust stacks, bells, horns, dynamic brakes and winterization covers are all customized per road. Two powered and one non-powered models are available for each scheme. In addition to the roads shown here, Canadian National is also being offered, with one of the powered units as part of the Piggyback Set (6-11181).

LEGACY Powered GP-9s include:


6-34681 Union Pacific

  • LEGACY control – capable of running on TMCC and conventional as well
  • Odyssey II Speed Control for 2 Maintenance free motors with momentum flywheels
  • LEGACY Railsounds including
    • Crewtalk and TowerCom communications
    • Six official railroad speeds
    • Eight diesel RPM levels
    • Quilling Horn along with appropriate warning sounds
    • Bell with single hit or continuous sounds
    • Sequence Control to narrate an entire trip
    • Fuel and speed announcements and refueling sounds


    6-34670 Chesapeake and Ohio

  • Fan-driven smoke unit with adjustable output
  • Lighting Effects including
    • Directional LED headlight and back-up light
    • Marker lights front and rear
    • Number boards
    • Cab interior
  • Traction tires
  • Die cast metal pilot, trucks and fuel tank
  • Detailed cab interior with window glass and engineer and fireman figures
  • Loads of separately applied details
  • ElectroCouplers on front and rear
  • MSRP: $479.99

Non-Powered Locomotives Feature


6-34737 Northern Pacific

  • Die cast metal pilot, trucks and fuel tank
  • Select separately applied details
  • Magnetic couplers on front and rear
  • MSRP: $239.99

Available roadnames include: Rock Island, Louisville and Nashville, Great Northern, Chesapeake and Ohio, Northern Pacific, Union Pacific and Santa Fe. All locomotives will negotiate an O-31 curve. The GP-9s are at your dealers now! See more on our Customer Service Product Video.