Archive | September 2014

Random Rail Shot

NW Tool Car –

I thought this might be something which would be of interest to the railroad fans in my audience.  What I offer you is a former Norfolk & Western tool car.  The first time I saw it, and photographed it, was in the late 1990s-early 2000s on the property of Indiana Hi-Rail Corp (still in its NW paint).  Later, when MAW took over, it was painted up and used as a tool shed/office?  This car is gone now, apparently scrapped by the Napoleon Defiance & Western, but I thought the rail-buffs, kit-bashers, and scratch-builders out there might be interested in it as a project.  I have been working on a variation of one, off and on, for a few years with the intent of operation with my B&M equipment (sadly I don’t have any good photos of the work I’ve done so far).

Anyway, I hope this wets-your-whistle… so to speak.


Vintage N Scale B&M Rolling Stock #10

AHM (Roco) 40 Foot Open Hopper Car–

minitrix_openhopper-71714-webAHM imported this car from Roco pretty early on (late-1960s?). Again, like most early B&M N scale cars, this one is in Blue Dip with a pretty basic interlaced McGinnis era B&M logo and some limited data. While this car does not appear to represent a type used by B&M, Roco did manufacture a 40ft offset side hopper which was similar to the 70T quad cars used by the Boston and Maine… I haven’t been able to locate the later offset side hopper in B&M paint, but it may have existed, I will need to keep researching. Additionally, this particular model doesn’t seem to represent an actual prototype but it is fairly representative of a 40ft, 70T quad hopper which were used throughout North America.

My example is in pretty good shape with no obvious damage. I bought the first example I came across, and that was only very recently, but I don’t have any reason to believe that these are rare. All up price was $9.50 with free shipping, not too bad, but these vintage cars seem to be rising in price… maybe an indication of a growing market.

Since I am not sure what prototype this car is supposed to be a model of, I can’t really say how good the detailing is. Given the age of the car I am going to go ahead and say the detailing is heavy and a little less than accurate. Still, if you are in the market for a vintage open hopper, this might be a safe bet. Quality and paint are on par with any other car from the period and who doesn’t love an open hopper for operations?

Historical Information:

B&M did own a number of 70 ton open top quad hoppers but, as I said above, they all appear to have had offset sides and were numbered in the 8000 series.

Random Rail Shot

CCRRGP9In a rare “Double Whammy”, I present to you a random rail shot to follow up my vintage motive power post.  Above is Claremont Concord Railroad (CCRR) GP9 1907, and a handsome locomotive it is.  If I can be honest with you, I prefer their wicked old Alco S-units but with one down for the count, apparently, and the S-units being somewhat limited in the traction dept., I guess I can see why they sought out something with a little more get-up-and-go.  At any rate, I made a habit of visiting White River Jct. after my morning runs this past summer and I caught CCRR picking up this string of cars, I had to snap a couple shots on my cell phone (which I both rue and lament).  If you are near White River Jct. in the morning you should stop by and check it out.  If I recall correctly there are five railroads servicing White River these days, the mornings appear to be the busy times for all.

Vintage N Scale Motive Power #1

Once and Future Motive Power –

I know what you might be thinking, “Hey, where on Earth is your mind wandering this time?” That’s a fair question and the answer is “Keep reading.”

I have a somewhat long-term goal of building a “Retro-Layout” on which I will operate my vintage N scale equipment, I’m thinking anything manufactured earlier than 1980. By now it should be clear that, while there was plenty of Northern New England rolling stock available prior to 1980, there simply were no locomotives available to New England railfans during that era. My research has consistently revealed that if someone wanted an MEC, BAR, or B&M locomotive before 1980 they were going to have to make it themselves. I do not intend this to be a very large layout but I do want some ability to switch industries and perhaps even a little passenger traffic as well. With that in mind I spent some time researching pre-1980 N scale locomotives and comparing those options with locomotives actually operated by B&M, the list ended up being quite short but I sorted out two ideas I think would both look right and potentially satisfy my requirements.

Atlas (Roco) GP9 Phase III –


My current plans are to refurbish the mechanism and repaint the shell into the B&M Blue Bird scheme for operations on my future retro-layout. I have seen pictures of another example done up the same way and I think it looks pretty nice. My understanding is that these can be made to run respectably given their age, this will probably end up being my primary motive power when the time comes to put the layout together.

Atlas (Mehano) RS-2 –


Yes, I know Mehano didn’t make an RS-2 and that this locomotive is actually an RSC-2 (the six-axle version). I am also aware that these are notoriously poor locomotives best relegated to the garbage can. The problem is that I really felt like I needed an Alco road switcher for passenger service, since B&M was an enthusiastic user of them and nothing else was available on the market until Atlas teamed up with Kato for their famous RS-3 project. If I want a pre-1980 RS I am simply going to have to make it myself. As can be seen I have already replaced the three-axle trucks with more correct AAR two-axle trucks, that part was relatively easy. My next step is to play around with motors which were available at the time to try and figure a motor/drive train combination which will allow decent enough running to pull a short passenger consist. I am not planning on polishing this turd into something resembling a modern N scale locomotive. My plan is simply to put together an RS-2 which would have been within the means and capability of the average pre-1980 N scaler. Eventually I plan on painting my RS-2 into the maroon B&M Minute Man scheme, I think it will look nice and might cover up some of the ugly details on the shell.

To be honest, these are actually back burner projects… there is some possibility that I might get some work done on them this winter but I currently have a lot on my plate so they aren’t a priority. When I get them done, or at least more progress is made, I will do a full write up on each with more detail about the models and the prototypes. I just thought you, the reader, might be interested in my retro-layout idea and where my thoughts have gone in terms of motive power. Let me know if any of you have been pondering the same thing, I’m always interested to hear any thoughts others might have on these subjects.


Follow-up is always important –

Think back to Vintage N Scale B&M Rolling Stock #5 – Minitrix (Roco) 40’ Double Sheathed Box Car.  The example I owned was a little beat up and missing all four corner steps.  Despite not being an easy to find model I recently managed to track down another example and I didn’t have to break the bank to do it.  Here are the results of that search, the lettering is a little rougher than my old example, but the carbody is in nearly perfect condition.  What am I going to do with the old one?  I don’t really know, when the time comes I might convert it to a MOW or cleaning car… I have some time to figure that out.



“Vintage” N Scale B&M Motive Power #5

Life-Like GP18 1750 –


Life-Like appears to have released this little gem around 1996 which is admittedly a little late to fit within the definition of “Vintage” or even “Early” but, given the fact that the chassis is a direct descendent of the early Mehano N scale locomotives, I think it’s okay to talk about it here. To be honest, I had run out of early B&M N scale locomotives to talk about anyway, so you may have to hear about more modern B&M motive power in the future (1). Pricewise, I ended up paying in the mid-$30’s for my example… perhaps a tad high but I wasn’t interested in letting another auction get away.

I think many, perhaps most, N scale modelers are familiar with the plastic frame Life-Like GP-18. For a bit over a decade Life-Like held a firm grip on the “better than trainset”, mid-range, N scale locomotive market. Because of this a model railroader could acquire decent motive power, without breaking the bank, though perhaps at the expense of some finer details. Most of these offerings didn’t include a flywheel but they still tended to run smoothly and could easily be used for operations. My second powered locomotive was a plastic frame Life-Like GP38-2, function was good enough to keep me in N scale. Beyond that I won’t go into much detail about the mechanical nature of these pretty decent locomotives… if you are really interested in more detail you can consult Spookshow at

So, I’m not overly familiar with what does and does not qualify a GP18 to be a Phase __ (fill in the blank), whatever. The shells on these locomotives certainly appear to resemble a GP18 to my untrained eye. What I can say is that B&M traded in their BL2 locomotives and a wrecked F7 (4267A) for parts towards their GP-18s, as such all but 1755 had four smaller roof fans similar to a GP9 (2). In that regard Life-Like got it wrong with their model of 1750, however they also released this locomotive as 1755 so the two large fans would be correct for that unit. While it is my goal to track down a copy of 1755, I will remain happy to have finally acquired my 1750. The paint is a little unusual, Life-Like bucked the trend and went with the Blue Bird scheme these locomotives were delivered in. Now, other than a limited edition Atlas GP9, this stands as the only locomotive that I am aware of which was factory decorated in the Blue Bird scheme. My other posts about early B&M N scale motive power show that Bev-Bel remained committed to the Blue Dip scheme for some time, until releasing their F7A in the 1990s. Atlas and Life-Like have otherwise busied themselves cranking out Blue Dip and Minute Man paint since getting into the game with their GP7 and BL2 locomotives respectively. That makes this GP18 an especially interesting piece of my collection; I like the Blue Bird look and am not particularly fond of any variation of the Blue Dip scheme. As mentioned early 1750 is a correct road number for a B&M GP18 (as is 1755 which was also available), but by the 1990s Life-Like was increasing the accuracy of their models so a correct road number is something I would expect.

I have no need to operate this locomotive, for anything other than entertainment, but I am certain it would perform just as well as any of the other Life-Like offerings from this time period. It doesn’t appear that Life-Like ever re-released the low nose version of the GP18 so, if you want a factory decorated B&M GP18, you are going to need to pick one of these up and track down a Micro-Trains pilot conversion… that is unless you operate with Rapidos, in which case you are all set.

Historical Information:

B&M rostered 6 EMD (Electro Motive Division) GP18 B-B locomotives numbered 1750-1755. The real B&M GP18 units were all equipped with dynamic brakes and low noses (short hoods), so the Life-Like shell is close. As mentioned above, as the model sits the shell is only correct for 1755 which was a new-build and didn’t contain reused 36” fans from trade-ins. Eventually B&M transferred their GP18s to Springfield Terminal (ST) to avoid labor union rules and cut costs, in ST service they were renumbered in the 40-series. I must admit that I really don’t know if any ex-B&M GP18s are still in operation, or even still exist. If you have any information on that please put it in the comments.

(1) I’m actively trying to track down a plastic frame B&M BL2 and, since I am using plastic frames as a loophole, I suppose the Life-Like E7 needs to be discussed as well.

(2) A few years ago I ended up modeling a four-fan B&M GP18 using an undec Life-Like model and the long hood from an Atlas GP9 (yes, I know there are some differences from the prototype… I really don’t care that much). I chose the Blue Bird scheme for my model and I think my results compare favorably with the Life-Like factory paint. In fact, Life-Like chose blue for the base color of their handrails (black paint is added on the front and rear railings) which looks a little out of place given that the real B&M units had black handrails with white where appropriate for safety.