Minitrix (Roco) Tri-Level Open Auto Rack –
The Minitrix Auto Rack is, from what I can tell, the largest piece of early N scale B&M rolling stock. These top out at around 89 feet on scale but are, I believe, still intended to operate on standard N scale curves which are around 9 ¾ inch radius. I did a little research into things and it appears the prototype would have been an 89 foot flat car, owned by Trailer Train, which would have been leased to the operating railroad who would have the auto rack attached to the top. When auto service was discontinued the rack could be removed and Trailer Train would still have a perfectly useable flat car. Now this is interesting to me, for all of the detail flaws found on early N scale freight cars, it seems Roco got the idea correct on these cars. The base of the car is in fact marked for Trailer Train (TTX) and the upper rack is marked for the leasing railroad, this seems to be the pattern for all of these Roco made auto racks… most impressive given the standards of the time.
All of that aside, I am not sure if B&M actually was one of the many railroads which leased these cars from Trailer Train, I certainly couldn’t find anything among my usual sources. The road number (71014) seems to have been used on more than one of these models from Roco so it is likely that the number either belonged to an actual Trailer Train, or the number is completely fantasy. Either way Roco appears to have decided to get some mileage out of the stamp they had made for the bottom portion of the car. This auto rack, like all early N scale B&M rolling stock is in the Blue Dip scheme, as an added bonus the McGinnis herald is nicely done on this car. I imagine in the late 1960s – early 1970s a handful of these cars would be expected in any mainline consist, just as modern auto racks now pervade full scale consists throughout North America.
Overall, I think this is a really neat car and I’m glad I have finally added one to my collection. I had mentioned that this was the largest early B&M car I could find and I should point out that it was also the most expensive of the non-Micro Trains/Kadee cars, I paid about $25 shipped by the time it was all said and done (that’s about 2.5 times the price of an average early Minitrix freight car). At least in B&M these cars do not appear to be overly common so I would recommend picking one up if you find one and you’re in the market.
As previously mentioned, the prototype would have been an 89 foot flat car owned by Trailer Train and leased to a railroad who would then attach the auto rack structure. I have seen photos of these cars in use on the B&M but I am not sure if those cars were marked for B&M or if they were marked for another road. I’ll update this post when/if I find out more information.
Arnold Rapido 40 Foot Boxcar –
Today I offer one of the very first B&M N scale items for your consideration. This box car was marketed by Revell here in the U.S. and manufactured by Arnold-Rapido. Other than the English Lone Star Treble-O-Lectric B&M box car (which I am still trying to get my hands on) this may very well be the earliest N scale B&M rolling stock ever produced (1). Consulting www.spookshow.net we find that this particular variation, with non-detailed metal underframe and cast on roofwalk and brake wheel, was manufactured during the 1960-1964 time frame. Detailing is pretty poor by today’s standards and tolerances are a bit loose. Apparently this car has the general appearance on a 1937 AAR Standard box car, I can’t really attest to that but most N scale rolling stock produced until the 1980s really only loosely matched any real prototype. Typically companies would simply offer the same old car in a different paint scheme or road name rather than further improve authenticity by investing in new tooling to produce a more accurate model. I’m not bothered by it, at that time major manufacturers just seemed to focus on producing at least one model of each major type of North American rolling stock (i.e. 40 / 50 ft box car, tank car, caboose, gondola, flat car, open / covered hopper) you get the picture.
Lone Star set the bar low in terms of detailing and paint scheme authenticity on their B&M box car and this Arnold example didn’t really attempt to leap it. As I said above, detailing is really basic and the paint scheme is really just some ink/paint stamped on the shell which was cast in a sort-of B&M blue plastic. The road number (19405) does not belong to any of the 1937 AAR box cars B&M owned which seem to have been numbered in the 73000-73199 range, and I cannot be sure that any of the 1937 AAR cars survived long enough to be repainted into the McGinnis scheme. Yeah, other than being similar to a car type used by the B&M, this car appears to be another early N scale fantasy.
As I have already said, detailing is poor and the paint scheme is a complete fantasy as far as I can tell. On a positive note, these can be had for not a lot of money, I paid around $6.00 USD shipped for mine… frankly, I might have overpaid at that price. These were available for a decent length of time in several road names so, even if you aren’t a B&M collector, there might still be some interest there to pick one up at the right price. No early N scale collection (B&M or not) would be complete without one of these very early Arnold cars, beyond that I am not sure there is much use in owning one.
If this car was meant to resemble the 1937 AAR prototype then it would be appropriate within the general scheme of B&M rolling stock but, as mentioned, the road number should fall within the 73000-73199 range and it would have most likely been a variation of boxcar red for the duration of its use on the Boston & Maine.
(1) Lone Star’s Treble O Electric stuff really wasn’t “N scale” per se but rather ran on 9mm track and was marketed as OOO (hence Treble-O). If I understand the progression correctly Lone Star started out with push toy trains which ran on non-powered 9mm track and eventually decided to power them. Functioning equipment pops up on auction sites from time to time but it is fairly basic and not compatible with other true N scale equipment (at least in North America) due to European style hook and loop couplers.
Early Atlas 40’ Vermont Railway PS-1 Box Cars
Sometime in the mid-late 1970s Atlas began manufacturing their own N scale rolling stock here in the U.S., New Jersey to be specific. The initial output of domestic production were sold as “kits” and they are commonly referred to as Atlas 1 ½ Generation or (A1.5G). Production continued in the U.S. for some time before moving to China and several of the A1.5G freight cars were available in more than one variation. That brings me to my topic of discussion today.
I have already pointed out that I am baffled by the choices made by early N scale manufacturers when it comes to roadnames and decorating. While locomotives and passenger equipment tended to be decorated for major Class I railroads, like Santa Fe and Union Pacific, freight cars could be had from every region and many obscure roads. While B&M and MEC were technically Class I railroads in the early days of N scale, and no locomotives were produced in those road names until the 1980s, there was however ample rolling stock available for those two famous north eastern roads. Vermont Railway (VTR), on the other hand, was a government owned spin-off railroad operating over former Rutland trackage. VTR was a relative newcomer and, at the time, was fairly small in comparison to other roads in the Maine-New Hampshire-Vermont region. Still Atlas found it in their hearts to produce a VTR boxcar during their very first U.S. production run.
Vermont Railway 305 is part of the Atlas 1 ½ Generation of freight cars (part number 5002-129). I am not sure how long kit production lasted but it cannot have been very long and, as an FYI for collectors, unfinished kits are few and far between these day. When looking at these cars on auction sites, or first hand, a good spotting feature for the A1.5G kits are the plastic wheel sets. Earlier cars imported by Atlas had metal wheel sets of various colors and it appears that later Atlas production featured bright metal wheel sets (as we shall see on the second VTR boxcar below). That doesn’t mean that a car which otherwise matches an A1.5G description might not have gained replacement metal wheel sets since being produced in the 1970s, but I think I would be more suspicious/cautious in that case. Otherwise, what we have is a fairly typical model of the Pullman Standard PS-1 boxcar which has always been available from several N scale manufacturers and in many roadnames (any number of which might be historically inappropriate). I am no expert on the early days of Vermont Railway but my assumption is that their PS-1 boxcars largely came from the Rutland RR and bore the numbers used by that bankrupt road.
Let us move on now to a subject which makes the Atlas VTR PS-1 even more interesting and collectable (at least to me). At some point, apparently while still manufacturing the model in New Jersey, Atlas produced their VTR PS-1 in a different road number. I am not sure when the practice of offering different road numbers began but this must have been an early example of it.
For some reason the part number on my example of VTR 289 is 3406-2.00, which might imply some sort of variation perhaps even within this road number… I really have no idea what that might be. The paint is a richer green and the lettering is much more crisp than that found on VTR 305 which makes me think Atlas had ironed out the bugs in their stamping process. As should be expected, wheel sets are of the bright metal variety and have deep flanges, which was common for the time. I didn’t pay enough attention when I decided to bid but this example is missing the brake wheel… oh well, that’s something to track down.
Both of these cars are common enough and prices aren’t likely to break the bank for any collector, expect to pay a bit more for a VTR 305 kit unbuilt and in the box. Although they are not B&M, these are still pretty early N scale models and will look just fine in any north eastern consist. If I am not careful these two cars might even spark an “Early N scale Vermont Railroads” collection, Rutland, Central Vermont, Vermont Railway… I can see it now.
As stated above, Vermont Railway got started in the early 1960s when the government decided to continue operating the tracks of the bankrupt Rutland Railroad. VTR continued to spread and now operates a system of railroads throughout Vermont and eastern New York known as Vermont Rail System. Presumably these PS-1 boxcars would have been previously owned by Rutland Railroad and would likely have carried their road numbers over from that time.