Modeling Passenger Trains
Over the last two years we have talked a lot about model trains/railroading and prototype railroads and trains. In some of our articles, both in our blog and on our newsletter, we touched on the subject of types of trains, i.e. mail trains, milk trains, etc. I think it’s time to take a more detailed look into the types of trains that have run, or are running on railroads in the US. In Part One we will look at various passenger type trains. In Part Two we will look at both freight and maintenance-of-way trains.
Part I Passenger Trains
First class, Limited, Crack Streamliner, Varnish, Flagship, and Blue Ribbon; these are some of the terms railroads have used to describe their best passenger trains. They can be either an all Pullman train (or all coach) such as the Illinois Central’s Panama Limited (Pullman) or its City Of New Orleans (coach), or they could be combined trains with both Pullman cars and coaches like Seaboard’s Silver Meteor. What distinguishes these trains over others is that they carry the best and newest equipment, offer the best and fastest service, and also provide the best the railroad has to offer in food and drink. Sometimes these trains have equipment painted and lettered particularly for that train; Southern Pacific’s Daylight is a prime example.
Accurate, affordable models of these trains have become more available over the last ten years. In HO and N scales, modelers no longer need to spend 3 to 5 thousand dollars (per set) on brass models; new highly detailed models are now available in the $60 to $70 (per car) price range. More and more named trains continue to appear each year with the latest being Walthers’ version of the C&O RR Pere Marquette. However, for those modeling O scale, brass is the only way to find truly accurate models of these trains. The highrail manufactures do offer passenger cars in various liveries, however, they all use generic models of cars or use cars that are specific to only one railroad, i.e. AT&SF Super Chief. Therefore, these trains are accurate in color only, and, sometimes even that is brought into question.
Joint-Through Trains are trains that operate on more than one railroad between two points. Examples of these trains include IC City of Miami and PRR South Wind which operated on as many as four different railroads to reach their end points. Many of these trains are first class and were assigned the best equipment possible. In fact, the South Wind was the only PRR train to carry a dome car, borrowed from the Northern Pacific railroad in the winter seasons of 1959-60 and 1963-64. All of the Seaboard and Atlantic Coast Line New York-Florida streamliners needed to use foreign rail north of Richmond, the PRR and RF&P. Once ACL trains reached Jacksonville they used FEC tracks between there and Miami. Shared equipment on the ACL trains included PRR, RF&P, as well as FEC. On the Seaboard trains the PRR contributed both coaches and sleepers.
Second Class trains are the bread and butter end of passenger service, handling passengers as well as express freight, mail, and perishables. It would not be uncommon to see 10 to 12 headend cars carrying these items as well as coaches, sleepers, a diner, and a lounge in these trains. These are some of the most fun types of trains to model. They were mostly made-up of hand-me-down equipment. As newer cars reequipped the flagship trains their older cars would be assigned to these second class trains. So you can mix express box cars, and refrigerator cars, baggage-mail storage-railroad post office cars (RPO), with heavyweight coaches, sleepers, diners, and lounges, as well as streamline versions of these passenger cars. Some of the sleeping cars could even be from foreign roads, handed over at terminal locations to connect a direct sleeping car route. This could be coast to coast service or international, such as Southwestern and Midwestern trains handing through cars to and from Mexico, and east coast trains handing west coast cars, or vice-versa.
Next let’s talk about the intermittent trains. Some of these trains would even fall under the category of first class. Those that do fall under that category are the first class trains that run shorter distances and operate during daylight hours. Two examples are PRR Morning and Afternoon Congressional trains, and NYC Empire State Express. One of PRR’s Blue Ribbon Fleet trains was an all Pullman train that ran between New York and Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgher; some considered this train to be PRR’s most important next to the Broadway Limited.
Others that are not first class would be similar to the second class trains in equipment, however, they would be shorter in appearance and distance traveled. Some would even carry sleeping cars from connecting trains to and from various locations within the system as well as from different railroads. Many railroads would even paint their sleeping cars in the connecting roads’ color with their own name on the letter boards.
Most trains that fall under this category were not very glamorous, however, when it comes to most model railroaders, these are the types of trains that would fit on their model railroad. Their relatively short size, 3 to 8 cars long, is perfect for most model train layouts. Plus the fact that they are diverse as either a first or second class train should make them attractive to modelers. Some would dub the first class versions of these trains “pocket streamliners.”
Next up are the locals. In this article we will not be talking about commuter trains, so the locals we will talk about are the short, short-distance passenger trains. We are talking about trains that could be as short as one car, and no longer then 4. You could even use an RDC or Doodlebug with a trailer. I remember Seaboard and the FEC had locals between Miami and Jacksonville, these trains had as few as two cars, a baggage car and coach, sometimes on the SAL trains only a combine would make up the train.
Mail and Express trains are trains where the vast majority of the equipment handled is express or mail, with only a few passenger cars to handle local traffic. Most of these trains would stop at stations that the first and second class trains would bypass. The number of express and mail cars could exceed 20 on some trains; in fact, several railroads ran solid express trains with only a rider coach or a caboose equipped with high speed trucks for the railroad crew. For more info on mail and express trains check out SMARTT blog’s The Palmland and Modeling Mail & Express Trains pt.3
—Ray Del Papa