by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Originally published on:
HO RTR 50' Overland Passenger Set, C&O (4)
Baggage/combine, Mail car, Coach and Business car
IntroductionIf a model railroader wanted to model passenger trains of the era of the Industrial Revolution and the "Golden Era" of railroading, there were many choices of models. Many were generic plastic cars, die cast metal or wood or plastic craftsman kits, and limited issue expensive imported brass. Or you could scratchbuild! Model Die Casting (MDC) / Roundhouse was, and still are, a leader of commercial mass-produced plastic rolling stock of the era, their Old Timer series. They also modeled passenger cars of c.1870 – 1900, those of Harriman Standard design, and the luxuriant Pullman Palace cars. Hopefully these will be reissued soon.
Roundhouse cleaned up and re-tooled their models of the Old Timer series. These are now offered as ready to run. Gone are the awful talgo style trucks. They added scale knuckle spring couplers and RP25 profile 33" metal wheels. This review shows the fruits of the process.
HO RTR 50' Overland Passenger Set, C&O (4) This set is packaged in an olive box with cellophane display windows. The models are securely held in a cradle and secured in place by a form-fitted clear plastic cover. Unlike other Roundhouse / Athearn models, no parts diagram and list was includes.
The models are sharply molded. I found no flash or ejector marks. Typical of model railway cars, these models are assembled with a plastic floor that holds a steel weight, single piece bodies, and separate roofs. Fine wood paneling details the surface. Molded detail also includes the framing around the doors and windows, and letter boards. Unfortunately the doors are molded shut.
Passenger cars of this era had open platforms. Each platform features wire railing and brake wheels. Nice! However, there are no hand railings along the side of the steps, molded or separately applied. Inexplicably, these cars lack smokestacks of wood stoves typical of cars from this era.
Underneath is a detailed underbody consisting of basic air brake appliances, tool boxes, and queen posts with wire truss-rod structure. These cars ride on seven-foot Commonwealth trucks with RP25 profile 33" metal wheels. These wheels are slick and roll with ease. However, they are unrealistically shiny.
McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers are factory mounted on the body. Gone are the awful talgo horn hook couplers. The new couplers can easily be replaced by removing a screw.
No interior is includes. The body can be removed from the base if you want to put in the effort to access the interior. The clear parts are clear with only minor distortion. The clerestory roof windows are tinted green.
Four car types are included, a baggage/combine, mail car, coach and business car. The business car was sometimes marketed as a parlor car. MDC made a sleeper car but it is not part of these sets.
• Fully assembled and ready for your layout
• New window and clerestory glazing
• Now with body mounted couplers and 7' Commonwealth trucks
• Wire truss rods
• Molded plastic underframe with separately applied brake cylinder
• Razor sharp printing and painting
• Machined RP25 profile 33" metal wheels
• McHenry scale knuckle spring couplers installed
• Four pack includes one each of baggage/combine, mail car, coach and business car
• Coach in this four pack has a different road number than the single coach
These models are just about 50 feet long inside and about 58 feet over the end sills. How accurate and authentic are these models? See Overland Passenger Cars? below.
Livery and MarkingsRoundhouse gets very high marks for their paint finish. It is smooth, opaque, does not obscure detail, and mostly very crisp and sharp. The printing is the same quality although there are a few drips and smears along a few letters. I did not find these until examining the close up photographs.
Many railroads painted their passenger cars of the era with bright colors. I do not know if the Chesapeake and Ohio did. Other railroads available in this series are:
i. Baltimore & Ohio
ii. Boston & Maine
iii. Canadian National
iv. Canadian Pacific
v. Central Pacific
vi. Chesapeake & Ohio
vii. Chicago & Northwestern
viii. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
ix. Colorado & Southern
x. Denver & Rio Grande Western
xi. Great Northern
xii. Maintenance of Way
xiii. Southern Pacific
xiv. Union Pacific
xv. Virginia & Truckee
Overland Passenger Cars?Overland was the name of the transcontinental passenger trains of the joint Union Pacific, Southern Pacific venture. Overland is more a description of the basic style of this era of cars. Historians and rivet counters may shed light upon the prototype pedigree of the models although these are relatively generic designs. Railroads of the era bought passenger cars from a number of builders and there was a high degree of individualism in design. Research on the authoritative Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website found these models to have many close prototype matches; a few are, according to the 1898 car builder’s cyclopedia:
• Wood coach, Chicago Burlington &Quincy
• Rutland coach, built in 1875 and in service in '34
• Pennsylvania coach, late 1870's
According to Rensselaer Railroad Heritage Website :
“These models are just about 50 feet long inside and about 58 feet over the end sills. These are the same as the former [MDC] "Duckbill" series, but with a more modern roof, say 1890's. The "Duckbill" roof is more typical of the 1870's.
MDC offers four body styles in this series. The other three have the typical narrow vertical sheathing. These are 1870's cars which were originally offered with the raised section stopping short of the end of the roof. In recent years MDC came up with new roof casting with a more typical clerestory end. The combine is sometimes listed as a baggage car, but so many windows in a baggage car is weird. This is a combine.
The coach has a strange 1870's wood paneling below the belt rail... (Okay, now that I've been looking, this sort of board-n-batten panel siding is VERY typical of the mid 19th century, but not typical for the surviving cars at the end of steam.)
Overland Baggage Car - This car had two equal-width baggage doors, and 7 regularly spaced windows. 7 windows is unusual, and a real security risk. MDC may have actually followed an RPO car by mistake, but if so, it doesn't match the usual close spacing of three windows next to a narrow mail door. However, I see that this pattern of two to four windows together does not go back into the 19th century, so I would classify this car as a mail car, not a baggage. The so-called is really a combine, except that it seems to be proportioned the wrong way in terms of baggage area vs. passenger. The cars I've seen are more likely to have equal space, or even more passenger space, with a squeezed-in baggage section. Also, such a large baggage area would more likely have two doors. This is the most typical of all the passenger cars that MDC has. On the other hand, it would be even more typical if the baggage door was centered, not on the entire length of the car but on just the baggage section. And generally, I've seen a more even split between baggage section and passenger. As with almost all plastic models of wood head-end cars, the baggage door needs to be recessed more. It would slidebehind the side, which is four to 6 inches thick.
Overland Combine Car - Sometimes this model is labeled as a baggage car, but there are too many and too closely spaced windows at the one end for it to be anything other than a combine.
Coach - Most people would consider this a coach. Unfortunately, instead of standard narrow tongue-n-groove siding, it has an ornate paneling with an oval frame in the middle, which is far less typical (for late steam). Also, for an 1890's coach, it should probably be 60 feet rather than 50.
One of the problems with ALL of the MDC 50-foot head-end cars is that they simply used the coach end for all, with its windows and beaded siding. (Using a blank baggage end for a coach would have been the better choice.) [RMRRS1]
I've just gone through the 1879 Cyc. All the passenger cars had "panel" siding, or more specifically, a board-n-batten type. Back then, this type of siding for buildings was still high-fashion. Again, the narrow battens represented state-of-the-art technology. I guess that the "scribed" type siding came into fashion later in the century.
One problem with several lines of plastic kits, both wood and steel (Athearn, and MDC's Overland, Harriman, and Pullman Palace cars) is that they try to use a standard underframe. Thus all the car types are the same length. This is NOT typical, and certainly less interesting visually to the varied lengths in a real train. [RMRRS2]
Mail car/RPO I can find no prototype information on this model except for the above.
Conclusion Roundhouse has improved the models with the type and placement of the couplers, and the metal wheels. The wire truss-rods are better than the fabric thread of the old days. Purists will decry the lack of a specific prototype.
The lack of smokestacks upon the roofs is disappointing. The metal wheels are shiny.
Overall these are nice “Golden Era” models straight out of the box. They are finished well and look good. Yes, these are generic models but they do afford us the opportunity to model the era of the Industrial Revolution through the Golden Era, without spending your life savings on brass models, or your lifespan scratchbuilding. They offer the opportunity to kitbash and detail to more closely model a specific car. The price is competitive. I can recommend this set.
Please remember to tell vendors and sellers that you saw this model set here – on Railroad Modeling.net!
[RMRRS1]. “NEB&W Guide to Model Die Casting Rolling Stock Models, and NEB&W Guide to Model Die Casting 50-Foot Wood Passenger Car Models”. December, 2010. http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/article.php?article=4194&i=25267
[RMRRS2], "NEB&W Guide to Wood Passenger Cars", April 2008, http://railroad.union.rpi.edu/article.php?article=1594#Introduction
Trainweb.org . “Prototypes for N scale passenger cars part 1: Wood, Troop and Heavyweight steel cars”. Fred Klein 2001, 2002, 2003, 200. http://www.trainweb.org/fredatsf/protopass1.htm
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