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New York Central Streamlined Passenger Train Consist

I have been using a group of Athearn BB kit, streamlined passenger cars for several years. The original five or six cars were all in the Santa Fe livery. A couple of more cars have been added over the past year or so. In early 2006 I reworked an Athearn SL-Baggage Car in Burlington livery into New York Central Baggage Car #5876 to see if I could achieve acceptable results on my own.

NYC Baggage Car 5876

This revamped baggage car is representative of the changes I intended for the rest of my streamlined consist. It was the first streamlined car I tried to upgrade.

Three things got me going last month. First, a thread on the Model Railroader HO Forum about passenger cars gave me some new ideas. Second, I found a 60-foot, 'shorty' RPO, in Baltimore & Ohio livery, at a local hobby shop for $7.00 and couldn't pass it up. Third, Walther's had a great sale on streamlined passenger coaches. I ordered three of the coaches in NYC livery and two in UP, through a local hobby shop. A week later I received just one NYC and one UP coach. The balance of my order is on hold until Walther's restocks. Since the Walther's NYC 64-seat coach was prototypical right out of the box, the rest of my existing consist needed some serious modifications. To remedy the problem I decided to continue the project I had started last year, and bring the rest of the old Santa Fe consist and the new B&O RPO up to NYC Baggage Car #5876 standards.

Observation Car 51 Disassembled

The process was essentially the same for all of the Athearn cars. The photo above shows the Observation Car fully disassembled. After I had done the same to each of the cars, including the new RPO, the real work began. I removed the clear plastic windows from all of the cars. Then I cut off the skirts and cut back the center well of the chassis with my rotary tool. Next, I sanded off the lettering, numbers and car name or stripped off the paint completely, depending on the condition of the car. I added a few parts from Train Station Products Passenger Car Detail Set #460 to the underbody of each car. After the glue dried, I painted the underbodies flat black, the car top black or flat black for some variety, and the remainder of the car body shell silver. After the paint had dried I applied car lettering decals I made with my home computer and a Testor's Decal Kit.

Observation Car 51 Disassembled

To help keep things from getting lost, I placed all of the small parts, windows, couplers, weights, light bulbs, and electrical pick ups, for each of the cars in separate envelopes. Mixing and matching parts doesn't always work properly and this little trick is what I do to avoid problems.

Since most of the ladders and steps had been removed with the skirting, I fabricated new ones from soldered together .012-inch brass or steel wire, and glued them into place with "super-glue." A final coat of Testor's Dul Cote sealed everything and gave me the dull finish I wanted. When everything was dry, I touched the molded in grab-irons and handrails and painted the new ladders with black paint.

I installed the original windows and spot glued them into place. Most of the cars had electrical pick-ups I had fabricated from thin brass on the trucks, connected to the steel weights on the inside of the chassis with a single bulb for basic lighting. I reinstalled the lighting system and lined the interior of each car with white paper to diffuse the light somewhat. Although the cars had all operated quite well, I added 1 1/2- ounces of lead weights to each end of each chassis for better tracking and electrical pick-up. With the installation of Kadee #5 couplers, my cars were complete.

The following photographs show the completed cars in the order they usually appear in my streamlined consist. Motive power for the consist varies with time frame and the desires of the operator. The choices range from a NYC Hudson, NYC Niagara, E8s, to ALCO PAs. In a pinch a GP7 or even a NYC 2-6-2 are on the roster.

RPO 3152

This is the 'shorty' RPO that started out in Baltimore and Ohio Livery.

NYC Baggage Car 8430

NYC Baggage/Express Car #8430 started in Santa Fe livery.

NYC Baggage Car 5876

Above is the car that started it all! Ex Burlington Streamlined Baggage Car, now NYC Baggage Car 5876.

NYC Coach 3023

This is the Walter's coach I purchased in February of 2007. The model is prototypical out of the box, but I made a few changes to it for realisms sake. I removed the top and painted it flat black. While the top was off I painted the interior and put a few seated passengers in the more visible seats. I made my own light strip with three 'grain of wheat' bulbs and attached it to the roof with double sided foam tape. The wires for the bulbs are soldered to the factory installed contacts inside of the car. After giving the roof a coat of Dul Cote, I snapped it back into place. With the installation of Kadee #5 couplers the coach was complete. Despite what I have been told, this long coach navigates the BRVRR's 22 1/2 and 20 1/2-inch mainlines and the 18-inch radius reverse loop without difficulty.

NYC Diner 567

This streamlined diner started life in Santa Fe livery. Except for the removal of the skirts, the underbody details and the NYC decals, there really isn't much visible difference.

NYC Coach 2945

This streamlined coach also started life in Santa Fe livery. Now it travels my layout in NYC silver and black.

NYC Observation Car 51

While the general revamping of the observation car was nearly identical in the particulars, I took a few extra steps to make it truly unique. I mounted a 3 mm red LED 'tail light' in the upper center streamlined housing on the back of the car and wired it to the central lighting pickups. Then I cut out the molded in 'drumhead' housing on the rear of the car. I covered the opening with 1/64-inch clear styrene and then pasted a 'New York Central System' generic drumhead I made on my home computer to the clear plastic. This drumhead style was used on many of the NYC's named trains. The car's interior light illuminates the drumhead and logo in the dark The photo you 'clicked' on to view this essay is NYC Observation Car #51 at 'night.'

NOTE: When most of the photos above were taken, the new metal steps and ladders had not yet been mounted on the cars.

While certainly not prototypical, my modified streamlined cars meet my needs. The 70-foot length of most of them fit the 22 1/2" and 20 1/2" radius of the BRVRR's mainlines quite well without too much overhang. All of them operate very well and the added weight has nearly eliminated the 'flickering' of the lights.

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Copyright by Allan Coates 2004-2016. All Rights Reserved.