These new Con-Cor Branch Line Passenger Cars are well made, good looking, nicely finished, smooth operating and attractively lighted models that are well suited for use on branch line, short line, and commuter operations.
Con-Cor Branch Line Passenger Cars in HO scale
by Gary Quale /photos by George Riley
Con-Cor has introduced a new series of 64' long passenger cars for use in branch line services, and on model railroads with tighter radii curves. These cars are based on the recently introduced Con-Cor Pennsylvania Railroad MP-54 commuter cars, but with different ends that don't shout out "Pennsy." Con-Cor is currently offering four different cars in this series. These include a baggage-RPO based on the Pennsy BM54, a combine based on the Pennsy PB54, a coach based on the Pennsy P54, and a solarium-observation which uses a modified P54 car side.
Con-Cor has chosen to use ends with windows at the vestibule ends of passenger seating areas, and blind ends in the baggage sections. When closed full width vestibules began to appear on wooden passenger cars in the mid 1890's, end windows were common. This carried over on some of the earliest all-steel heavyweight cars, but in general vestibules with end windows were not very common on inter-city coaches in this era. An exception was that commuter trailer coaches used with electric multiple-unit ("MU") cars sometimes duplicated the power car designs and had end windows even when there was no motormans cab. All of the ends come with nicely modeled etched "criss-cross" folding metal gates.
With these square window ends, these cars are reminescent of the 50 Delaware, Lackawanna & Western low-roof commuter trailers built by Pullman in 1925 and numbered 2200-2249 (renumbered 3200-3249 after the 1960 Erie Lackawanna merger). The DL&W cars were slightly longer at 70' 6" over the buffers and 59' 6½" over the sills, making them about 6' longer than the Con-Cor models. These Lackawanna coaches had 21 evenly spaced windows on each side as compared to the 17 windows in groups of three windows between thicker window posts on the Con-Cor coach models. The DL&W had 10 combines numbered 2405-2414 with dimensions similar to their coaches. These cars are finding new fame in that many have found new homes on several tourist railway operations. Information can be found on the Erie-Lackawanna MU page at www.rr-fallenflags.org.
We reviewed two samples. One is a combine item 0001-094359 lettered for the Baltimore & Ohio with car number 1410 and painted in their handsome blue and gray scheme with imitation gold lettering and striping. The paint is smoothly applied, with sharp separation between the different colors. The lettering is opaque and crisp. The car sides, roof, and underbody are the same as on the Con-Cor model of the Pennsy BM54, including the motorman's window at the baggage end of the car side which is uncommon on conventional combines.
The second car reviewed is a coach item 0001-094211 lettered for the Pennsylvania RR car number 4217 and painted in the Raymond Lowey "Fleet of Modernism" two-tone color scheme from the late 1930's. The model uses the same dark tuscan red from the window band on the roof, whereas the Pennsy used black roofs with this paint scheme. The Pennsy used this scheme on its then new lightweight streamlined cars, and on some P70 cars that were upgraded for use in these streamlined trains, but it was never applied to branchline equipment. In any event, the paint is neatly applied, the striping is very neatly done, and the car generally looks good.
The third car in the series is a baggage mail with a39' baggage compartment, a 20' postal suite, and a 5' end vestibule without side doors. The fourth car in this series is a solarium-observation. As passenger train speeds increased and air conditioning became more prevalent, the traditional open platform observation car began to lose favor as patrons sought more comfort and safety, and the railroads sought space that was usable in both fair and foul weather. Pullman's answer was the sunroom or solarium observation car. While some sunroom cars were built in the wooden car era, they began to be constructed in greater numbers in the later 1920's. Virtually all solariums were 80' cars that were typically assigned to a railroad's named limiteds. The Con-Cor model is thus atypical with its 64' length and absence of air conditioning (no ducts on the roof and only brake equipment, a generator and two battery boxes on the underbody).
Con-Cor provides dual-mode lighting installed in these cars. On analog DC power, the brightness increases to a maximum at about 8 volts, and keeps constant intensity above that. On digital DCC layouts, the cars maintain full brightness. The light comes from 6 LEDs that have a very warm yellow color. The maximum intensity in both modes is rather dim, in keeping with the reputation of the Pennsy prototypes. All eight wheels are used for electrical pickup, so there is minimum probability of flicker in the lighting as the cars travel around the layout.
Con-Cor has also done a nice job on the underbody detail for these cars. The brake sytem components, generator, battery boxes, steam traps, and air, signal and steam lines are all separtely applied details that stand proud of the car floor. The two air tanks include delicate drain valves. The brake rods from the brake levers to the trucks run inside the large center sill and are thus not visible. Each car comes competely assembled, including factory-installed knuckle couplers. The combine weighed 4.2 oz. and the coach 4.4 oz., slightly less than the NMRA recommended 5.25 oz. for a car of this length.
Con-Cor International Ltd.
8101 E. Research Court
Tucson, AZ 85710-6758
Branch Line Cars - Available in Baggage-Mail, Combine, Coach, and Solarium-Observation configurations.
Unlettered Tuscan Red; Unlettered Pullman Green; Chicago & North Western; Santa Fe; New York Central; Southern Pacific; Burlington; Union Pacific; Milwaukee Road (Hiawatha); Baltimore & Ohio (blue-gray); Great Northern (Empire Builder); Pensylvania Railroad (Fleet of Modernism); Canadian National (green-black); Canadian Pacific (red).
Con-Cor provides the same nicely detailed 2C-P3 trucks as supplied on their Pennsy MP54's. The 8' wheelbase trucks have friction bearing, clasp brakes, and free rolling metal wheelsets that conform to the NMRA standards gauge. The trucks also have the very typically Pennsy extended bolsters placing the body bearings very close to the edges of the car. This was supposed to improve the ride by increasing the lateral stability of the car. Trucks with the body bearings located on the truck bolster just inside of the sideframes were more common.
We were able to operate our sample cars down to a 11" radius, but on these very tight curves, the side bearings almost loose contact with the body bearing pads, and can catch, interfereing with the truck rotating back to straight and possibly causing derailments. We suggest keeping a 15" minimum radius for these cars. Con-Cor lists an 18" minimum radius and notes that the coupler covers can be removed to improve coupler swing on tight curves, but we did not find this to be necessary. These new Con-Cor cars are well made, good looking, nicely finished, smooth operating and attractively lighted models that are well suited for use on branch line, short line, and commuter operations.