We have nearly reached "the end" of Walthers popular 20th Century Limited series.
Product Review: Walthers New York Central
20th Century Limited Cars in HO
by Gary Quale/photo by George Riley
New York Central fans rejoice as Walthers is almost finished issuing cars in its 1948 New York Central 20th Century Limited series. They have recently released three of the more interesting cars in the train, the RPO-baggage, the "Shore" series lounge-secretary-barbershop-shower car, and the beautiful "Creek" series 5-bedroom-buffet-lounge-observation car.
These new cars follow the same design and construction used for Walthers other recent lightweight passenger cars. The cars are full-length models with a recommended 24" minimum radius. They come pre-assembled, painted and partially lettered. The modeler is provided with matching decals with appropriate car numbers or names, and with a set of handrails and grab irons to install after drilling mounting holes at the locating marks provided on the car bodies. The cars come with factory installed PROTO-Max die cast metal knuckle couplers, and have removable roofs to accept the Walthers #933-1049 lighting module.
Pullman Lot 6545, Plan 7406 included four 85' long RPO-baggage cars numbered 5017 through 5020 built in 1938 for the all-new 20th Century Limited train introduced that year. These were among the longest RPO cars, having a standard 60' postal "apartment" plus a 21' baggage space. When the Central upgraded the Century in 1948, it was decided to continue to use the 1938 RPO cars.
An interesting side note is that although the Century did not make a passenger stop at the Cleveland Union Terminal, it still did deliver mail to the downtown post office. While a crew change was made during a brief stop at Collinwood Yard, a special Century Shuttle train would be spotted on the adjacent track. The shuttle had just two cars, a crew coach and baggage car 8599, selected because its door spacing matched the spacing of the postal apartment doors on the Century's RPOs. Mail from Cleveland was transferred from the shuttle baggage car to the RPO, and mail destined for that city was shifted from the RPO into the baggage car. The shuttle would then make the 10-mile return trip to the Union Terminal. Two such round trips were made every night, meeting both 25 and 26.
Mail service on the Century ended on August 6, 1967, four months before the train itself was discontinued. All four RPOs were retired in 1971, with the 5020 going into to work train service and the 5018 eventually going to the Indiana Railway Museum in French Lick.
In addition to installing handrails and applying decals, the modeler has to install the mail hooks on the postal apartment doors, and his or her choice of either original four-window baggage doors, or the later three-window version. The RPO-Baggage car weighs 6.9 oz, right on the NMRA recommendation for an 85' car, and rides on GSC six-wheel roller bearing trucks with metal wheels conforming to the NMRA standards gauge.
The second recent release is the unique "Shore" 30-seat lounge cars, part of Pullman Lot 6789, Plan 7548. There were only two of these cars, "Atlantic Shore" and "Lake Shore," which were delivered in August and September of 1948. They made their initial runs on the Century on September 15, 1948 and were withdrawn from the train on April 27, 1958. In 1952 Atlantic Shore was renumbered 10572 and Lake Shore became 10573. Later they were renumbered to 10703 and 10704 in August 1958 when they were put up for sale.
The cars were sold to the Rock Island in March 1959, where they received numbers 481 and 482 and were repainted for service on the Golden State. Lake Shore kept its name on the Rock, while Atlantic Shore was renamed to Pacific Shore. The cars ran on the Golden State until it was discontinued in 1967. The Lake Shore was scraped in 1971. The former Atlantic Shore was installed at Chicago's La Salle Street Station as part of the Track One Restaurant, and was then sold in 1976 to a private party in Iowa. In 1982, the car was donated to the Western New York Railway Historical Society, and moved back to New York for preservation.
Plans for the Shore cars appear in the Carstens Passenger Cars 2 book. Starting at the blind end, the first space was the barbershop with an adjacent shower for use by passengers. Looking into the short window at the end of the car, the barber's sink is visible on the complete interior in the Walthers model. The next space was a secretary's office that included a booth for a radiotelephone. Next was a small bar space that served the 30-seat lounge area. The lounge had two red leather sofas, twelve gray fabric lounge chairs, two pairs of chairs at cocktail tables, and two card tables with four red leather chairs at each. These are represented modeled in a buff color on the Walthers interior. The Shore cars were operated at the front of the Century, just behind the RPO. Each evening, when dinner was complete in the diner at the middle of the consist, the lounge in the Shore car, the diner, and the lounge in the observation car became "Club Century," a posh night club no more than a few car lengths away from every passengers' accommodation.
Bringing up the end of the Century were the well known "Hickory Creek" and "Sandy Creek." These 5-bedroom buffet-lounge-observation cars were part of Pullman Lot 6790 and Plan 4126, and plans of the cars are included in the Carstens Passenger Cars 3 book. The cars were delivered in August and September of 1948, received numbers 10570 and 10571 in 1952, were renumbered to 10633 and 10634 in 1958, and were retired in 1968.
Hickory Creek was sold to the Ringling Brothers Circus and was subsequently obtained by the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey. The car has been beautifully restored, is Amtrak certified, and is now in charter service. Sandy Creek was sold to a private party and in 1990 became the tail car for the American Orient Express train. In this role, the 5 bedrooms were removed, the area refitted as additional lounge seating and the car was renamed "New York." In late 2008, this train was purchased by Xanterra, the concessionaire at several major National Parks, and may soon be making trips between these parks.
The two Creek-series observations had distinctive tall windows around the rear of the car. On the interior, this part of the car was raised two steps higher than the rest of the car, so that these widows extended from just above the floor almost to the ceiling, providing supurb views of the Hudson Valley and earning the name "lookout lounge." Additional lounge seating and a card table were provided at the normal floor level between the Lookout Lounge and the buffet bar. The Walthers model's interior nicely represents these interior features.
Wm. K Walthers
5601 West Florist Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53218
932-9460 Railway Post Office
HO scale, MSRP $64.98
932-9310 "Shore" Series Lounge
HO scale, MSRP $64.98
932-9312 "Creek" Series Bedroom-Lounge-Observation
HO scale, MSRP $69.98
The Shore and Creek cars come with rooftop radio antennae. The lounge weighs 6.7 oz., and the observation 6.8 oz., just about right for 12" cars. Both cars come with smooth rolling 41-CNS-11 trucks with metal wheels conforming to the NMRA standards gauge. A nice feature on the observation is that rear coupler is also a PROTO-Max in a swing-mounted box, just like those at the ends of the other cars.
New York Central modelers or classic passenger train enthusiasts in general will definitely appreciate these models. These three cars continue the high quality and fidelity to the prototypes that have been the hallmarks of the recent Walthers passenger train releases.