Walthers' heavyweight solarium is a welcome addition to their line of passenger cars.
Product Review: Pullman Heavyweight
Solarium-Observation Car in HO
by Gary Quale/photos by George Riley
Walthers is now adding several new car types to their initial series of six Pullman heavyweight passenger cars introduced in 2004-5. One of the first cars in the new series is a Pullman plan #3975C solarium. The model reviewed is Walthers item 932-10453, a Pullman green car lettered for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.
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 sun room or solarium observation car. While some sun room cars were built in the wooden car era, they began to be constructed in greater numbers in the later 1920's. A group of 43 cars was built in several lots to various versions of plan #3975. In Some Classic Trains, Arthur Dubin states that these cars were assigned to many top trains of the day, including the ACL Everglades, B&O Capitol Limited, CN-GTW International, C&EI-L&N-et al Dixie Flyer, IC Seminole, L&N Pan American, MP-T&P Sunshine Special, PRR Broadway Limited, StLSF-MKT Texas Special, and UP Pony Express. After WWII these cars were eventually transferred from Pullman to the PRR (19), B&O (7), NYC (3), B&M (2), GN (2), NP (1), Strates Shows (2), industrial firms (3), retired (2), wrecked (1) and scrapped (1).
Plan #3975C was for cars with a 3-compartment, drawing room, buffet, lounge, sun room configuration (some of the other #3975 versions had just 1 or 2 compartments, and some of the 1 compartment cars had a barber shop). Pullman records complied by Thomas Madden on his excellent "Pullman Project" web site show that a total 18 of "C" version cars were built in lots 6217, 6262 and 6275 between December 1928 and July 1929. As built, all the cars were painted Pullman green and carried names in series -Canyon (4), Capitol- (5), Dixie- (4), Palm- (4), plus "Montreal". By the early 1930's, the Dixie-, -Canyon and a pair of Palm- cars were repainted in PRR tuscan red and received numbers in the series 8533 to 8549. Beginning in 1938, the Capitol- cars began receiving the B&O's blue and gray colors.
The interior details of the Walthers car shows sharp, defined construction from individually applied pieces, raising the bar in current passenger car model offerings.
These ready-to-run cars use the same modular parts design Walthers introduced on the first series of cars. The cars are assembled from separate assemblies that in turn are assembled from individual components. The cars are like a very sophisticated "flat kit" that has been meticulously assembled by a skilled model builder. The body is made from separate sides and ends, with a recessed window insert and interior insert that fits above and below the windows to give the inside walls an appropriate interior color. The roof is factory assembled from a clearstory with separate side sections with or without air conditioning ducts as appropriate to the specific car, and individual roof vents of various types. The floor is made from a lower section that carries the underbody details, and an upper section in an appropriate interior color that mounts the various separately applied seats, partitions, beds, etc. The result is a factory-assembled car made up from about two hundred parts. The assembly is of high quality, so that if one does not look at the detailed exploded parts diagrams included with the car, one might think the model was made from just a few complex injection moldings like popular heavyweight cars of a generation ago.
A benefit of this design is that Walthers can customize these cars to a wide variety of specific prototypes. The interior arrangement and details match Pullman diagrams for this car plan. The underbody is very detailed, and Walthers varies the underbody details of their various heavyweight cars to match the prototypes and provide variety in a train viewed at eye level. This level of detail can lead to potential conflicts with the features of the specific prototypes represented. For example, the 5 Capitol- cars had York A/C systems, Palm Lane and Montreal had the Pullman electro-mechanical A/C system, and all the other #3975C cars had ice activated A/C systems. However, the Walthers Burlington model reviewed has a Pullman mechanical A/C system with no auxiliary brine tank. Relative to the number of other details that are spot on, this is a fairly minor nit on these excellent cars.
Another feature of the Walthers cars is that they come factory ready to accept a choice of lighting systems. The trucks come with metal wheels and contacts that rub on metal strips installed between the two floor components. These strips extend up the inside of one car end to pads which contact the Walthers preassembled lighting units for these cars, #933-1087 for DC track power and #933-1088 for DCC powered systems. The DC unit uses a voltage regulator circuit to provide constant voltage for its three incandescent bulbs. These lighting units are designed to simply snap into the top of the car interior and under the car roof. The most difficult part of the lighting unit installation may be the insertion of a square end X-acto blade into five hidden slots to release the car roof from the car sides. It works best to start at one end on the side of the roof without the A/C duct, and pry up the roof a bit at the end to gain access to the roof tabs in sequence. Be careful not to push too hard on the X-acto blade to avoid breaking the roof tabs.
Wm. K Walthers
5601 West Florist Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53218
932-10453 - Burlington (CB&Q) Pullman Heavyweight Solarium Observation
HO scale, MSRP $49.98
The reviewers' experience with several cars of the original series, as well as with this new solarium car, was that the car interior vestibule bulkheads and some of the interior partitions are too tall to allow the roof to nestle back down against the car sides with the lighting unit installed. It was necessary to remove the interior bulkheads and cut off about 1/32" of the top, and to selectively shave the tops of some of the interior partitions, in order to obtain sufficient clearance for the roof to re-seat snuggly against the car sides. It is useful to slightly bend up the metal tabs coming up from the car underbody to assure that they make good contact with the rivets on the lighting unit. Also, it may be necessary to slightly bend the heat sink tab on the lighting unit so that it does not contact any of the plastic parts in the car vestibule.
These are excellent models of heavyweight passenger cars with specific, identifiable prototypes. The cars include most of the details that super detailers would add to passenger car models not that many years ago. It is hoped that Walthers will make the many individual roof, underbody, and interior detail parts separately available to modelers that want to further customize these cars, or to upgrade older models. The Walthers solarium car has a list price of $44.98.