Friday, March 24, 2017

Lionel HO T-20105's Long Life

Model railroaders are spoiled. Never had it so good. Especially modellers of Canadian prototypes. Back in the late 70's, other than occasional 'foobie' Athearn plastic car kits, there were no lines of Canadian prototype rolling stock available. Then Lionel HO happened. The Parker Brothers product line catalogue (top photo) shows the stock numbers. Which were also the car numbers. That's right, there was none of the prototype fidelity we have been treated to today (including road number-specific details from Rapido Trains). So every car number started with a T prefix!! Whaaaaat?
Where am I going with this? Well, I'm going to Prince Edward Island, that's where. And that's where Chris Mears takes up the story on his Prince Street Terminal blog. Proposing some layout design mockups, Chris used an historic piece in his photos. It was Lionel HO CP Rail 40-foot boxcar T-20105 (oh, there are those awful T-series car numbers again!) Oh, the 'breeding pair' in their natural state above? I found the photo on Ebay, going for $89.99 or best offer. I am not making this up. Box-end view:
My 1978 car roster from the Cataraqui Northern Lines, the early name that my Dad chose for his model layout and I continued to use until the advent of the MWR - Manitoba Western Railway - shows two Lionel HO products. Check out the fourth and fifth boxcars. Even then, at fourteen years old, I knew the T-prefix was folly and so did not list it!
But then, on August 9, 1980, another Lionel HO product joined the roster (last line in photo below). You guessed it, CP T-20105. I listed it here for documentary purposes:
For $2.25! Notice my attempts to add Canadian prototype cars to the roster. Also, notice the prices! Jeesh. By the end of the month, I'd added a 1, making it CP 120105:
In October 1980 and March 1981, CP 120105 was now in grain service
The same month, the Department of Motive Power and Car Equipment recorded some tuning-up with truck-swapping upgrade. Of course, no coupler-swapping:
To reflect the application of wheat sheaf logos to boxcars that CN and CP refurbished with financial support from the federal government, it was time to apply the wheat-sheaf logo in November, 1982:
But within a year, things changed. With better-quality Athearn and Roundhouse grain cars entering service, I downgraded Lionel HO's product to woodchip service, driven by my prototype observations of converted CP roofless woodchip boxcars and grain cars during travels west aboard VIA Rail. The car's roof was removed and a renumbering to CP 30490 and touch-up painting was done, along with a new set of hinged doors to replace the troublesome Lionel HO sliding door's weak door guides. After reading Chris' post, I went looking for CP 30490.
And I found it. No underframe. No wheels. When Winnipeg was my modelled prototype, I needed some scrapped freight cars to complete the scene at Mandak Metals. Not needing woodchips in Winnipeg, CP 30490 was repurposed yet again. And it still makes its way in a gondola car, now to Vancouver's Coast Steel Fabricators:
Perhaps an ignominious end, but still serving. Thanks for your service, humble T-20105
Ready to be repurposed yet again? Thanks to Chris for sending me on this interesting and rewarding journey back to my model railway roots of over 30 years ago! And, thanks to Lionel HO for being perhaps the first manufacturer to peddle Canadian prototypes!

Running extra...

While my upcoming book Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections is with the graphic designer, there is still VIA-watching to be done. Namely, CANADA 150 wraps that have been applied to 16 cars and seven locomotives and counting. The first wrapped locomotive, VIA 6454 is currently heading for Vancouver leading VIA No 1. Steve Boyko caught the train in Winnipeg. Also, watch for Vimy 1917-2017 logos on VIA Business Class cars. Who says VIA is boring these days? 

Steve also got busy for my recent birthday, re-wrapping Mark Sampson's photo at the Toronto Maintenance Centre (spot the GO bilevel!) of VIA 6454 with a unique scheme:
I was also pleased to receive artist and NS Heritage Unit program idea-shipper Andrew Fletcher's birthday greeting depicting Trains of Canada. Andrew has a striped FPA4 that looks a lot better than Lionel's "FA-1" did in the top photo of this post!


jason sailer said...

Andrew looked like he missed the Northern Alberta Railway paint scheme, but otherwise he did a nice poster up for you Eric! A great idea to recycle an older train model on your layout!

Eric said...

Good eye, Jason. He got ETR though! Andrew does some awesome work. It shows where an idea can take someone. And the connections he makes with others are a joy to see.

On the Vancouver Wharves, it's all about recycling and reusing!
Thanks for your comment, and I hope you recognized the Lindberg Ford. Thanks for that, too!

Eric May said...

I wondered what the story was behind T-20105. Reminds me of my early days in N scale. I had a boxcar, hopper reefer and caboose. They all had the same number... 36544. Thanks Minitrix! the hopper car is still in service.

Eric May

Eric said...

Whoa, some numbering irregularities there, Eric! Glad to hear at least one is a survivor.
Thanks for your comment,

Steve Boyko said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Eric! It was entertaining to read the story of the Lionel HO cars and the long series of retrofits and repurposing that the car went through. Talk about "sweating the assets!"

So, do you think VIA is going to make any mention of the 40th anniversary of their start? They didn't say anything on January 12, 2017... maybe they are waiting until October 29, 2018?

Eric said...

Hi Steve,

Still liking that Gagnon 53 treatment. CP was king of asset-sweating.

Other than the extraordinary history page on their website, I think VIA is so unsure or unproud of their past that they are focused on the present and perhaps dreaming of the future. Plus, they have too many anniversaries. I'm just hanging my upcoming book on their '40th'. They have many of those.

You're absolutely right to try to stay in one spot. Especially if there is traffic in the area. Traffic lights kill good photos.

Thanks for your comment,

Tyler said...

Ah the days of looking at rolling stock in Hans Christian Toys when my parents would take me to the mall!

Eric said...

Thought that sounded familiar, Tyler. That's where I picked up LifeLike Weyerhaeuser LUNX 4687 in my handwritten acquisition list in the post! Hans Christian!
Thanks for your comment,

Tyler said...

Yes, my comment was prompted by the store names on your acquisition list. I included store names in similar hand-written and typed lists that eventually migrated to a spreadsheet. I distinctly recall the excitement of spying the first red Canada cylindrical covered hoppers from Model Power in the glass display case at Hans Christian in the mall. A must-have that could not possibly wait for my next birthday or Christmas to roll around!
Later in the 80s and early 90s a lot of my rolling stock was acquired at local hobby shops or on summer vacation trips to the US; I imagine a large number of those hobby shops we visited on vacation have exited the business over the years. But the Athearn, Walthers and early Intermountain kits acquired during that timeframe are still rolling on!