Ore car recommendations

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by kchronister, Nov 1, 2004.

  1. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    I've added a mine spur to the layout and now need to get some ore cars to go along with it. The layout is set on the Elmira branch of the PRR in about 1940, so looking for something prototypical for that.

    I tend to accumulate rolling stock slowly and prefer to spend for good quality rather than (to go the other extreme) throwing a bunch of cheap tycos around. My prior experience is almost entirely passenger, and my preferred vendor has few freight cars available -- and no ore cars. So I need a suggestion for who makes the best. Kit or RTR is fine either way. Pre-decorated with PRR markings is idea, but ready-to-decorate is fine too.


  2. b28_82

    b28_82 Member

    Walthers makes some pretty decent looking ore cars. I havent seen them run that I know of but they look good. Also IHC used to make them and i'm sure you might find some on ebay for a decent price. There was a guy at the last train show selling a 12-pack for 40 or 50 bones.
  3. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    There is a book about this branch: "Pennsylvania Railroad's Elmira Branch" by Bill Caloroso. I don't have a copy but someone here might. If you live along the branch, your local library or historical society might be a good place to start.

    What would the ore cars be carrying? I know there are salt mines in the area, and though not exactly in the Adirondacks, I'm thinking of eventually including one on my layout.

  4. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Thanks for the tip, Wayne. I'll look for the book.

    The cars are for coal.

  5. Fred_M

    Fred_M Guest

    Tichy also makes some cute little wood sided ore car kits that are somewhat difficult to build, but look wonderful when done. Fred
  6. lemscate

    lemscate New Member

    I know my ore cars, but more of the Lake Superior type than the Pennsy types. So I can give recommendations on manufacturers.

    AHM/IHC - These are equivalent to Tycos. Don't have good detail, don't run very well. These cars have truck mounted horn-hook couplers, and crude running gear. Can be found cheap, and for a reason. If you find one for cheap, it might be useful for modelling a wreck.

    MDC - These would be my recommendation. Their detail is not up to the Walthers/Tichy cars, but is suitable, and can be easily upgraded. MDC also makes the most styles of ore cars, both bottom dump and gondola type. The gon types would probably be more appropriate for the Pennsy (I would try to find if they have one prepainted for Pennsy, but due to the Horizon buyout online catalogs are hard to come by). In my experience, the MDC orecars are the best runners. They roll pretty smooth (better if one upgrades to metal wheels), and have negligible tracking problems. Only downside is that they need some painting as the underframe and detail parts are not painted the same as the body.

    Walthers - The Walthers standard ore car (no side extensions) would be appropriate for the timeframe that you are modelling. The side extensions (for carrying pelletized iron ore and occasionally aggregates) did not appear until the 1950's-60's, and have only become the norm in the past two decades or so. Walthers orecars have good detail, but have tracking problems. I cannot speak for the new release, which have the metal wheels among other improvements, but all of the past releases have problems with inflexible trucks. The wheels rub the hopper pocket even on tangent track, and have serious problems being pushed through curves and turnouts. The best thing going for the Walthers line is availability: they are in current production and are sold in 12 packs, as compared to 1 or 2 of the other manufacturers'.

    Tichy - I only have limited experience with these. These are wood ore cars, appropriate for late 1800s to 1920-1930's. They require assembly and painting, and do look great when done properly. I have not run any Tichy cars, so I cannot comment on their running ability.

    My suggestion would be to find the appropriate body type that you need, then buy up as many of those as you can. Ore cars ain't easy to come by, I know.
  7. rockislandmike

    rockislandmike Active Member

    TOT, but Lemscate, that's a really kewl logo under your userid; what's it for ???
  8. lemscate

    lemscate New Member

    That's the logo for Lake Superior & Ishpeming, an ore carrying road that I happen to model (hence, my knowledge of ore cars). The LS&I is small and not well known. The only website devoted to it is at http://www.i2k.com/~dpierce/LSI/ , which has a picture of one of their locomotives that had this logo. I had to draw it up in CAD myself as I could not find any picture of it anywhere.
  9. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member


    I've been looking for drawings of a PSC 50 ton fishbelly ore car built around 1900. Ever come across something like this? I need a bunch in N Scale and can only find them in HO by Westerfield They letter some for the Algoma Central and say most were built for Lake Superior roads. Some found their way to Lake Champlain iron mines and are just what I need.

    I'm sure I will have to cast or kitbash them. If I can't find drawings, I'll probably have to buy an HO car to use as a guide.

  10. Isambard

    Isambard Member

    I've now built and brush painted four Tichy wood sided ore cars for the Kingdom Copper Mines and they look great. They do take time, I've got down the learning curve to about eight hours each working on one at a time, including wet decal lettering and numbering (I'm a slow learner). After having trouble with the brake shoes dragging on the wheels on the first two, I decided to remove them and not to install them on the next two. I also found the cars too light, so replaced plastic wheelsets with steel ones and glued lead slugs underneath the ore load to bring the weight up to two ounces per car. They roll beautifully. I may try an assembly-line approach on the next batch, although that's not without risk should I experience negative learning!
  11. lemscate

    lemscate New Member

    The only ore car in N scale that I know of is the one by Atlas: http://www.atlasrr.com/NFreight/n70orecarnew1.htm . It's a 70 ton model, more appropriate for the 1950's onward. It's not the same style as the Westerfield model, but with new trucks and a few carefully placed pieces of styrene could look very close. Kitbashing the Atlas model would undoubtedly be easier than casting a fleet from scratch.

    I do not know of any blueprints or plans for ore cars of this time period. Honestly, there isn't that much information about early ore cars. Your best bet would be to hunt down old books and magazines that have information about early ore roads, and try to find some decent pictures of ore cars.

    Good luck in your quest.
  12. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    Well if you're in HO, you might want to check the Bowser Pennsy ore cars, would assume that's what would have been used by PRR. The Walthers cars are "Minnesota" cars, used in...well, Minnesota!! The MDC ones are modelled after the type used in Upper Michigan - a little higher and a little narrower than the Minnesota cars.
  13. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    MDC's are nice and easy to build 3 or more in one evening.
  14. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Thanks, all. Here's the update:

    Firstly I've clarified my own thinking over time and am focused on 26' "shorty" ore cars.

    I've acquired some ModelPower PRR cars from the LHS. Not the best in the world, but not bad for $5 each -- metal wheelsets, good weight, decent detailing. Roll nicely enough.

    I've also purchased (but not yet built) two Tichy ore cars as a "test run"... We'll see how that goes.

    Bowser remains a favorite, but doesn't appear to make 26' ore cars.

    I'll check out MDC.
  15. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Scratch MDC, I forgot they were bought out. Unless you can find old staock, walthers is out. Too bad, I think I paid $3 ea a year ago. :( You might watch IHC if you need some later, they are currently out of stock: http://www.ihc-hobby.com/ I haven't seen their ore cars, but the other rolling stick seems decent and inexpensive.
  16. wjstix

    wjstix Member

  17. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm not sure, but most ore cars I've seen are shorty cars designed for hauling heavy ore like gold or iron. Coal is lighter, and would probably be hauled in open hopper cars. In the early 40's, the cars would probably have been 2 or 3 bay types. You would not find the huge coal gons that are run on modern railroads.
  18. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    I think Russ is right. Coal would have been hauled in the 2 and 3 bay hoppers.
    But you'll still need those ore cars to haul iron ore to the mills.
    I borrowed a book from a friend that covers all the Pennsy hoppers. The name of the book was, Pennsylvania Railroad Steel Open Hopper Cars, it had drawings and modeling tips as well as the history.
  19. pjb

    pjb Member

    In the 1940s Pennsy ran coal north to Lake Ontario in STANdARD
    hopper cars and carried iron ore back in same cars. The only difference was that iron ore being denser wasn't loaded to full cubic capacity of cars. B&LE and others did same thing. Some others made use of gondolas in similar fashion. It was well into
    mid 50s that Pennsy purpose built ore cars, appeared in any numbers.

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