Modeling New England Passenger Trains

Creating accurate models of New England passenger trains in the pre-Amtrak era takes considerable effort to do a good job. I've been interested in modeling specific prototypes and eras since I first got into HO scale in 1968 (a reason I changed from O tinplate was that I couldn't find a Lionel Budd RDC at that time). I witnessed the early work towards accurate freight equipment and operations modeling in the 1980s. Because freight cars were built in large lots and ran nationwide until it wore out, each project article, each new accurate-to-prototype kit made things easier for modelers of many different areas and eras. This would allow me to place a relatively accurate freight train in most of the post-WWII Boston & Maine RR scenes I was interested in.

Nothing comparable happened in the passenger area until the early 1990s. First, the problem was difficult: Passenger service was in decline before organized rail historical activity began in the US, and much information perished when routes were discontinued and flags fell. Second, where an author or manufacturer researched, it usually benefitted only a part of the modeling community: most passenger equipment was quite specific to a particular railroad. Common basic designs were rare, with small orders of one-off equipment the rule. And aside from baggage and express cars, 99% of passenger trains carried only home-road equipment. Finally, the underlying reason the equipment was so unique was that it was purchased with particular trains in mind. Train 83 on the X,Y&Z might draw a predictable consist for 10 or 15 years, only to be completely re-equipped with new cars or hand-me-downs from another service.

On the B&M, the early 1950s were a startlingly diverse modeling era: Moguls and wood open-platform coaches built a half-century earlier mixed with brand-new road-switchers and streamlined passenger trains. Most lines still had passenger service and the main routes supported the traditional mix of limiteds, secondary trains and mail/express locals. This diversity was not documented anywhere except in contemporary photography - a few classes of B&M cars had been researched and drawn, but no general history was available. Train consist books are mostly in private hands. It was clear that in order to accurately model this, I was going to need a lot of data, and I couldn't expect someone else to compile it - the B&M served a small region, and hasn't attracted the commercial attention that a Santa Fe or Pennsy has.

30 years down the line, I know what I want to do, and where the data is - my modeling plans are now only time- and space-limited. Most of what I've done is collect and compile the work of others. My main motivation in writing about B&M and New England passenger operations and publishing it on the web is that many of the original researchers have passed away, and much of their work is only available in archives. Helping other people who share my interests, but don't have access to the original sources is one way I can give back to the community that made it possible for me to attain my goals in the first place.

Major New England single-line passenger routings

Interline services

What I know about New England equipment and operations is on the web:

Railway Mail Service in New England

Also on the web:

Appropriate HO Scale Passenger Equipment Models:

This summarizes what I know, and I don't by any means know everything. I know B&M and NH best, and have decent references for PRR, CN and BAR. I study MEC, CPR and CV equipment in photos, but I haven't put much effort into NYC. The equipment is grouped by level of effort, starting with ready-to-run.

HO scale Ready To Run:


Depending on your skill and available time, there are many passenger locomotive projects that can be rewarding: an MEC, NYC or CV passenger GP unit should be easy from recent offerings. NH and B&M passenger GPs require additional parts as well as painting, as do B&M passenger Alco RS units. If you can find the right shells to start with, B&M and MEC dual-service F units are fairly simple. The Proto 1000 NH DL-109s sold very quickly; alternatives are brass imports or resin kits, which require considerable skill to assemble well.

Red Caboose offers a PRR X-29 kit with lettering and extra details as an express boxcar, which were frequently seen all over New England into the 1960s.

Walthers Budd lightweights are probably the best starting point for a Boston & Albany/NYC "New England States" from the 1950s.

Passenger car kits (unpainted):

The Athearn (Roundhouse) "Pullman Palace" 85' sleeper, being wood, would not have been allowed into either Penn Station or Grand Central in New York City, which pretty much eliminated wood Pullmans in New England after about 1920. The corresponding diner is fairly close to a B&M prototype that was built about 1910, was relegated to work service about 1947, and survived at East Deerfield into the late 1970s.

Passenger Engine Kitbashes:

B&MRRHS' "Modeler's Notes" ran an article (originally from the DL&W Historical Society's publication) on converting an IHC 4-6-2 to the DL&W engines that became B&M's class P-5 (WWII - 1955).

B&MRRHS' "Modeler's Notes" article on converting an

Passenger Car Kitbashes

Heavyweight Pullman sleepers, parlor cars and dining cars which aren't available RTR or as kits can be modeled by cut/splice techniques using New England States Limited window and door sections. See "The Best of Mainline Modeler's Passenger Cars Volume 1" or the April/May 1989 MR for articles and plans.

The B&M's only series of purpose-built steel baggage cars can be modeled by cutting and splicing either Athearn or Rivarossi heavyweight cars. Similar techniques could be used for other roads' clerestory-roof cars.

Budd RDCs. Widely used on the B&M post-1952 and the NH post-1950. The Walthers P1K RDC is an "old look" car, which is right for all the NH fleet, and cars the B&M bought before 1955. The B&M's large 1955 order used cast trucks, like the Athearn model. Later orders had "new look" ends, but not including the end and door corrugations found on the Athearn model. I haven't looked into bashing Athearn parts onto a P1K shell; it might be futile given that Athearn shrank the height as well as the length. The Athearn truck sideframes can be used to correctly model the B&M's 1955 cars.

John Nehrich wrote up quickie milk-car reworks in the January 1997, Model Railroader - these are barely complicated enough to qualify as "kitbashing", but his results look nice.

Funaro & Camerlengo PRR MP-54 electric MU coach. Build without power or pantographs, remove vent louvers on sides for B&M ex-PRR commuter and secondary service coaches 1940 - 1958.

Concord Jct. Car shops and NKP Car Co. have offered etched brass sides for various B&M, MEC, NH and BAR post-war lightweight stainless-sheathed coaches, parlor cars, diner/lounges, combines and sleepers built by Pullman-Standard. These may be assembled onto a "car core kit" from Train Station Products, or a Walthers RTR carbody with the details sanded off. I recommend you check the length of the side against the body before you start work.

Con-Cor's CB&Q Zephyr Budd self-propelled train could be kitbashed, with considerable effort, into the B&M/MEC Flying Yankee. In later years, this train also operated as the Boston - Troy, NY Minuteman, the Boston - North Conway - Whitefield Mountaineer and the Boston - Keene - White River Jct. Cheshire

Appropriate N, S and HO Scale Passenger Equipment Models:

Sorry, O-, S- and N-scale modelers - I'm not an expert, but I don't think there are many New England prototype models available to you other than Micro-Trains Pullman heavyweights and car sides/core kits from several vendors.

Union Station Products offers laser-cut plastic car sides in N, HO, S and O scales:

Model Power's N-scale 2-6-0 is very close to a B&M B-15 2-6-0, including the Franklin Economy steam chests applied in the 1920s.

Weaver has imported several runs of O-scale 2- and 3-rail models of 1930s Osgood Bradley "American Flyer" lightweight coaches.

Maintained by

James B. VanBokkelen (