Grain Car Comparisons

Foobie grain cars
HO scale grain cars

On a layout based on the Canadian Prairie, you need a lot of grain cars! If you are cheap have a low budget, you might be willing to run the less accurate models for a while. Let’s face it, accurate rail cars are expensive.

So you have the choice – do without, while accumulating funds to buy the really accurate models, or make do with foobies / inaccurate models for a while, or maybe even forever.

I have a variety of manufacturers’ grain cars on my layout, and I thought I’d write a little post to show the differences between them. But first, a little comparison photo to show differences in detail.

Grain Car Comparison
Grain Car Comparison

Two Bachmanns on the left, Model Power top right, and Intermountain on the bottom right.

Here’s a photo of a prototype… ALNX 396247 aka “Lethbridge”, a very typical 4,550 cubic foot grain car built by the thousands for the Canadian federal government and some provincial governments. Eric Gagnon has a great article on these uniquely Canadian cars.

Prototype ALNX 396247
Prototype ALNX 396247

What do you look for on an accurate grain car? The most glaring details are the roof walks and end ladders, plus the rib details along the sides. Let’s go.

Grain Car Comparisons

Model Power

Model Power grain car
Model Power grain car

This is a grain car made by Model Power, a manufacturer known for really inexpensive cars. You can see that ALPX 628099 above bears only a passing resemblance to the prototype.

  • Decorated for: ALPX (Alberta)
  • End ladders: Very chunky
  • Roof walk: Very chunky
  • Wheels: Large flanges, known as “pizza cutters” to modellers
  • Ribs: Absent
  • Cost: $5-10 (used at train shows)

This is definitely a low end model.

Bachmann

Bachmann

Bachmann makes the Silver Series grain cars in a variety of liveries. These are decent quality cars with metal wheels, Kadee-compatible couplers and finer details than the low end cars. They are still not terribly prototypical but they are decent cars. I wrote about ALNX 396400 already.

  • Decorated for: ALNX (Alberta), CPWX (red “Canada” and orange “Government of Canada”); CNWX (aluminum and yellow); SKNX (brown Saskatchewan); CN demonstrators (rainbow and environmental); CP (black with multimark); CN (gray)
  • End ladders: Chunky
  • Roof walk: Chunky
  • Wheels: Metal, good quality
  • Ribs: Absent
  • Cost: About $20 Canadian

Intermountain

Intermountain
Intermountain

Intermountain is known for higher quality cars and this one is no exception. It has a number of higher end features but it comes at a premium price.

The car I have is a “ready to run” model but I also have four plastic kits that I have not yet assembled. The kits are of good quality with many parts but don’t have the etched metal parts that the ready-to-run version has.

  • Decorated for: CNWX, CPWX (brown “Canadian Wheat Board”, red “Canada”); ALNX, ALPX (blue “Alberta Heritage”); CN (grey, and silver “aluminum”); CP (black with multimark, black with script); SKNX, SKPX (brown/red); CNIS (grey)
  • End ladders: Fine
  • Roof walk: Metal, fine
  • Wheels: Metal, good quality
  • Ribs: Present
  • Cost: about $50 Canadian

Walthers

Walthers recently announced a limited run of Canadian grain cars based on the National Steel Car 4,550 cubic foot car. They claim to have see-through running boards, finely detailed brake gear, roof hatches and end ladders, with metal 36″ wheels and metal knuckle couplers. They were released in April 2016 but I don’t have any in my fleet.

    • Decorated for: CNWX, CPWX (brown “Canadian Wheat Board” and red “Canada”), ALNX, ALPX (blue Alberta Heritage)
    • End ladders: Fine
    • Roof walk: Metal, fine
    • Wheels: Metal, good quality
    • Ribs: ??
    • Cost: About $45 Canadian

North American Railcar

North American Railcar has produced a few runs of Canadian grain cars. One was a special run of Saskatchewan Grain Car green hoppers, based on the Hawker Siddeley Canada 4,550 cubic foot car.

They claim to have see-through running boards, finely detailed brake gear, roof hatches and end ladders, with metal 36″ wheels and metal knuckle couplers. They were released in April 2016 but I don’t have any in my fleet.

      • Decorated for: SKNX, SKPX (green “Saskatchewan!” and brown “Saskatchewan”); ALPX (blue Alberta Heritage); CNWX (brown “Canadian Wheat Board”)
      • End ladders: Fine
      • Roof walk: Metal, fine
      • Wheels: Metal, good quality
      • Ribs: Present
      • Cost: About $55 Canadian

A note about 3800 cubic foot cars: These cars are smaller than the 4550 cubic foot cars above, but have not been available in model form. Some of the paint schemes above are for 3800 ft3 cars but are applied to the 4550s. This is changing as Rapido has announced 3800 cubic foot models for late 2016.

 

  • Glen Schattner

    Great timely article Steve, as I am looking for some grain cars for my layout in the near future. I saw the Rapido release coming soon. They look excellent, but are pricey for sure. I like the paint scheme on the Intermountain car……been looking for some but as yet haven’t found a source.

    • Thanks, Glen! I know someone who has a dozen or so Intermountains for sale. I’ll email the info to you.

    • Chris van der Heide

      The 3800-3850 cuft cars that Rapido is doing were mainly used for non-grain bulk commodities. TH&B and CP-script paint jobs only ever appeared on these cars, but Intermountain ran them on their larger model. A lot of the plain CN schemes were this car as well.

      FWIW, the Intermountain and Walthers models are basically the exact same NSC 4550 prototype, while (as Steve identifies in the post) the NARC car is an almost-the-same-but-subtly-different Hawker-Siddeley version. The Bachmann car is interesting, as while a little crude, it’s based on a completely different NSC 4650 design (note the extra little “bump outs” at the ends). The Model Power car is a bit of a dog overall (with the weird walkway design, it might actually have been based on a photo of a 3800 car??), but if you’re budget minded could fill out a fleet; you just get what you pay for.

      The Canadian Wheat Board and Saskatchewan and Alberta provincial government cars were all 4550 cuft cars, built variously by NSC, H-S and Marine Industries (with the Saskatchwan cars exclusively built by H-S, the Alberta ones mostly from NSC (with one group by H-S) and the Canadian Wheatboard cars from all three builders).