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.

 

ALNX 396400 – A Comparison

I was out railfanning this morning along the CN Redditt subdivision. I photographed an eastbound freight train and snapped a few photos of the rolling stock. One that I photographed was ALNX 396400:

ALNX 396400 near Anola 2016/03/13
ALNX 396400 near Anola 2016/03/13

When I was processing them in Lightroom, I recognized the road number as being the same as a model I have! Here’s the model, posed similarly:

ALNX 396400 model
ALNX 396400 model

You can see that they aren’t the same at all! The model is a Bachmann Silver Series car, which is a lower price, decent quality car.

Now here are the two of them, stuck together for easy comparison:

ALNX 396400 Comparison
ALNX 396400 Comparison

To be very critical, they don’t look a whole lot alike. The detail just isn’t there on the model in comparison with the prototype, and the lettering is larger than the prototype.

On the other hand, you can buy one of these for $15.99 Canadian and they are good operators, with metal wheels and Kadee couplers. They’re certainly better detailed and much better runners than the Life-Like cars! It would not be fair to compare it to, say, an Intermountain car, because you can buy two of the Bachmann cars for the price of one Intermountain car.

I don’t want to sound like I’m crapping on the Bachmann car. For the price it is a good deal and I would be glad to buy more like it.

I was tickled pink blue to see the prototype of one of my cars!