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WalthersProto HO scale PRR BM70n RPO-baggage car

Read this review from the April 2017 Model Railroader
MRRPR0417_09
WalthersProto HO scale PRR BR70n RPO baggage car
MRRPR0417_10
The car has a detailed interior made of several plastic moldings. Contacts at one end of the car provide electrical pickup for interior lighting (sold separately).

Fully-fledged post offices on wheels, Railway Post Office cars used to be called the most profitable cars in a railroad’s fleet. Wm. K. Walthers Inc. has unveiled a new HO scale version of one of those unsung heroes, a Pennsylvania RR class BM70n (baggage-mail, 70 feet long) typical of those that rode at the head of the railroad’s premier name trains. It’s part of Walthers’ new HO scale 1960s Broadway Limited.

Rolling history. In the early days of railroading, sacks of mail were carried in baggage cars. To speed delivery, RPO cars were developed with bins, racks, and equipment to allow en route sorting. Extendable hooks allowed pickup of mail sacks from trackside stands without stopping. Eventually, RPOs became full-fledged post offices.

Though top name trains like the Pennsylvania RR’s Broadway Limited were equipped with the latest streamlined cars, even on such trains, the RPO was often an older heavyweight type. For instance, PRR no. 6536, one of the BM70n cars that served the Broadway Limited and similar trains in the 1960s, had been rebuilt from a class M70 heavyweight mail car in 1939.

Just as the growth of the airlines and highways were taking passenger business away from the railroads, mail business was on the decline, too. The U.S. Postal Service canceled most railroad mail contracts in 1967, and by the next year, the Pennsy itself disappeared into the newly merged Penn Central.

Dimensions and details. The car is made of molded styrene sides, ends, underfloor, and roof that snap onto a plastic core. The Tuscan red paint was smoothly applied, and the buff lettering matched prototype photos. The formed wire handrails were factory-painted black and factory-applied, as were the plastic mail hooks in front of the doors.

The car’s dimensions match those on an official diagram I found at Rob’s Pennsy Home Page (prr.railfan.net). The exception was the wheelbase. The first and last ­axles on the original trucks were 11 feet apart; to maintain prototypical wheel size and accommodate proportionately deeper flanges, the model’s trucks are about 4 scale inches longer, not an obvious difference.

The model’s interior also matched a prototype diagram. One end of the car has metal contacts for installing an ­interior lighting kit (sold separately, ­Walthers part no. 920-1065, $15.98).

The car is designed for curves of at least 24" radius, and handled those on our Milwaukee, Racine & Troy staff layout easily. It also had no trouble with no. 5 turnouts and yard ladders.

The metal Proto-Max knuckle couplers were mounted at the correct height in pivoting body-mounted draft gear boxes. The wheels were all in gauge.

PRR’s crown jewel. Walthers’ new 1960s Broadway Limited set captures the last hurrah of Pennsylvania RR passenger service. This HO scale BM70n RPO-baggage car is a welcome addition for PRR passenger fans.

Price: $74.98 (9-car 1960s Broadway Limited deluxe set, $1,140)

Manufacturer
Wm. K. Walthers Inc.
5601 W. Florist Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53218
www.walthers.com

Era: 1960 to 1968

Features
▪▪Blackened metal RP-25 contour wheels, in gauge
▪▪Electrical pickup for interior lighting kit (sold separately)
▪▪Factory-installed, painted wire grab irons
▪▪Modeler-applied car number decals
▪▪Molded plastic interior
▪▪Proto-Max metal couplers, mounted at correct height
▪▪Sprung diaphragms
▪▪Weight: 6.4 ounces (0.4 ounce heavy according to National Model Railroad Association Recommended Practice 20.1)

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