Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Walthers HO Metroliner electric passenger train

Read this review from Model Railroader magazine


The marker lights automatically illuminate when the car reverses.

Zooming under the wires along the Northeast Corridor, Metroliner Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) cars redefined modern high-speed rail in the United States. The Walthers HO scale Metroliner cars are prototypically detailed on the inside and out. I tested models equipped with dual-mode SoundTraxx Digital Command Control sound decoders.

The prototype. The 1965 High Speed Ground Transportation Act paved the way for state-of-the-art rail service for the North East Corridor (NEC) from Boston to Washington, D.C., that also ran through New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The Pennsylvania RR, Budd Co., General Electric, and Westinghouse developed an electric multiple unit (EMU) high-speed passenger train.

Budd built the streamlined car bodies with interiors reminiscent of modern jetliners. Developed independently about half of the EMUs received GE pantographs and traction motors, while the other half received Westinghouse equipment. Eventually 61 EMUs were built, including 31 coaches, 20 snack-bar coaches, and 10 parlor cars.

During a 1967 test run an EMU attained 156 mph, although the Federal Railway Administration eventually lowered its allowable top speed in the NEC to 125 mph. By 1968, a Penn Central herald had replaced the Pennsy keystone on the EMU cars. Service officially began in 1968 and was taken over by Amtrak in 1971.

The EMUs usually ran in four-, six-, or eight-car sets. By 1982 AEM-7 locomotives began replacing the EMUs in Metroliner Service. In 2006 as Amtrak expanded its Acela Express, Metroliner service was discontinued. Some of the Metroliner EMUs have been converted to cab cars on regional push-pull trains.
Walthers HO Metroliner electric passenger train
The model. The Walthers models match the dimensions and end profile of builder’s diagrams in the 1970 edition of the Car and Locomotive Cyclopedia (Simmons-Boardman).
The plastic body shells feature sharp molded detail. The fluting matches prototype photos, as does the window placement for each car type.

All the handrails and other detail parts are factory installed. Both the snack-bar coach and parlor cars have antennas for the passenger telephones.  

The model has a shiny simulated stainless-steel finish that looks like a freshly washed prototype EMU. The red, white, and blue stripes of the Amtrak phase I paint scheme are opaque, with sharp color separation.
Each car features a prototype-specific sprung pantograph.
The prototype-specific pantographs are made of scale-profile metal. The pantographs are sprung and can be locked in the down position.

The mechanism. The model includes an isometric drawing but no disassembly instructions. To begin disassembly I removed six screws on the model’s underframe. The two near the motor truck are difficult to reach, but they don’t need to be removed completely. Next, I used toothpicks to spread the sides of the body shell, so I could lift it off the frame.

The motor and flywheels are mounted in the car’s interior. The black and red leads run up to the decoder mounted in the ceiling.

The motor and flywheels are cleverly placed amid an opening in the interior. A universal shaft connects the motor to the helical gearbox attached to the forward truck. All wheels of both the front and rear truck pick up track power.

The DCC decoder and printed-circuit board are attached to the car’s ceiling. Light-emitting diodes provide overhead interior lighting. Track power pickup, motor, and lighting leads all run up to the board, but these wires are barely visible when the shell is in place. A downward-facing oval speaker is mounted in the frame.

Except for the motor opening, the car interior matches prototype diagrams for each type. The interiors are all molded in one-piece tan plastic.
DCC performance. Out of the box, the model ran smoothly with our NCE Powercab DCC system. Switching the decoder to 128 speed steps gave the model a smoother start at 1 scale mph.

As on the prototype, the Walthers Metroliner doesn’t have a bell. (The only prototype EMUs that had bells were those that were later converted to cab cars.) Instead, function 1 triggers the traction motor blower sounds. Other sound effects include a long and short blast from the single-chime horn.

The model’s lighting effects are standout features, especially when operated in DCC. The headlights and marker lights automatically turn on and off according to direction. All the lighting effects are user-controlled, including the headlight dimmer for rule 17 lighting, Gyralight, and illuminated number boards.

The interior lights are activated by function 11. All the functions can be remapped to other keys, which is especially useful for those who operate the model using 8-function DCC throttles.

The model’s decoder also has its “train brake” feature pre-programmed to function 9. With a keypress, the Metroliner gradually comes to a stop with braking sounds. The rate of deceleration when using the train brake, as well as the model’s acceleration and deceleration momentum, can be adjusted with configuration variables. An extensive user’s guide is available as a free download at The link is under manuals on the site’s Resources page.I also easily programmed each EMU’s long address to its car number and
advance consisted the models for multiple unit operation.

DC performance. The dual-mode decoder ran reasonably well on our DC test track. Like most sound-equipped
locomotives, the EMU requires a lot of voltage. The sound and lights came on at 7 volts, and the model started moving at 8 volts. The model accelerated smoothly to a top speed of 99 scale mph at 12 volts. This speed is less than the prototype, but fast enough for most HO scale layouts.

The blower sounds are always on when the model is run on a DC layout. The horn signal for forward (two blasts) or reverse (three blasts) sounded automatically when I flipped the power pack direction switch.
On a DC layout, the headlight and marker lights operate according to the model’s direction. The Gyralight, illuminated number boards, and interior lighting are also activated.

With or without DCC, the Walthers Metroliner EMUs stand on their own as accurate, prototypically detailed models of a signature train of the 1970s.
Price (single car): $259.98 (Digital Command Control and sound), $169.98 (direct-current, no sound)

Wm. K. Walthers Inc.
P.O. Box 3039
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Era: 1968 to 1982 (1971 to 1982 as decorated)

Paint scheme:
Amtrak Phase I

Car types
(multiple road numbers each): coach, snack-bar coach, parlor car

  • 9-pin plug for DCC decoder (DC version only)
  • All-wheel electrical pickup
  • Detailed interior with overhead lighting
  • Dual-mode SoundTraxx DCC sound decoder (DCC version only)
  • Metal pantograph can be modified for overhead power pickup
  • Metal wheels in gauge
  • Minimum radius: 24"
  • Operating light-emitting diode headlight, Gyralight, number boards and marker lights
  • Power truck with helical geared, skew-wound motor
  • Proto MAX metal knuckle couplers at correct height
  • Weight: 12.4 ounces per car

Join the discussion

Read and share your comments on this article
Comment on this article
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to comment on this article. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.


Two great beginner layouts.

Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!
By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Model Railroader magazine. Please view our privacy policy