By Justin Sobeck
Micro-Trains Line (MTL) has been teasing this newly tooled Pullman-Standard (PS-2) two-bay hopper car model for a while now. I’m happy to report it is here, and it was worth the wait. Designed by the famous rail car builder in the mid-1950s, this hopper was ideal for dense bulk commodities that needed easier loading and unloading than was possible through a boxcar door. With its 2,003-cubic-foot-capacity and weight limit of 70 tons, this PS-2 freight car had company in a larger three-bay variety and other two-bay cars from competing builder American Car & Foundry, and others.
Great Northern (GN) 71470 was built in Butler, Pa., in April 1958 as part of an order of 100 two-bay covered hoppers from Pullman-Standard. These hoppers were delivered on American Steel Foundry’s (ASF) “Ride Control” trucks, designed for use with then-new all-purpose roller bearings — no plain journals here. Thoroughly modern cars that embodied the latest in industry technology (all-welded construction, improved draft gear, and new trucks), they were utilized to provide the best service possible to shippers along GN’s route and beyond. A wide variety of commodities could have been handled through the eight round roof hatches and four discharge chutes — although based on the car’s gray color and cubic capacity, it was likely an aggregate material.
Micro-Trains did its homework on this project — just look at the exploded view (shown on the right) of all the components. Featuring body-mounted couplers with a narrow draft pocket and the manufacturer’s all-new fine-profile 33-inch metal wheels, this release raises the bar on the company’s capabilities and is on par with MTL’s recent National Steel Car 60-foot high-cube boxcar model. It’s also worth noting that the ASF 70-ton Ride Control truck is newly tooled, and I look forward to this truck being utilized elsewhere on MTL’s transition era rolling stock. Included for the modeler to install are a pair of end hoses and coupler cut levers, molded in the same color as the body. The air brake details inside the B-end cage of the car are finely rendered, as are both end cages. The handbrake wheel and the associated rigging located in the center sill of the car. While the roof hatches don’t open, the roofwalk features see-through grating, and the handbrake ledge is an etched-metal section that resembles the galvanized look of the prototype.
Paint application and graphics are stellar — as expected from Micro-Trains. The gray of the body is opaque and has a matte appearance, and the black lettering is crisp and legible under magnification (or with really good eyes). The GN herald featuring “Rocky the Goat” has the only color (outside of gray) on the car — red on a white background with black graphics. Coupler height was fine out of the box, as was the weight at 0.6 ounces — and the car rolls as freely as any other MTL release. I understand that some N scalers are not exactly fond of metal wheelsets and body-mounted couplers, but they are two attributes that are very high up on my list, and I anxiously await future releases of this car from Micro-Trains. The insert label mentions that this car was in service up to the 2000s in maintenance-of-way use; perhaps MTL will adapt the roof and outlets for use in ballast service. The higher asking price of this release reflects the care and process necessary to develop and bring to market a fine example of a popular hopper car, and one that is also produced domestically and on an ongoing basis. Micro-Trains has set the bar in N-scale rolling stock for the last several decades, and now they have raised it yet again!
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