Empire Belt RR ALcos

Empire Belt RR ALcos
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Friday, July 10, 2015

New York Central System vs Pennsylvania Railroad Throw Down! Round 1

Greetings Blog Followers,

This week we are going back prior to the New York Central System - Pennsylvania Railroad merger to showcase some good old fashioned hate. Both of the highly competitive arch enemies are being represented on the layout this week to fight it out in a NYC - PRR throw down. Kind of like a Bobby Flay show without the food.

In our family we have avid fans of both the NYC and PRR meaning father (me) and son. Over the years we have enjoyed getting our model trains out on the layout and watching them duke it out while we each claim our railroads to be the superior carrier. Usually the insults are flying and the debates over which was the better system rage on.
So let's get started and in no particular order here we go....

First we'll take a look at how each railroad addressed Less than Car Load Traffic. After World War II and into the 1950s this freight traffic was being lost to a trucking industry that was aided by government sponsored highways. Both the NYC and PRR were susceptible being they had relatively short routes that could easily be driven by truckers.
Here's a link to some early LCL Freight on the NYC 

Round 1

  New York Central System Pacemaker Freight Service vs Pennsylvania Railroad Merchandise Service 

NYC Pacemaker Freight Service

NYC Pacemaker Freight Service was introduced in 1946 to to recapture Less than Carload (LCL) freight. This was a dedicated fast express service that did not require handling or switching. Pacemaker cars had the distinctive vermilion and gray livery with "Pacemaker" written on the side. The NYC Despatch shops built approximately 1,000 of the 40' boxcars equipping them with high speed trucks and rubber cushioned couplers. Originally a Manhattan to Buffalo, Buffalo to Manhattan high speed train by 1950 Pacemaker Service had spread to most of the NYC's mid western service regions. This high speed LCL train ran at speeds up to 65 mph and used the passenger train tracks on the NYC's four track main line.

Like the prototype an early Pacemaker Freight Train powered by a NYC 4-8-4 Niagara.
The Pacemaker would soon be a recipient of diesel power

Like the prototype a single Erie Built has this Pacemaker train well in hand as it runs down
 the upper tracks through Empire City. Looks like some of Empire City's biggest rail fans are
track side for the event.

An eye catching string of vermilion and gray boxcars were part of the marketing scheme 

A trio of Pacemaker Freight Service cars in a symbol train roll through the North Side.

A New York Central Pacemaker boxcar and Pacemaker caboose

A NYC Pacemaker boxcar

An HO Scale Pacemaker Freight Train in Action

Pennsylvania Railroad Merchandise Service

The Pennsylvania Railroad, like a lot of U.S. roads, developed a system to streamline the yard to yard movement of trains called "symbol" trains and known to the PRR as "Arranged Service" trains. The trains were given alpha numeric symbols or codes which reflected their routes. An example is LCL-1 a New York - Chicago run tailored for less than car load shipments. It made the 900 mile trip in 32 hours. A sister train LCL-3 ran from New York to St Louis in 37 hours.

The following information is excerpted from an article by Ben Hom starting on page 47 in the October 2004 Keystone Modeler. Special thanks go to Bill Wilcox of TL for alerting me to this article.

 The PRR had a total of 696 LCL boxcars in it's fleet in 1955. Many  cars were painted with the Merchandise Service banner between 1947 and 1957. The cars were fitted with special handling equipment for the LCL loads. The majority of LCL loads on the PRR were handled in ordinary boxcars. A note from author Hom is that contrary to popular belief the Merchandise Service cars did not run in passenger trains. They were strictly freight trains. Ultimately the Merchandise Service cars were reassigned to regular freight service but were not immediately repainted. It is reported that the cars ran in this scheme into the 1960s.

A PRR Class K-4 4-6-2 Pacific with a Merchandise Service Train.

A PRR Erie Built handles an LCL Merchandise Service Train over the Empire City viaduct

A close up of the distinctive Merchandise Service boxcars.
This would be the MS1 paint scheme

  Six PRR Merchandise Service 40' boxcars roll through Empire City's north side
From left to right we have the MS1 paint scheme on the first three cars, MS1 paint on the red with black roof Athearn RTR car and the MS2 paint scheme on the two cars to the right   

A Merchandise Service Train in Action

In the end both NYC and PRR shifted their focus away from L.C.L. boxcar traffic. The railroads continued to court  LCL freight, both in their own unique way. "Flexi -Van trains for the NYC and Truc Trains for the PRR. Next round we'll take a look at these two distinctive services.

The Judges score cards....

My vote is the NYC wins round 1. One thousand dedicated freight cars, authorized speeds up to 65 mph, tight scheduling, use of passenger train tracks and the newest motive power prevails.


  1. I would have to say NYC took round 1 on the NYCTL. Not because of the facts you stated, but the 'LOOK" of the Pacemaker train with the Niagara outweighs the PRR 4-6-2..

    1. Yes the "LOOK" is certainly a factor. It's my preference as well but while trying to be fair I didn't want that to enter into the decision. You're right the Pacemaker with the Niagara kicks butt!

  2. Great debate!!!! I have to go with Neal on this one. NYC gets the point for the classy scheme and (you surprised me..didn't know you had one!) the powerful Niagara! Great photos of both trains that are reminiscent of railroad publicity shots from the ''40s and 50s.

    1. 3-0 NYC! Thanks for the compliments!

  3. I put up photos of PRR Merchandise Service cars I've built at http://modelrrmisc.blogspot.com/2015/07/merchandise-service-boxcars.html

    1. Thanks for the link John. Very nice work on your PRR Merchandise Service cars!

  4. Regarding your question in your comment on my blog, the Athearn RTR boxcar is a "generic" prewar AAR boxcar. The PRR didn't have anything exactly like this. The X29s weren't as tall and were generally different in appearance. Various manufacturers have done X29s in MS schemes. I have a set of 3 TM-Walthers cars in MS1 done by a third-party painter, none quite out on the layout. I should get on this! The Athearn RTR cars in MS paint would be closest to the X29B cars, which were postwar rebuilds on X29 frames. I did some trimming on the frame of my custom-pant Accurail car to represent the X29B rebuilt frame. You can check the photo of the X29B in the Keystone Modeler link and see what can be done -- maybe rim off the sill tabs and add a strip of square styrene.

    At one point Quality Craft made an X41B Merchandise Service car in wood and metal. I have one someplace, but it got lost in a move. You can probably track some down in brass, too.

    1. Thanks for that info John! researching the PRR Merchandise Service was not easy and I'm sure I missed a good bit of information. If you know of any links that cover this drop me line. Thanks again