Meridian Speedway Rock Train Car Fleet Begins
Rock trains have always been interesting to me and I have incorporated them into the Meridian Speedway playbook. Unit trains of all types are appealing. With a healthy rock network there are many varieties of equipment possibilites. In contrast to unit coal trains where, though some cars are hoppers and some are rotary gondolas, all of the cars are generally about the same size and shape; the cars in rock trains can vary greatly in appearance.
Difco dump cars, MW ballast hoppers, Ortner 100-ton hoppers, other manufacturers 100-ton hoppers, and various gondolas, usually shorter in length, make up the bulk of rock train rolling stock.
The Gunderson 2420 Cuft gondola was only ordered by one railroad, the Southern Pacific, which rostered 900 of the cars. ExactRail produced a very nice model of this car in their more economical Express Series. While it is nice to see model manufactures replicate a freight car that was only owned by one railroad, it does not happen very often as it can be difficult to recoup tooling costs and make the project profitable.
One way of trying to make such a project a success is to offer the model in fictitious road names, which ExactRail has done with the Gunderson 2420. Though the MSRP is a very reasonable $22.95, these cars just did not fit into my plan. I keep coming back to the ExactRail monthly specials, however. This month ExactRail is offering the Gunderson 2420 for $12.95, an unheard-of price for a car of this quality!
So a second look at the cars was in order. Cost is a factor in the purchasing decisions made by the equipment groups of prototype railroads. Simple economics is a factor that just cannot be ignored. These cars are perfectly suited for rock train service, though I do not know if the Southern Pacific ever used them to haul rock. If there is a time to start the Meridian Speedway rock car fleet, it is now.
A review of the offerings revealed that the ExactRail CNW and MP cars (both fictitious) are very similar. As these cars have corrugated panels, the CNW and MP versions have two flat pieces "welded" over the second and ninth panels to facilitate the display of reporting marks, road number, and railroad logo. These flat sheets are the same size on both the CNW and MP cars with their placement on the CNW cars being slightly higher than on the MP cars.
I decided to split my first order evenly between the CNW and MP cars, ordering five of each. They will be split up fairly evenly between the T&GN and the NT&O after being run through the paint booth. This is one of the advantages of going the proto-freelance route.
The first shipment of ten of these cars arrived on Monday, 11-16-2015.
This equipment purchase inspired me to reach into the Meridian Speedway master spreadsheet and retrieve the rock train data. I have created a page under the operations tab for the T7GN/NT&O rock train symbols. The button below will take you to that page: