ERTL Collectibles HO Rolling Stock
ERTL has been aggressively attacking the collectibles market. Some of their more successful offerings have been larger scale die-cast cars and the Texaco aircraft series. For a brief period in time, ERTL entered into the HO scale market with an interesting array of offerings. Unfortunately, they didn't stay in the market very long.
The Rolling Stock Series
I recently obtained a batch of these ERTL collectible cars from a hobby clearing house and was quite surprised by what I found. First, the three car types in the series that I obtained were some 40' USRA double-sheathed boxcars, 40' low-sided gondolas, and 50 ton 40' flat cars. All are beautifully detailed with separately applied grab irons and other details. All are equipped with Kadee-compatible couplers.
As I mentioned, the boxcar is a USRA 40' double-sheathed unit that is accurate for the late steam/early diesel era. The brake wheels that are accessible from the roof walkway are a great touch. While I don't have a complete roster, I can confirm that the boxcars were lettered for at least nine different railroads. I don't believe that there were any cars produced with multiple serial numbers for any given railroad.
What is simply amazing is the fine detail and molding that is just the basic boxcar. The walls are thin, as is the removable roof. The fit of the roof and body is so tight that you wouldn't suspect that the roof was removable.
The reason that the roof is removable is so you can install one of two optional loads inside the car. The existing boxcar floor is also removable (comes out through the roof) and the new floor that contains the load pallets goes into place. The only thing I didn't care for was the floors tend shift out of place when the cars are handled. I'll likely cement the floor and roof into place once I've completed my weathering and additional detailing.
With the sliding doors open, the load provides a convincing full-load look and causes you to take a look at all of those other empty boxcars in your collection. A very nice touch indeed.
As with the boxcars, the ERTL 40' low-sided gondolas are also typical of the late steam/early diesel era. And like the boxcars, the floors in the gondolas drop out and can be replaced with one of two optional loads designed specifically for these gondolas. And as with the boxcars, I can confirm that the gondolas were lettered for at least nine different railroads. The gondolas also feature Kadee-compatible couplers.
The ERTL 40' 50 ton flatcars are an interesting twist in their design. The floor of the flatcar is also removable, but held in place by two screws. Removing the screws, you can install one of two different optional loads for these flatcars as well. These cars were lettered for at least nine rail lines as well.
All three of these freight car types come straight from the factory pre-weathered. If you look underneath, the bottom of the cars, the wheels and trucks are all mud and grime. Some folks might want to undo the weathering to some extent, or at least change the shade of weathering to more represent their part of the country. The weathering will evidently come off with a light cleaner on a Q-Tip. Be careful to not remove the lettering unless you want to replace them with your own.
The bad news is that these cars and optional loads are all out of production. The good news is that you can find them readily in some train shops and out at train shows. The going prices seem to run between $5-$10 USD for the cars, $10-$15 for the car and load. I'd love to see ERTL reconsider their move away from HO rolling stock, but in the meantime, there still are plenty of cars out there. Good hunting!