Posted on

Model HO White Pass & Yukon Route Train Set

I have here the beginning of what will eventually become my model HO White Pass & Yukon Route train set. I am posting this as yet another HJR Train Project that is in its beginning phases.

The Impetus

I visited Skagway, Alaska in 2022 and will eventually have a Travel article up detailing that adventure. For now, just be aware that before that adventure, I didn’t know the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad was even a thing. Well, it is. And it has some significant implications and importance for and to Alaska, plus it makes for a great tourist attraction. Wait until you read about my experiences on the real passenger train. Believe me, it was awesome.

When I arrived and took my ride on the real railroad, the railroad had just received a new fleet of stunning looking Diesel locomotives (or so I thought), which I got to see from various distances. (View my onboard videos when they get posted to see exactly what I mean.) When I returned home, I was inspired by those locomotives because then and still up to now, a year later, no model manufacturer has made a replica of the new White Pass & Yukon Route Diesel locomotives. Although I contacted the manufacturer, NRE, of the real diesel locomotives many months ago, they failed to respond to me. I inquired with them to see if I could get a peek at the actual schematic diagrams of the locomotives that were delivered to Alaska because I wish to try to reproduce a 3-D printed shell of the design and try to make it fit on a similar and existing HO model diesel chassis, thereby giving me a Sound Equipped HO scale operating model of the real, newly received, WP&YR locomotives. Therefore, that is part of the goal of this project, which is to end up with an HO scale replica of the real train that I road on during my visit to Skagway, AK.

Step 1.

I will start with the 4-passenger car set that I purchased from the White Pass & Yukon Route Train Shoppe at the depot in Skagway. As soon as I stepped off the train and started a video recording, I made a bee line towards the train shoppe. I bought some post cards, which is one of my things to do on trips and vacations, and I bought the HO scale, Athearn Collector’s White Pass & Yukon Route Overton 4-piece Passenger car set, model #: RND99158. They had a steam locomotive for sale there too, but you may have heard me say in many of my videos that I have been trying to reduce my collection of Steam Era Locomotives. So, I didn’t wish to add another one. Upon buying the items, I had the train shoppe ship the items to me (find out why in the travel section when this adventure gets published).

The White Pass & Yukon Route (WP&YR) railroad in Skagway is not the only train that I encountered or road on in Alaska. It is also not the only train I bought in AK. I also road on the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage, AK to Stewart, AK. In fact, I did that first just several hours after arriving in Alaska by airplane. As you might have guessed, I also have and am putting together some Alaska Railroad train sets (plural) to commemorate my ride on that train as well. (More on this in both the travel section and numerous posted videos of the Alaska train sets elsewhere on this site.)

My WP&YR train set will probably only have the 4 passenger cars in it, unless someone produces more cars with different road numbers, or unless I find a stealer deal on the same set again as time marches on. Maybe I will buy one more single car and number it the same number as the car I road in. Additionally, I hope to build at least one locomotive that matches the newly delivered fleet of locomotives that arrived in July of 2022 [this is corrected later in this post] at the WP&YR railroad. Right now, I’m thinking that a Kato HO scale P40 or P42 Diesel Engine would make a good base underneath the shell, but such a locomotive would have to have the sound added separately as Kato typically doesn’t produce sound-equipped models. I could use someone else’s P40 or P42 sound equipped model. I actually already own 1 of each type dressed in the Amtrak phase I or phase III paint scheme (3 thick red, white, & blue lines). However, these are much older Athearn Blue Box models that are as heavy as bricks and may not easily be converted to DCC Sound. Plus, they consume enormous amounts of power. So much so that it is almost impossible to get both locomotives to run in DC mode on my Libraryville layout. These 2 locomotives were acquired in April of 2018 from a vendor at the Hickory Train Show in NC. I have test run them, videoed them, and stored them. They have less than 30 minutes of runtime on them during their life, but I just don’t think they will make a good FIT for underneath the shell of my WPYR locomotive. First, I need to get a look at the blueprints or some similar diagram of the real locomotives with measurement details.

Step 2: Research

I took the liberty while creating this post to invest 2 more hours doing some more research. Apparently, I remembered a few things differently or incorrectly from my previous research and even though some of my notes state that I downloaded some copies of pictures and things during the previous research phase, I couldn’t find those today. Anyway, I made some more copies and some more notes. One thing I remembered differently was that the front of the 6 new NRE locomotives had a deeper slant similar to the P40’s I mentioned. It is not that steep and a lot shorter. Also, the NRE’s have C-C (3 axles per truck) arrangements instead of B-B (2 axles per truck), so the P40’s will not be a good fit for my model version. Additionally, I know I read that the newest locomotives were delivered in July of 2022. However, today’s research shows actual removal of the covering began as early as July of 2020 with the last 2, #3005 and #3006, being unloaded from a barge on October 12, 2020. Also, there are some discrepancies as to which PAINT SCHEME will be the official paint scheme used on the 6 new models. I show that at least 2, #3001 and #3002, are painted two-tone Yellow and Green with Black lettering, but the remaining 4 still appear to be Black with Red and White lines and White lettering, as they were delivered. I actually like the Black paint scheme better and I confirmed that the train I was on was at least pulled by a Black locomotive. However, I didn’t get to see the exact road number on it. I have deduced though, that the road number has to be #3004, because 3001 & 3002 were Yellow & Green, 3003 we passed on route to the summit, and 3005 & 3006, were on track sidings in my photos. I’m not sure if there was a locomotive on both ends of the train that I was on. I confirmed the number of passenger cars in my train by counting them (and apparently, I asked, or it was stated by the on-train tour narrator) in one of my videos to be a total of 14. That video shows that we parked in front of the depot, but a Yellow & Green locomotive was on the other side of a crossing that may have either previously been connected to the train I was on, or it is possible the railroad was about to connect it to the train and taxi the train closer to the onboarding area.

I correctly remembered that NRE, National Railway Equipment Company, doesn’t have a diagram, specification sheet, or any other information on their website for the EXACT model E3000CC-DC equipped with a 16-645-E3C engine. They do have diagrams for E3000C locomotives with 16-645-E3B engines. The CC-DC models are what all 6 of the new WP&YR locomotives have in them.

Also, for some reason, has dropped the “R” from the railroad’s name / reporting mark and refer to them as “WPY”. I am not sure why yet. Of course, the new locomotives simply have “White Pass” lettered on the side of them, including the quote marks.

The NRE diagrams for the E3000C show a boxy locomotive that is not a match for the slick, slanted, front cab locomotives delivered to WPYR. So, I am going to send them another email tonight again requesting a specification sheet, diagram, or possible blueprint, and maybe even some CAD files, especially if they do not intend to manufacture another of those locomotives, to see if they will allow me to try to reproduce one for my model railroad.

An Unexpected Issue

The other reason for posting this page today is that all week I have been gearing up to report my WP&YR passenger car #211 problems to Athearn. It hasn’t worked right since I opened the box in late June 2023. Car #211 keeps sporadically derailing, and the issue has to be the car as the other cars do not derail. See the Model North Carolina Piedmont Service video where I talk about the issues I have with it while pairing it with 2 Athearn RNCX locomotives.

Today, August 17th, 2023, I pulled out the Athearn WPYR Collectors set again this afternoon after lunch because I wanted to take snap shots of the trucks and wheels that are causing car #211 to malfunction. However, I couldn’t really determine which axle was the worst. So, I put the car on the tracks and hand-rolled it to see if it would come off the tracks. It did, but I couldn’t consistently make it happen or determine the real cause. So, I pulled all the cars out and Consisted them. I hand-rolled them all to see what the problem was. If was hard to tell. Sometimes #211 came off the tracks and sometimes it didn’t. So, I connected my Kato UP4301 SD40-2 Diesel Engine to them (because it was sitting on the tracks at the engine service facility and has knuckle couplers on it).

UP4301 pulled the passenger cars around the tracks with #211 right behind the locomotive. Occasionally, the car would derail. I moved the car to the end of the consist. It didn’t derail. I put it right before the end observation car. Again, it only derailed every so often but most of the time it had a good run on the top loop. I sent it downtown to the bottom loop and on the way down it derailed. It had trouble making it around the backend of the bottom loop. I tried that again and the same thing happened after car #211 derailed twice getting back around to the same spot. I took it off the tracks. I put it down on a table and noticed that it almost seems like the bottom frame is slightly warped or something is wrong with the stabilization of the trucks (maybe both trucks).

Car #211 doesn’t sit perfectly level on all 8 wheels. At least 1 and sometimes 2 wheels on 1 truck are off the flat surface when the car rest on its own. I tried forcing the car downward with pressure and rolling it on the table back and forth to see if that would flatten it out. It didn’t take when I lifted my hands off the car. It still had the same issue. I took some pictures of the entire set unopened but no pictures of the individual cars or car #211. I added these pictures to my collection of pictures of a set similar that I downloaded from the Internet whenever I originally cataloged the set into my train collection spreadsheet / workbook. The pictures I acquired from the net were taken by someone else and the packaging of that set is different / older than my set. My set is newer because pricewise, my set is $60 more than the older set (due to inflation no doubt). The older set has the Roundhouse name on it whereas my set has Athearn’s name on it. So I never did get around to taking pictures or making a video of car #211 derailing time and time again.

I estimated the time I spent examining car #211 and trying to figure out the issues again to be about 30 minutes because I forgot to track the exact start and end times. I had to stop and take a mid-day nap after that as I didn’t get much sleep last night. So, I left all but car #211 on the tracks. I will repackage them tonight and return them to their storage place. [I did put them away around 11:30 pm August 17th, 2023.]

As you can read, my project is off to a slow and jagged start. I really need Athearn to offer me some repair options so that I can get car #211 fixed. My goal for today is to submit my request via their online form before I go to bed tonight. So, if I can get the 2 communications done tonight and the set put back up, that is all I can do until I get answers back from Athearn and NRE. Meanwhile, I will have to keep looking around to see if there is a model HO scale sound-equipped 3 axles per truck diesel locomotive that is similar in shape to the real WPYR NRE E3000CC-DC locomotives. [Have to stop here. I must make dinner tonight and its 9 PM on the dot.]

Activity Log

Date / TimeActivity
11:50 PM
I made it back around 11:50 pm to review and posted this page without the pictures, videos, and links. I did not get to the 2 form submissions. Then I went to bed about 1 AM.
9:35 AM
I resumed editing and adding the pics and links. Once in place and other references tied in, I will submit forms to Athearn and NRE. All of this was completed successfully today by 7:53 PM.
7:22 PM & 7:52 PMReceived automatic response from Athearn. Then received another response from Athearn at 7:52 PM that suggested I either mail the entire set to them so they can review car #211 or contact the seller and ask them to replace it based on their normal return policies.

Also, around 7:50ish PM I submitted NRE contact form requesting E3005CC-DC specifications, CAD Files, Diagrams, or whatever assistance they could provide.
8:32 PMI forwarded Athearn’s 2nd response to the White Pass & Yukon Route Train Shoppe along with a message asking them if they still have any of the collector sets available and can they exchange my set.

Published: August 17, 2023: Last Updated: August 18, 2023.

Posted on

Model North Carolina Piedmont Service

Inspired by a train ride talked about by a previous member of the model railroad club that I am a member of, I decided that I would take a ride myself again on an American Passenger Train. I made this decision within minutes of seeing that member’s post on Facebook around 2020, if I remember correctly. One of my hobbies is traveling. I was spoiled with a ride on the London to Paris High-Speed Eurostar passenger train New Year’s Eve 2016. My previous passenger rides in the late 1990’s were interesting but they paled greatly in comparison to the luxurious ride aboard the super smooth, 186 mph Eurostar. I started giving American Trains another chance. I took a sleeper train via the Amtrak Texas Eagle from Chicago, Illinois to Dallas, TX in May/June of 2021. I rode on the Alaska Railroad and the White Pass & Yukon Rail in August of 2022. And finally, I took day rides from Charlotte to Raleigh and back again onboard the North Carolina Piedmont Service in December of 2022. I plan to put detail information up in a travel section on this site one day about all of these train rides. This article is about the HO scale model trains in my Train Collection that are commemorative of the North Carolina Piedmont Service. This article appears in the Projects section because to create a complete representative model of the Piedmont Service train that I rode on, currently, I will have to make that train set up, as no manufacturer has sold such a set thus far.

Although a consignor previously consigned 1 North Carolina locomotive for me to sell, I did sell it before I rode the Piedmont Service, and I wasn’t interested in having a Piedmont Service passenger set at that time. Since that time, I’ve ridden on the Service and I’m sort of getting into having models of the real trains that I get exposed to. So, the cost of two Athearn Sound Equipped models of the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) locomotives became reasonably affordable at one of the sellers that I like to get trains from. So, I purchased the 2 locomotives with road numbers that show-up on the actual train roster of the NCDOT as locomotives in regular operating service on a daily basis in the real world. Many people have written about the trains and the service. Here is a link over to The Diesel Shop that identifies the Motive Power real trains used in the Piedmont Service.

The 2 Athearn models that I have are in their “Ready To Roll” series. They come with Econami sound decoders. As you can see by the following photo, I obtained road# 1755 “City of Salisbury” and the road# 1797 “City of Asheville” models. The reporting mark for the railroad is RNCX. The part numbers of these 2 models are: ATH64731 and ATH64732 respectively. If you listen to the following video, you will hear me verbalize my comments, observations, and opinions about the models. These 2 locomotives will be used as the motive power for my Piedmont Service train set.

In order to complete the train set, I will need to dedicate 4 85′ Pullman smooth side Lounge/Baggage cars to this project. In order to stay true to what to what occurred in real life, I can use either Kansas City or Union Pacific passenger cars. I have a fleet of HO scale Union Pacific passenger cars already in my collection. I have several that are too large to operate on my current HO scale Libraryville layout. I haven’t made-up my mind yet as to whether or not I am going to keep those cars indefinitely or put them up for sale. Once I have the passenger cars, I will need to repaint them to match the Blue and Silver with Red pin stripe paint scheme that North Carolina passenger cars are using. I have enough photos and videos to get a great idea of where the borders of colors come together. I’ll do my best to match the colors with the colors found on the 2 Athearn locomotives.

I have seen videos of the Piedmont Service train taken by others. NCDOT or Amtrak seem to change up the number of passenger cars in the consist from time to time. In videos I have seen as few as 3 passenger cars per trainset and as many as 9 passenger cars in a set. I wasn’t able to locate any information that indicates how passenger cars are supposed to standard on a set or the methodology used NCDOT or Amtrak to determine how many cars should normally be in a trainset.

HO Athearn 2 NC DOT Locos with WP&YR Passenger Cars

In the above video, you will see that there are 3 old time Overton passenger cars between the 2 locomotives. These passenger cars are also made by Athearn and they were purchased minutes after I finished riding on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad in Skagway, Alaska. I purchased them as part of a Collector’s set directly from the White Pass & Yukon Route Train Shoppe. The Athearn Roundhouse series Collector’s set contains 4 Overton Passenger Cars. However, the 4th car in the set does not stay on the tracks. It derails quite often especially in curves. Although I bought the set in August of 2022, I just opened the set for the first time on June 30th. I’ve been on some additional trips and travels since I opened the set, and I am trying my best to get the video posted with this documentation so that I can include it when I contact Athearn to see if there is anything they can do or suggest that I do to try to repair the train car. It appears to me that the hole for one of the axles on one truck is either too deep or not properly aligned. As a result, the wheel keeps slipping out of the hole causing the car to lean which causes a derailment. I hope they can replace the wheelsets or bad truck if not the entire car. The road number of the damaged car is 211 and the model number of the set is: RND99158.

Moving forward with the project of completing a NC Piedmont Service train set, will start by me choosing the passenger cars to dedicate to this set. I recently purchased a new Bachmann Union Pacific smooth side dining car from I actually purchased the last one of those they had at the time. It had a problem very similar to what the 4th passenger car in the WP&YR Collector’s set has. I contacted ModelTrainStuff and they made arrangements with Bachmann to get me a new car. I just received word yesterday that they shipped out the replacement so it should arrive soon. I took pictures and videos of the original order and test run of the trains in that lot. I also documented what happened just as I am doing with this set of locomotives and passenger cars. In that set, were 2 other Bachmann Lighted Amtrak Full Dome passenger cars. I haven’t posted any of those pictures or videos as of this writing. I wasn’t that impressed with the Full Dome passenger cars simply because the lighting is less than optimal or representative of the real trains. It actually doesn’t look realistic at all. The Union Pacific dinner car on the other hand, is absolutely stunning in appearance and with its lighting. The matching series of Bachmann Union Pacific smooth side cars would be great as cars for this NCDOT Piedmont Service trainset. However, those cars are very expensive. So, I’m not sure if I want to put that much money into cars that I am going to have to repaint just to fit the NCDOT paint scheme. You may have noticed just like I did that up-close the actual real cars look 30 to 40 years old, have a lot of dings, scratches and imperfections in them. From a distance and while running 60 to 80 mph hour, they look pretty good. So, time will see what I do. Maybe another special will happen and the prices may be more reasonable. Otherwise, I’m going to have to find some USED passenger cars or use some of the USED passenger cars that I already have which would be the most economical thing to do. The Union Pacific passenger cars that I have that require 24″ radius curves or larger would seem to be the best option, except if I use those, I won’t be able to actually run the completed trainset on my own current layout. That wouldn’t be optimal for me. Additionally, train sales are down / practically nonexistent thus far in the 3rd quarter of 2023. If you’re viewing this and find some trains you like in the shop area, consider placing some orders to help me out. Or you can always donate via my donation page. Wouldn’t it be cool to see a model replica of the North Carolina Piedmont Service running on a model HO scale layout?

I also recently bought 5 or more used Athearn Bluebox Union Pacific passenger cars (mostly 3-axles per truck Corrugated cars) from eBay. These have turned out to be a huge disappointment. I talk a little about this in the consigned Denver & Rio Grande Diesel 7 car set that is up for sale. I do so because Athearn made that set too, and the offset bolster hole for those cars just doesn’t seem to work reliably on my 18″ and 22″ radius curves. The ones in the DRGW set manage to allow trains to run around my tracks. But the older Bluebox ones consistently derail, especially at the locations where I have “S-curve” like features. The cars are smaller than 85′ at somewhere around 65′ to 72′ long and you would think they would be able to handle 18″ and 22″ radius curves very well, but they just don’t. Also, because they are corrugated, I definitely cannot use them as UP repaints to NCDOT for this project. I’m holding on to them to see how they perform on the MMRR’s club layout next Spring.

Activity Log

Date / TimeActivity delivered the replacement Bachmann Union Pacific 85′ Diner Passenger Car today. I’m eager to check it out. I may pull out one or both of the RNCX locomotives and test pull that car and maybe 3 other 85′ Union Pacific cars to see how well they look and run on my layout, which would give me a reason to aim at getting 3 more of those Bachmann 85′ smooth side or streamlined passenger cars to be used for this project.
2023-08-19 2:30ish AMOpened newly received RMA replacement Bachmann Union Pacific 85′ Smooth-side Diner Passenger Car #3610 {UP3610}. Quickly examined car and its axles. Saw power pickup swipers against inside of all wheels. I don’t think those were there on the car I sent back. If they were, they should have prevented the skewed axle on the first one. (Tired & sleepy so went to bed without testing with power.)
7:08 PM-7:30 PM
I unpacked the 2 RNCX NC Locomotives and put them on the Libraryville layout tracks with the newly received replacement UP3610 Diner Passenger Car. I expected to do a test run, however, the coupler heights looked to me like they were going to be a problem. So, I took some photos of them with my coupler height tool, the 2 NCDOT locomotives and UP3401 Diesel engine. Then, I opened a package of Kadee couplers that I previously bought with the knuckle above the shank and installed 2 of them inside the new passenger car. I took more photos.
7:31 PM-7:53 PMI tested the new UP3610 Passenger Car between my 2 NCDOT F59PHI locomotives. It ran well with the new couplers on it, and it didn’t derail or come a loose. I also looked at it and the LED lighting is as good as the one I had replaced. I’m still not sure if the one I originally received had power swipers on the wheels.

I made a video of the trains running but I paused it in the middle to look for additional cars to match with the diner car. However, I discovered that I don’t have any that will match with this car. I also made the decision that I would buy 3 of the Bachmann 85′ Smooth-side Coach cars and paint all 4 of these cars in the RNCX paint scheme. When I ended the video, I prepared the other UP passenger cars for storage again. I had to stop and take a nap.

Later, while entering updates to the spreadsheet, I did some research to try to get a picture of the interior of the real RNCX Cafe car. I found and read a government report filed in November of 2013 that stated NCDOT converted the Cafe Cars on the Piedmont Service from a full cafe car with a fulltime attendant and hot meal service to being half vending car and half baggage car. There are 2 vending machines and 2 coke machines, plus sink, and trash receptacles, and coffee machines inside what used to be the Cafe cars now. This converted car which is more like a “Vending Machine Car” has been a success for NCDOT, so they plan to leave it that way. I’m not sure if the newly converted car was part of the consist that I rode on, but my guess is that it might have been especially since I CHECKED a bag which had to be stored somewhere. Furthermore, I am not going to replace the interior inside of the diner car that I have to try to match what NCDOT currently has. I didn’t find anyone’s photo(s) of what the Cafe/Vending car now looks like inside, and I personally didn’t try to access it on either trip that I took in December 2022.
2023-08-20 4:01 PM-7:15 PMMade 2 online train purchases today. I didn’t want to but felt like I needed to or would miss out on some items. One was 6 items to add to the HO Amtrak fleet and the other were the 3 Bachmann Union Pacific 85′ Passenger Cars that I wish to use with this project. I bought 3 of the last 4 that Trainworld had so these are getting scarce which was what I was afraid of. I didn’t want to pay as much as I did for them. I prefer to sell some trains online myself first and then buy what I can with my profits. I had to buy first this time though since online sales have been flat the past 2 months. Then I cataloged today’s purchases. I also verified that the passenger cars on the real Piedmont Service are shorter than the heights of the locomotives, which answers a question that I discussed in yesterday’s video.

Published: August 16th, 2023. Last Updated: August 21st, 2023.