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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.