• Review of Micro-Trains ARA Boxcar (long)

  • All about the Arcade & Attica Railroad
All about the Arcade & Attica Railroad

Moderator: Benjamin Maggi

  by umtrr-author
From the just "published" June 2007 issue of the Unofficial Micro-Trains Release Report, here is my review and commentary on the ARA boxcar.

The audience for this piece is general N Scale modelers and "accumulators" of rolling stock and as such I doubt that there will be any new information in what I've got here. But hopefully I'll have introduced some more folks to the line.

024 00 330, $24.95
40 Foot Steel Boxcar, Single Superior Door, No Roofwalk, Arcade and Attica.
Reporting Marks: ARA 506.
Yellow sides and ends, black roof. White stripe along bottom of sides (including door). Black and white lettering including roadname in black, large reporting mark initials "ARA" (black "A"s and white "R") and small roadnumber on left and slogan "Serving Arcade Industry" in white.
Approximate Time Period: late 1960's through 1973.

We begin with my feature car for the month. As you know, I enjoy writing about shortlines, and the Arcade and Attica is a bonus in that it's in my relative backyard here in Western New York, and might have gotten a lot closer had things been different. While it might seem at first to be a spinoff from a larger road, its history is, in fact, largely that of a truly local railroad. And believe it or not, we're going to connect dots from a famous brand of non-dairy creamer to these colorful boxcars!

The history of the line begins way back in 1852 when the Attica and Allegheny Valley Railroad was formed, built a standard gauge grade from Attica, New York, in northern Wyoming County, and Arcade, near the southern part of that county, and then failed. The next attempt was to be the Attica and Arcade, but it too got nowhere. Actual track was not laid until 1880 by the Tonawanda Valley Railroad, building south from the Erie Railroad in Attica along the old grade. Oh, and in narrow gauge, not standard; just three feet between the rails. By 1882 the line was 59 miles long, renamed the Tonawanda Valley and Cuba and connected once again to the Erie in Cuba, New York, in Allegheny County. Well, perhaps "connection" is too strong a word, as there was a necessary truck-transfer at both points. I mean this literally: lift freight car, roll away standard gauge trucks, roll three foot gauge trucks under car, lower car onto slim gauge trucks, proceed

The TV&A failed in 1886, was sold off in 1891 and cut back from Cuba to south of Sandusky, and failed again, this time as the Attica and Freedom Railroad. Those of you who know that Attica is the home of one of the most infamous state prisons in the country cannot miss the irony of that name! In 1894 the line reopened as the Buffalo, Attica and Arcade having been sold to a lumberman. It was converted to standard gauge during 1895 and an extension was built to the Pennsylvania Railroad's Buffalo Line at Arcade Junction in order to afford another connection besides the Erie. Charles Goodyear bought the line in 1905, intending to use it for a line of his Buffalo and Susquehanna to either Buffalo or Port Charlotte near Rochester. (And long time readers know I used to live near Port Charlotte!) That didn't happen; instead the Buffalo and Susquehanna went bankrupt and the BA&A returned to local control, after which it too went belly up. On May 23, 1917 the line was reorganized yet again as the Arcade and Attica, again locally owned.

For about the next forty years, the line, called "moderately successful" by George Hinton in the book "American Narrow Gauge Railroads" (from which most of the above is gleaned), plied its trade quietly. Both freight and passenger service were offered until 1951. A one-eighth page entry in the Official Guide of the Railways for November 1946 shows the single round trip with Train #1 leaving Arcade at 6AM for arrival in Attica at 7:45AM, departing as Train #2 at 9:20 AM to be back in Arcade at 11:20AM. This service was daily except Sunday.

In 1957, washouts from flooding of Tonawanda Creek along which much of the line was built caused damage that the A&A could not repair, and so 17 miles of trackage from Attica south to North Java was abandoned. The 15 remaining miles from the Pennsylvania Railroad's interchange through Arcade to North Java remain in service. Most of the revenue had been generated from that end of the line although the A&A did provide a unique switching service to the Attica State Prison-- yes, that one-- which was lost.

In 1962, in order to supplement its relatively meager freight business the A&A was among the first lines to get into the passenger tourist trade. Over the next couple of years, the road purchased two commuter passenger cars from the Erie Lackawanna and a 2-8-0 and a 4-6-0 to pull them. The steamers served for a number of years but at this writing are both out of service due to the expense of servicing and maintaining them to Federal Railway Administration standards. Tourist trains are currently hauled by the A&A's freight engines, which a General Electric 44 ton diesel purchased new by the A&A in 1947 and the 112, a GE 65-ton loco built in 1945 and bought by the line in 1988. (A second 44 tonner is stored out of service.) The 65-tonner draws most freight duty and mostly hauls agricultural products, feed and lumber to several customers. The former Pennsylvania Railroad's line through Arcade is now part of the Norfolk Southern.

The A&A's website (URL is www.anarr.com ) contains information on the other industrial sites available along the road with an emphasis on the sites in and near Arcade. The July 1996 issue of "Railfan and Railroad" contains a feature on the line with lots of photos and a map. The site Railroad.net (URL what you'd think it is!) hosts a discussion board devoted to the diminutive line. In December 2005, New York State announced the provision of $1.2 million for track rehabilitation on the railroad, and another $1.1 million has been earmarked in the 2009-2010 fiscal year at this writing.

Now, about those freight cars. The Borden plant in Arcade was once a typical dairy milk and cheese processing operation, but was converted to what was at the time the only facility manufacturing "Cremora," a non-dairy coffee whitener. (One website gives 1963 as the date of the debut of Cremora; that's after both Coffee Rich and Coffee-Mate.) Until the plant was closed the A&A brought material in and product out. Some of these cargoes were carried in a small group of colorful boxcars. A set of these were painted blue with black lettering, but the series 501 to 509 were orange and white, in a very eye-catching color scheme seen anywhere Cremora may have been shipped. (And that included past me and my dad in New Jersey at least once.) These cars were leased from Morrison Railway Supply through Premier Leasing Development according to a Pat Connors posting on the Arcade and Attica forum on Railroad.net. The lease on the 501 to 509 was terminated in July of 1973.

The Official Railway Equipment Register (ORER) for July 1970 shows that series 501 to 509 as nine of the total 31 boxcars in the A&A's listing. The inside length was 40 feet 6 inches, inside width 9 feet 2 inches, inside height 10 feet 6 inches, outside length 44 feet 4 inches, extreme height 15 feet, door opening 8 feet (oops, a "door thing" here) and capacity 3898 cubic feet or 100,000 pounds. At the time, the A&A also rostered nine cars numbered 510 to 518 with a six foot door opening, and 13 steel boxcars in the 400 series with a short 8 foot 7 inch inside height. The January 1973 Register has the 501 to 509 and a 510 to 522 group. But the July 1974 ORER shows no freight equipment at all registered to the A&A, and going backwards, neither does the January 1964 Register. So it's a colorful car, to be sure, but one with quite the short Approximate Time Period. I suspect that won't hurt sales too much as this is only the second A&A car to be released in my N Scale memory, the first being a 1970's entry from Con-Cor.

There's a photo of the very ARA 506 as lensed in Council Bluffs, Iowa in June 1972 in the softcover "Classic Freight Cars Volume 7," page 5. MTL's description of the car as being painted "armour yellow" isn't accurate; it's much more of an orange. Fortunately, the images of the MTL offering in the Micro-News and the website also look more orange than the yellow that the Union Pacific uses. The use of the Superior door matches the photo and other than the door opening discrepancy and some nitpicks with the side sills, the car looks good.
Last edited by umtrr-author on Tue Jun 05, 2007 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Benjamin Maggi
While not vouching for its accuracy, it looks great at first blush. Any, any publicity is good publicity!

  by jgallaway81
Sounds Good... Would it be possible to copy the finished article to add to the A&A's Press & Media section?

  by umtrr-author
JD, yes, you have my permission to use the piece on the A&A website.

I will be condensing the piece for my usual contribution to The N Scale Collector magazine as well. The editor said he's never seen the car before so he's excited. I may give him a two pager for a change (I usually do only one page) and include some scans from the Official Guides and Equipment Registers. (There's a nice map in the April 1928 Equipment Register, which I hope I can scan without too much bleed through from the other side of the page.)

The A&A story will reach a couple thousand more people that way, and who knows? Maybe a bit of business will flow to the A&A.

If you want to go the other way, and perhaps publicize in the local paper that the A&A has been honored with a model freight car, I'd be happy to help out with that if I can.
  by umtrr-author
Interesting to see this pop back up!

Discussion "on other networks" since this car was issued by Micro-Trains has mostly been about the origin of these cars. It's been noted that the Micro-Trains model is too large with respect to the actual cars. However, that didn't stop a quick sellout back in the day and this car doesn't show up that often in the aftermarket (e.g. eBay).

Did the actual ARA folks ever pick up one of these cars?
  by Benjamin Maggi
I know one of their stockholders who did! :-)

There are not many A&A model trains out there which were released commercially. I think I will start a separate thread right now discussing this!
  by reinhardtjh
I'm not a stockholder but I bought 8 of them along with 2 of the Con-Cor versions I've managed to acquire. Somewhere out there is a group of 4 that I bought from BLW N Scale in NJ but were lost in delivery.