McCloud River Railroad Models:

Rivarossi Heisler and Skeleton Log Cars

In 1974 the Italian model manufacturer Rivarossi produced the first plastic models of a two-truck Heisler ever offered. Rivarossi had existing arrangements with Associated Hobby Manufacturers, Inc., better known as AHM, to distribute its products into the United States, and in 1977 AHM brought the Rivarossi Heisler to the U.S. under its brand name. Despite being slightly oversized, a common compromise many manufacturers made at the time to accomodate the large motors then available, the model was well received in the U.S. Rivarossi/AHM added more road names and a three-truck model in 1979, and then ended production of the Heisler model altogether by 1982.

Rivarossi re-introduced the Heisler model directly to the U.S. market under its own brand in 1994, and then about 2003 the company announced a new and vastly improved limited run version of the locomotives. The company also announced two-packs of skeleton log cars painted to match the road names in the 2003 run. McCloud River was one of the roads included in the run, specifically a two truck Heisler painted as MR #3 and skeleton log cars numbered 1201 and 1209. The models are really nice; the locomotive is an outstanding runner, and both the locomotive and the log cars are finely detailed. The log cars themselves are of solid metal construction and heavy, which together with the metal wheels allows for outstanding tracking characteristics. That being said, the model of the #3 is if scaled up about twice the size of the real MR #3, and the only skeleton log cars McCloud ever owned were a group of 23 cars purchased from Southern Pacific in 1955 that were numbered 3060-3082. The "real" MR 1201 and 1209 were 40-foot flatcars built in the McCloud car shop in 1912. None of these cars are faithful reproductions of real McCloud equipment, but they are nice cars. These models were one-time offerings and have not been repeated since, but are still periodically available on the second hand market.

The Heisler

A partial view of the only known photo to date of the "real" MR #3 on the McCloud, zoomed in on the locomotive. Heritage Junction Museum.

The engineer's side of the model as it comes out of the box. The model as packed has an oil bunker and a straight stack; the box contains a parts bag that has several parts, including a diamond stack, oil headlights, and a coal bunker that can be dropped into a pre-cut space if the oil bunker is removed.

The fireman's side of the model as it comes out of the box.

The front three-quarter view of the model as packed.

Top view of a dusty model showing the oil bunker removed, the straight stack swapped out for the diamond stack, and the electric headlights repaced with the oil headlights.

Side view of the backdated model.

Skeleton Log Cars

As noted, Rivarossi produced two-packs of skeleton log cars to go with each offered Heisler. While nice cars, only the lettering style is accurate for anything the real McCloud ever owned.

A top view of one of the cars.

The stakes in the log bunks can be moved to an upright position, and Rivarossi included a load of small logs that can be placed on each car. The stakes are quite loose, and Rivarossi also provides with each pack a set of chains that can be used to secure the log loads to the cars. The log loads on these cars are not the ones from Rivarossi, I got them from another source.

A side view of the loaded cars.