McCloud River Railroad reviews:

Walthers McCloud River Centerbeam Flatcars

Walthers MR centerbeams between a couple Athearn products.

In October 1989 Itel Rail leased a fleet of 200 centerbeam flatcars to the McCloud River. The cars all wore a dark blue paint job, carried MR reporting marks, and were numbered 9100-9299. McCloud immediately assigned the cars to the Southern Railway of British Columbia, another Itel owned road. The cars in this series did not start to see substantial service on McCloud's rails until the early 1990s, after the McCloud Railway startup, and by the early 2000s they were the primary cars carrying outbound lumber shipments off the railroad.

Despite their booming popularity in the real world, HO scale centerbeam flatcar models remained relatively scarce until 1997, when Walthers rolled out a 72-foot centerbeam car as part of its Trees and Trains series focused on models related to the forest products industries. Walthers has produced numerous different runs on these models over the years in a wide variety of roadnames, but did not get around to including the MR cars until 2023. This release catches McCloud modelers up to their N scale counterparts, which have had MR centerbeams available for many years thanks to Red Caboose.

These cars are a mixed bag in terms of accuracy and fidelity to the prototype. The models come equipped with metal scale 36" wheels and metal couplers, and contain the same heavy metal underframes that these cars have used since first introduced. Walthers has not otherwise substantially upgraded these cars, which translates into cast on grab irons and a general lack of other added detail parts that seem to be becoming standard on today's models, but the lack of them also keeps these cars relatively affordable. Printing and lettering are crisp and readable. There are several drawbacks, however. The first is the shade of blue, which seems a bit off from the prototypes which seemed to be darker than the models when new, though the paint faded badly over their decades of service. The biggest visual drawback though is the large safety diagrams that are present on the sides of the center partition near the ends of the cars on the prototype and completely missing on the models, and the models contain a lot of dense text that is not present on the prototype.

Despite these drawbacks it is nice seeing another McCloud based model being made available on the commercial market. Walthers has produced four variations of this car, carrying road numbers 9110, 9143, 9229, and 9298. Walthers in the past has produced snap in "lumber loads" for Sierra Pacific Industries that would be good additions to these cars, though they are not currently in stock at Walthers but available through some retailers and on the used market.

First, a prototype photo of the MR #9112 at Berry in the summer of 2006.

A comparative view of Walther's model of the #9229.




A closer view of the lettering on the model of the #9298. Again, almost none of this is on the prototype cars, which contain mostly graphics on both the partition side and the bulkheads.