The steel passenger car was in large part a byproduct of the building of New York's Pennsylvania Station. In 1901 the Pennsylvania Railroad, under President A.J. Cassatt, began the construction of its gateway into Manhattan. Until then, Pennsy passengers bound for New York de-trained in Jersey City and crossed the Hudson River by ferry to their final destination - while travelers on rival New York Central went straight to Grand Central Station. A key element of the Penn Station project was long tunnels under the Hudson, and another set of tunnels under the East River to link up with Pennsy subsidiary Long Island Rail Road. Cassatt was adamant that the cars going through his tunnels be fireproof, a requirement that the wooden cars of the era could not satisfy. The search for a steel car design was on.
With Cassatt's support, and that of George Westinghouse as well, New York's Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) was also looking for fireproof subway cars around the same time. Thus in 1904, in time for the IRT's opening, the first American regular-production steel cars were delivered to the IRT by American Car and Foundry (ACF), based on the designs of IRT technical engineer George Gibbs; similar suburban commuter cars went to Pennsy's LIRR.
Further Pennsy design work on a mainline passenger car led to the P-70 coach, which would become one of the most well known and numerous steel passenger car designs. The Pennsy's 1907 order for 200 P-70s, built by ACF, Pressed Steel Car Company and the road's own Altoona shops, was "the first large-scale commitment" to steel passenger cars, according to famed railroad historian John H. White, Jr., and "truly opened the age of the steel passenger car." To compete with the Pennsy, other railroads found it necessary to upgrade to steel cars as well - initially just on premier name trains, and later throughout their fleets. Reluctantly, and under pressure from the Pennsy's requirement that only steel cars enter its New York terminal, Pullman converted to steel construction as well. On the west coast, the Southern Pacific had been an early advocate of steel passenger cars along with the Pennsy, and the lines controlled by E.H. Harriman, including the SP, UP, Illinois Central and Central of Georgia, were among other early adopters.
By around 1910, when Pennsylvania Station opened, the steel car had evolved into the so-called "heavyweight" design that would remain largely unchanged until the 1930s. Heavyweights, as depicted in our RailKing models, were characterized by a clerestory roof (a holdover from the wood car era), riveted steel bodies, and a massive steel fishbelly underframe that contributed most of the cars' battleship-like strength. Unlike some later designs, the sides and roof of a heavyweight were mostly along for the ride, and added little to the cars' structural integrity. The design, however, proved tremendously durable. Many cars lasted more than 50 years in mainline service, rolling for decades alongside - and intermixed with - much newer lightweight streamlined cars.
Every year since 1999, the Canadian Pacific's Holiday Train has plied CP rails between Montreal and the Pacific coast, helping over a hundred towns and cities celebrate the season by supporting their local food bank. At each stop, a boxcar opens up to become the stage for a traveling band. Trailing passenger cars accommodate Santa and his helpers. Performances are free, but guests are asked to bring donations for the local community's food bank. In its first 18 seasons, the train has raised over $143 million and 4 million pounds of food donations.
There are two sections of the Holiday Train, one traveling across southern Canada and the other visiting CP rails in the northern U.S. Our model represents the 2009 version, which ranged as far south as Scranton, PA. For modelers farther south, we also offer a non-CP version to create your own expression of the holiday spirit.
Heading both trains is our twin-motored scale model of General Electric's Dash 8 diesel, featuring Proto-Speed control for smooth, steady speeds from a crawl to full throttle; remote-controlled Proto-Couplers; LED-Illuminated headlight, number boards, cab interior and holiday lights; variable-intensity ProtoSmoke diesel exhaust; and a full symphony of train sounds, from holiday arrival music to diesel sounds, wailing horn, clanging bell and crew conversations.