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Specific Item Information: This helium car was one of the heaviest railcars ever made. Built in 1961, these cars were initially used by the BLM to transport helium from mines in Texas. Later, they found their niche servicing NASA Titan rockets and the Space Shuttle up until the last shuttle flight in 2011.
Model Information: This body style was created for Atlas by Roco in the late 1960s. Atlas released a series of four cars using this tooling in 1969. Atlas never did a second production run - presumably because it did not sell that well. 26 years later, E-R models contracted with Roco to produce a second run of these cars with the same road names as the Atlas run but with three new road numbers. For some reason, E-R did not re-run the Department of Mines paint scheme.
Again, these cars disappeared from the marketplace (other than eBay) for another 20 years. In 2016, Micro-Trains mysteriously produced a new run of this tooling with a Weathered NASA paint scheme as part of their NASA car series. This was followed up by another Micro-Trains Special run in 2017 of two glow-in-the-dark cars commissioned by Fred Hoxsie of the NSE.
These cars are rather unique in both the prototype and the N Scale world. So my curiosity was piqued at how a long-deceased manufacturer (Roco) suddenly started producing cars from a presumed lost tooling. So I asked Fred Hoxsie, "Where did you get these? I thought Roco was long gone and that their older toolings from the 1960s were long-lost." Fred responded "I haven't a clue - ask Eric." So I trotted over to the Micro-Trains booth at the NSE event in Pittsburgh and asked Eric Smith himself, "Hey Eric, where did these cars come from?".
Eric explained that whomever had acquired the assets of Roco when they went belly-up was not not sure what to do with the various inventory acquired during the bankruptcy. Currently, Modelleisenbahn GmbH owns the Roco brand name, but bankruptcies can be complex, and the older Roco inventory might have ended up just about anywhere (perhaps Roco owed their lunch caterer some Euros?). Micro-Trains got in contact with whomever took ownership of this model and bought the inventory of unpainted bodies. It was one of Eric's minions who negotiated the deal and he was a little fuzzy on the details, but if I got it right, MTL acquired a pallet of these cars (but not the tooling) and will release them periodically as special and/or regular releases. I neglected to ask how many MTL acquired, so I cannot predict how many more we will see.
A few cars have been repurposed for use in the Space X engine test complex outside McGregor, Texas. Eight other cars were transferred to California and are on lease tro support the Space X Falcon 9 Launch Complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Road Name History:
President Dwight D. Eisenhower established NASA in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.
Since that time, most US space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.
Brand/Importer Information: Micro-Trains is the brand name used by both Kadee Quality Products and Micro-Trains Line. For a history of the relationship between the brand and the two companies, please consult our Micro-Trains Collector's Guide.
On July 15, 2005 ROCO Modellspielwaren GmbH was declared bankrupt. From July 25 the company continues as Modelleisenbahn GmbH, but still uses the Roco brand and associated logo. On October 1, 2007, distribution of the 'Minitank' product series was assigned to the German model car manufacturer Herpa.
Since February 2008 Modelleisenbahn also owns Fleischmann, which like Roco had gone bankrupt. The two companies continue as separate brands under Modelleisenbahn GmbH, while benefiting from economies of scale through joined development projects, marketing and procurement.
Item created by: gdm on 2016-10-29 09:17:09. Last edited by gdm on 2018-01-25 13:04:39
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