TroveStar Micro-Trains Collectors' Guide
Author: TroveStar Curators
Initially Published: 2016-05-01
This article details many of the features of an N Scale
Micro-Trains product from a
Designed to provide the pertinent information needed to identify significant production variations spanning 1972 to
the present day, this readily accessible reference guide is an invaluable resource for increasing one's knowledge of
the most common Micro-Trains® product and packaging deviations.
Compiled specifically for TroveStar LLC, relevant data is regularly added to this data compilation.
Part 1: History
Eventually used to market their patented and revolutionary Magne-Matic® HO-Scale knuckle coupler system, the
firm that would later be called Kadee® Quality Products initially sold the model train turnouts manufactured by
twin brothers Clarence "Keith" Edwards (February 10, 1921 - July 26, 2012) and Lawrence "Dale" Edwards Sr.
(February 10, 1921 - September 19, 2014).
Both functional and realistic looking, the brothers' Magne-Matic® HO-Scale couplers soon became the gold standard for model railroad coupling operations.
The Kadee® moniker was derived from the first letters of the brothers middle names.
Having successfully developed and begun manufacturing an N-Scale (which was a relatively new scale in the 1960s)
version of their now legendary Magne-Matic® knuckle coupler system by
the early 1960s, the gradual addition of trucks, underframes, and wheels culminated in the brothers introduction of
their first Micro-Trains® freight car in 1972.
In 1990, following thirty-five years of steady growth in Medford, Oregon, Kadee® Quality Products was physically
divided into two separate business entities.
Kadee® (Dale's portion of the enterprise) continues to produce HO-Scale freight cars and HO through G Scale
accessories from its White City, Oregon location.
Until shortly before his passing, Dale remained involved with Kadee® business operations.
Newly incorporated in October 1990 as Micro-Trains® Line Co. (Keith's portion of the business), Z, Nn3, and
N Scale products continued to be produced at the Medford plant until the firm was subsequently relocated in 1993
to its present location, a purpose-built 33,000 square foot plant in Talent, Oregon.
After retiring in 2000, Keith and his wife Coral sold their interest in Micro-Trains® Line to their immediate
family in 2001.
Given how much offshoring has occurred in recent decades, it is worthy to note that to the present day, the majority
of the Micro-Trains® Line products continue to be manufactured in the United States.
Part 2: Trivia
- With a retail price of $3.00 each (i.e., with the exception of green and white printed stock number 20018 and black and white printed stock number 20093, which retailed for $3.25 each and may have been the first American manufactured N-Scale models to bear a slight upcharge to cover the cost of the additional pad printing strikes), the first five (or eight if the production variations are taken into account) Kadee® Micro-Trains® models released in November 1972 were 40 Foot Standard Steel Single Sliding Door Boxcar stock numbers 20000 (Unlettered with light brown or Tuscan paint), 20018 (Grand Trunk Western with road number 516798 and two color printing), 20058 (Rock Island with road number 27653), 20089 (Union Pacific with road number 124239 and white or yellow printing), and 20093 (Southern Pacific with road number 105043 and two color printing).
- Careful planning and consideration, which resulted in the tooling of common roofs, roofwalks, and ends for its line of 20000 and 30000 series forty and fifty foot standard steel boxcars paid off handsomely for Kadee® Quality Products, as the firm was able to release in fairly rapid succession (i.e., spanning a little over two years, from November 1972 - January 1975) five different variations (i.e., single sliding door, double sliding door, plug door, double plug door, and combination plug and sliding door versions) of these extremely popular models.
- Rather than the contemporary, rectangular shaped trip pins that most of us are currently familiar with, early production (i.e., circa 1972 - 1974) Magne-Matic® knuckle coupler equipped Kadee® Quality Products Micro-Trains® Bettendorf trucks were fitted with trip pins that were fabricated out of wire.
- Priced at $1.80 a pair, Kadee® N Gauge (i.e., not a typo, as early production Kadee® Quality Products blister cards actually had the word "gauge" rather than "scale" printed on them) Micro-Trains® stock number MT-1000 Bettendorf trucks had Delrin® frames and axles, metal wheels, and mounted (while not found on any of the production car releases, mounted actually meant screwed on with steel screws) MT-5 Magne-Matic® knuckle couplers.
- Along with the currently manufactured faceted bushings and flat washers, early production blister carded MT-1000 trucks were packaged with sprue containing flat headed bolster pins, or, snap-in draft gear box covers (i.e., like the ones that were fitted to earlier production Rapido coupler equipped Bettendorf trucks) in later production runs.
- Way ahead of their time in-so-far as factory assembled N-Scale body mounted draft gear was concerned, in the early 1970s, Kadee® Quality Products produced blister carded packages of Kadee® N Gauge Micro-Trains® stock number 1024 (which were formerly called MT-1040) chemically blackened, cast metal, forty foot boxcar under-frames with stock number 1023 (formerly MT-3) Magne-Matic® knuckle couplers that were fastened to the chassis by a pair of chemically blackened screws.
Part 3: The Jewel Boxes
- Jewel box lids without any embossed company name - November 1972
- Jewel box lids with an embossed Kadee® Micro-Trains® company name - July 1981
- Jewel box lids with an embossed Micro-Trains® company name and a blank rectangle (the result of the milling out of the word Kadee®) above the company's moniker - March 1991
- Short run of jewel box lids with an embossed, rectangular Micro-Trains® Line logo with a pair of injection molding holes in the jewel box bottoms - September 2001 - Mid-2002
- Reappearance of jewel box lids with an embossed Micro-Trains® company name, the word Kadee® milled out, and no holes present in the jewel box bottoms - Mid-2002 - February 2008
- Embossed, rectangular Micro-Trains® Line logo on jewel box lids with a pair of injection molding holes present in jewel box bottoms - March 2008
Part 4: The Insert Labels
- Kadee® Micro-Trains® paper inserts with black, blue, and green printing, and a factory printed MSRP - November 1972
- Kadee® Micro-Trains® paper inserts with black printing and a factory printed MSRP - May 1975
- Kadee® Micro-Trains® paper inserts with black printing and no factory printed MSRP - May 1977
- Micro-Trains® Line paper inserts with black (and red by the mid-1990s) printing - October 1990
Magne-Matic® knuckle coupler equipped models were packaged with a white paper insert
label, while Rapido coupler equipped models (circa 1971 - 1977) were packed with yellow paper inserts.
Part 5: Factory Pricing
- Product description and MSRP factory printed in blue (and very rarely black) on both ends of paper insert labels - November 1972
- Product description and MSRP factory printed in black on one end of paper insert labels - May 1975
- Product description with no MSRP factory printed in black on one end of paper insert labels - May 1977
- Small, square, white, self adhesive price tags bearing the Kadee® name are affixed to shrink-wrapped sets and the front left side of jewel box bottoms ( Note: on occasion, white Kadee® price tags can be found on jewel box lids, or the undersides of jewel box bottoms) - June 1981
- Large, rectangular, yellow, self adhesive price tags bearing the Micro-Trains® name are affixed to shrink-wrapped sets, plastic, hinged lid (aka "tackle box") boxed sets, and the front left side of jewel box bottoms ( Note: tags are often found secured to both the jewel box lids and the jewel box bottoms) - August 1990
- Small, square, yellow, self adhesive price tags bearing the Micro-Trains® name are affixed to the front left side of jewel box bottoms ( Note: in the early 1990s, a very small batch of these labels lacked the traditional, red, Micro-Trains® name) - March 1991
- No retail pricing on forty model releases - June 2000
- Barcode and MSRP are factory printed on the bottom of paper insert labels - October 2000
While the majority of the barcoded models have MSRPs, a few instances of barcoded insert labels without retail pricing have been observed.
Part 6: Factory Shrink-Wrap
While plastic jewel-boxed models packaged in sets that were originally released by Kadee® Micro-Trains®
and Micro-Trains® Line had factory applied plastic shrink-wrapping, for various reasons, only dealers
and end-users shrink-wrapped individually boxed products.
Part 7: Stock Numbers
- Freight cars bearing five digit factory stock numbers are introduced to the market in November 1972.
- With the exceptions of the all of lettered 50000 series 34 Foot Wood Sheathed Slant Side Cupola Cabooses that were released in 1975, three of the eight lettered 46000 series 50 Foot Fishbelly Gondolas that were released in 1975, one of the four 43000 series lettered 40 Foot Double Sheathed Wood 1-1/2 Door Boxcars that were released in 1975, five of the nine lettered 42000 series 40 Foot Double Sheathed Wood Single Door Boxcars that were released in 1975, all of the 38000 series 50 Foot Plug Door Boxcars (without roofwalks) that were released in 1975, four of the twelve 35000 series lettered 40 Foot Despatch Stockcars that were released in 1974, one of the four lettered 29000 series 40 Foot Double Sheathed Wood Outside Braced 1-1/2 Door Boxcars that were released in 1975, two of the eleven lettered 23000 series 40 Foot Steel Double Door Boxcars that were released in 1973 and 1974, five of the eight lettered 22000 series 40 Foot Combo Plug and Sliding Door Boxcars released between 1973 and 1975, six of the nine lettered 21000 series 40 Foot Single Plug Door Boxcars that were released in 1973 and 1974, three of the twenty-seven lettered 40 Foot Single Sliding Door Boxcars that were released between 1972 and 1975, and all of the unlettered, and unlettered with dimensional data model releases from 1972 and 1975, five digit stock numbers for early production November 1972 - December 1975 releases with factory fitted Magne-Matic knuckle couplers end in "1" through "9".
- While the factory stock numbers for most of the Rapido coupler equipped freight cars produced from 1972 - 1977 typically end in "1" for five digit stock numbers, or "-1" in the case of a few extremely early six digit stock number releases, stock numbers for some of the plastic shrink-wrapped sets and models from these sets bear stock numbers ending in "3" or "-3".
- While most post 1977 five digit factory stock numbers end in zero, stock numbers for plastic shrink-wrapped sets and some of the models from these sets bear stock numbers ending in "2".
- The factory stock numbers for blister carded car kits end with the number "9".
- While most post 1990 five digit factory stock numbers end in zero, series models, sets, and some individual releases (often bearing different reporting numbers for products released over a very short period of time) have stock numbers ending in "-1", "/1", "-2", "/2", "/3", or "1" through "9".
- With the exception of two Kadee® Micro-Trains 10-pack releases bearing stock numbers 380-10/1 (which was released in September 1986) and 380-10/2 (which was released in July 1987), 19000 series Bonus Pack sets of leftover models were periodically released in the year directly preceding and the years following the establishment of Micro-Trains® Line.
- The first six digit factory stock number (100010) is introduced in March 1996.
- Eight digit factory stock numbers are introduced in January 2005.
- While most of the later production (post 1996) six and eight digit stock numbers end in zero, select models (typically those bearing different reporting numbers or factory supplied loads) end in ".1" through ".5" (for six digit stock number products) and "1" through "9" (for eight digit stock number products, "Runner Packs", "Series" cars, and individual "Tabletop Set" items).
Part 8: Chassis and Step Information
- Turned upside down, with the brake wheel facing right, Kadee® Micro-Trains® and/or Micro-Trains® Line models (except for cabooses, which are listed below) that are fitted with chemically blackened, die-cast metal chassis are properly assembled when the smaller of the two cylindrically shaped appendages (Canister like shapes, the larger one represents an auxiliary air reservoir and the smaller one a brake cylinder) that are cast into the bottom of the metal frame appear above the pair of long, horizontal center lines that run between the two trucks. The three or four links of chain that have been cast next to the small cylinder should face the right side (the brake wheel end) of the car.
- Turned upside down, with the offset cupola positioned toward your left and the long roof section facing right, Kadee® Micro-Trains® and/or Micro-Trains® Line wood sheathed caboose models that are fitted with chemically blackened, die-cast metal chassis are properly assembled when the smaller of two cylindrically shaped appendages (Canister like shapes, the larger one represents an auxiliary air reservoir and the smaller one a brake cylinder) that are cast into the bottom of the metal frame appear below the pair of long, horizontal lines that run between the two trucks. The four links of chain that have been cast next to the small cylinder should face the left side (the cupola end) of the car.
- Turned upside down, with the offset cupola positioned toward your left and the long roof section facing right, Micro-Trains® Line steel cabooses are properly assembled when the square box and the smaller of two cylindrically shaped appendages (Canister like shapes, the larger one represents an auxiliary air reservoir and the smaller one a brake cylinder) that are cast into the bottom of the frame appear above the pair of long, horizontal lines that run between the two trucks. The four links of chain that have been cast next to the small cylinder should face the right side (the long roof end) of the car.
- Injection molded plastic stirrup step moldings are properly attached to Kadee® Micro-Trains® and/or Micro-Trains® Line car chassis when the half-round notches (half circle shaped cutouts that are positioned on one edge of each stirrup step molding) face outward (i.e., toward the couplers).
Part 9: Door Variations
- On occasion, plant workers inadvertantly installed the wrong style of sliding-door on 40 Foot Standard Steel Boxcar bodies.
- In some cases, these door variations can impact the value of a particular Micro-Trains® model.
- Collectors often use the abbreviation "NR" (or n/r) when they are referring to narrow rib ("Youngstown") doors, while the abbreviation "WR" (or w/r) is used to designate wide rib ("Superior") doors.
- Narrow rib doors have fourteen ribs, while wide rib doors exhibit six ribs.
Part 10: Truck Variations
- Likely designed to simplify final product assembly, factory fitted with Magne-Matic® knuckle or Rapido style couplers and a pair of mounting ears (as opposed to conventional bolster pin holes), the extremely fragile, Clip-On-Truck made a very short appearance in the marketplace from September 1974 to October 1975.
- With all of the marketed models packaged with white paper insert labels bearing black, blue, and green printing and MSRPs, along with a pair of extremely rare 40 Foot Double-Sheathed Wood Single Door Boxcars (stock number 42080 Union Pacific bearing road number 100104 and stock number 42551 Hills Brothers Coffee bearing road number 161), the only other Kadee® Micro-Trains® freight cars fitted with factory installed Clip-On-Trucks were 50 Foot Steel Single Door Boxcars bearing stock numbers 31000 (unlettered light brown paint with dimensional data), 31118 (Missouri Pacific with road numbers 352253 and 352278), 31139 (Pittsburgh & Lake Erie with road numbers 23025 and 23029), 31170 (Northern Pacific with road number 31468). 31463 (Delaware & Hudson with road number 22169), and 31487 (Chesapeake & Ohio with road numbers 21422 and 21427), 50 Foot Steel Single Plug Boxcars bearing stock numbers 32000 (unlettered light brown paint and unlettered light brown paint with dimensional data), 32076 (Santa Fe with road numbers 6119 and 6169), 32144 (Frisco with road number 12074), 32166 (Seaboard Coast Line with road numbers 492964 and 492966), 32499 (Nickel Plate Road with road number 85496), and 32507 (Burlington Refrigerator Express with road number 79577), 50 Foot Steel Combo Plug and Sliding Door Boxcars bearing stock numbers 33000 (unlettered light brown paint with dimensional data), 33089 (Union Pacific with road number 170509). 33121 (Cotton Belt with road number 48075), and 33451 (Western Maryland with road numbers 35001 and 35007), and 50 Foot Steel Double Door Boxcars bearing stock numbers 34000 (unlettered light brown paint and unlettered light brown paint with dimensional data), 34033 (Norfolk & Western with road number 285228), 34091 (Southern Pacific with road number 202519), 34105 (Denver & Rio Grande Western with road number 63555), 34151 (Baltimore & Ohio with road number 471310), and 34472 (Pennsylvania with road number 32156).
- Later re-releases of the aforementioned 50 Foot Boxcars (i.e., leftover stock that required final assembly and the printing of new insert labels) had white paper insert labels bearing black label printing, "Formally" stock number text, new stock numbers ending in zero, no MSRP, and factory installed, standard bolster pin mounted trucks.
- Produced around the same time frame as their Magne-Matic® knuckle coupler equipped counterparts, with the exception (to my knowledge that is) of the aforementioned pair of 40 Foot Wood Boxcars, the 50 Foot Boxcar models that were previously listed as having factory installed Clip-on-Trucks were also made available with Rapido couplers.
- Shipped with the same paper insert labels as cars fitted with standard bolster pin mounted trucks, short of scrutinizing a model's chassis prior to purchase, the manufacturer's packaging materials provide no insight into whether or not Clip-On-Trucks were factory installed.
- While a few other models are listed in various collector guides as having factory installed Clip-On-Trucks, only the previously listed Kadee® Micro-Trains® 50 Foot Steel Boxcars and 40 Foot Wood Boxcars are considered to be legitimate production models.
- With the exception of extended length models (i.e., those with medium and long drawbars) and Rapido coupler equipped versions, the undersides of pre-Micro-Trains® Line production (circa pre-1991) Archbar, Bettendorf, and Roller-Bearing freight car trucks were embossed with the Kadee® name.
- Contemporary production (circa post-1991) Micro-Trains® Line trucks have the Micro-Trains® name embossed on their undersides, or the coupler box cover.
- Although they were no longer factory installed on new car releases after 1977, the production of individually blister carded stock number 1500 Rapido coupler equipped Bettendorf truck sets continued well into 2000.
Part 11: Wheel Variations
- Starting in November 1972, standard and Special-Run models are fitted with three piece (a steel axle with a pair of black, injection molded plastic wheels), rib-backed, deep-flanged wheel sets.
- Beginning in September 1987, with the rib backed wheel set mold(s) either irreparably damaged, or simply worn out, regular and Special-Run models are fitted with black (except for some of the more contemporary releases that were fitted with brown, green, red, silver, and yellow wheel sets), one piece, smooth-backed, deep-flanged, injection molded plastic wheel sets.
- Along with a factory installed set of smooth-backed, deep-flanged wheel sets, an optional set of buyer installed, one piece, smooth-backed, low profile, injection molded plastic wheel sets are packaged with regular production model releases in July 2002.
- Shipped without any optional, buyer installed smooth-backed, deep-flanged wheel sets, regular production model releases are fitted with factory installed, smooth-backed, low profile, injection molded plastic wheel-sets in September 2005.
- Along with a factory installed set of smooth-backed, low profile wheel sets, an optional set of buyer installed, smooth-backed, deep-flanged wheel sets is packaged with regular production model releases from October 2005 to December 2006.
- Along with a factory installed set of smooth-backed, deep-flanged wheel sets, an optional set of buyer installed, one piece, smooth-backed, low profile, injection molded plastic wheel sets is packaged with regular production model releases from January 2006 to July 2007.
- Effective August 2007, low profile, injection molded plastic wheel sets are no longer packaged with, or factory installed on regular production model releases.
- Effective March 2010, all Micro-Trains® Line N-Scale rolling-stock releases are fitted with new, "Standard", 33-inch injection molded plastic wheel-sets that look more prototypical and are compatible with code 55 track products.
Although deep-flanged wheel sets were never officially named, model train operators have unofficially bestowed the moniker "pizza cutter" upon these first (second. if rib-backed wheel sets are taken into account) generation products.
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