Model Railroader, Nov 2012 Review - Con-Cor
Con-Cor's HO scale PRR MP54 commuter
cars have sharp details, smooth drives
Pennsylvania RR fans modeling the
electrified Northeast Corridor in HO
have a new option for commuter service.
Con-Cor International has released
its MP54 multiple-unit (MU) cars in
prewar and postwarpaint schemes and
severalbody styles. The smooth-running
models are prototypically accurate with
an impressive amount of detail, includ
The models can be converted to Digi
tal Command Control (DCC).
The MP54 (Motorcar, Passenger,
interior length 54 feet) was the Pennsy's
most plentiful model, with 455 built.
Con-Cor offers models of the MP54
coaches, along with MPB54 passengerbaggage combines and MBM62 baggagemail MU cars. Commuters and train
men called the MP54 and its kin
"owl-eyed cars" due to their distinctive
porthole end windows.
Fewif any physicaldetails denote
the different phases of prototype MP54
construction, but the road numbers
The owl-eyed MP54. The Pennsylva
nia RR electrified its major eastern corri
dors in the early 20th century in re
sponseto municipal anti-pollutionlaws,
the need for powerful helper engines on
steep grades,and a desire for greater effi
ciencyof commuter trains. Multiple-unit
on the Con-Cor models belong to the
second class of cars built between 1926
and 1928, designated MP54E2. Most
were retired by the late 1950s, though
some saw service into the Conrail era.
A few cars run on museum and excur
The model has a plastic body with
finely molded rivets and seams, wire
grab irons, etched-metal windshield
wipers, flexible plastic end-door chains,
and other impressive details. I was
pleasedto note the model includesthe
curved grab irons under the vestibule
floor trap doors, a detail not visible dur
ing normal operation.
The clear window glazing includes
the red stripe in the end windows that
designates the operator end; the toilet
window is frosted like the prototype.
The models are equipped with tan
one-piecemolded interiors; the MBM62
has visible mail-sorting shelves inside.
As on the prototype, the model has
two different types of trucks. The drive
truck, with an 8'-8" wheelbase, was a
A detailed look. The details and paint
PRR2D-8-P1 Hyatt roller-bearing truck,
while the unpowered trailing truck was a
2C-P2 plain journal truck with an 8'-0"
schemes of Con-Cor's models match
wheelbase. On the Con-Cor model, both
trucks are accurately detailed, including
quicker than locomotive-hauled trains
with equal seating capacity, cutting the
photos publishedin "Pennsylvania Rail
road MP54 Multiple Unit Cars" in The
Keystone (vol. 43 no. 4, winter 2010) and
in the books Pennsy Electric Years by
travel time of demanding commuters.
William D. Volkmer (Morning Sun
sion lines today.
cars were the answer to that last need.
Originallyconvertedfrom steamhauled heavyweight passenger cars start
ing in 1915, self-propelled coaches could
accelerate and decelerate for station stops
Furthermore, MU car trains could be
Books, 1991) and PennsyElectric Years
the different wheelbases. On the HO
scalepowered cars, unlike the prototype,
both trucks are driven.
The two trucks' gear towers are linked
via driveshafts to a motor mounted in a
operated by a singlemotorman working
Vol. 2 by Bert Pennypacker (Morning
recess in the underbody. This allows the
from either end of the train, eliminating
Sun Books, 2002). All the dimensions
interior to be unobstructed. The motor
time spent turning a locomotive at the
I checked matched those in builder's
end of a run.
diagrams I found online.
enclosure isn't prototypical, but it doesn't
look out of placeamong the plentiful
brake equipment, battery boxes,and
other underbody details. The unpowered
models have a more prototypical under
body without the motor housing.
The sprung, etched-metal panto
graphs closely resemblethose in proto
type photographs in the Keystone article
and both volumes of PennsyElectric
Con-Cor powers the cars with a motor mounted in an enclosure in the
underbody, leaving the car's interior open for detailing or adding figures.
Model Railroader • www.ModelRailroader.com
Years. The parts flexsmoothly and can
be secured in the down position. The
for fun &
Yorjfce aLware on tqe aiGHt tpack
HO scale PRR MP54s
rain or shine
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pantographs are wired to the interior
lighting board, and a switch on that
board lets the user choose between over
head or traditional two-rail track power.
The lighting board in the powered
models includes an eight-pin Digital
Road names: Pennsylvania RR
(prewar Tuscan red scheme with
boxcar red or black roof and
postwar keystone scheme), Long
Island RR (Tuscan or Tichy gray
Command Control socket. Con-Cor
and white), Penn Central, South
offersboth a sound decoder with speaker,
loaded with prototypical sounds, and a
motor-only decoder. The manufacturer
eastern Pennsylvania Transporta
tion Authority (SEPTA), and
recommends the sound units be installed
in the baggage-mail or combine cars,
due to the difficulty of concealing the
speaker in a coach. Our samples didn't
unlettered (Tuscan with black roof).
Era: MP54s, 1915-present
(modeled car numbers, 1926-1950s)
All-axle drive and electrical
Blackened metal wheels on
include a decoder, so we didn't test them
On the test track. The lights and
motor came on at about 2.5V. At this
voltage, the powered coach crept along
at just 0.6 scalemph. At 3V the car glided
along at a steady 6 scale mph. The model
reached a top speed of almost 130 scale
mph on our test track, nearly twice the
top speed of the prototype.
Since the cars were designed to oper
ate as multiple units, I tested our three
powered samples to see how they'd run
together. First, I set all three a couple
inches apart on the same track and
applied power. The three responded
with slightlydifferentspeeds;within a
few feet, they had either separated or
coupled together. In coupled operation
this speed difference wasn't significant;
I noticed no bucking or wheel spinning
when I ran the three together.
But I imagine most modelers are likely
to equip their trains with a single pow
plastic axles, in gauge
• Directional light-emitting-diode
• McHenry knuckle couplers
Committed to Excellence
(mounted at correct height)
Minimum radius: 18"
• Traction tires on one wheel per
• Weight: 9 ounces (powered car)
5 ounces (unpowered car)
Scale speed (DC)
20 HOscale passenger cars
model railroad from a
at 12 volts (DC)
• Works on any PC
versions of these distinctive cars are
well-detailed, smooth-running models
worth a spot at your passenger plat
forms. - Steven Otte, associate editor
• DCC or conventional
• Just plug and play
A niche filled. If you model the Penn
sylvania RR's electrified territory, you
need MP54s on your layout. Con-Cor's
>All gauges, Z to 6
• Easy-to-use software
car commuter train, even on steeper
console displayedin full-
coach alone. The models have one trac
measured the coach's drawbar pull at a
hefty 4 ounces, enough to haul a train.
One powered MP54 should have no
problem handling a typical five-to-six-
Monitor and control the
operationof your entire
grades seen on some layouts.
each other. Our test bench force meter
Turn your PC into a
Con-Cor HO scale PRR MP54s
ered car and several unpowered trailers,
so I tested the drawbar power of the
tion tire per truck, on opposite rails from
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NOVEMBER 2012'Model Railroader