LPD Passenger Equipment

See Rule No. 1: It’s My Railroad

I’m a huge fan of passenger trains.  The Rio Grande ran them right up the the end, so it’s a great opportunity to model several. Additionally, this route hosts passenger trains right up to the present time.

California Zephyr and Rio Grande Zephyr

The California Zephyr comes to life in my 1960s-era layout. I have 10 cars (the real thing had around 14) which is actually too many to pull up the mountain on my layout, but gives a good impression of this classic stainless-steel lady. It’s composed of all-BLI cars, including the RGZ equipment (all D&RGW) plus a sampling of WP and CB&Q cars to fill out the consist. Pre-1965 trains are pulled with an A-B-B-A set of F3’s. After that it’s the F7s and F9s that do the duty.

The Rio Grande Zephyr is the premier train of the 1971-1983 era.   My first RGZ cars were modified Con-Cor kits. However, I have transitioned to Broadway Limited cars.  I also decorated an ACF Diner to model the 1116 for those times when the SILVER BANQUET is in the shop. And I have a Nickel Plate Products combine kit for the head-end car.

(I have struggled with the unforgiving operating characteristics of the Broadway Limited cars, even though they are gorgeous.  If your track has a combination of sharp curvature and gradient, which mine has, they may not reliably stay on the rails unless you file and tweak, and file and tweak some more. Mine finally operate somewhat reliably.

calZ hp Two Con-Cor dome cars have been EXTENSIVELY reworked to have accurate windows, domes, and interiors.   In this shot, the westbound CZ is at Hideaway park.  Since the photo I have filled in the truck cutouts  in the skirts on the MUSTANG, and body-mounted the draft gear. I had to add a ton of weight (scale tons, that is) to get it to operate with the far-heavier BLI cars. Even so it struggles, so this car is in semi-retirement in the display case.
lpd drgw1231 This is combine No. 1231, which I kitbashed from Con-Cor components and scratch-made sides.  The prototype car arrived in 1950 for service on the Prospector, and later saw service on every passenger train on the Rio Grande roster, right up through the Ansco Ski Train.  This car (or sister 1230) is indispensable for a proper Rio Grande Zephyr.

I also built an NKP kit for 1230, awaiting its turn in the photo studio!  That car is amazing and beautiful, trust me.

I built a steam generator car for the Rio Grande Zephyr many years ago, but the detailing and paint weren’t up to current standards, so it’s in the shop getting a makeover.  I also built a post-1987 version, as the power car for the Ski Train.

The Prospector

With the addition of the 1960s era, I have added the Prospector to my roster.  This classy train runs first-class cars from Pullman-Standard on its overnight run between Denver and Salt Lake City.  The prototype operated with this equipment from 1950 to 1967 when it was discontinued.

Power for my train draws from the F-unit pool (F3’s or F7’s).  The head-end car is a Walthers heavyweight baggage and one of the baggage combines, followed by a coach (Walthers), a diner (kit from Union Station Products) and a 10-6 sleeper (Walthers). During my 1964 timeframe the train also occasionally ran piggyback cars on the tail end.  An 86′ D&RGW flat with a pair of 40′ vans fill the bill.

Prospector-Plainview The Prospector descends the Front Range on its way into Denver in the early morning light. Note the piggyback car on the rear end, one of the delightful operating features of this particular train. Today an A-B pair of F7’s are the power.
HW-RPO Heavyweight baggage/RPO. This car would usually be on the Yampa Valley Mail, but they also occasionally showed up on the Prospector. I lettered this car and built body-mounted coupler bolsters.
JamesPeak Diner JAMES PEAK: a TSP “kit” with a fully-detailed interior that I *finally* completed in early 2019.

Ski Train

I’m working on building a roster for both the old and new Ski Trains.   For the older (pre-1988) version, I am using Walthers paired-window coaches.  They’re not perfectly accurate, but will do for now.  Eventually I may “adjust” them to be more prototypical.  The combine car above is also used on this train.

The Ansco Ski Train has been a modeler’s nemesis for a long time. Starting in 1998 I tried my hand at scratch-building a segment of the train, eventually totaling five cars. They’re not perfect, but they are pretty convincing, considering the lack of any commercial alternatives. The hardest part was building the trucks.  Thankfully, Rapido came out with a run of pretty darn amazing cars, and I picked up four.  My home-built cars are a close enough match that I do run them together.  I renamed my MOUNT EVANS car to MOUNT PRINCETON to eliminate a duplication.

I have also built a pair of F40PH’s in SKI TRAIN lettering for post-2000 operations, which are DCC. One has sound as well.

steamgen251_r I built this model of steam generator car No. 251, largely from scratch.  There are a few kitbashed components too.  Doing a unique car such as this is a great challenge, and gives a great sense of satisfaction– one of the reasons I enjoy this hobby so much.  This car sees service on my pre-1988 Ski Train.
northpark-wp The contemporary Ski Train (1988 – 2009) is a much bigger project, since there have been no commercial kits on the market that even come close.  Here, Cafe car NORTH PARK is seen on the Winter Park siding.

By the way, the real train has seventeen cars, but I only made five, plus private cars.  Try scratch-building some yourself, and you’ll see why.

powercar253 Here is my accurate Power Car No. 253.  This was a major project– I spent two weeks while recovering from surgery building this baby. Not entirely complete, it is sufficient to be operational. Note the open grille, and the struts that hold up the hoods. I’m not entirely happy with the paint, and may strip and try again if/when I get the time and energy. It lacks rain caps for the exhausts and a couple of ladders (the stock Athearn ladders are not quite right). If you’re going to run the Ski Train between 1988 and 2000, you need this car.


Amtrak has been running trains on this route since April 1983.  I now have enough Superliner cars to operate an Amtrak California Zephyr, for any period up to the present. I have cars in Phase II, III, IV, and IVb schemes.  I have painted and decaled several Walthers Superliner 2 cars.  I also made the decals for an AHM baggage car and a Hi-Level transition Coach/Dorm.  I added partitions to the sleepers so you can’t see clear through them, and built a full interior for my S2 Lounge (see below). And finally, I have created a few ad-wrap cars for the 2018 version of the Winter Park Express.

For power I have a pair of F40PH’s from Walthers, a pair of P40DC’s from Athearn, a pair of P42DC’s in Phase V, and a Walthers Amtrak Heritage unit (No. 156).  The 156 and one of the regular P42’s are DCC now, and the Athearn one has sound. The only phase I don’t have represented is the P42s in Phase III (also no Pepsi-can B-32, but I can live without it). Other than that, I have suitable power for any era of Amtrak as run on the Moffat.

lpd Amtk 5 cliffe In this view, it’s 1986 and the westbound CZ is passing through Tunnel 29. Note the S1 lounge in Phase III, and the S1 diner in Phase II stripes.  Paint schemes remained mixed through most of the decade.
lounge-wp One of my better moments: I scratch-built a complete interior for the Amtrak Sightseer Lounge car, including passengers.  This is a good way to kill free time on a week-long business trip!

Union Pacific Business Train

This project is underway, and includes the E9 A-B-A set and a few UP passenger cars. I’ve completed the lead E9 and have four operating cars. Since the UP merger, the real train makes frequent appearances on the Moffat under a variety of power (including the Rio Grande heritage unit).

UP_951 The lead unit, E9A No. 951. This is an extensively re-detailed and painted Model Power unit.Incidentally, that’s my scale model of Denver Union Station in the background.
UP-CityOfLosAngeles Diner City of Los Angeles.  Starting with a Rivarossi diner, I detailed and painted to match the real car.  Note the proper, scratch-built kitchen hoods.  (the warping is from the wide-angle image; the model and scene are actually straight!)  Super happy with how this turned out.
UP_Challenger Dome coach Challenger. Another Rivarossi car, with additional details and also repainted by me.