The Rio Grande is REAL GRAND!
By Mike Stella
I think Lionel applied one of the prettiest paint schemes to their F3s when they chose the black striped Rio Grande. I added a Post-War "A" unit only to my collection decades ago and then searched long and hard in pre-Internet days to find a single "B" unit to complete the pair.
I was excited when Lionel MPC decided to reissue the Rio Grande F3s in their 1974 Service Station Special with a nice freight consist that included the #9739 Rio Grande 6464 style boxcar. I purchased my set in 1974 for a retail cost of less than $100 and over the past 33 years (Can you believe it's been 33 YEARS?) I've continued to add some very special Rio Grande boxcars to make a great looking unit train. Some have been well documented and others have not. Some are easy to "fake" and others are not. Overall, I think the resulting Rio Grande freight train is Real Grand. I like it!
Both the TCA and the LCCA over stamped the #9739 boxcar to create a commemorative car for different events and these are fun to track down and add to your boxcar collection. Lionel once again "created" collectable variations by forgetting to paint, by changing the color of paint, and sometimes by missing certain graphics. I have replaced all the plastic trucks on the freight cars with sprung die-cast trucks which give them a hefty feel. I also changed the frame on the matching Rio Grande caboose to add a coupler on the rear as well as die-cast trucks. This edition of my completed Rio Grande freight rates a special place on my MPC display wall. The bright yellow color seems to light up the area by itself. As always, Happy Collecting to all.
Overall shot of my really grand Rio Grande freight.
The regular #9739 boxcar and a VHTF variation missing the black stripe.
An over-stamped car from the LCCA and a "rare" YELLOW ROOF" variation.
A "Yellow Door" instead of Silver and the TCA North Texas Chapter over-stamp.
A boxcar with a Black Door and another with a Black Door AND Black Roof!
A great looking MPC Caboose made better on a two coupler frame with die-cast trucks.