Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Straco Express Layout, Part 55b - Straco Steam

The original Straco Express train (l) and the
newer steam loco version (r).
Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

Last fall I wrote about a Straco Express variation I found (see: Straco and the Mystery Train 2). There appeared to be another version of the Straco Express with differently lithographed cars.

I was able to purchase the set and do my own first-hand comparisons. You can read about the unusual steam loco that came with the set in Part 55a. It had some surprises.

And detailed comparison of the rolling stock yielded an insight.

At first blush, it looks like the only changes to the rolling stock was the lithography. The yellow NYC gondola car was instead an orange Michigan Central/NYC gondola car.

The blue, white, and red US Mail box car was instead a a red, white, and blue State of Maine box car. Both based on Lionel 6464 box cars, apparently.

The Japanese State of Maine box car has the number 8864-275. Lionel's has the numbers 6464-275. Straco used 3428 for their Mail car. Lionel used 6428 for theirs. A little too close in both cases for coincidence, I think.

Original Straco box car (lower) and newer box car (upper).
 And those "borrowings" can help date the sets. Lionel offered their State of Maine box car from 1957-1959, and their US Mail car from 1960-1961 (and again in 1965-1966).  F. J. Strauss & Co. filed their trademark in 1960. I think it likely that both sets were made around 1960, when both Lionel box cars would still be on the market.

The black and silver Santa Fe caboose was instead a yellow Union Pacific caboose. And it had an important clue. Note the embossed window outlines. Their identical for both cabooses. The Santa Fe caboose's lithography has windows that fill the embossed frame. The UP caboose does not.

Original Straco caboose (lower) and newer caboose (upper).
That suggests to me that the Straco Express with the diesel locomotive and Santa Fe caboose was made first. The steam set with the Union Pacific set came later, I think, because the stamping doesn't match up. It was a design placed over the existing form, rather than being developed with the form as the original Santa Fe lithography had been.

Since the "borrowed" Lionel box car numbers suggest a very narrow time frame, I believe that what I call the original Straco Express was manufactured in 1960, and the steam set either later in 1960 or possibly 1961.

I still have one question about this set. F. J. Strauss imported the first set, and had it branded with their name. The steam train set has no such branding. So was this set also made for Straco to import, or was in imported by another firm? The set box may have the answer.

But whether it's an official Straco set or not, this little steam train decided looks good on the display layout -- even with its tendency to jump the tracks.

Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $238.35

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