Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Large Scale Aristocraft PCC car

The new Large Scale Aristocraft PCC car

After a roughly 2+ year wait, the new Aristocraft large scale PCC car is hitting store shelves.

This is a two part review, first being a review of the product as it might appeal to large scale modelers, and secondly, a review with an eye to prototype modeling applications.

To begin with, the car is (my opinion only) reasonably priced. Prices will vary around the country, and market conditions (online versus brick/mortar stores versus train shows/swap meets, etc) Looks like the starter price is roughly $225, I suspect these cars will be pretty commonly available within 6 months at less than $200.

Overall proportions are pretty good. The car is nominally 1:29 scale (more on that later), the only real glaring defect, is the front end treatment, it just doesn't flow properly, it's too flat. Having said that, the car is based on an earlier Brooklyn prototype so while it doesn't have the "classic" look/feel, and still isn't 100% correct for the prototype, in fairness, it's pretty close to the actual car used as the model. The split destination sign is another questionable feature, I suspect more people are used to the full window across design, easily modified of course. The windshield wipers should be removed immediately !

The blind side

Credit where credit is due department.
Living in the Chicago area, our local large scale "supermarket" is St Aubin Station in Woodstock, Illinois. Nice people, good inventory, decent pricing, highly recommended. They started the PCC rush in our area with two cars painted for Chicago, with two different destination signs, one for Wrigley Field (home for MLB's Chicago Cubs), and for the Field Museum (one of Chicago's keynote downtown museums). The Wrigley car is numbered 4391, to mirror one of the Chicago PCC cars just down the road from St Aubins' at the Illinois Rwy Museum, and give Aristo credit, they made the effort to number the Field Museum car with a different number 4392.

Having said that, the Chicago colors are off. The green on the model is too pale, and the cream color is more white than cream as opposed to the real thing. These models are also wrong to represent Chicago cars, all Chicago PCC cars were longer and wider than all other PCC cars, and additionally had a third set of doors at the rear of the cars. Will most modelers not really care about the prototype and slightly off paint ? Probably not. This is part of that G scale modeler versus large scale prototype modeler discussion.

Do whatever makes you happy, it's your car, you paid for it.

Other features

On the underside (and on the blind side of the car) is a set of three switches. You can turn the interior lights on or off, turn the motors on or off, and there is a separate switch to set the car to run off live overhead or off track power.

The trolley pole itself is a bit of a strange design, the base/spring set-up is far too long for anything prototype, not really sure about the logic of the design there. It's an otherwise nicely dimensioned pole (with trolley wheel, operating !)

The tail end of the car shows the rear markers/brake lights, said to light when the car slows, and the trolley retriever treatment. The retriever is non-functional, the "trolley rope" quite oversized, but trivial things.

The trucks are well proportioned with decent detail, suitable for most people's needs. The glaring defect as can be seen readily above is the wheel flanges. Again, G scale versus scale modeler, the cars are designed for use on the LGB 45mm standard track and oversized rails.
I did measure these flanges against much smaller, scale rail (as appropriate for 1:24, my personal large scale preference), that rail would still be oversized for a 1:29 car, but the car could make it, assuming your trackwork was basically perfect, not much room for error there.

The scale differences.
The long time argument in "G scale" is scale itself. G scale encompasses so many "standards" ranging from 1:32 to 1:20.3, with way too many stops in between. I did some side by side comparisons to show how the new PCC looks next to some more familiar "standards"

Probably the most common large scale trolley is the Bachmann single truck open and closed cars. These are nominally 1:20.3, almost a 10% scale differential, made obvious below.

Even the GHB 1:24 streetcar (closing the gap a bit) still towers over the new PCC

Is any of this a problem ? Ask yourself, it's your trains, your railroad.

You don't have to answer to anyone except you !

Getting to the interior is relatively simple, there are 4 philips screws holding the body to the floor/truck assemblies. Removing the screws (follow your instruction booklet) allows you to separate the body. You will find the body still attached by virtue of a wiring harness for the lights at the rear of the car. Simple connector disconnects the body easily .

The interior is minimalist at best. Cast seats, no real motorman's position details (farebox, etc)
Again, realize that MOST people buying this will be very happy putting it on the track in the garden or even indoors, with no overhead, just another car to run.

Overall, this car is sure to be a hit with G scalers. It runs very well (a bit noisy in my opinion, but most of that would be lost with garden railroaders), looks pretty good, and will be available in several paint schemes. Aristo has a good reputation for quality and performance, as well as follow up for service and repairs, so nothing but good things should be expected.

For the prototype modeler, I would say, consider a gauntlet has been thrown down, you have a good starting point to build something spectacular and unique, run with it. I personally purchased two cars with a specific kitbash project in mind, as well as a future use for the second pair of trucks. I'll document those efforts in the coming weeks, and I look forward to other's efforts as well.


  1. There are many errors and mistakes with this model. I don't really know where to begin. For one thing, PCC cars always had a trolley pole spring base with two springs, not four. Another error is that Aristo Craft forgot the motorman's side 'swing/pivot' sash. I corrected that on my car. I also added the rubber 'climbing mat' in the rear on the roof. I painted the lifeguard {under the front anticlimber} black. It should not be silver. I added black stripes on the blinker doors to simulate the rubber edges. Aristo could have easily had that detail painted on {for every paint scheme}.

    I also cut out the 'two-piece' front destination sign and made it a 'one-piece' sign. I plan to re-letter the sign. But in doing so, I had to sacrifice the back lit signs that came with the car.

    There are many paint mistakes besides the Chicago car. On the green and cream Philly car with the the bright silver roof, the roof should have been gray. They also forgot two of the maroon stripes on the moulding ribs above the windows. They forgot the side destination signs on not only the Brooklyn car, but also the small side route number sign box on the Philly cars. And on the green and cream Philly cars, they have the trolley rope catcher red. It should be green. I have to get some green matching paint. On the Brooklyn car, the shade of gray is way off.

    While it's true that the model is based on the Brooklyn car, all other PCC cars of that pre-war era had sun visors over the windshields. I am working with a guy who will be casting that sun visor part, hopefully for distribution to anybody who'd like to buy one. I'm also going to work on the two front marker lights {above the destination sign} that the Philly cars had.

    I too find the model to be quite loud and noisy, most unlike a PCC car. Also, the blinker doors open the wrong way on the model. They shouldn't open inward.

    Besides the wheel flanges being way out of proportion, that piece on the top of the truck that looks like a vent should be on the car body, not be part of the truck. But that's a minor detail.....true.

    But all in all, there is the basis to create a very nice looking model with some work. It just depends on how far you want to go with it.

    1. Greetings!

      Use of absolutes "always" raises questions. Chicago and Brooklyn PCCs were delivered with / used "Four_(4)_Spring" trolley bases--maybe other systems (Baltimore?):

      Even restored in museums:


      Of the 2-spring trolley base, do you want::
      The wedge "/\" like PE (many early PCCs, most Pittsburgh cars from 1000-1564 but these were changed by about 1940):

      Or the parallel 2-spring:

      Details on the cars varied with cities and varied within cities, even within the same class. This is especially true of paint. The paint on this car is close to the All-Electric post-WW2 model 4391 at IRM; it seems incorrect for Air-Electric pre-war models as is this "G"-model.

      Some cars were delivered with top mounted/exposed wiper motors; visors were added later by the company which also covered wiper motors. A car without a visor Does represent the very early cars correctly. Many if not Most of the original PCC deliveries 1936-1937 had the split front destination sign which was eliminated on subsequent models. Those delivered with split signs generally retained them until retired.

      Blinker doors operate like the eye lids, thus "blinker." As the eyelids roll back over the eyeball and thus 'disappear,' blinker doors follow an arc to roll inside the car. If Hinges are used on the doors, they are not blinkers -- Blinker doors "Do Open Inward;" maybe the rubber edge protrudes when fully open. Stairs have notches to accept the open blinkers. Folding Doors could open either inward or outward. Blinker Doors Open:

      If the motor air vents mounted to trucks rather than car body is a minor point, the #-of springs on the trolley base is even more minor.

  2. Maybe you only waited 2+years for this model; some of us waited Longer!

    With extremely few exceptions, the PCC front dash including the very first and very last U.S.A. produced cars was 12-degrees. The back end was 11-degrees including windows until the post WW2 All-Electrics were delivered (Cincinnati is one exception.) Windshields were often the same 12-degrees and most definitely were on the very earliest cars, including Brooklyn. Boston had many cars with 24-degree windows; Pittsburgh had 165.

    The post-WW2 All-electric was "generally" 30-degree windshield, 12-degree dash. Exceptions exist.

    The Aristocraft PCC front end is a failure in this regard. Additionally, the front destination sign on the model points to the sky.

    Aristo made much ado about going to the museum to make measurements. This claim is more ego than reality as multitudes of drawings on the first PCCs are very readily available, including the museum where it was claimed dimensions were measured. PCC books abound with drawings.

    Painting one protoype for a variety of cities always presents problems. "Paint Colors" are "always" in question to one degree or another.

    There are many nice features on the model but the power truck is not one of them. A split axle drive was called into question immediately. There were many good blog posts with movies of the extreme shudder upon starting from a dead stop. Some offered highly detailed instructions for overhauling the trucks -- IF one has sophisticated tools like lathes and other necessities. The split drive seems to limit low-speed operations. This feature alone killed my interest.

    It is not the same as Lionel compared with 2-rail "O"-Scale but there is a parallel. The body is generic, front end totally wrong, but the whole presents a very decent picture. The power trucks leave very much to be desired.