Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Little Whimsy - Roma Wine Tankcar

The first - and until recently, the only - HO model of a Roma Wine tank car I'd ever seen. An eBay find, it's probably Tyco or AHM. All I know is it has "Made in Austria" embossed on the bottom. BION, a prototype photo can be found here.
Longtime readers know that I consider Trevor Marshall a great example of a prototype modeler and he's doing a beautiful job depicting the Canadian National's Port Rowan branch during the 1950s (in S scale, no less). But recently, he departed - ever so slightly - from strict prototype emulating to include a little mini-scene that most likely never actually happened. I won't spoil it for you, so click here if you haven't seen it. . .

The post he wrote on this scene - as well as the backstory - gave rise in the comments to a brief discussion about the use of whimsy in model railroading. Now, this is a concept that's certainly familiar to those more on the freelance end of the model railroading spectrum - but it's pretty rare among serious prototype modelers who want primarily, if not exclusively, to tell a non-fiction and historically accurate story of their chosen railroad. A discussion of whether - and/or to what extent - whimsy or other elements of fiction are "appropriate" on our model railroads would be very interesting indeed, but beyond the scope of this post. Maybe (likely) some other time . . .

As hopefully you can tell, I have pretty firmly planted my flag on the "nonfiction" end of the spectrum and take modeling the prototype fairly seriously (well, as seriously as you can take model trains :^), but I know I'd really be missing something if I didn't relax this rigidity at least some of the time.

Thus, the Roma Wine tank car.

Decidedly not the Roma Wine tank car I first purchased, here spotted on the house track at Old Saybrook. Click here for some info on Roman Wines, including photos of prototype and model freight cars.
One of the reasons I depict the era I do (late 1940s) is because I find everything about the post-war period fascinating - the music, the movies, the radio shows. Especially the radio shows. I'm often listening to my favorites (Bob Hope, The Shadow, and just about any detective series) while working on my layout. But perhaps my most favorite show is SUSPENSE! which aired for over 20 years but had its heyday during the late 1940s when Roma Wines was its main sponsor.

Now, I haven't impulse-purchased a freight car in a long time - my friends know that I obsess deliberate over additions to the railroad and being a strict prototype modeler means having to say "no" to a lot of purchases. But when Tangent recently announced its new tank car model (a General American 8,000 gallon 1917-design insulated radial course tank car, if you must know) and one of the offerings was a Roma Wine tankcar, I just had to get one!

Does it matter that I have no place on my entire layout that would receive such a car? No.

Does it help that it's possible one may have, at one time or another, been seen in a freight train between New York and Boston (and thus pass through Old Saybrook)? Admittedly, yes.

On Track 6, as seen through the platform at the Saybrook station.
This purchase represents just one very small step towards "what-might-have-been" rather than "what-was-and-can-be-conclusively-proven-with-photos-and-official-documentation" but I think it's a large step towards a little more flexibility and likely a lot more fun . . .


  1. Chris,

    I don't know about on the Valley Line, but bulk wine cars traveled all over the US in the period you (and I) model. Look for Tony Thompson's clinic notes on the subject at his blog. Wine was produced everywhere and was blended with wine from the West Coast that was shipped in, you guessed it, cars like this Roma car.


    1. Thanks very much for the confirmation Ted! Yeah, I really doubt any wine tank cars would be on the Valley Line (hmmm... wonder about the Airline though - there was a distillery (though not a winery) in Amston...), but it's great that - as I suspected - the Roma Wine tankcar may very plausibly have been seen on the Shore Line. Thanks also for the reference to Tony's clinic - will definitely have to find that!

  2. Don't forget that the factory that produced Kickapoo Joy Juice was on the AirLine just north of Route 22 in Northford. And no, I'm not pulling your leg - check the val maps. They even had a siding ...

    1. Ah! I found it! "The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Co." - and here's the val map Would make a super cool LDE - though not technically the same thing (not the Joy Juice) But see here: and

      Thanks for the lead Fred!!

    2. The val map link didn't go through the first time - try this: