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Blackstone Models D&RGW Jackson and Sharp Coach Review

D&RGW Jackson and Sharp Coach

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Blackstone coach

The new Blackstone Models Rio Grande open-platform coach is a thing of beauty inside and out.

©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

For modelers of the Rio Grande or other narrow gauge lines who have been looking for an easy way to add passenger service to their narrow gauge pike, the Blackstone Models' Jackson and Sharp coach is a long-awaited must-have.

The Blackstone Models' car represents a prototype built by Jackson and Sharp for the Denver and Rio Grande in 1880. Similar cars from that builder found their way onto narrow gauge lines all across the country however. This beautiful model could be easily adapted for almost any road and any era from the 1880s to a modern tourist operation.

Product Overview

Manufacturer: Blackstone Models


Scale: HOn3 (HO scale, 3 foot narrow gauge)
Roadnames: Denver and Rio Grande Western - Pullman Green (6 numbers), D&RGW Gold (3 numbers sold as a set), Pullman Green / unlettered
MSRP: $97.95 single cars - $280.95 Silverton 3-pack

As with previous releases, Blackstone Models has gone beyond simply creating a wonderful model of a common class of cars and made several details unique to specific cars to make even the most discriminating modeler happy. Features common to all models include:

  • Die-cast metal and plastic construction
  • Seperately applied wire detail parts
  • Detailed brake rigging
  • Complete interior detailing.
  • Extremely sharp painting and lettering, including on the interior.
  • Kadee couplers
  • Each model custom made to match its prototype and era.
  • Additional details provided for modelers to add if desired.
  • Optional pick up shoes to add interior lighting if desired.
  • Historic profile of the cars
  • Completely Ready to Run

For a listing of additional unique details, read on.

Prototype History

Blackstone coach end

End details of the model include door headers customized by road number.

©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Jackson and Sharp was once a major builder of freight and passenger cars in Wilmington, Delaware. The company built cars for railroads around the world, but had a very strong narrow gauge market. Although less extravagant than some of their standard-gauge cousins, the Rio Grande's coaches displayed many of the features common to coaches of the era.

In the late 1800's, even basic coaches were adorned with varnished and intricately carved hardwood interiors, plush velour seats, brass luggage racks and often bathroom facilities. Car exteriors were clean, with high windows and a clerestory roof which had small windows to let in light and air on warm days. Passengers boarded via open vestibules on either end. A central isle seperated rows of reversable seating.

Although comfortable, these wooden cars were also notably deadly. In addition to crushing easily in collisions, varnished wood, kerosene lamps and coal burning stoves made the cars highly flamable.

Beginning in the early 1900s, many larger railroads began converting to heavier and safer steel passenger cars. For narrow gauge lines like the Rio Grande, such cars were uneconomical and wood equipment remained in service for many more decades.

Rio Grande ordered about 60 coaches at a cost of nearly $4,000 each, arriving from 1880-1882. Originally painted red, the cars were repainted green around 1918. Other modifications were made as well. Several cars survived to be used on D&RGW tourist trains in the 1950s. At least 8 are still operating today.

- Historic data from Jeff Johnson's excelent data sheet included with the models.

Model Details

Like all of the previous Blackstone Models' releases, the level of detail found on the open-platform coach is amazing. Wire grabirons, complete brake system details on the underframe, fine tooling, crisp paint and lettering...these cars have everything the modeler could ask. The interiors of these models are among the best I've seen. All that is missing is a load of passengers.

Then Blackstone takes it a step further and offers a commitment to detail no other manufacturer can match. Exterior details like truss rods, lamp vents and roof conduits, and door styles and interior details like restrooms and seating arrangements are customized to each specific roadnumber. Coaches 306 and 320 include special add-on bay windows that can be used to model the "Chili Line" trains."

The three cars I purchased for the Rio Grande Project Layout are all painted in the Pullman green scheme common from about 1918 until the 1950s. The paint and lettering on each is very well done. Samples of the Silverton 3-pack show an equal level of quality on the gaudy 1950s yellow scheme popular with tourists and many modelers.

Non-working marker lights are included for the modeler to add as he sees fit as well.

Wipers are provided to get you started on installation of an interior lighting system. Such a project may not be for the beginner on such a well detailed and assembled car, but the reward of shedding light on that beautiful interior would make the effort worth it. Soundtraxx offers an accessory decoder, part no. 810136 to light this car.

Customizing the Model

coach interior

The interior details of the coach are visible through the windows and include seats, coal stove even a water cooler.

©2011 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

How do you improve on a model that is already this accurate? Honestly, there is not much that anybody would have to do, but for those who so desire there are a few more changes you could make.

Lights are one obvious option. As mentioned above, Blackstone and Soundtraxx have already planned for this. Working marker lamps could also be made and would really make the car stand out.

Adding passengers to the interior would be another great feature. Seated figures are available from many manufacturers. Don't forget the conductor as well.

Coaches tended to receive more regular maintenance than freight cars and as such extreme weathering is not required. A little road dust would not be out of place however and could be easily added with chalks.

Modeling Other Roads

This car will be a great starting point for freelancers or those modeling other narrow gauge lines. The classic lines of this car are so similar to many found on railroads from Maine to California that the unlettered version of the model is sure to be a top seller.

Detailing such a model may mean nothing more than decaling your roadname and number. Modifying the window arrangements, clerestory, end platforms or other details would be more involved but certainly not impossible for the experienced modeler. I suspect many will be more than happy with these models as-is however.

Whether used in multiples as a dedicated passenger train, or just a single car on the end of a "mixed" freight, these coaches are a must for HOn3 modelers. Considering the level of detail inside and out, they are quite reasonably priced for the quality.

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