Fine N-Scale (USA) Burlington Pioneer Zephyr

Introduced: 1996

This model is actually a kit. And no, I've never owned one (let alone put one together). However, I have seen one down at the local hobby shop (all of the parts being visible through the clear plastic lid). And I have to say, I wasn't particularly impressed. Complexity aside, the cast resin shells were pretty sloppy looking and no doubt would require a lot of de-warping and flash clean-up (especially around the windows). However, I'm told that if you really know what you're doing, these can turn out to be quite nice looking and running models. But in a world where we have the Con-Cor "pre-built" version available, I'm not sure why anyone would bother...

Trivia- I'm told that this model was designed by Randy (ProtoTrains) Gordon-Gilmore, and that Randy was actually a major player in the design of Con-Cor's Zephyr. Consequently, I suppose this model could be viewed as a direct ancestor to Con-Cor's ready-to-run version.

Here's what Fine N-Scale has to say about them -

"The Burlington Pioneer Zephyr has been our proudest achievement. Designed and built in collaboration with Randy Gordon-Gilmore of ProtoTrains, this powered model of America's first streamliner is smooth running, faithful to the prototype, and has been built successfully by both experienced and first-time modelers. The kit is made in limited runs and we are committed to continued production as long as demand remains.

I must say that the development was not without cost. Randy was in Northern California at the time, and I was in Los Angeles. We never met until the prototype was ready to assemble, so countless hours on the phone were required. Randy was doing the design and I was charged with figuring out how to build it. Of course, I needed to compromise here and there so we could actually make it work. Each time I suggested such a deviation from the prototype, there would be a loooong pause on the other end of the phone and I soon understood that this model would truck no such compromise from the original. Thus, you will find that tolerances are tight, the train hugs the track like the prototype, and it's a real sight to behold when running down the line.

The kit includes everything you need except paint, glue, solder, and tools. The original 9900 power car, RPO, and tailcar are included, plus the #500 coach that ran in the consist most of it's life. The upper shells are very thin-walled resin castings. Bellypans are resin molded to printed circuit boards. These are weighted and the built-in circuits allow for track power pick up on all trucks and power distribution throughout the train for lighting. And, there's plenty of room in the power car for DCC.

Trucks are cast pewter and run with fine-profile metal wheels. Power comes from a 5-pole, skew-wound motor in a split-frame, driving a nylon and brass geared power truck. Accurate interiors, full decals, photo etched stainless steel details, operating diaphragms, flush windows, and an assortment of nuts, bolts, screws, and electrical connectors complete the package. It also comes in a neat box that serves as a carrying or storage case when completed.

We're delighted that Richmond Controls ( offers specialty lighting systems for the Zephyr, including interior, head and tailcar lights. We supply, free of charge, parts to update the kit with front and rear mars lights and Richmond has modules to create the most realistic lighting for these you've ever seen.

List price remains at $195, and we're available to help with any problems you may encounter while building."

Grade: None (sorry, no, I'm not going to buy one of these and try to put it together)

(Thanks for the photos, Wilfried)

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