I'm surprised nobody has posted photos of these new passenger cars yet, so I'll post some quick iPhone pics I captured tonight after unpacking the 4-pack and 2-pack that arrived this afternoon from Charlie Ro. The StationSounds diner is due to arrive in train stores around early June 2016. So on to a "first look" at the cars that are shipping as we speak...
First, note that the label of the 4-pack's shipping carton indicates a December 1st, 2015 factory manufacturing date, and today is Feb 23rd. So we're looking at roughly 3 months from DOM to "in the hands of the consumer". Not too bad. Plus it gives us a general perspective that when an importer says something is due in early June 2016 (like the StationSounds diners), then the importer should have them in production by early March -- otherwise it's highly unlikely they're gonna be here in June. Just sayin....
Second, a word about packaging. These cars come as a 4-pack, 2-pack, and single StationSounds diner. The 4-pack no longer ships as an outer product carton with individual inner product cartons for each car. Instead, the 4-pack product carton has cellophane window cut-outs on BOTH sides of the product carton to illustrate the 4 cars inside. Each individual car sits in its own white plastic liner with a clear plastic cover piece protecting it.
4-pack product box Side A:
4-pack product box Side B:
Individual car (vista dome) in its white plastic liner -- not foam, and there is no individual product box for each car.
The 2-pack is packaged similarly in terms of cellophane window cut-outs and no individual product box for each car.
Visible even in its cellophane/plastic packaging, the dome car arrived with an annoying gap where one end of the dome meets the main body of the passenger car:
Fortunately, applying some gentle but firm pressure to the offending end fixed what first appeared to be disappointing and shabby workmanship.
Here's the vista dome car on a display shelf. Overall, I am VERY pleased with the finish and detail level with these cars. Much better than I had expected. The silver has enough of a sheen for my taste, and the Texas Special red has a pleasant satin appearance to it. The fluted/ribbed sides and roof add TREMENDOUSLY to the overall appearance of these ABS cars. I have always preferred ribbed-sided cars to smooth-sided cars -- even when aluminum was the production norm.
The other nice feature of the Texas Special cars is the INTERIOR paint finish: it's RED -- not that unfinished vanilla color that Lionel used in the NYC Empire State Express set delivered around Christmas. I was really concerned that the vanilla interior (with no passengers) would be too harsh inside the "red train". So I'm glad Lionel wisely chose to give this train a red interior. At a minimum, it helps give the interior a much more finished appearance -- even without any passengers inside.
I was also very pleased with the reasonably close spacing between the full-width diaphragms. Lionel indicates these cars need a minimum curve spec of O-54. But realistically, that's gotta look absurd. I have a loop with O-113 curves on my newly designed layout that should handle these 21" cars nicely. I still prefer 18" passenger cars. But when I designed my new layout, I wanted to have at least one loop where cars like these wouldn't overwhelm the layout.
Now let's go back to that vista dome for a minute... For comparison's sake, here's the Atlas-O dome from one of their Amtrak Zephyr (CZ) cars. Note the much higher level of rivet detail. Lionel's is nice, but Atlas-O's is SUPERB!!!
Now let's take a closer look downstairs on these cars -- at least from what's visible trackside. Very respectable level of detail on the trucks:
And here's how things look on the Atlas-O passenger cars. Similar truck details, but there's more underbody details VISIBLE from track-side with the Atlas-O cars.
Also note the difference in skirting styles between Lionel's cars vs. Atlas-O's cars using the observation as an example:
Here's a wider view of Lionel's Texas Special observation car, as viewed from the tail end. Nice Texas Special logo on the rear door, along with red marker lights, and a trailing scale coupler:
Now as far as motive power goes, I opted to go with Lionel's SD70ACe's in Texas Special livery that were produced almost FIVE years ago!!!
These gems have been waiting that long to be put into revenue service. SKU's for the motive power are 6-34623 and 6-34624, and they're getting difficult to find nowadays. These cars weigh in at just under 4 pounds each -- not a bad weight at all for the new ABS material (as compared to aluminum). So I wanted two powered locomotives to haul this beautiful 7-car set (i.e., when the StationSounds diner arrives later this year) without breaking a sweat. Lionel's recent E8's in MKT livery only have one powered A-unit. So they didn't make the cut.
Fortunately, the paint matches PERFECTLY between the locomotives and the passenger cars:
Overall, I'm extremely pleased with Lionel's Texas Special passenger cars. They'll be keepers -- especially since I've waiting SO long to assemble this train. As I mentioned already in other threads, I was really hoping for 18" aluminum. But after numerous delays and Lionel's final cancellation of their aluminum passenger car production, there's very little to be disappointed about with these 21" ABS cars. Yes... I would have preferred them to be equipped with passengers. And I would have preferred the dome to have some "subtle" lighting for night-time running. Those two drawbacks may just need to be handled as future projects down the road when passengers arrive for the first real revenue run!