Re: History of Prototype Freight Car Modeling

soolinehistory <destorzek@...>

--- In STMFC@..., Tim O'Connor <timboconnor@...> wrote:

Robin Rails was Bill Glass, also of Bev-Bel.
I thought BevBel was Irv Belkin, named after his wife Beverly. Bill Glass may have done the printing under contract, but I don't think he had any ownership stake.

Bill's earlier company name was E&B Valley Railroad... He claimed he changed the name to Robin's Rails to get the FRA to stop calling to schedule an inspection :-)

He contracted with Fred Becker
(of Front Range fame) to produce the tooling.
I believe Becker only did the 50' PS-1. Bill's earlier product line was a couple flat kits for narrow gauge passenger cars; I don't know who tooled them. After getting hosed by Fred (as did most who did business with him) Bill hooked up with Patal Die and Mold, and had Pat 'n Al do that horrible clubby cement car. Patal also did the passenger cars, which weren't half bad. I don't know the exact details of the demise of Robin's Rails, but it was Patal that was selling the tooling that eventually went to Eastern Car Works.

> I seem to remember Mc Keen [sic] coming to market about this time and the

As far as I know, McKean (spelled with an A)was slightly older than E&B Valley / Robin's Rails, dating to at least the early eighties. Bill McKean (another Bill) had initially offered two sixties era coal hoppers, models with molded on grabs and a level of detail on par with the Athearn models of the period. McKean Models was never any more than an office and a pile of money. The Hopper tools were built by a commercial tool shop in Omaha, and production was contracted to the molder that owned Train Miniature. The double door boxcar that has been mentioned was also tooled in Omaha during this period, as a set of inserts designed to run in the TM moldbase. When the TM line was sold to Walthers, it left Bill with no way to have the kit run; Walthers was not willing to do production for Bill, and Bill wasn't willing to sell the tool inserts for what Walthers was willing to pay, so the kit dropped off the market.

It just so happens that I corresponded with Bill at this time... It was before my involvement in the model railroad industry, but I recognized that the double door car had the correct roof and ends to model a post war AAR boxcar, and I wanted McKean to offer it as a plain boxcar with six and eight foot doors, because I wanted to model some of the Soo Line homebuilt cars that had unique paint scheme variations that never made it onto the WWII era cars that could be modeled with the Athearn car. I suppose this was the beginning of prototype modeling for me. I even sent Bill drawings of the doors. His reply was a coffee mug (still got it, somewhere) and a note that he would have his "new toolmaker" look into it. The new toolmaker turned out to be Fred Becker at Front Range.

Then right behind Mc Keen was Front Range
> with kits with a one piece body with separate parts like the Mc Keen kits.
Bill would later grouse that Fred had taken all his ideas and incorporated them in Front Range products.

I thought that Front Range (Tap Industries) predated McKean? I've had stories
(not from Bill Glass) that Mr McKean was taken to the cleaners and that's why
he eventually dropped out of sight.
It did, but not with a kit line. The original Front Range Products offerings were white metal replacement frames for Athearn Locomotives, and turned brass flywheels. Meanwhile, Fred Becker was organizing TAP Industries to be toolmaker to the industry.

The Front Range mode of operations was to charge for the tool, then charge for production. They'd then do production all out of proportion to the sales, but keep billing. When the oner of the tools refused to pay, they'd seize the assets as payment for the outstanding bills. That's how Front range became owner of the McKean PS_1, and some other items.

Essentially the same thing happened between Bill McKean and Concor, who was running the hoppers, and the former McKean hoppers were added to the Concor Line.

> ACCURAIL came along somewhere in here picking up the Mc Keen and Front
> Range dies, spinning one of the boxcar kits tools to Red Caboose IIRC.
Front Range got itself in trouble with the IRS, and was forced to seek the protection of the bankruptcy court. Fred Becker bought the tooling assets at the bankruptcy auction, and started doing business as McKean models. Bill McKean had no involvement with this, the poor guy had been duped out of the rights to his name, too.

Fred's toolmaker up untiil this point was the talented Fred Brummet(sp?), (another Fred). As the Tap Industries / Front Range Products bankruptcy was looming Mr. Brummet jumped ship and joined the just forming Intermountain.

Bankruptcy will not keep the IRS at bay forever, when employee withholding payments have been misappropriated they will not be deterred. Somebody is personally liable for that corporate decision, and somebody will make restitution. Fred Becker had to sell the combined Front Range / Mckean Models assets to raise the cash, and he sold them to a consortium of investors in Evansville, IN doing business under the name Sky Lim.

Sky Lim, doing business as McKean Models piddled around for a year or two, racked up a mountain of debt, and went bankrupt. Accurail bought the assets of Sky Lim, including the McKean Models name, from the bankruptcy court.

Accurail has deep roots in prototype modeling in the form of Dennis Storzek.
I should put in a plug for my partner Bob Walker, a long time narrow gauger and author of a monthly column on scratch building in RMC. Narrow gaugers are prototype modelers, even if they only have two or three prototypes to choose from :-)

They did acquire the dies for 50 foot box cars and the 40 foot PS-1. I think
all of the 40 foot ACF box car tooling went to Red Caboose, who completely
redid them.

The tooling that Sky Lim had, all aluminum, was tired, and needed a lot of work to put back into production. Some was so bad (the Centerflows) that we decided not to do anything with it; hey, we already made a Centerflow. Some pieces, like the centerbeam flat, never made it to Sky Lim. The post war AAR 40' boxcar essentially duplicated a car we already made (based on the steel McKean double door inserts we had purchased earlier)so we just put it on the shelf. Red Caboose made us an offerwe couldn't refuse. I've never determined just how much is the original tooling, and how much they had to re-make.

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