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Frank's Roundhouse/Custom Trains

History

Frank Rash of Frank’s Roundhouse, also known as Custom Trains of Wilkes-Barre PA, issued a series of models using ex-Williams and Kris products. From 1983 until 1992, Frank and his son Jack Rash produced these models in 'O' gauge from their shop at 1430 Sans Souci Parkway in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The company produced hundreds of box cars, hopper cars, refrigerator cars and stock cars in various road names. These were typically sold in plain white cardboard boxes. They also decorated bunk cars, F-3 locomotive cabs, FM Trainmaster diesel engines, passenger cars and trailer on flatcar (TOFC) models.

Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Steel Box Cars
Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #1 DL&W, #2 PRR, #6 & #7 Reading Lines 40' Steel Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #14 Seaboard RR, #15 LNE, #17 PRR Merchandise Service & #19 Lehigh Valley 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 40' Box Cars

The box car, reefer and stock car molds that Frank's Roundhouse utilized descended from Kris Model Trains, Kusan, and Auburn/American Model Trains original designs and tooling. Frank Rash had been a subcontractor to Andy Kriswalus of Kris Model Trains. Initially, the cars decorated by Frank were delivered to Andy to sell packaged in Andy’s red, blue and white KMT/Kris Model Trains boxes. After Andy had a severe heart attack in 1980, Frank took over production of the rolling stock. The cars made by Frank's Roundhouse are often mistaken as KMT/Kris Model Tains even though Andy Kriswalus was no longer involved in their production. Frank sold his cars in plain no-name white boxes with identifying information rubber stamped in dark gray on one end label of those boxes. Frank’s cars are found with many different types of trucks, including plastic Lionel MPC, die-cast sprung trucks and plastic Bettendorf trucks with or without brake shoes. The Bettendorf trucks were made for Frank’s Roundhouse by Mike Wolf. Among the realistic distinguishing features added by Frank Rash not previously used on KMT/AMT-molded box cars, were reporting marks on the ends of the cars and dimensional data stamped on the box car doors. As well, Frank’s Roundhouse produced many cars from a single rail road in multiple road numbers. The Frank's Roundhouse NYC Pacemaker box car was issued in 21 different road numbers. The 40' style box cars were more scale-like and longer than the #6464 series box cars issued by Lionel in the post-World War II era.

Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge Stock Cars
Frank's Roundhouse #8 Pennsylvania RR Stock car Frank's Roundhouse #68 Reading Lines #104666 Stock Car Frank's Roundhouse #69 Reading Lines #104666 Stock Car Frank's Roundhouse #76 MW #1668 Stock Car
Frank's Roundhouse #81 NYC Stock Car with elephant sounds Frank's Roundhouse #82 Union Pacific #47729 Livestock Dispatch Cattle Car Frank's Roundhouse #85 Denver & Rio Grande Stock Car Frank's Roundhouse #5 DL&W Lackawanna Railroad #23530 Stock Car

Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge Mahanoy City 125th Anniversary Celebration September 1983 box car Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge 1990 Schuylkill Haven Borough 40' box car In addition to decorating their rolling stock in traditional famous American rail road liveries and prototypical private owner cars, Frank's Roundhouse created many original and unique items. These included custom brewery cars, Animal Cracker Reefers, special runs for hobby shops like North East Trains, and National Championship commemorative cars for Penn State Univeristy. Frank’s Roundhouse also produced at least a half dozen special commemorative cars for the Midwest Division of the Train Collectors Association.

Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge Nabisco Barnum's Circus Refrigerator Cars
Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #231 Red Nabisco Animal Crackers Barnum's Circus Reefer Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #232 Yellow Nabisco Animal Crackers Barnum's Circus Reefer

Nineteen different regular production, and four special production trailer on flatcars (TOFC) were made by Frank's Roundhouse. The flatcars matched the ones used for the early MTH Electric Trains RailKing TOFC’s. The only truck type found on these cars are plastic Bettendorf trucks, made by Mike Wolf exclusively for Frank’s Roundhouse. Mike Wolf also supplied the trailers for the flatcars, which were made by Yatming, a manufacturer of die-cast model vehicles in China. The trailers were made of plastic, and featured two opening doors on the back end.

Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge Trailer On Flat Cars
Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #9118 Great Northern TOFC Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #9120 Chicago & North Western TOFC Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #9402 Central of New Jersey Trailer on Flat Car

Frank's Roundhouse Custom Trains 'O' gauge #SA-1009 Union Pacific FM Trainmaster Under the Custom Trains brand, Frank Rash cataloged twenty-two Fairbanks-Morse locomotives in 'O' gauge. The FM cabs were new blank bodies, not redecorated. These Williams cabs were not obtained from Williams, but were cabs left at the Korean supplier by Williams when they switched to a manufacturer based in China. These FM’s were equipped with Samhongsa running gear with two DC can motors, QSI reverse units, directional operating headlights and an electronic horn. They were built on a metal chassis with die-cast fuel tanks, trucks, pilots and couplers. Early production of the FM Trainmasters used unlabeled large silver can motors. Later production of the FM Trainmasters used improved flywheel can motors with a 'China' label. Roadnames issued were Chessie, Jersey Central (blue & orange), Milwaukee Road, Virginian (blue & yellow), Wabash, Southern, Reading (yellow & green), Reading (green), Union Pacific, Santa Fe (blue), Lackawanna, Southern Pacific, Pennsylvania (green), Delaware & Hudson, Susquehanna, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania (Tuscan), Rio Grande, Virginian (black & yellow), Canadian Pacific, Jersey Central (green) and Chicago & NorthWestern.

Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge Refrigerator Cars
Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #90 Lackawanna DL&W #7001 Refrigerator Car Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #71 REA #1279 Express Refrigerator Car Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #20 Lehigh Valley N.I.R.X. #41078 Refrigerator Car Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #91 Lehigh Valley Route of the Black Diamond #2534 Refrigerator Car
Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #27 Lehigh Valley Railroad map paint scheme Refrigerator Car Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge Hoods Grade A Milk Refrigerator Car Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge #88 Wyoming Valley Refrigerator Car

Frank's Roundhouse produced 'O' gauge custom decorated F-3 shells using blank Lionel MPC era cabs. These shells had the molded louvered roofs, blank number boards and silkscreened graphics. Road names issued were Lehigh Valley, and Pensylvania RR in either tuscan or Brunswick green. These shells could be mounted on either Lionel power or dummy chassis frames. Frank's Roundhouse also redecorated Lionel maintenance-of-way bunk cars in six road names. These were Lehigh Valley, Jersey Central, Lackawanna, Delaware & Hudson, Reading and Pennsylvania railroads. Frank's Roundhouse two-bay hopper car bodies were made from original Kusan molds. They issued them in Central of New Jersey, Delaware & Hudson, and Delaware, Lackawanna & Western roadnames in multiple numbers and colors.

Frank's Roundhouse Redecorated Lionel Lehigh Valley #3254 bunk car Frank's Roundhouse Redecorated Lionel Central Railroad of New Jersey #5312 bunk car

Custom Trains also produced 15" and 18" passenger cars using redecorated Williams stock. The 15" cars had ABS plastic bodies and were fitted with 6-wheel die-cast trucks and operating couplers. Each car had 2 interior lights and the windows had the plastic inserts with silhouettes of passengers. The six roadnames offered were Delaware & Hudson, Jersey Central, Lackawanna Phoebe Snow, Lehigh Valley (green), Lehigh Valley (Tuscan) and Southern Pacific. They were offered as 5-car sets that included a baggage car, combine, 2 coaches and an observation car. The observation cars had operating marker lamps. There were 3 add-on coaches offered in the Tuscan Lehigh Valley scheme. Each car had opening doors. The sets came in Williams set boxes that were either stamped as Custom Trains from Frank's Roundhouse, or in individual Williams Trains car boxes that had Frank's Roundhouse stickers.

Frank's Roundhouse Custom Trains by Williams 18 inch 'O' gauge Lackawanna Madison type Passenger car The 18" passenger cars were called Scale Madison sets and resembled the prototypical 1930's era 70' heavyweight type passenger cars that were utilized on the major railroad across the United States. The Frank's Rounhouse models were produced in at least a dozen different roadnames. These were the #2011 Erie Lackawanna, #2010 Lackawanna, #2012 Pullman, #2007 Southern, #2006 Chesapeake & Ohio, #2008 Denver & Rio Grande, New York Central (gray), #2009 New York Central (green), #2005 Pennsylvania (Tuscan), #2013 Pennsylvania (green), Union Pacific and Chicago & Northwestern. Besides those listed sets, a custom decorated set for the Royal American Circus and a second run of the New York Central green passenger cars were reportedly done. A Norfolk & Western Powhatten Arrow set may or may not exist. These 18" cars were issued in 5-car sets that consisted of a baggage car, three coaches and an observation car. They were all hand assembeled and produced in limited quantities. Each 18" car was fitted with 4 interior lamps, passenger silhouette window strips, opening doors, metal handrails, and die-cast 6-wheel trucks with operating knuckle couplers.

Frank's Roundhouse #457 repainted Lionel MPC Lackawanna Milk Reefer Car Burschel Dairy Scranton, PA Frank's Roundhouse also built some standard gauge and 'O' gauge tinplate trains that were made from extra parts and leftover LCI Lionel Classics stock. The Lionel Classics line was built by Mike Wolf for Lionel. When Mike Wolf and Lionel parted ways after the Lionel Classics era, there was left over stock. Most was sold at a discount price through retailers, but some were repainted by Frank Rash of Frank's Roundhouse. Items included the #1115 station, #440 Signal Bridge and control panel, the 'O' gauge #350 Hiawatha passenger set, the 'O' gauge #44 freight set, and a custom decorated 1989 Season's Greeting box car in Standard gauge. Also iussued from these parts were a #390E loco, a #200 trolley with #201 trailer, a #126 station, a #384 loco, a #385 loco, and #392 loco. One item built from those parts that is highly coveted by collectors is a set of Lionel-Ives transition type Standard gauge #300 series passenger cars. These were offered in red and black, red and silver, terra cotta and maroon, two-tone blue, green, blue, and even pink paint schemes with either brass or nickel trim.

Frank's Roundhouse #222 Coca-Cola Coke is it! #55510 box car As the story goes, eventually Williams wound up with the box car molds, and many of the early Williams produced 'O' scale box cars have exactly the same graphics as the corresponding Frank’s Roundhouse cars including the same road numbers. The Williams cars can be distinguished from the Franks Roundhouse cars by the fish-belly frames and air brake tanks mounted on the underside. In the 1990's QSI Industries sold Frank's Roundhouse stock cars in multiple road names fitted with their animal sound modules. These modules included cow mooing sounds, circus animal sounds, chicken sounds, pig sounds, horse sounds, turkey sounds, sheep sounds, and combination sounds of all of these types. QSI also offered a box car with breaking glass sounds. These sound modules utilized a 9-volt battery installed inside the car and included an on/off switch located just inside the car's door. The sound levels increased as the car's movement increased. This was facilitated via a ball bearing rotating back and forth inside the module. Some rolling stock decorated and sold by Newbraugh Brothers Toys/Pleasant Valley Process Co. was derived from Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge car production.

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