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
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
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 Trailer On Flat Cars
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.
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 &
Frank's Roundhouse 'O' gauge Refrigerator Cars
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.
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.
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 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.
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.