Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Tangent Type 17 GATC tank car: an appreciation

Tangent Scale Models has recently released another superb model of a General American (GATC) tank car. Of course, Tangent’s models have been so exquisite in every case, it is almost redundant to say this one is excellent, but that is the right word. This is a car with rivet seams running around the tank circumference, sometimes called “circumferential rivet seams,” but often called “radial rivet seams.” In any case, this is an 10,000-gallon car, a common size in the transition era, and thus very welcome indeed for those of us modeling that era. (The previous Tangent production of an 8000-gallon car represents an even more common size in the transition era.)
     But this new model is part of a growing series from Tangent. This Tangent series of models began with tooling for a General American underframe, something long needed in a high-quality model, since GATC built so many tank cars. Their first effort, back in 2013, was a three-compartment tank car of 6000-gallon capacity, a much more common size than most of the previous commercial models of multi-compartment cars, which were almost all significantly larger than 6000 gallons. There have now been a couple of runs of these cars, and I understand they have sold well. Here’s one.

The model was lettered with Black Cat decals, then weathered, by Richard Hendrickson.
     This success was followed in 2014 by a car with a different General American underframe, for a welded tank car typical of those produced after 1949, and distinctive in that it is an acid car. Cars that carried acids had distinctive domes, and generally had no bottom outlet, since leaking acid would be a bad idea. (In fact, the AAR Class for tank cars with no bottom outlet, whether for acid service or not, is TA, with the “A” originally signifying Acid.) This model also sold well, and a second run was made recently. It too is all but sold out. (I wrote a review when these cars first came out; you can read it at this link: .)

     Following these two tank car models, but continuing the General American theme, was the introduction in 2016 of the Type 17 underframe. (Both General American and American Car & Foundry named their underframe designs [not tank designs] by the year of introduction, thus a Type 17 was introduced in 1917.) The first Tangent car with this underframe, released in late 2016, was an 8000-gallon tank car, as mentioned in the first paragraph of the present post. The radial rivet rows were a great feature, as no plastic model had previously reproduced this construction method. I was really pleased with these models. The UTLX model shown below has been weathered and also has added chalk marks, placards, and route cards.

     This fine Type 17 model was followed by an insulated version of the same car type, and this too is a much needed model, as we have few models of insulated low-pressure tank cars. I was delighted to see them arrive in the summer of 2017. This is one of mine:

     Now there is a new member of this family. Tangent has now introduced a 10,000-gallon version of the same-era General American tank car. This is a natural extension of their line, given the existence of the Type 17 underframe. Among the new releases is one for Humble Oil, and this strikes a chord with me. One of my Dad’s first jobs was as an exploration geologist with Humble (during 1936 to 1942), and in those years he worked all over west Texas and into Louisiana and Alabama, as well as in Houston. So I jumped at the chance to have a Humble tank car, HOX 491.

     Incidentally, during the time my parents were living in various small towns as my dad’s crew moved among different exploration areas, a striking early photograph of me was taken, and it demonstrated what my parents always described as my strong interest in any train, even as a baby. That post is at this link: .
     The photo in that post was taken in front of the depot at Cotulla, Texas on February 25, 1942 (Cotulla  lies between San Antonio and Laredo). The photo shows me, a few weeks shy of my second birthday, fascinated by what must have seemed an immense I-GN Ten-wheeler (the I-GN initials are right below the engine number on the cab). The “M” of “Missouri Pacific Lines” is visible in the upper right corner, on the tender.
     But back to the Tangent tank cars. As always, Tangent, and company principal David Lehlbach, have carefully chosen prototype schemes for these cars, over a range of eras, because like most tank cars, these cars had very long lives. You can view the full line of them on Tangent’s web site (it’s at: ), and you can also purchase the models on the site. New Tangent models do seem to sell out fairly quickly. But if you don’t find what you want, don’t despair, because with the rapid sell-out that tends to take place with these cars, you can be quite sure that Tangent will be bringing back another batch of cars before too long. I have bought two or more out of every batch so far. You might wish to do the same.
Tony Thompson

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