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Advance Molding Corporation 1/87 'The General' Kit First Look

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review December 2011 Manufacturer Advance Molding Corporation
Subject 'The General' - A Passenger Train of the 1850's Scale 1/87
Kit Number 7-389 Primary Media Styrene
Pros First styrene kit of this engine in production; includes two cars from the same era Cons Long out of production; moldings typical of the 1950s
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

 

 

First Look

Probably the most storied incident of the Civil War was the attempt in April 1862 by a team of 22 Union personnel (two civilians and 20 military volunteers) to steal a train on the Western & Atlantic Railroad, burn the bridges along the right of way, and cut off supplies from Atlanta to the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. On the morning of 12 April the Yankees stole the train (pulled by the locomotive “General”) at Big Shanty, Georgia, and took off; the conductor, James A. Fuller, pursued them with any means possible - a push car, a switcher, and later two regular locomotives, the last one, the “Texas”, becoming the best known. The chase lasted 51 miles and ended when the “General” ran out of fuel. All of the Union men were caught; eight were hung, eight later escaped, and six were paroled back to the Union in exchange for Confederate prisoners later on. 19 of the men later received the first Army Medals of Honor.

This incident was written up in a number of accounts and later made into two movies - the famous Buster Keaton comedy “The General” in 1927 and “The Great Locomotive Chase” from Disney in 1956. Most of us who grew up in the 1950s saw the latter as it starred Fess Parker, who was then a “hot” Disney property after the 1955 released of “Davy Crockett”.

Over the years it has been a popular modeling subject, usually for model railroads with operating O and HO scale versions of the locomotive offered for home layouts. MPC also had a big 1/25 scale kit of the model back in the late 1960s as well. But if you go further back, the first kit released of this kit in styrene was the effort by Advance Molding of New York in 1957. (This kit was latter shamelessly copied in 1959 by Rosebud/Kitmaster in the UK, and to this day earns that excellent pioneer company black marks among its fans!)

Apparently pegged to the popularity of the movie, the non-motorized kit offered a “Train in a Box” as it came with the engine and tender, a US Mail car and a passenger car of the era. However, it was marketed as “a train of the 1850s” which is why the car reads “US Mail” and not CSA or other logos. As the actual “General” was built by Rogers in Patterson, New Jersey, in December 1855 this is not incorrect, but it does not lend itself to modeling the “raiders’” train. Also the actual consist the day it was stolen had the passenger coaches uncoupled and only three boxcars remained with the “General” for its 51 mile odyssey.

The kit is a bit above average for the mid 1950s as it comes with four colors of Pactra enamel paint in special thin bottles – red, brown, black and gold – as well as a tube of Pactra styrene cement of the period. (Time has not been kind to the gold paint or glue in my kit.)

The “General” matches up well with photographs of the original found in “The General and The Texas” by Stan Cohen and James G. Bogle (Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1999). It is typical of the kits of the era with the boiler in two halves and all domes molded in place. Very much along the lines of the Kitmaster (now Airfix/Dapol) it uses styrene pins to hold the running gear in place and permit the side rods and piston rods to operate. The cab comes in five parts but there is no interior to speak of nor a backhead for the boiler. The cab floor is formed from two sections of styrene that also form the running boards over the drivers when in place. The chassis is one piece with the lead truck held on by a screw. Handrails are steel wire but the front pilot braces are styrene.

The tender is simple – four sides, bottom and simulated wood top. Trucks are all styrene bu are held in place by screws. The kit uses a simulated coupler of the time – basically a loop on one car with a separate yoke on the other that clip together.

Both cars assemble in the same manner – floor/frame, sides, ends and roof. There is no glazing included in the kit nor does either car have an interior. The kit does have styrene queen posts and five bent wire truss rods to replicate the original frame. Each truck consists of seven parts – two two-piece axles, frames, and cross member. They are held to the floor assembly by screws.

Painting instructions are simple but complete and are keyed to the four colors provided in the kit. Decals (badly yellowed with age as could be expected) provide for the gold trim on the locomotive and tender and for mail car #19 and passenger coach #23. The mail car also has a bright Federal crest typical of the pre-war era.

Overall this is a kit which can be built into a nice replica of the “General” and does reflect on the railroads of the Civil War era. It would like nice (if a bit out of place as the W&ARR only consisted of 138 miles of track and reached no ports!) next to one of the 1/96 scale ships (either resin or the Revell Alabama/Kearsarge kits) in a dock scene with them.

Note: these kits can be found at swap meets and flea markets but their value is unknown. I have seen them for as low as $10 and as much as $69 based on what the seller feels the market can bear.

Kit Makeup:

  • Locomotive - 47 parts
  • Tender - 21 parts
  • Mail Car - 32 parts
  • Passenger Car - 30 parts
  • Locomotive/Tender Metal: 2 truck axles, 2 hand rails, 3 screws
  • Mail Car Metal: 4 grab irons, 4 end rails, 2 brake shafts, 5 truss rods, 2 screws
  • Passenger Car Metal: 4 grab irons, 4 end rails, 2 brake shafts, 5 truss rods, 2 screws
  • 4 bottles enamel paint
  • 1 tube of Pactra styrene cement
  • 1 small brush

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