model train set on track

The Crusader Returns to Mercer, Part I, The Odyssey Begins

e*Train Issue: Jan 2017   |   Posted in: ,

Early photo of Reading Railroad Bridge over Delaware River

By J.S. Halajko, L.B. Duminiak and J.A. Bonfanti         Winter 2017

The real Reading Crusader crossed the Delaware to Mercer County, NJ at the Yardley-Ewing Railroad Bridge.  It provided luxury express service from Philadelphia to New York City featuring reclining seats and a quick ferry ride across the Hudson making the journey with ferry ride in less than two hours. See this link for details on this train operated on the Jersey Central and Reading tracks.

K-Line, MTH and Weaver built the Crusader train in all its glory. This article compares the Best of the Lot, the K-Line and the Weaver versions.  The MTH version features a domed car which was never a part of the consist (see here). In addition the MTH observation cars did not tuck into the tender shroud.

One of the neat parts of the K-Line version sold at Boscov’s Department Store one Christmas was the set box featuring the Crusader Logo. Weaver packaged the cars and engine in separate Gold Edition boxes.

The Weaver version is scale with green tinted windows just like the real McCoy. The K-Line version is semi-scale with detailed car interiors and stream lighting without passenger figures. You can see that the crusader blue colors are very different. K-Line has the lighter blue paint job.

The true Crusader Blue shade is not known. We learned that it is closer to the B&O Royal Blue. The first link below shows the lighter version, the K-Line Color, to agree with the Crusader Mural in Philadelphia while the second link shows the Weaver version to be more correct.  Note the error in the mural which has the roof of the cab painted blue. We thought that the color difference to be the as delivered and as shopped versions because dark blue hides stains better than light blue, but thanks to the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum we learned that the dark blue is the more correct color. K-Line intentionally marketed their version to agree with the Crusader Mural color, but did not continue the blue onto the cab roof.

Reading Crusader Mural in Philadelphia 

Crusader in Dark Blue  Take a close look at these engines by selecting each small image (All small images in this article can be expanded by selecting the image).

Weaver carried the blue accents to the tender and passenger car trucks while K-Line did not. Both versions have smoke and can be acquired with sound systems. We added a BCR to the Weaver version which required the voltage to be over 16 volts to feature the correct sound pattern.  At the time of writing this article we are not sure why the voltage level had to be raised. Perhaps it has to do with the battery location on top of the speaker magnet.  The Weaver brass version is fatter and slightly shorted that the die-cast K-Line version. It was more piping and add-on details that can be seen from the sides. Weaver has both engineer and fireman figures while K-line only has an engineer figure. Note the compromise in the K-Line pilot and trailing truck to allow the model to negotiate 031 curves along with the difference in add-on details on top of the engine. K-Line features a swinging bell. J. Halajko modified the Weaver version shown below to level the firebox truck frame to the track.  It was a simple spring addition. Take a close look that these wonderful engines.

Check out the tender. Note the additional details in the K-Line version front and back. We believe the Weaver version to have the correct coal pile height, and thought that the water access hatch was correct for the K-Line version.  Note the hole in the tender roof near the water access hatch shown in both versions.  We thought that the roof opening is there to prevent a head knocker when opening the water hatch and that Weaver left out details to save costs.  It turns out that the water hatch on top of the Weaver tender is correct, and there was no ladder on the rear of the Crusader’s tender. We do not know the function of the hole in the top of the Weaver tender. Many thanks to Bill, at Henning’s Trains, who assisted us with his Reading book resources.

So you are caught with an engine compromise. Accept the K-Line version with its false extra tender details, small wheels for engine pilot and trailing trucks or choose the real life Spartan compromise in the Weaver tender. As we see it either way you come out a winner.

The Crusader had two observation cars. The lead one tucked into the recess area of the tender. To reverse the train the engine was turned using a wye, and mated to the other observation car at the station. Our photos show the cars in detail.  They were numbered 1 to 5. There are two observation cars, numbers 1 and 5, two coaches, numbers 2 and 4 along with one dining car, number 3. You can see the scale lengths of the Weaver Crusader cars are massive. Note the blue trucks for the Weaver version.

L. Duminiak found B&W photos of the Crusader which show that the silver trucks may be correct.

B&W Photo of Crusader with Silver Trucks

Another shot of the Crusader shows that blue trucks are present on the car in the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  See the collection of photos at this link. This could be a difference in the as-delivered and as-shopped versions.

The former owner of the Weaver set encountered shorting issues when negotiating elevated track. His solution was to tape the metal plunger. H0 versions of these cars had roof ventilation details. The roof  details and the fate of these fine cars can be seen in the links below:

Link One. The CN (Canadian National) used the stainless steel budd passenger cars from the Crusader.
Link Two.A Wikipedia description of the Crusader.

The next photo adds a Lionel Florida East Coast Dining car to the lot. Note the added roof details on the K-Line Dining Car. The videos which follow make a strong case for either train. If you are blessed with lots of room for at least 072 curves then the Weaver version may be on your shopping list. As we see it you can’t go wrong with either train.

Not clearly shown in our photos is the feature of the more accurate K-Line marker lights. K-Line has the correct red and green marker lights on the observation cars and green marker lights on the engine. Weaver features red engine marker lights and a pair red observation marker lights for each car side. The Weaver diaphragms leave a noticeable gap between cars while the K-line versions touch just like their heavyweight cousins.

Enjoy the videos shot in Mercer County, NJ. You will notice the Weaver cars need more than 072 curves to look as natural as the K-Line consists.  We elected to shoot the meeting of our north and south bound trains meeting somewhere in New Jersey. This never happened in real life because there was only one Crusader Train. Look for the colors of blue, the diaphragm gaps, the marker lights and the passenger car lighting in the videos which follow.

We started this e*Train paper as a fun comparison of the two Crusader Sets. What we discovered are the errors in the Crusader Mural in Philadelphia, the origin of the K-Line Crusader color scheme, and the unresolved questions of how did they safely open the water hatch on the tender along with the function of the tender roof opening. We hope to complete this Odyssey on the Crusader in the coming months.  We are looking for Reading Shop photographs on the Crusader construction along with HO models like the Penn Line Crusader made by Ed Alexander and the GHB set. If you would like to contribute please contact [email protected] or [email protected] .

Alas, neither O-Gauge train looks as great as the GHB Crusader artist rendition:

Part 2 may be viewed here.