If you’re thinking of the movie “Car 54 Where Are You”, then you’re right. I got the idea for the title from that movie. However this blog has nothing to do with that movie. It’s actually about the HO scale Con-Cor MP54 Electric Multiple Unit or EMU for short.
The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) MP54’s were originally designed to be pulled by steam locomotives. In the design plans they were designed to have electrical equipment added to them in a later conversion to EMU cars. The MP54 design dates back to 1906. When the PRR began its electrification project of its lines, the cars were converted to electric operation. The M stands for motor the P stands for passenger.
The long Island railroad (LIRR) a sub railroad under the PRR had DC powered MP54’s. These used 650 volt DC from the third rail for power. Some early PRR MP54’s also used DC but had overhead pantographs. The later PRR MP54’s used 11,000 volt 25 Hz AC from the overhead wires. These cars lasted through all the major mergers. From Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) to Penn Central (PC), then to Conrail (CR) and finally to Septa. Some other cars were used for NJDOT or the New Jersey Department of Transportation in later years.
For many years model of these iconic cars were offered in Brass in HO scale. Alco models, a brass model train company offered and made the MP54’s prior to the con-cor models. The Alco models are sought after and at the time, they were great representations of the real MP54’s. Alco models MP54’s single cars can range from $100-$200. Sets can range from $400-$700 dollars or more. This all depends on if the models are painted or not paint models. Many other factors from condition of the boxes or cars themselves can also affect the price. MP54’s were also offered in a kit form by Funaro & Camerlengo prior to the recent factory made Con-Cor models.
In 2012 Con-Cor announced and made the MP54’s in plastic. The cars come with excellent details and LED’s lights. This includes full interiors with lights. The models are offered in different configurations of the cars; baggage car, mail car, baggage mail car, baggage coach combination car, coach car, and non-powered trailer cars. They also come in PRR, PC, LIRR, and Septa paint schemes. The early versions of these cars in locomotive hauled form are offered in other road names. The Con-Cor models were made in a limited numbers. That is another reason the prices are high.
I personally own a PC painted MP54 and a baggage coach combination MP54 in Septa paint. The Septa car is unpowered while the PC coach is the powered model. Both models look great and have awesome detail. The powered model is heavy and runs well. I like the models, but personally the powered models are still way too expensive. I paid over $200 dollars for the non-sound DC model. This price is not much cheaper than the ones sold online.
Some models can cost as much as $250 and the powered baggage cars or powered baggage mail cars can run even higher than that. This depends on where you buy them from. The sound models can be in the $300 dollar range. You can find some deals online but you have to look or wait until the prices drop. And trust me, they don’t last long once they are posted. My non-powered septa model, even though it’s rare, it cost a little over $100 dollars. So not overly expensive. Although, online the Septa models can sell for much more than that. That’s because they are the hardest to find.
Now compare these prices to the brass models I mentioned. The Con-Cor it still a good deal and not only that, you get a model that runs well and has full interior. Overall I think these are great models for the price. Personally I think if they were a bit more reasonable I would have more by now. However if you want a brass model you can get that, but if you don’t want to spend more money on brass then you get the can Con-Cor model.