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This story is based on information kindly supplied by Patrick Bonacker working off Russian documents. During the First World War, shortly after the battle of Sarikamis, in January 1915, the Russian Army moved into Persia and occupied Tabriz.
The Russian Army built in 1916 a military narrow gauge railway to bring food and ammunition to these troops.
Some sources indicates that the line was possibly extended as far as Guvence, some 20 km east of Agri. In order to expedite the works, the Russians used 1067mm gauge equipment transferred from the Yaroslavl - Wologda - Arkhangelsk railway.
The line was most probably removed quickly after the war since no local traffic in this barren area could support such an infrastructure.
WHEN ASKED WHY TRAIN sets promoting NFL teams, John Deere tractors, or even Sponge Bob cartoon characters were important, MTH Electric Trains honcho Mike Wolf noted in an interview with CLASSIC TOY TRAINS that the paint schemes representing licensed products got train sets into homes that might not otherwise have one.
At the same time, the broad gauge Trans-Caucasus railway was extended from Jerevan to Tabriz by the military. This line was started on the nearest point on the Transcaucasus railway: the city of Shakhakhty, west of Naxcivan, now Azerbaycan. The line went along the great strategic road from Dogubayazit to Agri, through the Ipek Gec pass at an altitude of 2040m, a few kilometers north of Diyadin, before going down to the Murat Nehri river (Affluent to the Euphrates river). To tackle the heavy gradients expected from such a military line, C'C Mallets engines were also transferred from the Yaroslavl Arkhangelsk railway. Dogubayazit is one of the most remote spot of Turkey and a very unlikely destination for a railfan.
Lionel's skipper Jerry Calabrese also takes this philosophy to heart because he has introduced a product that's sure to inspire lead-foot drivers behind the wheels of Chevy Monte Carlos nationwide. This move was countered by the Ottomans who used Turkish irregular troops that also crossed the border into Persia and went to harass the Russians there.
These mighty engines were produced by three different manufacturers: Borsig (Germany, 1895-97), Putilov Works (Russia, 1900-04) and Baldwin (USA, 1914). However, anyone with a spirit for adventure and a taste for military (or industrial) archeology is invited to travel there and search for possible remains of the line (bridge, embankments, tracks,…) !
However, throughout 1915, the Russians maintained their pressure until they took the city of Erzurum in February 1916. They were of similar design and characteristics and could draw 170 t trains on a 3% gradient. It pulls a checkered boxcar containing a simulated NASCAR trophy, a flatcar carrying two NASCAR billboards, a single-dome tank car, and a caboose decorated with the graphics of three speed-blurred stock cars racing toward a finish line.


To protect their flank and to control the passes to Persia, Russian troops were deployed around Dogubayazit and Agri (Karakose), at the foot of mount Ararat.
There's also a conductor carrying a checkered flag that can be mounted on the rear platform of the caboose. Don't forget the oval of FasTrack and a newly designed PowerMax transformer.Keep in mind that this set promotes NASCAR, not any particular driver. If you're looking for a certain driver, Lionel offers some expansion packs to satisfy driver loyalists.The locomotiveThe motive power in the NASCAR set is pretty much the same light diesel standard-bearer for starter sets that we've seen for years. This Lionel GP38 is a generic sort of locomotive that could with little debate be dubbed a GP18, GP20, or GP40. We reviewed a very similar locomotive in our GP38 showdown in the November 1999 issue of CTT.The locomotive has two small can-style motors without flywheels that are transversely mounted in the trucks.
This GP38 has Lionel's TrainSounds sound system with a horn, bell, diesel-motor sounds, and cab chatter. It's an entry-level sound system not to be confused with Lionel's RailSounds.The model has a satisfactory level of detail as befits a toy train diesel. The so-labeled dynamic brake blister rides atop the shell and pops off easily, so don't grab it as a way of lifting the locomotive off the track, or you unintentionally may dump your train on the floor of your layout room.The rolling stockLike the locomotive, the rolling stock included in the NASCAR set is basic Lionel starter-set fare, the main difference being the graphics and NASCAR doodads. The cars, which were molded in colored plastic, are lightweight, and utilize plastic trucks and couplers.The boxcar has a NASCAR checkered flag design that is among the best of the graphics in this set.
Open either of the boxcar's doors and you'll find a miniature copy of a NASCAR trophy inside.The flatcar carries two NASCAR promotional signs mounted in two traditional plastic billboards. You can run them on a flatcar after securing them with a "tie-down" rig, or you can place them at a strategic spot on your layout. The tank car carries the Sunoco brand - probably one of the few corporate names from our childhood trains still seen on contemporary Lionel rolling stock.
The Sunoco logo is part of a wrap-around graphic adhered to the tank body that shows a wide-angle lens view of a NASCAR race with fans filling the grandstands. At a glance, however, it's hard to figure out the image.The caboose is small and features interior illumination and, as previously mentioned, a flag waver on the car's rear deck. The circle-L herald on the cupola stands out nicely, but the images of stock cars crossing a finish line on the sides of the caboose are muddy and weakly defined. Following the set's instructions, you can raise the caboose roof slightly, depress the platform slightly, and slide the flag-waving conductor onto the prongs. Once the conductor is in place, he's kept secure by the overhang of the roof.On the test trackThe GP38 was pretty darned anemic in the pulling department.
After a greasing of the gears in our workshop, I got curious as to how much the GP38 could pull.


So I hooked the locomotive up to the five freight cars from the Williams Girl's Set as well as a new MTH VO-1000 dummy unit we have in our workshop.Then I hit the juice using our workshop MTH Z-4000 transformer. I cranked the handle up to 17 and 18 volts, and the train slowly crept through one O54 curve on our oval test track, it began to speed up slightly, and then began once more to creep as it went back into the curve.For comparison, we dug out a Lionel NJ Transit GP38 from 1998 and placed it on the front of the same train. Rolling the axles, however, revealed that the 9-year-old NJ Transit locomotive had wheels and gears that spun freely, while the NASCAR engine's gears were very tight.We pulled other trains with the NASCAR diesel and came to the conclusion that this lightly powered locomotive was designed for a light weight starter set.
It turns out that the five Williams cars weigh 4 pounds 5 ounces and the dummy MTH locomotive checks in at 3 pounds 4 ounces (total weight 7 pounds 9 ounces). This greatly surpassed the weight of all the NASCAR-set rolling stock - a mere 1 pound 13 ounces.For the record, when I was running the NASCAR train on FasTrack and using the set's own transformer, I found that the train had more pep. In short, the new version of the Geep has a more-appropriate speed range but an inferior drawbar pull.The NASCAR locomotive has a basic diesel sound system that also includes automatic brake sounds, engine revs, and crew chatter when the horn is depressed.
Staff opinion was divided on TrainSounds, with the comments ranging from "pretty good" to "undefined." For the most part, I thought that the sounds are similar to the electronic thrum of MTH's LocoSound starter-set system, although the revs and braking sounds are authentic. When using the PowerMax transformer, the bell activated, but was so lost in the noise of the train-on-FasTrack (the track from the set box was sitting on a vinyl floor) that it was largely indistinguishable from the engine sounds.When the locomotive is idling in neutral, hitting the horn button once triggers a railroad dialog series.
I was half expecting to hear radio chatter between a NASCAR driver and the pit crew, the sort of stuff you would hear while watching a NASCAR race on TV. To be honest, I wanted the NASCAR locomotive's audio to be a throwback to the automotive sound-equipped hot rod Geeps that Lionel offered in the late 1990s. Those two flame-painted Geeps, with the sounds of revving V-8 engines, would have given NASCAR enthusiasts a laugh or two.
While the instruction manual shows a volume-control knob next to the fuel tank, it is actually recessed into the frame above the rear truck. You'll need a slot-head screwdriver to reach it.The transformer is adequate for the set and for an add-on pack of three lightweight freight cars, but not much more.
While the transformer case looks identical to Lionel's CW-80, the PowerMax transformer offers just 30 watts instead of the CW-80's 80 watts.
The PowerMax offers less power than other O gauge train transformers on the market today.Licensed train sets and add-on cars, from Looney Tunes to Harley Davidson, expose newcomers to our hobby. Less appealing, from the perspective of a hobbyist, is the NASCAR outfit, but it will accomplish the goal of getting train sets into homes that otherwise would not have one.



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