Bilevel Commute Coaches

(N scale)

All aboard your favorite commute* or commuter train for Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. metropolitan areas. Ride the North Western, Espee, VRE, or Alaska bilevels. Ready-to-Run N-Scale; very fine details; 2-level interiors; MT couplers. Not lighted. Models are based on the 1957 ACF bilevel coach design. Alaska Railroad purchased former SP bilevels for their Whittier shuttle service. Virginia Railway Express cars are former C&NW "Cor Ten" steel cars from the 1950s.

*Southern Pacific Railroad used the word "commute" and never "commuter".

(Download a postcard with information on all the cars here)


 Another view here, and here

Item # Chicago & North Western early commuter bilevel Price Sold Out
11418 Car #18 $34.99
11422 Car #22 $34.99
11437 Car #37 $34.99
11440 Car #40 $34.99
11446 Car #46 $34.99
Immediately after receiving 16 bilevels from the St. Louis Car Co. (in June 1955 and January 1956), the Chicago & North Western Railway awarded Pullman-Standard construction of 32 161-seat bilevel coaches. They were delivered in September 1956 and were called "Superbanite" by C&NW. Due to the increased height of the bilevels over standard coaches, restrictive railway clearances were modified (including adding one-foot in height to the North Western Train Shed). Impressed with the increased ridership and cost-effectiveness of the Superbanite, C&NW's Chairman Mr. Heineman and President Mr. Fitzpatrick went out to develop the new '400' train-sets based on these cars. Cab cars for push-pull commuter trains arrived in 1961 -  concurrently with the design of the new bilevel '400' train-sets. These cars rode on 41NV trucks and were equipped with a Waukesha 7-1/2 KW "Enginator" for electrical power. Originally, they operated as locomotive-hauled steamed heating behind Geeps, E-units and F-units. In 1961, they were re-equipped for push-pull operations. The cars paint-scheme is the revised scheme that is most familiar to North Western fans. 


 Southern Pacific ACF bilevel commute coach


Item # Southern Pacific ACF commute bilevel, dark gray paint 
Price Sold Out
11513 Car #3713 $34.99
11515 Car #3715 $34.99
11522 Car #3722 $34.99
11524 Car #3724 $34.99
11527 Car #3727 $34.99

After inspecting the Burlington's Budd bilevel cars from Chicago, the Southern Pacific purchased bilevel commute coaches, first from Pullman-Standard in 1955, with a larger follow-on order from American Car & Foundry in 1957 (which this model is based on). In the early days of commute operations, SP MT class 4-8-2 steam locomotives could be seen pulling new bilevels. Originally, painted in two-tone gray, SP introduced solid dark Lark gray in the 1960s. These cars lasted until new Nippon Sharyo equipment for Caltrain replaced the last of them in 1985. These cars could often be seen mixed in sets with "Harriman" coaches -- typically, the "Harriman" coach was always on the San Jose (south) end of the train which was the "smoker" (where one could "light up"). These 145-seat ACF coaches were numbered 3710 to 3730. They brought a new level of service to the San Francisco suburban operation. They were equipped with engine-driven Frigdaire AC system, steam heat from the locomotive, remote controlled opening and closing of doors by one person for the entire train, wide doors which eased boarding and deboarding, and a 50-seat increase in capacity over existing cars. They all rode 4-TD-4 trucks with 33" diameter wheels. 

 Alaska Railroad (ex. SP) Bilevel Coaches

See a photo of this car on

Item # Alaska RR “Whittier Shuttle” bilevel car Price Sold out
11000 Car #600 $34.99
11001 Car #601 $34.99
11002 Car #602 $34.99

The Alaska Railroad initially purchased six Southern Pacific ACF bilevel commute coaches for their Whitter cruise trains. The three ex-SP ACF bilevels were repainted (as modeled) for their Whittier train service. The remaining ex-SP commute coaches were rebuilt into the Princess Tours super dome cars.

 Caltrain (early scheme, leased SP commute coaches)


Item # Caltrain "rainbow" scheme (c. 1982) Price Status
11003 Car #3700 $34.99 sold out
11004 Car #3701 $34.99 sold out
11005 Car #3702 $34.99 sold out

During the late 1970s, the Southern Pacific was contemplating abandoning their commute operation between San Francisco and San Jose. SP considered this operation to be a public service and ultimately one that deserved some public subsidy to offset it's losses.* Starting in 1978, the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) entered into agreement to help and later assisted in growing the operation. In 1982, CalTrans, leased GP9P 3187 and three 1955 Pullman-Standard SP Bilevels which were repainted in this early Caltrain "rainbow" scheme. Interestingly, the three sets of cars and matching locomotive were rarely seen together, but always mixed with sets of the original SP grays. In the summer of 1985, Caltrain started to receive new push-pull bilevel equipment and F40PH locomotives to replace the aging SP rolling stock. Stay tuned for pics on Wheels of Time of this transition period where you will see the old SP "subs" with new Nippon Sharyo cars and as well as F40PH pulling ACF & PS bilevels.   *July 1970 Modern Railroads magazine

 Virginia Railway Express (former C&NW bilevel coaches)

VRE photo courtesy of Alexander Buchanan

Item # Virginia Railway Express, ex. C&NW early bilevel Price In Stock
11103 Car #V403 $34.99 sold out
11105 Car #V405 $34.99 sold out
11115 Car #V415 $34.99 sold out
11125 Car #V425 $34.99 sold out
11128 Car #V428 $34.99

As ridership soared on VRE trains out of the northern Virginia suburbs into Washington D.C. Union Station, contracts with CSX prevented adding trains. Further, VRE's station platform length prevent longer trains on their routes. Their older single cars just did not have the capacity to handle the larger crowds. The solution was to purchase second-hand former Chicago & North Western bilevel cars. These St. Louis Car and Pullman-Standard coaches were made in 1953 and 1955-56, respectively. No longer needed by Chicago Metra, they were refurbished and repainted for service with VRE. Today, you can see some of these cars out on the Federicksburg and Manassas Lines on trains 300, 311, 313, 324, 325.  My understanding is that Alex Buchanan of the VRE, who took our pics, came up with the nice paint scheme for these cars.  Thanks Alex for the photo.


Item # Undecorated Bilevel Price Sold Out
11300 Unpainted

Perfect for someone who wants to paint up their own fine rolling stock of bilevels. 

Support your local transit.  Ride them!  It's better for the environment.