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Tell Me About High-End Contemporary HO Rolling Stock

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Tell Me About High-End Contemporary HO Rolling Stock
Posted by Shock Control on Monday, January 11, 2021 5:26 PM

1. Which manufacturers make the best rolling stock, in terms of performance and quality of printing on the cars?  (I am interested only in fully designed cars, not blank cars that I have to decorate myself.)

2. Kits or RTR?

3. How do they perform on standard code track?

4. How is the selection of mid-century freight cars?

5. How do they perform on a layout next to yellow-box Athearns and vintage Mantuas?

6. What are the price ranges of these cars?

7. What else should I ask that I have not?

 

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Posted by tstage on Monday, January 11, 2021 5:51 PM

SC,

You might try looking at Tangent and Exactrail.  They mainly manufacture more modern (i.e. 80s and newer) RTR rolling stock but also have manufactured some older car-types.  (I have particularly liked and enjoyed the Tangent 3-compartment tank cars and the Exactrail ribbed boxcars.)  The detailing on either company's product is beautiful and price ranges are generally $45 and up - depending on the particular piece of rolling stock you are interested in.

I like and prefer kits over RTR but both companies have offered some unique rolling stock that I wanted to include a few of in my roster.  And I have not been disappointed with any of my purchases from either manufacturer.

I guess one question that I have for you is: What is your definition of "contemporary".  Do you mean contemporary as in the prototype?  Or, do you mean contemporary as for the manufacturer's offerings?

Tom

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Monday, January 11, 2021 5:53 PM

For my era, there are limited options for top-notch ready to run.

In my experience, you can't go wrong with Kadee or Fox Valley.

Not saying others are not as good, just lack of experience with all the products out there.

-Kevin

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Posted by BATMAN on Monday, January 11, 2021 6:02 PM

I don't own any of their products as they don't fit my era but see them in person at their shop. They are stunning in my book.

http://www.northamericanrailcarcorporation.com/about.htm 

If they do some older stuff I will be buying.

Brent

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Posted by gmpullman on Monday, January 11, 2021 6:35 PM

There's "High-End" as in an $800 brass "Queen Mary" HO flat car and then there's a reasonable "step-up" from the "shake-the-box" kits.

As mentioned the Kadee line is good. I've found them at on-line retailers in the $25-35 range. Their offerings are somewhat limited but they are prototypes from the 1940s into the '70s (some later).

 TPnW_621 by Edmund, on Flickr

Intermountain is another brand with both kits and RTR available. Good underbody detail and separate ladders and grabs:

 Needham_y by Edmund, on Flickr

 GE_ILDX_316 by Edmund, on Flickr

 NYC_Pacemaker-XMc by Edmund, on Flickr

Moloco is maybe a step up from these. Very limited production. They run about $50 each.

 IMG_9263_fix by Edmund, on Flickr

Don't hesitate to try your hand at some of the "vintage" Life-Like Proto 2000 kits and later RTR stuff. These can still be found in the $20 range.

 Mather_stock_2 by Edmund, on Flickr

This caboose is from Exact Rail. Tangent. They run close to $100, very limited.

 BnO_I18h by Edmund, on Flickr

 BnO_I18a by Edmund, on Flickr

As mentioned, Excat Rail, Arrowhead, Scale Trains, Tangent and others primarily cater to late 20th century cars but there a few older ones in there.

 PC_X58 by Edmund, on Flickr

Some Athearn Genesis models are being produced with excellent detail and are worth a look, too.

Regards, Ed

 

 

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Posted by PC101 on Monday, January 11, 2021 7:34 PM

Shock Control

 

7. What else should I ask that I have not?

 

 

How fragile are these $40.00 to $50.00+ plastic pieces of HO rolling stock with all the great looking super details? 

 

 

I like late '60s to early '70s mostly. I run in the Penn Central era. BUT sometimes, I can and like to back date Power and rolling stock and run early '50s to early '60s Eastern Roads. So for ''above normal'' rolling stock I have Tangent ($54.95 freight and a SWEET LOOKING B&O Caboose $80.00), LL P2k ($23.99), Spring Mills Depot (B&O Wagon Top Caboose $), Exact Rail Platium (not Express), Intermountain, Athearn ($32.99), Bluford Shop (Tranfer Caboose), BLI (Hopper), Walthers ($49.99), Rapido ($52.99). All the above mentioned rolling stock are Beautiful and Ready to Run.

I should say all my rolling stock came from LHS or Train Shows or Auctions.    

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Posted by PM Railfan on Monday, January 11, 2021 8:17 PM

PC101
 
Shock Control

 

7. What else should I ask that I have not?

 

 

 

 

How fragile are these $40.00 to $50.00+ plastic pieces of HO rolling stock with all the great looking super details? 

 

And thats a good one to ask.

Just a simple rule i live by - treat them like its the last glass bottle of beer on the planet and your on bare cement.

 

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Posted by mbinsewi on Monday, January 11, 2021 8:26 PM

PC101
How fragile are these $40.00 to $50.00+ plastic pieces of HO rolling stock with all the great looking super details? 

I damaged a BLMA beer car just getting it out of the packaging.  The very fragile brake gear rigging was in pieces.

One of the coupler cut bars fell off while running a train, and caused a derailment.

I don't really need all of that detail, but the price was right on Ebay.

Mike.

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Posted by Shock Control on Monday, January 11, 2021 8:39 PM

Thanks all for the info!

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Posted by PM Railfan on Monday, January 11, 2021 8:59 PM

Shock Control

1. Which manufacturers make the best rolling stock, in terms of performance and quality of printing on the cars?  (I am interested only in fully designed cars, not blank cars that I have to decorate myself.)

2. Kits or RTR?

3. How do they perform on standard code track?

4. How is the selection of mid-century freight cars?

5. How do they perform on a layout next to yellow-box Athearns and vintage Mantuas?

6. What are the price ranges of these cars?

7. What else should I ask that I have not?

 

 

 

Shock Control)

1) Alot of the manufacturers have different grades, or 'lines' or model quality. An example of this is Bachmann. They have Xmas trains sets (your lower grade models) up to whatever is there top of the line now. Which would be aimed at us modellers. You will find asking Railfans their prefernce will yield many varied answers. Rightfully so - because many manufacturers do really make some very nice models. Many of them. Some of those same companys make total flops too. Again, i could use my example here. Plus, we have new companys coming into the hobby who might make something good, or not. Best answer here is to try a few models from diff. makers and build your own preference. See what YOU like. Not all high $$ models roll true and straight.

2) This makes no difference. More times than not your RTR is the same as the Kit, it has just been assembled from the factory. Again, this is a personal preference built over time (no pun intended). You may just want to run trains and therefore are fine with buying RTR. You simply may not have the time for kits. Either way, both RTR and kit offer the same thing as far as the model goes. The only difference is along with glue, paint, trucks and decals, time isnt included, either.

3) Generally commercially made model trains are designed with the idea that things are supposed to be on a standard, even the high quality stuff. Makers try to stick to this so 'everyone' can enjoy using their product albeit car, loco, or both. Ya see, not everyone can have a basement layout with broad curves and long straits. But everyone sure does want to have one of the fanciest, latest, shiniest models (whatever that is). Makers want to sell, so they try to make the models work well with something like 'standard code track' [code 100] so the everyday joe can enjoy the hobby too, not just us Railfans who are the backbone of their sales.

However, to approach a really true scale, rivet countable, operationally viable model, its not gonna operate on standard track. Companys know anyone who wants models like this are serious, and prolly have that basement layout. They can charge the extra $$$ and stamp a simple label on the box "minimum radius" and their off the hook. Plus they can sell that really nice model, they know its wanted.

Really nice models on standard track? Doable, but not specifically meant for it. Your gonna have a few flanging problems to say the least. As irony would have it, try running your code 100 trains on code 70. See my point? They fit the rails, but they wont ride them.

4) This is still a time related question again. As more time passes, more models will be made. But ask any Railfan, he will tell you there are never enough. Its a viscious cycle.

5) Model performance is relative. An old Mantua and your fancy-shmancy new $100 Walthers car can both roll sweetly until they both hit that sad patch on your grade crossing. Right out of the box youll notice not much has changed in the way of attaching trucks to cars (screw) for either your old car... or new. Trucks are trucks, bolsters are bolsters, and a screw is a screw. It just looks prettier now and cost tens times as much. Rolling stock maintenance is your answer here - make them all roll good! Good track maintenance too.

6) We cant discuss that topic here.

7) See my post previous to this one.

 

Green Lights!

PMR

 

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Posted by PC101 on Monday, January 11, 2021 9:05 PM

Hey Edmund, is that really a Exact Rail Caboose (Blue B&O #C-3016 I-18 Baywindow) in your above post?

 

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Monday, January 11, 2021 9:36 PM

Shock Control

1. Which manufacturers make the best rolling stock, in terms of performance and quality of printing on the cars?  (I am interested only in fully designed cars, not blank cars that I have to decorate myself.)

2. Kits or RTR?

3. How do they perform on standard code track?

4. How is the selection of mid-century freight cars?

5. How do they perform on a layout next to yellow-box Athearns and vintage Mantuas?

6. What are the price ranges of these cars?

7. What else should I ask that I have not?

 

 

I don't know that I want to get too deep into your questions, but here a few comments.

A lot of what people have recommended so far is too new for your 1963 era cutoff.

If fragile is an issue, you don't want most of what has been suggested/shown.

The problem is that there are no "detail police", nor are there preset "quality levels".

Each company tries to balance things as they see the hobby - they all see it diffrently. and bigger companies like Bachmann, Athearn and Walthers make products at different detail and price levels for different segments of the market.

I have lots of expensive high end RTR, and I have lots vintage 1950's and 60's stuff, and I have lots of blue box Athearn grade stuff. And I run it all together with concern for some being more accurate than others.

I personally have no problem with fragile, I was adding fragile details to simpler models 50 years ago - they are still on the layout.

Perform? They roll around good track pretty much the same as an Athearn blue box car, except some don't like sharp curves - but I don't like sharp curves either.

Today, even the lessor detailed cars like the Athearn "Roundhouse" line have very good paint and lettering.

The selection in your era (pretty close to my 1954 era) is good in the broad sense, but only so-so if you really start counting rivets.

The rest of this topic is just too complex, having worked in this business, and been at this steady since 1968, I could write thesis for a doctorate on the subject....

Sheldon

    

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Posted by Shock Control on Monday, January 11, 2021 9:47 PM

Continued thanks for the detailed responses!

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Posted by NittanyLion on Monday, January 11, 2021 11:06 PM

PC101

Hey Edmund, is that really a Exact Rail Caboose (Blue B&O #C-3016 I-18 Baywindow) in your above post?

 

 

He misspoke: that's a Tangent caboose.

My wife gave me a Spring Mills Depot I-12 caboose as a wedding present, because it is that nice.

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Posted by PC101 on Monday, January 11, 2021 11:27 PM

NittanyLion
 
PC101

Hey Edmund, is that really a Exact Rail Caboose (Blue B&O #C-3016 I-18 Baywindow) in your above post?

 

 

 

 

He misspoke: that's a Tangent caboose.

My wife gave me a Spring Mills Depot I-12 caboose as a wedding present, because it is that nice.

 

Blue or Red?

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Posted by Autonerd on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 12:04 AM

Shock Control
5. How do they perform on a layout next to yellow-box Athearns and vintage Mantuas?

As long as the coupler heights are okay, everything should work well. If the Mantuas have truck-mounted (talgo) couplers, that could potentially be an issue, as a car with a frame-mounted coupler could (theoretically) shove the talgo truck off the rails.

I prefer old Athearn Blue Box and Roundhouse cars because I use them on a club layout where people get a bit ham-fisted. (The less add-on detail, the less there is to break.) But the printing isn't great. Still, can't beat the price, and at our club the cars are too far away to see detail anyway.

I've done well with Walthers beige-box cars as well. They have nice graphics and are fairly simple and durable. I prefer not to pay much more than $20 per car and that's not a problem. 

Along with all the recommendations above, I'd put in a positive word for Branchline Blueprint freight car kits. They are nicely detailed and challenging to build without being frustrating. But the detail is also a bit fragile, and they don't always roll well; you may have to swap out axles or trucks. They are easy to find for $10-$15 per kit.

I also like the Proto 2000 kits, though the tanker was too much for my clumsy fingers (too bad, I found the kits super-cheap at $5 apiece). I built one of their gons and a box car and was very happy with both.

I also rather like Athearn's newer offerings. The detail is lovely but they can get expensive.

HTH

Aaron

 

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Posted by gmpullman on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 12:06 AM

NittanyLion
He misspoke: that's a Tangent caboose.

Tangent, yes. I was getting some of the manufacturers mixed up Embarrassed Sorry.

Ed

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Posted by PC101 on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 12:53 AM

Oh my, no need to be sorry, I just thought maybe you were testing us to see who was paying attention.Smile

It's easy to get the Manufactures mixed up with all the great ones we have today. When I started in Model Railroading I could probably count the Manufactures I bought from and knew of on one hand.

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 1:12 AM

PC101
How fragile are these $40.00 to $50.00+ plastic pieces of HO rolling stock with all the great looking super details? 

Again... I can only speak mostly of Kadee.

The PS-1 boxcars and two bay hopper cars are pretty robust.

The PS2-2 covered hopper cars have a few fragile points.

The tank cars are extremely difficult to handle without breaking something.

The Fox Valley B&O style wagontop boxcars I own seem to be pretty good at standing up to handling also.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 9:00 AM

I couldn't help noticing the OP was asking about high end "contemporary" rolling stock, but see lots of replys with rolling stock which by rights, doesn't fit that description.  Words mean things.  Or is everyone stretching the term contemporary to suite their personal tastes which seems to go back 40 or 50 years or more.  The British have a term for this: "Taking the Mickey".

Contemporary generally means present day, or maybe rolling stock you would see in present day trains, which yes, could include some older freight cars that are still running.

Tangent was mentioned but most of the rolling stock is 1920's thru 1970's, but some lasted into the 90's and beyond.

I'd suggest looking at ScaleTrains, Atlas, Intermountain, Athearn and Exactrail, who offer more recent rolling stock that would be of interest to contemporary fans.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 9:20 AM

riogrande5761
I couldn't help noticing the OP was asking about high end "contemporary" rolling stock, but see lots of replys with rolling stock which by rights, doesn't fit that description.

A assumed by "contemporary" he meant the introduction of the scale model, not the prototype it represents. I was reading it to be like Fox Valley vs. Athearn Blue Box rather than 1950s era vs 2020 era.

Especially since his point #4 is about mid-century rolling stock and point #5 mentioned Athearn Yellow Box and Mantua models as a comparisson point.

I was just trying to help out.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by mbinsewi on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 9:37 AM

He does say "contemporary" in the title, but then #4 says "mid-century freight cars"., and #5 he ask for a comparison next to yellow-box Athearns, and Mantua,

So, I dunno, maybe an answer to #7 should be something like: Does anybody want to go freight car shopping with me? because I'm not sure what I want"  ? 

I think he's looking for anything from 1950 on ?  Confused

Mike.

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Posted by NittanyLion on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 11:42 AM

PC101

 

 
NittanyLion
 
PC101

Hey Edmund, is that really a Exact Rail Caboose (Blue B&O #C-3016 I-18 Baywindow) in your above post?

 

 

 

 

He misspoke: that's a Tangent caboose.

My wife gave me a Spring Mills Depot I-12 caboose as a wedding present, because it is that nice.

 

 

 

Blue or Red?

 

Red.  I have a single train's worth of steam era equipment with a B&O Pacific and she wanted to get me a good caboose.

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Posted by Shock Control on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 11:45 AM

I'm using "contemporary" as in models that are currently in production by companies that are currently in existence.

I model the 1950s, so I am asking about contemporary models of prototypes from the 1950s and earlier.

And I hope you appreciate my use of the word "contemporary" as opposed to "modern," a term that is frequently abused on this forum.  Yes

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 12:03 PM

Shock Control
I'm using "contemporary" as in models that are currently in production by companies that are currently in existence.

Your post was perfectly clear. RioGrande has a tendency to post critical without reading everything for full understanding first.

I hope my shared experiences, limited as they might be, have been helpful.

Ed shared a lot about the Intermountain products. I have not bought any of their items ready to run.

Please feel free to ask any additional questions.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 12:16 PM

Shock Control
1. Which manufacturers make the best rolling stock, in terms of performance and quality of printing on the cars? (I am interested only in fully designed cars, not blank cars that I have to decorate myself.) 2. Kits or RTR?

As best I can recall, I have only two r-t-r freight cars on my layout, and one of them needed some improvements (it was an older offering).

The other one was from Tangent, very nicely-done, but I did make a modification to improve the appearance of the cut-levers...

Shock Control

3. How do they perform on standard code track?

4. How is the selection of mid-century freight cars?

5. How do they perform on a layout next to yellow-box Athearns and vintage Mantuas?

6. What are the price ranges of these cars?

7. What else should I ask that I have not?

Generally, everything, high-end purchases or train show "finds", run just fine. If they don't, then they're modified so that they do run well.

I'm not especially interested in mid-century stuff, as I'm modelling the late '30s, although not in an overly-rigorous manner.

I run stuff made in the '50s (upgraded somewhat) along with some very recent high-end stuff - prices range from free to $50/$60.

I prefer kits and scratchbuilt stuff to r-t-r, and most of my older rolling stock has been upgraded with better details.   I've painted and lettered  majority of my current 400-or-so freight cars, and most of the 200 more-modern ones which were sold-off were similar - improved details and better paint and lettering.

The point I'm trying to make is that you don't have to spend bags of dough to get good rolling stock - nothing wrong with buying what you can afford, of course, but if you learn how to upgrade less-than-meeting-your-requirements-stuff, you can have a much wider selection of very serviceable equipment at a manageable cost.

F'rinstance, the tank on the car shown below was free, the frame was a kit from Tichy...

...definitely not-quite Tangent quality, but I'm not ashamed to run them, coupled together, in any train.

Wayne

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Posted by cv_acr on Friday, January 15, 2021 9:30 AM

PM Railfan
Really nice models on standard track? Doable, but not specifically meant for it. Your gonna have a few flanging problems to say the least. As irony would have it, try running your code 100 trains on code 70. See my point? They fit the rails, but they wont ride them.

I'm sorry, but this reply is way off base.

Anything produced in the recent past will run fine on basically any "code" of rail.

The stuff that isn't going to run on smaller rail codes is the really OLD poor quality stuff with grossly oversized wheel flanges (slangily referred to as "pizza cutters") that hits the spike heads with small rail. 

Anything will run on larger rail sizes.

There's no such thing as a "Code 100" train. The "code" is the height of the rail in 1000ths of an inch.

The depth of the wheel flange is covered by an NMRA recommended practice #25, and anything produced in the last 20 years or so will conform to it and run on any size rail.

 

There is such a thing as a wheel "code", which is the *width* of the wheel (standard wheels have a .110" tread, "semi-scale" narrow wheels have a .088" tread). The guage between flanges is still identical though, so will still run on the same track. The narrower tread width can cause them to be more sensitive to sloppy track that is not well built to tolerances resulting in wide gauge. But if the track is properly gauged it's not an issue. (The track gauge has to be well outside the tolerances of the NMRA RP/spec for even narrow wheels to have a problem.)

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Posted by doctorwayne on Friday, January 15, 2021 12:18 PM

In my opinion, the .088" wheelsets may be closer to prototypical dimensions, but they lose that "advantage" when installed in the overly-wide trucks with which most rolling stock is equipped, as the trucks' outside width is not to-scale.
I don't use those wheelsets, so am not aware if the so-called high-end freight cars have optional truck sideframes  with a more prototypical outside width to allow use of the narrower wheelsets....I doubt it.  Perhaps that's more in the realm of Proto-87.

Wayne

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Friday, January 15, 2021 12:55 PM

doctorwayne

In my opinion, the .088" wheelsets may be closer to prototypical dimensions, but they lose that "advantage" when installed in the overly-wide trucks with which most rolling stock is equipped, as the trucks' outside width is not to-scale.
I don't use those wheelsets, so am not aware if the so-called high-end freight cars have optional truck sideframes  with a more prototypical outside width to allow use of the narrower wheelsets....I doubt it.  Perhaps that's more in the realm of Proto-87.

Wayne

 

I agree, you are just trading one out scale feature that then makes another out of scale feature more obvious. 

Not to mention how the code 88 wheelsets wobble thru most commercial turnout frogs.

Function and proportion are more important than actual scale measurements, which code 88 wheels are still not down to.

Sheldon

    

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Posted by PM Railfan on Friday, January 15, 2021 8:30 PM

Chris) My appologies you had to type all that. Ofcourse there are no "Code 100" trains. I simply meant "trains meant for code 100". Trains with large flanges of any type.

 

PMR

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