FREIGHT CAR ROUNDUP #2
MODEL RAILROAD NEWS – January 2005
Review by David Otte
50-Ton War Emergency Hopper, MSRP: $49.95 (3-rail), $52.95
50-Foot PS-1 Double Door Boxcar, MSRP: $59.95 (3-rail), $62.95
NE-6 Caboose, MSRP: $69.95 (3-rail), $74.95 (2-rail)
Atlas O, LLC
3789 Florence Avenue
Hillside, NJ 07205
The industrious little car shop at Atlas O has been at it again.
The O gauge manufacturer has released more classic rolling stock
for the discerning 1/48 scale modeler. This time around, Atlas O
is offering models of a 50-ton War Emergency Hopper rebuilt with
steel sides, the familiar 50-foot PS-1 Double Door boxcar, and a
centered cupola NE-6 type caboose. As usual, these freight car
models will be available ready-to-run for both 2-rail and
3-rail. While 3-rail cars will have traditional tinplate
wheelsets and operating, articulated knuckle couplers, the
2-rail versions will have scale wheelsets and Kadee compatible
Before we get into the particulars of each design, all of the
Atlas O Big O Rolling Stock has several things in common. First
of all, our review samples were all set up for 3-rail operation
which includes die-cast metal trucks, metal tinplate wheelsets,
and die-cast metal magnetic operating knuckle couplers. The
trucks are accented with brake shoes and real coil springs
(boxcar and hopper only, caboose trucks modeled with leaf
springs), and the couplers include air hoses.
Second, all of the cars have a similar construction with
die-case floors or chassis, and plastic or metal add-on detail
parts such as hand grabs, ladders, and brake wheels. The cars
also display complete underbody details such as the center sill
and floor framing, plus full brake gear with cylinders, air
reservoir tanks, valves, and linkage visible.
Third, the tooling on these cars is excellent and all the
components, whether they are injection molded or die-cast, are
of very high quality. Consistent with this character and under
closer scrutiny, the cars’ overall dimensions appear to be
accurate when compared to published drawings of these subjects.
Finally, besides theses freight cars being true to 1/48 scale,
they have one of Atlas O’s most notable attributes – outstanding
decoration. Flawless, smooth paint application and laser sharp
graphics is how I would describe the appearance of all three
freight car samples. Of course, hand in hand with decoration
quality comes the responsibility of its being accurate too.
Again, Atlas O is a master at research and as far as I could
determine, the paint schemes our samples wore all appeared to
follow their respective prototype railroad’s paint and lettering
practices right down to the car data stenciling.
While all the freight cars resemble members of the
well-established Atlas O family of products, each has in
individual prototype making them interesting in their own right.
50-Ton War Emergence Hopper
When the war broke out with the Axis powers in late 1941, the
railroads along with car builders had already been working
together on setting up standard designs for rolling stock in an
effort to save material usage and manpower during a war
emergency. The biggest issue at hand was the steel shortage as
almost all such materials were being diverted to the military.
In September of 1942, at the request of the War Production
Board, the Association of American Railroad’s Car Construction
Committee in collaboration with the Freight Design Committee of
the American Railway Car Institute prepared seven emergency
standard designs of composite open top freight cars utilizing
wood to the greatest possible extent. While these cars would not
be equivalent to standard steel car designs, they would provide
satisfactory service for the emergency period. Furthermore, the
committees felt that the cars could be strengthened by steel
once the war was over.
One of these seven designs was the 50-ton two-bay hopper. The
car was based on the dimensions of the standard AAR 50-ton
offset-side hopper and had a 1970 cubic foot capacity level when
full. The car would be constructed with a steel frame, ends, and
hopper with wood sides and upper flooring. Fir and Southern Pine
were the wood most commonly used with planks specified as 2-3/8
x 7-1/4 inch square edge or shiplapped. This design saved
roughly two tons of metal per car! The railroads did have their
choice of options though, including the type of trucks used,
handbrakes, airbrake systems, brake beams, and hopper door
latches. It is estimated that somewhere between 10,000 – 20,000
fifty-ton Composite Hoppers were constructed by the end of the
war in 1945.
A highlight of this composite construction however, was that
designers, realizing the wood cars would not last as long as all
steel hoppers, made provisions in the car plans for the wood
sides and floors to be replaced with steel side sheathing and
floor sheets with a minimum amount of work. By the time the war
was starting to wind down in early 1945, and with the American
war machine geared up to such a high production level, the war
production board allowed additional steel to be released for
railroad use. From the late 1940s through the end of the 1950s,
many railroads begin to rebuilt their war emergency two-bay
hoppers with steel. These rebuilds would remain in service on
many railroads well into the 1970s.
Highlighting the Atlas O rebuilt composite hopper are several
features. At the top of the list is the die-cast metal body.
While our other freight car subjects have plastic
superstructures, the hopper is almost 100 percent metal with
only the interior lining molded in plastic. Speaking of the
inside of the car, it too is detailed so there is no problem
running it as an empty car. Nevertheless, Atlas O does provide a
plastic coal load packaged separately from the car. The hopper
rides on the appropriate Bettendorf style trucks. Rounding off
the list are functioning sprung hopper doors and the ability for
the 9.75 inch long car to negotiate O-27 curves.
Our war emergency car came decorated in mineral brown for a
GA-60 class Santa Fe car. Falling into the series 180600 –
180799, car number 180655 was built in 1943 by Pullman Standard
and rebuilt with steel in the mid to late 1950s. The ATSF
eventually took delivery of 400 composite hoppers during the
Second World War and still had over 100 of them, albeit rebuilt
with steel on their roster in the fall of 1972.
Other roadnames currently being offered include: Baltimore &
Ohio, Chesapeake & Ohio, Southern, Wabash, as well as an
undecorated model. Each of the decorated cars will be available
with four different roadnumbers.
The PS-1 Double Door Boxcar
While the War Emergency Hopper generally represents a freight
car design created in the steam era, the Pullman 50-foor PS-1
boxcar is typical of general revenue freight service through the
end of the Twentieth Century.
Following World War II, Pullman-Standard introduced a new
standard design for boxcars labeled the PS-1. While at first
this design was used to produce 40-foot cars, the increasing
demand for larger boxcars caused Pullman to adapt the PS-1
design to a 50-foot boxcar. Production of the 50-foot length
cars began in 1949 and would carry through to 1967. About 52,000
PS-1 types would be produced by Pullman for railroads across the
The appearance and design features of the cars were fairly
consistent up until 1961. Variations that did exist included
optimal 8-, 9-, and 15 foot door openings as well as the type of
door used: Youngstown, Superior, or Pullman Standard doors.
During 1961, however, changes occurred in the production of the
PS-1. The Hydroframe-60 cushion underframe was introduced which
increased the overall length of the car, coupler-to-coupler,
from four to six feet over the conventional underframe. Another
change that was readily apparent were short ladders replacing
the earlier PS-1’s grab irons on the lower left side of the cars
and those that were on the lower side of each end.
The Atlas O Double Door PS-1 is expressly modeling the pre-1961
cars with the more typical welded steel sides and 15-foot door
openings utilizing either Youngstown or Pullman Standard style
doors depending on the prototype. Our cleanly assembled sample,
decorated for the Chicago & Eastern Illinois, was correctly
equipped with the later style doors as well as 50-ton, friction
bearing Bettendorf style trucks (70-ton roller bearing trucks
also used on models if called for by prototype). Other aspects
of the O scale PS-1 include sliding doors, which allows the
modeler a glimpse of the simulated, wood planked interior
flooring, and a see-though etched metal roofwalk.
C&EI number 5 311 was one of 23 PS-1s (5307 – 5329) delivered in
1959. Our sample wore the as-delivered paint scheme. The C&EI
would eventually roster some 162 of the 50-foot double door
Pullman-built boxcars. In addition to this paint scheme and the
usual undecorated offering, Atlas O is decorating cars in the
colors of the Chesapeake & Ohio, New Haven, Rio Grande, and
Southern with two roadnumbers available for each of thee
The only anomaly I encountered with our sample was that
according to Atlas O’s web site, the 50-foot PS-1 cars are
supposed to be able to negotiate O31 curves. Unfortunately, the
14-inch long sample did not roll very smoothly on our O31 test
track, hanging up o the traditional diameter Lionel curves and
switches. Running the cars on O42 track fared better, but they
ran and looked the best on O54 curves.
The NE-6 Caboose
Trailing this short consist of new O scale rolling stock, is an
all steel, center cupola caboose. Atlas O has based this model
on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad’s NE-6 class
cabooses. International Railway Car & Equipment Company of
Kenton, Ohio built 75 of these hacks for the railroad in 1947
and 1948. This class is similar in appearance to the railroad’s
older NE-5 class, but they are about a foot longer in length.
The cars were constructed of welded and riveted steel, were
fully insulated throughout, and wood-lined. Weighing in at
47,000 pounds, the NE-6s measured about 34 feet over the striker
plates and had an 18-foot 8-inch wheelbase. Numbered C-630 to
C-709, some of these New Haven crummies later saw service with
the Penn Central, which took over the New Haven in 1968.
Ultimately, the remnants of these cabooses would end up on
mainline service under Conrail.
However, in time, many smaller roads rostered examples of the
NE-6 fleet too. Checking through several caboose photo albums, I
found these cabins lettered for these roads: New York,
Susquehanna & Western; Pittsburgh & Lake Erie; Monongahela;
Pittsburgh, Chartiers & Youghiogheny; Pittsburgh & Shawmut; and
Of special note is the very similar looking Nickel Plate caboose
as our review sample came decorated for this prototype. Referred
to as the 700 series cabooses, the Nickel Plate received their
first all-steel cabooses from the Wheeling & Lake Erie who had
constructed these cars at their Ironville, Ohio shops in the
late 1940s and early 1951. Apparently the W&E designers liked
the New Haven’s NE-6 cabins, as the 700 series are almost dead
ringers for them. The most obvious difference is the placement
of the side windows with the Nickel Plate’s being on the outer
most riveted panels and the New Haven’s on the second and their
side panels. Also, the window openings appear to be slightly
different in size, the roof construction is dissimilar, and the
Nickel Plate cabooses have three platform steps to the New
Haven’s two steps. The two cars’ overall measurements and
wheelbase length, however, are almost exactly the same.
While everything else about the Atlas O NE-6 is correct for the
New Haven, they have tooled new sides with the Nickel Plate
window arrangement allowing them to render these crummies as
well. The Nickel Plate 700 series eventually ended up on the
Norfolk & Western roster as their class C8 and C9 cars after its
take over in 1964.
There are several special features that stand out on this
9.75-inch long O scale model. First, there are the swing motion
trucks equipped with elliptic springs and roller bearings
representative of those on the prototype supplied by the
Standard Car Truck Company. Next, Atlas O has provided a full
car interior for their hack including a hand-pointed conductor
seated in the cupola. Even the end doors open, revealing a
wooden planked style floor and light green painted interior. For
the finale, Atlas O has provided three actual working miniature
wall-mounted kerosene lamps in the car interior offering the
ultimate visual effect for simulated nighttime operations. The
lights work off of track voltage picked up through the trucks.
An on-off switch is located under the carbody. The minimum
diameter curve for this model is O-36.
Atlas O is offering the NE-6 in either undecorated form or
decorated for several roadnames, and where appropriate, offers
some cars with two different roadnumbers. Original released
schemes include: New Haven, Nickel Plate, Norfolk & Western,
Penn Central, Susquehanna, Raritan River, and Monongahela.
Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, Clinchfield, and Morristown & Erie
cabooses followed in the second release.
O gauge modelers are certainly being spoiled by this
manufacturer. Not only are they giving us, nicely-crafted,
well-researched, and superbly-decorated cars, Atlas O is
offering an unprecedented variety of rolling stock types from
both stream and diesel eras. Their commitment to 1/48 scale is
inspiring. Check out their full line of Big O Rolling Stock at
your local hobby shop or on the web at www.atlaso.com. Tell them
Model Railroad News sent you!