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This review is from Model Railroad News, February 2000. Reprinted with permission of Lamplight Publishing Company.

The Atlas O Evans 53’ Reefer

Review by David Otte

The Railroad refrigerator car has played an important historical role in the development of many industries in this country. This is due in large part to the car’s ability to move perishable goods from outlying areas, where climate and soil are most suitable for growing, to markets in cities anywhere in the country.

Over the years, the reefer has grown in popularty for use in shipping all types of products requiring stable temperature transporation. There are several different types of reefers including those cooled mechanically or by ice, and insulated house cars. It is the latter type that Atlas O has chosen to reproduce in their newest offering of Big O Rolling Stock—the Evans 53’ Double-Plug Door Box Car.

Although the manufacturer labels the Evans car as a boxcar, it is properly referred to as a reefer. Each O scale car is available in two different road numbers for each of the following road names: Boston & Maine, Burlington Northern, Evans Products, Ralston Purina, Tropicana, and Union Pacific. The cars come ready-to-run in 3-rail and 2-rail versions.

The Evans RBL

The prototype is officially classed as a 5,100 cu. ft. RBL. This Association of American Railroads (AAR) designation is designed as a bunkerless refrigerator car constructed with a minimum of 3" of insulation in its sides, roof, and ends, and is equipped with adjustable loading or storage devices. The first car of this class was outshopped at Evans’ Blue Island, Illinois plant in 1969. The all welded, 52’-5" reefer featured: hardwood floors, 8’ double plug-doors, a cushioned underframe, and optional load dividers. By the time production ceased in 1977, almost 4,400 cars had been built at Blue Island.

The Evans RBL was produced for several railroads, but the majority of the cars were used in leasing operations. Many wore reporting marks for the U.S. Railway Leasing Company (USLX), a subsidiary of Evans. Even those cars wearing specific railroad reporting marks were also under lease. Therefore, these freight cars have appeared in many different colorful paint schemes for a variety of railroads and private owners. Some of these include those being offered in Atlas O’s first production run, as well as: Chicago & Northwestern, Florida East Coast, Illinois Central, Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern, the Masonite Corporation, Boise Cascade, and Georgia Pacific.

O gauge RBL

The Atlas O model is a smart looking rendition of the Evans car. It appears to be a version of a late production car built in the mid 1970s. This can be determined by: The Stanray roof and ends (earlier production units by Pullman-Standard), split lower door tracks, modern hook-and-eye- design brake rigging, and the lack of gussets inside the lower-sill channel as viewed from the end of the car.

The overall dimensions and look of the Atlas O RBL compare well with prototype drawings and photos. The 1/5 pound car measures 13.25" over the end walls, 2.5" wide over the side sills, and 3.75" tall above the rails. The quality of the plastic injected molded body is excellent. Numerous add-on details include: ladders, door handles and bars, see-through end platforms, end railings, and brake wheel.

The underside of the car also features sill framing and gussets, as well as extensive brake gear details, all mounted to a die cast metal, simulated wood planked floor. Even the die-cast sprung 70 ton roller bearing trucks display separate brake shoes behind the side frames. The only item I could find to be in question was the shape of the stirrup steps which, according to prototype photos, are a bit more square in shape rather than angled as on the model. But with all of these great detail parts, the Atlas O car is not too fragile to handle and held up just fine during our testing.

If you are familiar with Atlas O’s previously released rolling stock and assumed that the Evans RBL would have the same high quality of decoration—you are correct! Atlas O has proven time and time again that they have mastered the art of paint and graphics application. The finish on our sample of the red, silver, and white Ralston Purina Company reefer is outstanding. The paint thickness is perfect—not too heavy to hide any of the molded on details. The white lettering and Checkerboard Square is opaque and sharp. Atlas O has used all the proper car information and markings as displayed on the actual Ralston Purina cars. Ralston operated 100 of these cars, which were delivered in November of 1973, and numbered 101-200.

As a side note: the DUAL air pak slogan on the side of the reefer refers to an Evans loading/storage product for accommodating full or less than full freight car loads. This consisted of two separate, movable locking bulkheads which were air inflatable and could be expanded when necessary to fill voids.

On the test track, our 3-rail sample of the O scale car was able to negotiate O31 curved track and switches as advertised. I did notice that the simulated brake linkage running into the back of the truck occasionally rubbed against the inside of the wheel on curves. It did not seem to interfere with the car’s operation much, but I would recommend trimming the plastic part back slightly if you use this diameter track on your layout. As with all the more modern and lengthy rolling stock, the larger the curve diameter used the more realistic the car will look when running on the track.

In keeping with our previous experiences with Atlas O rolling stock, the magnetically operated die-cast couplers worked well and the metal wheelsets rolled very smoothly. Also, for the first time, Atlas O is offering the Evans cars in 2-rail ready-to-run so there is no longer a need to buy a separate conversion kit if you are a 2-railer. The 2-rail versions come equipped with plated metal wheelsets and Kadee compatible couplers.

If the time period you are modeling in is anywhere between 1969 and the present, than these new Evans reefers are perfect for your collection.

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