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This review appeared in Model Railroad News, July, 1998. Reprinted with permission of Lamplight Publishing Company.


The first release of the Atlas O, Big Rolling Stock series is the ACF 3-bay Cylindrical Hopper. The initial run includes six road names: Burlington, Conrail, Erie Lackawana, Missouri-Kansas-Texas, Wayne Feeds, and W. R. Grace and Company as well as an undecorated version. Each decorated car is available in two roadnumbers. These cars are 3-rail compatible, but can be converted to 2-rail operation with the use of Atlas O kit #6036.

The prototype for this scale model is the American Car & Foundry CF3510 center flow hopper. First introduced in 1962, almost 4,100 cars were built before production ceased in 1966. These steel constructed, 3-bay cylindrical hoppers measured 50 feet 3 inches in length and were designed to haul bulk commodities such as sugar, grain, salt, plastic pellets, and cement. Railroads that rostered the CF3510 included those listed above as well as The Alaska Railroad, New York Central, Pennsylvania, Seaboard Air Line, Baltimore and Ohio, and numerous private shippers.

The Atlas O hopper is an accurate model of the ACF CF3510. From the moment I removed the car from the box I was impressed with both the model’s detail and quality.

Checking with prototype photos and drawings, the Atlas O model is to scale proportions measuring just over 12.5 inches in length (over corner posts). The hopper features six operating roof hatches, molded ladders, and well as separate hand grabs.

The sample reviewed came decorated for Conrail. All painting was smoothly and evenly applied. Lettering was crisp and clean with even the smallest of lettering legible. All markings and data depicted on the car are accurate down to the "H 42" denoting the former class of hopper on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The quality of this model really shows itself when looking at the trucks. The 3-rail trucks are sprung and made of diecast metal as are the couplers. Furthermore, the realistic looking trucks have been enhanced by the addition of brake shoe detail behind the sideframes.

What separated these trucks from other O gauge manufactures though, is Atlas O’s use of a steel spring assembly and steel coupler pin assuring that these couplers will not open up inadvertently while running a long train. In the past, many manufacturers relied on plastic components to hold the coupler in position, but in many instances the plastic parts are unable to hold the coupler in the closed position causing cars to separate in mid train. Atlas O’s steel design takes care of this problem.

On the test track the car performed well. The wheel sets rolled smoothly and freely thanks to the plastic bushing inserts in the diecast sideframes. The car had no trouble negotiating standard standard O31 diameter curves and switches. In the lead of a twelve car train, the Atlas O hopper neither derailed nor had couplers spring open.

Atlas O has done an excellent job on their first release of rolling stock. Fantastic detail and decoration combined with a high quality design make this hopper car a worthy addition to any O gaugers’ empire. Ready to run O gauge rolling stock can not get any better than this!


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