This review is
from O Gauge Railroading, February 2003. Reprinted with
permission of Myron J. Biggar Group.
O PRATT TRUSS BRIDGE
by Barry Lewis
O scale Pratt Truss
bridge kit; single of double 2-rail or 3-rail track; ABS plastic
and Styrene construction; internal steel support beams; length:
40-1/4”; width 5-1/2”; height: 9-1/2”. 3-rail version
supplied with rail joiners for Atlas O, tubular or GarGraves
track; price: $114.95 single track, $149.95 double track, $49.95
bridge add-on kit (converts single track to double track).
Manufactured in China by Atlas O LLC, 378 Florence Ave., Hillside,
NJ 07205; website www.atlasO.com.
I love bridges;
they’re so dramatic. In the operating bridge world, I’d say the drama queens
are Lionel’s bascule bridge and lift bridge. And then there’s
the Hellgate bridge original and reproductions: high, wide, and
handsome in a league of their own – until now. As my teenage son
would say in admiration, this new Atlas bridge is nasty.
It’s really just your typical metal railroad bridge. But in full
O scale with complete prototype detail, its size and the overall
effect are magnificent.
The Pratt Truss
bridge is the archetypal metal railroad bridge found almost
anywhere in North America. The first Pratt Truss was built in
1844, and this type of bridge was commonly constructed on rail
lines at least into the middle of the last century. Many Pratt
bridges continue in service, with railroads choosing to repair
rather than replace older structures. The prototype for the Atlas
O model was built on the Missouri Pacific Railroad and is still in
use – the MP, however, has since been merged into the Union
prototype photos and drawings, it seems virtually no structural
part has been omitted from the model. Rivet detail is everywhere,
and the ties on the bridge deck have simulated wood grain. At
27’ high and 18’ wide, internal dimensions exceed the minimum
bridge clearances set by the American Railway Engineering
Association. One could easily run an overhead catenary or trolley
wire through this structure.
instructions note, the hard work has already been done for you.
The two bridge sides are pre-assembled. The floor is a single
assembly strengthened by two internal thin metal plates ¾” wide
and by the 40” long nickel silver bridge rails. This bridge
should support any of today’s heavy diecast engines.
are well done, and assembly is enjoyable and easy. I put our
sample together in about an hour and a half while watching TV, but
I would disagree with Atlas’ claim that “The kit is designed
for simple snap assembly; however you may desire to use glue for a
more permanent assembly.” The sides and floor do indeed go
together with simple screws and pegs, but the detail pieces that
really finish the bridge off and complete the lacy detailed look
must be glued on. The top and bottom “X” braces will fall off if not glued.
although the three middle truss supports on our sample did snap
in, the truss supports on each end (the top trusses of the bridge
“portal,” if you will) needed to be glued. So, although Atlas
makes an add-on kit to convert a single-track kit to double track,
I suspect it might be difficult to later disassemble and convert a
decently built single-track bridge.
A couple of
assembly notes are needed. Be careful with the thinner plastic
trusses. I mistakenly applied too much pressure (squeezing the
bridge sides together) and cracked on of the end portal trusses
while installing it. Also, step one of the instructions directs
you to remove a screw from the metal tab at the end of each bridge
side. On our sample, those screws had already been removed and
were in a sealed bag of small parts. Not realizing they were in
the bag, I mistakenly removed the other screw in the tab, which
holds it to the bridge and also holds some of the side structure
together. You may need to use this second screw in step three to
adjust the tab when fitting the floor and sides together. All this
makes sense if you have the kit in front of you.
Paint: At the least, I’d use a dulling spray to kill the shine of
some of the plastic parts. But the fine detail of this model is
hard to see on a jet black finish; so painting it grimy black or
engine black a few shades more gray than the plastic will bring
out the rivets and other small details. Prototype bridges were
most commonly painted black, but other colors would also be
prototypical. Western bridges were often painted silver,
particularly on the Union Pacific and Western Pacific.
I’d paint all the
pieces before assembly with an airbrush or spray can, covering the
gluing surfaces with masking tape. Then I’d touch up the glue
joints again after assembly.
The model has 14 plastic pegs that hold the bridge sides to
the floor. They’re about the only element on the model that is
not prototypical, sticking through the “knee braces” that
attach the floor to the side trusses. I’d glue the pegs in, then
slice off the heads and tail, and smooth the surface with modeling
putty. Alternatively, I’d substitute short pieces of Styrene or
metal rod for the pegs.
Bridge shoes: A prototype bridge sits on metal bridge shoes (also called
feet or pedestals) at each corner rather than resting directly on
its supporting piers. I’d add this detail because the rest of
the model is so well done, and because I like the effect of the
air space between the bridge and the piers filled only by those
small feet. On a real bridge, the shoes at one end are fastened
rigidly to the bridge and piers, and the shoes at the other end
have rollers to allow the bridge to expand and contract with
temperature changes. John Keil of Keil-Line Products in Wonder
Lake, IL, makes two types of bridge shoes for about $7.00 a pair
plus shipping. John says his metal shoes will easily support the
weight of the Atlas bridge and a heavy locomotive. He can be
contacted by e-mail at Oscaler@aol.com
or by fax at 815-728-0595.
A bridge this grand deserves to sit on a fine pair of
concrete or masonry piers. The few O scale piers currently
available are too narrow for this bridge, but Jim Elster of Scenic
Express (see his ad in this issue of OGR) is working on a set of
masonry piers for the Atlas bridges. The style will match Jim’s
current Pennsylvania RR stone block series of tunnel portals and
If you really want a moving bridge, it probably wouldn’t
be too difficult to convert this Atlas bridge into a center-pivot
swing bridge. The structure might not be totally prototypical, but
the effect would be convincing and impressive.
Having run out of
superlatives, it’s time to wrap up this review. In closing, I
think it’s safe to say that once again Atlas O has boldly gone
where no one has gone before and given us a reasonably-priced
plastic model that rivals the detail once only available in brass.