review is from Model Railroad News, Vol. 7, Issue 12,
December 2001. Reprinted
with permission of Lamplight Publishing.
O’ FREIGHT CAR SPECTRUM
by David Otte
$114.95, 3 rail; $121.95, 2-rail
$59.95, 3-rail $62.95, 2-rail
Steam Era Classics series to the most modern freight
equipment of today, Atlas O is filling the freight car
spectrum for the O gauge modeler. The 40’ Wood Reefer was
the first release in the new Steam Era Classics series and
has been made available in an assortment of colorful
Santa Fe, Baby Ruth, Borden’s, Edelweiss, Grand Union,
Ralston Purina, A&P, Kraft, Merchant’s Dispatch, Blatz
Beer, IGA Food Stores, and undecorated. The ready-to-run
billboard reefer is obtainable in both 2-rail and 3-rail
versions. At the other end of the spectrum is one of the
latest cars to show up on the tracks today – the
Articulated Autorack. It is being produced in both 2-rail
and 3-rail for TTX, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, and
undecorated. Four roadnumbers are available for each
At one time,
American consumers depended on the railroad refrigerator car
to supply them with fresh produce, meat, milk, and other
necessary food staples. Economically speaking, the
refrigerator car was the vital link for farmers and the
market place. At their peak use in the 1930s, there were
more than 180,000 refrigerator cars in use.
of these cars belonged to private lines, with about one
third being owned by the railroads themselves. Many private
car operators, like the Northern Refrigerator Car Company,
lettered cars for their bigger customers whose volume of
business was rewarded with free advertisement in the form of
painted billboards on the refrigerator car sides. This
brings us to the basic theme behind Atlas O’s Wood Reefer.
Their O scale model is based on a 40’ car built by Pullman
for the Northern Refrigerator Car Company in 1930.
measures approximately 10” over the carbody ends and
features exquisite molded-on and separately applied details.
The plastic body features excellent scale sized wood grain
with plastic ladders, brake wheel, coupler lift bars, and
roofwalk, all expertly applied. There are also metal
handgrabs, a die cast metal floor, and plastic underbody
details showing the fish belly style underframe and full
features, however, are the opening roof top ice hatches and
operating doors. Their hinges and latches are fully
functional, yet their scale appearance does not cause them
to be too delicate to work with. Atlas O has even created a
die cast metal, 40-ton Bettendof style sprung truck for the
car to ride on. The 3-rail version includes die cast metal
couplers, and the 2-rail version features body mounted scale
knuckle couplers and wheel sets.
else grabs you about these cars than the plethora of
colorful paint jobs will. Atlas O never ceases to amaze me
in the area of car decoration! The Baby Ruth reefer I
sampled is gorgeous and flawless in execution. Not only are
the yellow lettering and stripes fully opaque, their thin
black outline is crisp and consistent around every curve.
The paint was not applied too thick as the wood grain can be
clearly seen through all the paint layers.
refrigerator car was a vital part of America’s economy in
the last century, another important development was being
made as well – the automobile. American’s love their
cars and the railroads were intertwined in the
automobile’s history from the start.
ways to transporting automobiles from the factory to the
rest of the country by rail used existing freight cars like
boxcars, gondolas, and flat cars. It wasn’t until the late
1950s and early 1960s that the multi-level autorack came
into being. Both bi-level and tri-level autoracks came into
use utilizing up to 89’ long flat cars. Eventually,
concerns for protecting the automobiles from the elements
prompted the railroads to attach side protection panels or
screens to the outside of the cars. Subsequently, the top
and ends were eventually covered as well. Thus the modern
enclosed autorack was born.
Company has taken the modern auto rack one step further by
designing a 140’ long bi-level articulated car with the
versatility of handling any sport utility vehicle, light
truck, van, or automobile. Two sections share a common truck
with the area between the units enclosed by a flexible
diaphragm bellows. Automobiles can be loaded over the
articulated joint for the most efficient loading patterns.
It is fully compatible with current bi-level autoracks and
is completely enclosed with roof, doors and a new screening
that helps control contamination or unlawful entry.
Atlas O has,
once again, captured this prototype down to the last nut,
bolt, and washer. Their highly detailed autorack measures
about 35” in length and features two plastic car bodies
with die cast metal floors connected by an adjustable
wood reefer, Atlas O has done an outstanding job of
recreating accurately all the important details of the real
car by way of both molded-on and applied details. The roof
displays the proper rib pattern as does the sides with its
simulated screen openings, although they are not
see-through. Separately applied metal grab irons are located
at various places over the car body and there is a ratchet
style brake stand on the side end of the B unit. Full brake
gear is visible on the underside as well.
rides atop three pairs of sprung, die cast metal, 70-ton
roller bearing trucks. The highlight of this model, though,
is Atlas O’s rendering of the SealSafe Radial End Doors.
These are properly hinged so they rotate back into the sides
giving way to the model’s interior decks. The doors even
have a latching system to hold them in a closed position.
our sample is every bit as good as that of the O scale
reefer. Comparing the model to prototype photos of an actual
Union Pacific operated car, I found that all the various car
data text, lettering, and logos were located correctly,
fully readable, and accurate. The overall paint application
was smooth and void of any noticeable blemishes.
Both of our
review samples were 3-rail versions. The reefer was tested
straight out of the box and operated mid-train in a consist
of assorted brand freight cars. The couplers and wheel sets
functioned as they were advertised and there were no
glitches. Its’ minimum operating radius is O27.
on the other hand, does require a little assembly before it
can be placed on the track. Atlas O’s articulated car is
designed to run on three different curvatures: O42, O54, and
O63 (or greater). Their unique design consists of a separate
diaphragm unit that has the center truck attached to it. At
the pivot point of the truck there are two metal tabs, which
are to be connected to the underside of each car section.
The tabs each have three pre-drilled holes reflecting
positions for the three curvature settings. A small Phillips
screwdriver is all that is needed to assemble the two halves
to the diaphragm. Since our test track utilizes O54 curves,
I assembled and tested the car in this manner. The Atlas O
model negotiated through the layout without incident, even
when traveling through S-shaped curves. Atlas O really
thought this one through!
model the steam era or the current day realm of railroading,
Atlas O has something for every O gauge modeler. They are
seriously working on closing the gap in available O scale
freight car models. I highly recommend these cars to my
follow O gaugers, and I offer a word of warning to their
competition: Atlas O has not only pulled ahead of the pack,
but is in the lead by several yards!