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From the February 2006 issue of Classic Toy Trains

Trainman on track one

Atlas O’s value-priced line of O gauge rolling stock

Amid a sluggish market, Atlas O announced a bold new product line: scale-sized locomotives and rolling stock with high levels of detail at a lower, semi-scale price. The Trainman O gauge line promises affordable, scale-sized rolling stock and locomotives, all available continuously throughout the year, without the now-or-never availability of most limited-run toy train products.

Not long after Atlas O’s announcement, I was chatting about it with a retailer. He dismissed the idea.

There he was, sitting amid shelves full of $50, $60, and $70 freight cars that weren’t exactly selling themselves. “It’ll never work,” he sniffed. “They may be OK for the average guy, but nobody interested in scale fidelity is gonna buy a $40 boxcar. If they want a real scale car, they have to pay more.”

But after having seen, touched, and run some of the new Atlas O Trainman freight cars, I’m glad to say he was wrong. You don’t have to be Daddy Warbucks to have a nicely detailed fleet of 1:48 scale cars, and the Trainman line proves it.

Bodies and frames

We examined Trainman 40-foot boxcars, 40-foot plug-door boxcars, and 50- foot gondolas (the stockcar, extended vision caboose, and locomotive were unavailable at press time).

Across the board, the tooling used to produce these freight cars is first rate. There are rivets where there should be rivets, and seams where there should be seams. All the details are universally clean and crisp. I saw no imperfections at all.

The doors on the 40-foot boxcar open, the doors on the 40-foot plug-door (which are normally flat, or plugged in to the doorway) boxcar are cast in. That works for me. If anything, I hear more complaints about doors vibrating open when running than complaints about cast-in doors.

While some guys will get giddy over a gondola, personally I can take ’em or leave ’em. That being noted, the detail of the Trainman gondolas is as nice as you’ll find, and hese cars are ready for pipes, coal, gravel, or crates.

All of the freight-car frames are plastic with full underbelly detail unique to each freight car. For example, on the plug-door boxcar, the rollers and roller tray on the plug-door boxcar shell align just right with the cast-in rollers on the frame.

Flip the car over and you’ll see wood plank detailing as well as simulated hardware for the air lines, a mechanical array for the brake system, and under-carriage support pieces. The latter is a separate plastic piece.

The trucks and couplers are die-cast metal, and the magnetic couplers are activated by the standard “thumbtacks.” A nice appointment is the simulated air hose affixed to each coupler. Universally, the cars are very smooth rolling.

Add-on details and paint

Thanks to my clumsy fingers, I tend to gripe too often about fragile add-on details on locomotives and rolling stock. I’ve broken off more handles, sunshades, brake wheels, and lift rings than I care to mention. But I found that the Trainman freight cars strike a good balance between realistic and sturdy details
(add-on ladders, roofwalks, an brake wheels) and the reasonable price listed on the box.

Grab irons are cast into the body shell, but add-on plastic ladders and seethrough roof walks set the cars a strong notch above starter-set levels. Although the cars we examined lacked the numerous metal details found on Atlas O’s high-end models, by no stretch of the imagination are they detail-impaired.

It would have been easy for Atlas O to take shortcuts on paint jobs. Fortunately, the painting and decoration of Trainman cars are just as nicely done as they are on the regular Atlas O product line.

There are the usual nomenclature details, such as weight and capacity, and also “return to” data. All the logos we examined were clear and crisp, and heralds were skillfully wrapped over raised surfaces of the car – just as they’d be on a real freight car. You’ll even find railroad name letters and car numbers on the ends of the freight cars.

Of the cars we examined, the Bangor & Aroostook “State of Maine” boxcar is worthy of special notice. The famous red, white, and blue paint scheme is flawless, and the lighter colors really made secondary graphics pop out. Not just potato farmers will want this in their fleet.

Thinking back to the curmudgeonly dealer I mentioned at the start of this review, he might have unknowingly gotten one point correct. He said that these cars are OK for the average guy – the average guy who, for 40 bucks, expects more than just a warmed over semi-scale postwar car, that is! – Bob

The cars of Atlas O’s Trainman line feature great graphics; die-cast metal wheels, trucks and couplers; seethrough roofwalks; add-on ladders and brake wheels; and scale dimensions.

O gauge Trainman freighT cars by Atlas O

Price: $39.95 each (40-foot boxcars, 40-foot plug-door boxcars, 40-foot stockcars, 52- foot 6-inch gondolas, and extended-vision cabooses)

Features: Weighted plastic frame, plastic body, add-on ladders, roofwalks, and similar details, die-cast metal couplers and trucks

Pros: Scale sized, attractive with good paint and graphics, separately applied roofwalks, ladders, brake wheels, and underframe details where appropriate, weighted and detailed frames, metal couplers and trucks

Cons: None

Made in the People’s Republic of China for Atlas O

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