|From the February 2006
issue of Classic Toy Trains
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,
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
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
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
Made in the People’s Republic of China for