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Trainman Rolling Stock

Review and Photos by George Brown
Aug/Sept ’06 Issue of O Gauge Railroading

What would you think of a 3-rail scale freight car that costs less than 40 bucks and has a detailed molded body, separate ladders and hand brake equipment, realistic see-through roof walk, weighted floor with die-cast wooden planks on the top surface and molded underbody frame details that include brake rigging and air lines? Flawless paint and precision graphics and all-metal trucks complete each car that runs as great on O31 curves as it does on wide turns. In a preview summary, the new Trainman cars deliver on what Atlas O has promised us.

Like a lot of O gauge railroaders, I read the ads announcing Trainman rolling stock, and I had an anticipation that corresponded to the reasonable price tag for the cars. When the sample cars arrived, I was concluding our review of the Trainman RSD4/5 for Run 215, the preceding issue of OGR, and I was more than just pleased with each car as I took it out of its windowed box. In short, I not only liked them, but they also looked and ran great behind the six-axle Alco. And like the RSD, Trainman cars are designed to be durable with no or minimal damage resulting from minor mishaps. But if a car does get damaged, replacement parts illustrations for some cars are available on the Trainman website as I write this review.

Our cars were from the initial release of the Trainman line with a Pittsburgh & Lake Erie 40’ boxcar, Pennsy 52’ gondola, Rio Grande 40’ stock car, Jersey Central 40’ plug-door box car, and Cotton Belt extended vision steel caboose that matched our Cotton Belt RSD5. If I had to find something to niggle about, it would only be the somber colors of the cars, but then, for cars that model prototypes from the 1940s and 1950s, the colors are accurate.

Those of you who have been in the hobby a number of years may recognize the Trainman rolling stock as similar to the O gauge cars Atlas imported from Roco in Austria in the 1970s, but they are definitely not identical. Trainman cars are all created from new molds with the readily noticeable variations between them and the Roco cars being the under-floor detail and Trainman’s cast metal car floor in place of the plastic one on Roco cars. All Trainman cars are available in either 3-rail or 2-rail versions that are identical except for their trucks and couplers.

Each car’s heavy cast floor gives excellent tracking characteristics to the otherwise lightweight plastic body. Die-cast 50-ton Bettendorf style trucks are sprung, with the exception of the caboose trucks that have a dummy leaf spring in place of the usual pair of coil springs. Trucks installed on Trainman cars are the same ones Atlas O uses on its Master Line of freight cars and feature separate brake shoes, with 3-rail trucks also including a thumbtack-style tinplate coupler and a molded plastic air hose. By the time you read this review, Atlas will have released their scale Adjust-A-Couplers for the Trainman line. These couplers mount to the predrilled tinplate trucks, replacing the oversized tinplate couplers for more realism on 3-rail. Scale couplers and draft gear for 2-rail operation are mounted directly to the car floor.

The boxcar models the ubiquitous 40’ steel body that American Car and Foundry (ACF) produced in the ‘40s and early ‘50s. Ribbed doors slide on molded tracks and open to reveal the wood-planked floor inside the car. To my disappointment, however, the doors on the stock car and plug-door boxcar are integral to the body molding and don’t open. Other detail concessions to hold the retail price down include molded rather than separate grab irons and steps and molded brake lines and rigging which, considering the overall look and feel of the Trainman cars, are minor points to me.

Gondolas don’t normally garner much of my attention, but the Trainman model of the 52’ ACF mill gon is a handsome exception. Like the rest of the cars, the body molding is crisp and detailed and even includes trust plates declaring the First National Bank of the City of New York as the prototype car’s agent-owner.

Last, but certainly not least, is the back end of the line, and the train too—the Trainman caboose that models cars produced in the 1950s by the International Car Company. Without a doubt, this lighted scale caboose is one of the best bargains in the O scale hobby, with all the attributes of the rest of the Trainman line plus molded flush-mount clear windows and molded walkway grids on the steps and end platforms. Additionally, a small slide switch under the floor turns the caboose's interior lights on or off.

As a side note, the freight cars in the Trainman GP15 set shown in this issue’s “Smoke Signals” are the same as the cars in this review, but they are decorated in colors and road names that match the rest of the set.

With their fantastic looks, great tracking, and strong construction that’ll take a lot of use and even some abuse, the Trainman freight cars get my green aspect award for clear track ahead.


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