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Quick Look: Atlas N scale Norfolk Southern gondola

Read this review from the April 2017 Model Railroader
Atlas N scale Norfolk Southern gondola

Price: Single car, $25.95; three-pack, $77.95; six-pack, $155.70

Atlas Model Railroad Co.
378 Florence Ave.
Hillside, NJ 07205

Era: June 1993 to present (as decorated)

Road names: Norfolk Southern (with yellow conspicuity stripes, test roller bearings stencil, MW scrap tie loading stencil, and 263K GRL 1993 scheme in three road numbers each; 25,000th rebody in one number). Versions with conspicuity stripes and 263K GRL 1993 scheme also offered in three- and six-packs.

Comments: Atlas has added a Norfolk Southern class G86-R Top Gon coal gondola to its N scale lineup. The model, originally produced by BLMA Models, has a die-cast metal center sill, a one-piece injection-molded plastic body with separate internal braces, and an etched-metal brakewheel platform.

Norfolk Southern’s Roanoke, Va., East End Shops was home to the Top Gon program. Two prototype cars were built in 1991; production started in July 1992. Between 1991 and 1998, shop forces stripped thousands of aging hoppers to their center sills. The hopper bays were replaced with a tub-style floor similar to that found on contemporary coal gondolas. Why the “Top Gon” name? It’s a play on the 1980s movie “Top Gun.”

Our sample is decorated as Norfolk Southern no. 23214. The paint is smooth and evenly applied, and all of the printing is legible under magnification. The lettering placement matches that on the full-size car.

I found a prototype photo of NS 23214 on One detail discrepancy I noticed was on the corners. The full-size car has six rivets securing the corner post to the body. The model has three.

The hopper weighs .5 ounce, which is .5 ounce lighter than the 1 ounce weight recommended for a car of this length by National Model Railroad Association RP-20.1. The truck-mounted Accumate couplers are at the correct height, and the plastic wheelsets are in gauge. There are no provisions for body-mounting the couplers.

I ran the car in a train on our Red Oak project layout from 2015. The Top Gon ran without incident on the layout’s 13" radius curves and through the Peco no. 6 medium turnouts.

If you’re modeling coal country on the Norfolk Southern from the early 1990s through today, a solid train of Atlas Model Railroad Co.’s class G86R Top Gons is a must.

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