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Quick Look: Atlas O 55-ton coal hopper

Read this review from the March 2018 Model Railroader
Atlas O 55-ton coal hopper

Price: $74.95

Atlas O
378 Florence Ave.
Hillside, NJ 07205

Era: 1960s (as decorated)

Road names: Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf; Boston & Maine; Canadian National; Virginian; and Westmoreland Coal Co. Four road numbers each. Data only and undecorated versions also available.

Comments: One of the enduring freight-car designs is the United States Railroad Administration’s 55-ton hopper. It’s also back on the Atlas O roster in several new road names.

Designed at the close of World War I and produced into the 1930s, these hoppers formed the backbone of many railroads’ coal-hauling operations. In all, more than 20,000 were produced. The Atlas O model features a plastic body on a die-cast metal frame. It has separately applied wire grab irons, brake gear, and die-cast metal stirrups. The unloading doors open and snap shut thanks to discreetly placed springs.

The sprung trucks have properly gauged 33" blackened metal wheels. The body-mounted die-cast metal knuckle couplers are mounted at the correct height. The major dimensions are close to those published in the 1959 Official Railway Equipment Register.

Our review sample is based on the 100-car fleet of twin hoppers owned by Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf to serve the coal industry in southeastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. Our KO&G model is correctly numbered in the prototype’s 700 to 799 car number series.

Atlas O’s version of this hopper is a solid representation of the KO&G’s cars, but there are a couple discrepancies. First, the model has a vertical brake staff, which was probably correct when the car was built. However by the early 1960s era that the car is decorated for, the prototype had been equipped with an Ajax brakewheel mounted vertically on the end. Also, the Atlas model has Andrews trucks with bolt-on journal-box retainer bars. According to prototype photos, the KO&G hoppers rode on cast-steel trucks with integral journal boxes.

Those things said, the majority of the detail on the model is spot-on.

Having built the detailed but fiddly InterMountain kit on which the Atlas O model is based, this ready-to-run version is a leap forward. It’s a great-looking and smooth-rolling model of a prototype that ran on rails all across the country.

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