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Athearn ACF Centerflow covered hopper

Read this review from the October 2019 issue of Model Railroader
Athearn ACF Center Flow covered hopper

An American Car & Foundry (ACF) 4,600-cubic-foot-capacity covered hopper is the latest freight car to join the Athearn Genesis lineup. The HO scale model is offered in three body styles and features see-through etched-metal running boards, factory-installed and painted wire grab irons, and 100-ton trucks with rotating bearing caps.

The prototype. American Car & Foundry started production of the 4,600-cubic-foot-capacity Center Flow in January 1965. From the start of production through August 1971, the cars featured a single stiffener that ran horizontally along the car side. Cars built after that had parallel horizontal stiffeners near the top of the side. By the end of the production run in October 1981, more than 15,000 ACF 4600s were built.

Our sample is decorated as Louisville & Nashville no. 200570, part of the railroad’s 200400 through 200599 series. The first 50 cars, 200400 through 200449, were built by American Car & Foundry at its Huntington, W.Va., plant in April 1965. The remaining 150 cars were constructed in August 1965. The last 50 cars (200550 through 200599) had gravity-pneumatic outlets; the rest had gravity outlets. The Athearn model accurately depicts the former.

The HO scale model is offered in three body styles and features see-through etched-metal running boards, factory-installed and painted wire grab irons, and 100-ton trucks with rotating bearing caps.

Model details. The L&N car is based on an early 4600 covered hopper with a high brake wheel and single horizontal stiffener. Athearn also offers the model with an early body and low brake wheel and, a late body. A group photo of the three body styles can be seen on the next page.

The model features a one-piece plastic body with a separate roof, slope sheet braces, and discharge gates. There are small gaps where the roof meets the sides on all three of our samples. The end cages are separate castings with a mix of plastic and wire grab irons. The L&N car has two body panels, accurate for an early production car. Post-1972 covered hoppers have seven panels.

The roof is equally well detailed. The L&N car has a continuous pressed steel hatch cover with separate, factory-applied and painted wire grab irons. Athearn offers five different trough hatch covers and one style of round cover.

Framing the hatch covers is a painted etched-metal Apex Tri-lok running board with L-shaped wire corner grab irons. The running boards have 13 supports per side, correct for a pre-1975 car. Models depicting post-1975 covered hoppers have nine supports.

The blue paint is smooth and evenly applied, and the yellow printing is opaque and legible. The lettering placement matches a prototype photo in Steven D. Johnson’s Louisville & Nashville Color Guide to Freight and Passenger Equipment (Morning Sun Books Inc., 2000).

Test time. The model’s dimensions closely follow prototype drawings published in ACF Center Flow CF 4600 by Eric Neubauer (Society of Freight Car Historians, 1994). The Genesis-series car has correctly gauged 36" metal wheelsets. The body-mounted McHenry scale couplers are at the correct height. At 4.8 ounces, the model correctly matches National Model Railroad Association Recommended Practice 20.1.

I took the three samples we received (L&N, Burlington Northern, and Western Pacific) to our Wisconsin & Southern Troy Branch staff layout. The covered hoppers performed flawlessly while being pushed and
pulled through no. 5 turnouts and 30"-radius curves.

Conclusion. For a half century, the ACF 4600 Center Flow has been earning its keep on North American railroads. Athearn has done a great job covering the various body styles and detail options on its HO scale Genesis model. This well-executed covered hopper will be a standout in any freight car fleet.

Price: $49.98; three-pack, $147.98
Athearn Trains
1600 Forbes Way, Suite 120
Long Beach, CA 90810
Era: 1965 to present (depending on livery)
Road names: First run: Louisville & Nashville; Burlington Northern
(as-delivered scheme); Western Pacific; Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe; General Chemical; Kansas City Southern; and Soo Line. Second run: Burlington Northern Santa Fe; BN (1991 scheme and August 1975 repaint); Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; Pennsylvania RR; and
Union Pacific.
• 36" metal wheelsets, correctly gauged
• Body-mounted McHenry scale couplers, at correct height
• Weight: 4.8 ounces

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