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Atlas HO scale EMD SD35 diesel locomotive

Read this review from the October 2020 issue of Model Railroader
Atlas HO scale EMD SD35 diesel locomotive
Atlas HO scale EMD SD35 diesel locomotive

Atlas RR Co. is back with another run of its well-detailed SD35s, this time with Electronic Solutions Ulm (ESU) dual-mode decoders. This run features two Chessie System variations and a Penn Central model with a red P.

The prototype. General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division (EMD) launched its “35 Line” with the GP and SD35 in 1963 and ’64, respectively. These locomotives set the design standard for more than two decades of EMD locomotives with their sharply creased lines.

They were the last locomotives to use the 567 series of diesel engines, first introduced in 1938. By the early ’60s, they were producing nearly double the horsepower of their progenitors, albeit with 16 instead of 12 cylinders.

But getting 2,500hp out of a 25-year-old design had stretched the engine to its limits, and the turbocharged 16-567D3A wasn’t considered as reliable as its earlier incarnations. The 567 would be replaced by the 645 in EMD’s 40-series diesels. Those numbers, 567 and 645, referred to the displacement of each cylinder in the engine in cubic inches.

EMD sold 360 SD35s in both standard low short hood versions (170) and high short hood versions (190). There was also a passenger-oriented SDP35 that was part of Atlas’ earlier runs of this model. The prototype made up 35 of the low short hood production numbers.

Most SD35s were leaving Class 1 railroad rosters in the mid-1980s. Chessie rebuilt some of the engines into lower-horsepower SD20-2s.

Three SD35s survive. One at the Baltimore & Ohio Museum in Baltimore, Md., has been repainted to B&O colors after time on Chessie System and CSX. The other two locomotives are in storage, one at the Southern Appalachia Railway Museum in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the other on the Georges Creek Railroad in Westernport, Md.

The model. Atlas first introduced this version of its SD35 in 2002, and Jim Hediger reviewed it in the October 2002 issue. Our sample is decorated in Chessie System colors with Western Maryland (WM) reporting marks. The separations between the Federal Yellow, Vermillion, and Enchantment Blue sections are sharp, and all the colors are opaque. Detail painting includes silver frames on the cab side windows and EMD builder’s plates centered under the cab on the sills. There are a couple of voids in the Chess-C logo where it goes over door latches on the long hood, but they would be easy to take care of with a drop of Enchantment Blue paint.

Separately applied grab irons and lift rings festoon the body of the Atlas SD35. Other separately applied parts include windshield wipers, operating drop steps, m.u. hoses, uncoupling levers, perforated footboards, and m.u. stands. The handrails are molded in orange (Vermillion) flexible plastic to resist damage. The parts appear to be scale sized.

The trucks feature separately applied brake cylinders, brake lines, sanding lines, and on the fireman’s (left) side lead truck, a speed recorder and cable.

The Atlas Master Line SD35 uses a die-cast metal frame to support its flywheel-equipped can motor. A weight supports the ESU LokSound decoder and speaker.

The mechanism. Under the hood of the Atlas SD35 is a die-cast metal frame. To separate the body from the frame, I removed the front and rear draft-gear boxes, then slipped a thin flat screwdriver under the walkway at the cab end and pried the body shell from the frame, releasing the plastic clips that snap over the tabs on the inside edge of the frame. There are three clips on each side of the body shell – one at each end and another centered over the fuel tank.

The locomotive’s can motor and flywheels are mounted above the fuel tank. Plastic driveshafts carry power to both trucks and drive all 12 wheels. These blackened wheels carry electrical current to a motherboard mounted to a die-cast metal weight screwed to the top of the frame. An ESU LokSound decoder is attached to the motherboard with a 21-pin connection.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) illuminate the headlights and number boards. The front light is secured to the frame with glue; the rear light sits in a groove molded into the speaker enclosure and is held in place with tape. The arrangement means there are no wires tethering the body shell to the frame. The speaker faces down over the rear truck.

On the test track. I started direct current (DC) testing using a Model Rectifier Tech II Railmaster 2400 powerpack. It took 8.5V to get the sound effects to start up, a little more than the common 7.5V. The locomotive started moving at 10V at 5 scale mph. Top speed at 13V, my power pack’s maximum, was 50 scale mph.The lights and number boxes illuminated depending on the direction of travel. The LEDs are a little too yellow for my taste. With 2.9 ounces of drawbar pull, the Atlas SD35 should be able to pull 41 freight cars on straight and level track.

I switched to my NCE PowerCab for the DCC testing and found the locomotive started moving in speed step 2 at just under 2 scale mph. Top speed in speed step 28 was a bit high at 89 scale mph. One of my favorite features on LokSound decoders is the independent brake, but to get this working required a trip to the LokProgrammer to activate the feature. I adjusted Brake 1 so the max speed allowed was 0 out of 126. This caused the locomotive to stop when I pressed the Independent Brake function button, which I moved from F10 to F6, which is unused on this model. While I was using the LokProgrammer (the software is free, but the hardware is an extra-cost item), I remapped some other functions and set the lights to turn on and off independent of direction. Using the dimmer function, I could reduce the light output prototypically when switching or waiting on a siding.

I adjusted Brake 1 so the max speed allowed was 0 out of 126. This caused the locomotive to stop when I pressed the Independent Brake function button, which I moved from F10 to F6, which is unused on this model. While I was using the LokProgrammer (the software is free, but the hardware is an extra-cost item), I remapped some other functions and set the lights to turn on and off independent of direction. Using the dimmer function, I could reduce the light output prototypically when switching or waiting on a siding.

One of the other things I like about ESU LokSound decoders is the way the engine sound ramps up before the locomotive starts moving. It’s possible to make other brands do this as well, but it’s nice to have this feature working out of the box.

I tested the SD35 on my home switching layout, and it had no trouble with the Atlas Custom Line no. 4 turnouts in my industrial sidings or small yard. I also tested the engine on Model Railroader’s staff layout, the Milwaukee, Racine & Troy. Climbing the 3 percent grade out of Bay Junction, the SD35 pulled nine HO scale freight cars.

The addition of an ESU LokSound dual-mode decoder means modelers can have the sounds of these locomotives on either DC or DCC layouts. Modelers of Mid-Atlantic railroads won’t be disappointed with these fine-running engines.

Atas HO scale EMD SD35 performance charts
Facts and features
Price: $279.95 (DCC and sound), $169.95 (DC, no sound)
Manufacturer
Atlas Model RR Co. Inc.
378 Florence Ave.
Hillside, NJ 07205
atlasrr.com
Era: early ’70s to mid-’80s in as-tested paint scheme
Road names: Chessie System (WM reporting marks), Chessie (Torco patch), Penn Central (red P), undecorated with high short hood
Features
Blackened metal wheels, in gauge
Detailed cab interior with crew
Die-cast metal underframe
Directional lighting
Five-pole skewed armature motor with dual flywheels
Flat or raised dust bin as appropriate by railroad
Eight-pin plug for DCC decoder (direct-current version)
Plastic knuckle couplers, mounted at correct height
Separate, factory-installed scale windshield wipers, metal grab irons, and fine scale handrails
Snowplow (included but not installed)
Weight: 14.4 ounces

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