by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Originally published on:
Steam Era Classics
CCC&St.L (NYC) No. S-82068
USRA 55 Ton Coal Hopper
While Atlas is probably most associated with their HO and N scale models of the Trainman® and Masters® series, Atlas also makes a great selection of O scale –1/48—rolling stock, track, and accessories, the Atlas O line. This review of their USRA 55 Ton Coal Hopper continues Railroad Modeling's series of Atlas O reviews.
O ScaleSome of the very first commercial model trains were roughly the size of what is now known as O scale. Depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you are on, O ranges from 1/43 to 1/48; the once common 1/50 scale from Japan also fits nicely into the stable of O iron horses. As such O scale combines ideally with the growing 1/48 range of quarterscale military models.
O scale provides a sensual heft that magnifies the realism of model railroading. O was dominated by toyish Tin Plate and 3-rail models most often identified with Lionel. A couple of decades ago O scale began to evolve with greater accuracy and authenticity that includes a shift from traditional 3-rail to 2-rail, as well as prototypical scale and details. Into this arena Atlas presents Atlas O models, with both 2- and 3-rail models.
USRA 55-Ton Hopper CarDuring World War I, the US railroads experienced a meltdown due to increased traffic needs. This lead to the nationalization of the railroads from 28 December 1918 through 1 March 1920 under the United States Railroad Administration (USRA) to relieve the crisis. Working with industry leaders USRA standardized the design of a dozen locomotives and dozens of freight cars. Many were very successful and built long after the railroads were returned to the private sector. USRA built 1,856 steam locomotives and over 100,000 railroad cars.
Atlas' 55-ton hopper car represents one of the body types designed by the USRA to relieve the shortage of freight cars. Built in 1918, 25,000 of these cars were primarily assigned to the great coal-hauling roads of the east and mid-west. The car design was very successful and later became one of the standard cars of the American Railway Association.  These versatile and soundly designed hoppers fed the Roaring Twenties, suffered The Great Depression, soldiered through World War Two (Both at home and probably overseas under Lend-Lease), witnessed the diesel supplant the steam locomotive through the ‘50s, and suffered the derailing of America’s railroads through the ‘60s. Some may have even lasted into the catastrophe of Penn Central.
Atlas O 55-Ton Hopper CarThe fully assembled model is securely packed in a form-fitted Styrofoam cradle, protected from scuffing by a thin plastic sheets. Additional Styrofoam inserts support the inside of the body from crushing. The cradle has indentions for your fingers to help grip it for removal from the card carton, which has a clear plastic viewing window.
The model is free from mold marks, ejector marks, and glue stains from assembly. There is a bit of flash or seam lines along the brake rods and hangers. Scale rivet detail enhances the surface. Atlas released it for both 2- and 3-rail operation. Atlas "O" scale couplers can also be used on both 2-rail and 3-rail versions.
• Die-cast centerbeam and chassis
• Die-cast stirrups
• Opening, sprung hopper doors
• Die-cast Andrews trucks
• Prototypical painting and lettering
• Die-cast articulated couplers with trainline detail (3-Rail)
• Scale die-cast couplers and 33" wheelsets (2-Rail)
• Minimum diameter curve (3-Rail): O-31
• Minimum radius (2-Rail) : 24"
Four road numbers are available per road name, except for Data Only and the Limited Edition road names which have one.
The hopper weighs 12.3 ounces, just a tad shy of the NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight target of 12.5 oz. The metal wheels are blackened. The wheels are in gauge. Measuring the model finds it scaling out properly, matching the dimensional data stenciled on the car. For you quarterscale military modelers interested in the diorama potential of this model, I include photographs of it with 1/48 military models.
DetailsAtlas richly equips this model with individual separate parts:
• Wire grab irons
• Opening, sprung hopper doors
• Sprung Andrews trucks
• Trainline detail (3-Rail)
• Air Brake detail
• Airhose and angle cock detail
• Brake hanger gear
• Brake wheel
Markings and LiveryAtlas prints four road numbers per road name. Roadnames available are Montour, Cleveland Cincinnati Chicago & St Louis Railway ("Big Four", NYC), Ford, Missouri Pacific, Pittsburgh, McKeesport & Youghiogheny (NYC), and Westmoreland Coal Co.. This hopper is painted box car red. There is even a Data Only, and undecorated version. The paint is smooth and does not obscure detail.
This model is decorated as a 82000 series Cleveland Cincinnati Chicago & St Louis Railway car, part of the mighty New York Central Lines. Razor sharp printing of the road name, logo, and data stenciling is amazing; sharp and clear as it is I had to use a magnifying glass to read that information! Its stenciling tells that this car was built in November, 1922 by American car and Foundry Co., Madison, Illinois. It even includes NYC equipment trust information.
NYC rostered over 3,800 55-ton USRA hoppers in January, 1952.
SummaryThis model is a beautiful representation of a CCC&StL USRA hopper. It is beautifully molded, finished, and impressively detailed, with sharp printing.
If you want to freelance and kitbash, it should not be troublesome to do with the many model railroad companies issuing aftermarket parts and decals. There were many designs very similar to the 55-ton USRA design.
Whether you plan to use this on an O scale layout or in a 1/48 diorama, this is an impressive model. Highly recommended.
,  Atlas O
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