Little Victories


Atlas, one of model railroading’s most established manufacturers, came late to the online-ordering party. They finally have a web site where you can add items to a virtual cart, feed in a credit-card number, pick a shipper, and have merchandise show up on your porch. You know, the kind of thing that everybody does these days. Half the part listings have no pictures. I never received a shipment notification, let alone a tracking number. I read complaints from other N scalers that shipments would take weeks or months to show up. But I pulled the trigger on Monday anyway,  the box appeared on my porch Saturday, and it was full of stuff that solved old problems. Celebrate the little victories.

The Boxcars With the Wrong Doors

My freelanced railroad, the Gopher Valley Central, draws a heavy influence from a real-life shortline, the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton. The WAG was known for having a very large fleet of outside-braced wooden boxcars which travelled far and wide during the 1960s. There is no exact model of the WAG’s boxcar in N scale, but a USRA single-sheathed boxcar is close enough for the GVC. A few years ago, Atlas came out with a brand-new version of the USRA box, and I ordered an undecorated one. It was beautiful, and better yet, both wooden doors (as-built) and steel doors (as equipped in later years) came in the package. Perfect! It’s the steel doors that capture the look of a WAG car. The following year, I ordered two more undecorated boxcars.

The newer ones, however, arrived with only the wooden doors. Nuts. Atlas had a phone number listed on their web side for parts orders, but since I don’t have access to a phone during business hours, I never got around to making the call. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I discovered that Atlas parts could now be purchased online. There were no doors listed for the single-sheathed boxcar, nor were the part numbers cross-referenced between products. The doors for Atlas’s USRA rebuilt boxcar were there, however. I was 98% sure that it was the same door, so I went out on a limb and ordered a bunch.


Yes, the replacement doors are exactly what I needed. Now it’s on to paint and decals for the GVC boxcar fleet.

The U-Boat That Took a Bad Dive

A few years ago, Leroy offered me a good deal on a mixed bag of Atlas U-25B diesels. Since two of them were decorated for Erie Lackawanna, I couldn’t pass it up. I’ve got decoders in both of the EL engines now, and they’ve joined my train-show fleet. There was also one in Conrail colors, which I put to use on the Library Project. The last one was decorated for the Pennsy, but it had clearly taken The Big Drop, and the sill was badly cracked. I scratched my head, then set it aside.

Before I committed the order for the boxcar doors, I asked myself the Shopper’s Question: “Is there anything else I need while I’m here?” I remembered the crippled Pennsy U-Boat. This particular engine was actually manufactured for Atlas by Kato, before Atlas set up manufacturing in China, so it’s close to 20 years old. But whaddaya know…”U25B sill unit ph2b (Japan)” was still in stock, and for only $1.50. Before this engine’s ready for service, I’ll still need to re-attach the Micro-Trains couplers that had been retrofitted to the old sill, and paint it to match the engine, but it’s another locomotive off the junk pile now.