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In-Box Review
HO scale
Thrall Articulated Well Car
Thrall 53' Articulated Well Car, Pacer Stack Train, Road # 5315
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

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Well Well, What Have We Here?
Thrall 53' Articulated Well Car from Atlas is a three-unit uniuuarticulated intermodal rail system. This particular set is part of the Master Line series, item 20 002 838, Pacer Stack Train, Road number 5315.

Well cars have advantages over conventional freight cars: lower clearances; lower tare weight; lower center of gravity; less slack. Many sizes and tonnage capacities were tried and are still used.
    When the domestic intermodal container market settled out in the late 90’s, the 53’ long container emerged the winner. Car builders responded with new wells of like size to accommodate the new standard. Introduced in series service in early 2000, Thrall’s triple 53’ articulated well car was certainly the best looking of the 53’ wells. Angular wheel cut-outs, three flared-bottom wide and eight narrow side posts give this intermodal age well car character. - Atlas

Well cars are ubiquitous across North America's rail network. There are probably few lines that do not see some well cars, and some transcons are dominated by them. Atlas' set should be very welcome for modelers of modern mainlines.

Master Line Thrall 53' Articulated Well Car
Atlas' model is three separate well cars. They are plastic with photo-etched walkways, knuckle couplers and metal wheels. Atlas advertises these specific features:
    Each car consists of three wells--A,B & C.
    Walkway variants specific to prototype
    Etched metal detailing
    Detailed air reservoirs
    Detailed brake valves
    Sharp hand grabs and stirrups
    Runs on 18” radius
    Recommended for 22” radius
    Floor pin holes for Atlas and other brands of containers

The "A" well car is the "lead car' and has two trucks, air brake gear and a coupler. The "B" car has one truck and a coupler, plus air brake gear and a hand brake wheel. In between rides the "C" car, riding on a single truck. Cars B and C piggyback off the proceeding car's truck to create 156 HO feet of HO container carrying capacity. The B and C car lock onto the leading car with a female receptacle "cap" that snaps onto a male pin over the truck center plate, kind of a reverse enter-pin.

These models look good. However, they are very light according to the NMRA RP-20.1 Car Weight. Atlas does not specifically mention whether containers are intended to supply the required weight. That said, the cars rolled freely and tracked with no trouble over Atlas code 83 track and a No. 6 turnout, as well as over a Peco code 80 single-slip switch.

These models need careful handling because they have many very fine parts. And they need some screwdriver work to couple the cars as intended; I did not use a screwdriver and I think theyy went together without a hitch (pardon the pun). Atlas has a link on the car's page to HO 53' Articulated Well Car Assembly Instructions . That link is offered below in the summary box.

While Atlas packs these cars securely in a top-bottom fitted plastic cradle, getting the cars out of it (and back into it) is a delicate task. When I removed the cars I did not note which car was packed where and with what orientation. I regret that slip of attention because each car fits into a specific slot.

First, the etched metal walkways. Photo-etch can't be beat! They have their own mounting brackets.

Next, several factory-applied individual pieces per car. These include railing and hand grabs, stirrups and ladders on the corners, and hand grabs on the ends. Triangular stops guard each well corner.

The air brake system includes the reservoirs and valves, but no actuators. Small wire pipes are mounted where trainline piping extends above the frame, too.

These parts are very fine and delicate. A couple of those parts were broken or loose when I unpacked the models, including an end walkway. Fortunately, Atlas includes a packet with a couple of spares.

Some of the equally impressive detail is painted on, as explained next.

Paint and finish
This is a very strong point for these models. The prototype is covered in stenciling and railroad reporting marks, and Atlas copied that on the models. All of the informational data is legible. It looks like the majority of the stenciling is on the A unit, with progressively less on the B and C cars. While you can read the printing from the photos, I will list some examples including dimensional data;
    “125-T” for 125-ton capacity
    Plate H loading gauge
    Positioning markers for containers of 53' and shorter

Builder's plate and Pacer Train logo, to name a couple other markings, are included, too.

Again, there are no parts lists nor instructions included in the box. Atlas does have the instructions online.

Thrall 53' Articulated Well Car rolled smoothing across Atlas code 83 track and a No. 6 turnout, and through a Peco code 80 single-slip switch. Factory mounted knuckle couplers were at the proper height.

Atlas' Thrall 53' Articulated Well Car is a very impressive model. Joined together the 150 scale feet of rolling stock is hard to ignore, and the unit sliding serpent-like through turnouts is fun to watch. They have a high level of detail including photo-etched treadways.

These cars have excellent detail and superb printing. They roll without trouble although unloaded, they are very light and could experience "clotheslining" around sharp curves.

Very fine and delicate parts require very careful handling.

Atlas' 53' Thrall well cars are almost essential for modern railroads. They are wonderful models and one or more sets will certainly enhance one's freight fleet. Recommended.

Please remember to tell vendors and retailers that you saw this model here - on RailRoad Modeling.
Highs: High level of detail including photo-etched treadways.
Lows: Light weight. Very fine and delicate parts require very careful handling.
Verdict: Atlas' 53' Thrall well cars are almost essential for modern railroads. They are wonderful models and one or more sets will certainly enhance one's freight fleet.
  Scale: HO Scale
  Mfg. ID: 20 002 838
  Related Link: HO 53' Articulated Well Car Assembly Instructions
  PUBLISHED: Jul 29, 2016
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Atlas Model Railroad!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Armorama. All rights reserved.



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