IntroductionUSRA Steel Rebuilt Box Car
is an HO model by Atlas Model Railroad
. This model includes separately applied grabs and side ladders and a detailed underside. This model is Muncie & Western 1320
, item 20 003 369
By the beginning of WWII, the majority of the classic USRA double-sheathed box cars and their clones were rebuilt with steel sides. More rebuilds followed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. By late 1948, close 14,000 of the original 24,500 USRA double-sheathed cars had been rebuilt with quite a degree of variation including the end, door and underframe. These steel side rebuilds were far more popular than their single-sheathed counterparts and make a great addition to the Atlas HO scale product line. - Atlas
Muncie & Western HO USRA Steel Rebuilt Box Car
Atlas securely packs this model in a form-fitted cradle with a snap-on lid, protected from scuffing with a soft plastic sheet. You can see the model through a window in the box.
This model features sharp, crisp molding with no flash, sink marks, visible ejector marks or seam lines. The doors can slide open.
Atlas' Muncie & Western 1320 body is molded with 5-5-5 panel ends and 10 panel sides with a straight sill, and topped with a flat panel roof with wood running boards. Youngstown doors of the 5/7/5 pattern are hung. The car rides on Bettendorf trucks with 33-inch machined blackened metal wheels. Atlas equips the car with knuckle couplers. Atlas touts the following qualities:
Highly detailed body
7-8 or 5-5-5 panel ends as per the prototype
Accurate painting and printing
Fishbelly or Straight underframe as per prototype
Separately applied wire grabs and side ladders
Inside height of model may vary from prototype
Railroads often ordered a freight car design by the hundreds or thousands. Despite standardization like USRA designs, railroads "personalized" their equipment to meet their particular needs, or because they had a good supply (or shortage) of components from a particular manufacturer. Additionally, the cars were often modified during shopping or repairs. Thus, accurately modeling a specific car often requires a photo of the subject for a specific date. With that in mind, to more closely match a prototype Atlas has created several variants:
5-5-5 End, 10-Panel, Ladder, Fishbelly Sill
5-5-5 End, 10-Panel, Ladder, Standard Sill
5-5-5 End, 8-Panel, Ladder, Fishbelly Sill.
Modelers interested in the absolute accuracy of this model can view prototype images at Click here for additional images for this review
at the bottom of this review, plus read a detailed description in Prototype?
This crisply molded model has fine recessed or raised detail, as appropriate. A multitude of scale rivets simulates fasteners for the panels, sills, ends and roof. Atlas created air space between the body and ladders, grabs and cut bars by separately mounting them. This creates a great deal of authenticity.
Underneath the model is a detail frame holding a detailed air brake system. It consists of the triple valve, reservoir, brake cylinder, rods, chains, hangers, and train line. Oddly, despite all the plastic and wire ladders and grabs, Atlas did not attach or supply and air hoses. The trucks are basic, too.
The doors have good handle and latch and hanger detail although it is all cast on. As are the tack boards. Regardless, this model has detail that can please even finicky modelers.
Painting and Lettering
Atlas' finishing is usually to a very high standard and this model continues that trait. Paint is thin yet opaque. No detail is obscured.
Printing is amazing. You can read all the stenciling, even that the journals were packed in Muncie on May 11, 1958. This issue of the USRA steel rebuilt box car is released with six liveries:
Muncie & Western (Yellow/Black)
Santa Fe - "Grand Canyon" (Brown/White/Black)
Santa Fe - "The Chief" (Brown/White/Black)
Southern Pacific (Brown/White/Black)
Western Pacific (Brown/Black/Silver)
Each has two road numbers. There are also undecorated offerings for each variant.
Dusting the Iron
This car rolled freely and tracked without trouble across code 83 track and through a code 80 slip switch. My coupler height gauge shows the couplers at a good height.
It weighs 3.8 ounces - exactly what NMRA RP20 recommends. It is 41 feet long from sill to sill.
Atlas has released another very detailed model of a common box car of the Steam- to Transition-era. That detail includes attached ladders, grabs, and cut bars, underside brake detail, and sharp molded surface elements. It is pulled by knuckle couplers and rolls on metal wheels. Paint is opaque yet sharp and smooth. Lettering is fully legible.
While Atlas has made a great effort with four body configurations to create a model close to specific prototypes, the model is not 100% perfect for a M&W USRA steel rebuilt. In contrast with the wire grabs and other attached parts, no air hoses are provided.
Modelers who seek absolute accuracy will find aspects of this model lacking. Modelers who want a good looking high quality model with good performance and detail will appreciate this model, in any of the road names. Recommended.
Please remember to tell
Atlas that you saw this model here - on
Look at the prototype photo via the link, below. M&W 1320 had a vertical brake staff and different style 5/5/5 ends. Otherwise, it appears to be a good match.
Box cars with wood sides, whether double-sheathed, or single-sheathed, often were rebuilt during the 1930's in lieu of buying new all-steel cars. The original cars typically had a 9 panel side, and so the new steel sheets most often were rebuilt, using the original uprights, thus giving a somewhat unique four-panels per side of the door instead of five of the standard AAR designs. As clearances had increased from when the original cars were built, the rebuilds typically used a series of brackets along the side sill to space the new steel sides out a few more inches, and this is the true hallmark of a steel rebuilt car.
Having said that, the rebuilds came in a number of variations. The most common rebuild was of the USRA wood or truss-side car, with a standard inside height of 9 ft. 0 ins. Sometimes this height was maintained, often it was increased to match new cars coming off the production lines, of 10 feet inside height or more. There were all sorts of clever ways to gain the height in the ends, including blank sections, and using segments from other cars (so an original car with a 5/5/5 outward Murphy end might be rebuilt as a 2/5/5/5, with a few more Murphy type "ribs" or even other end segments, such as Dreadnaughts.
Finally, more cars besides the standard USRA cars were rebuilt, so if the starting point was different, the rebuild would also vary from other rebuilds.
Apparently Atlas is going for four versions, with two different ends (a 5/5/5 of the original USRA) and a 7/8 reflecting standard designs used in the immediate post-WWI era. They also have a fishbelly and a straight center sill. Unfortunately, the USRA single-sheathed box car had a narrower end than its double-sheathed brother, and so a rebuild would have to have a different amount of spacer steel along the corners of the ends to bring the corners out to the new sides. I'm not sure which version Atlas used, in which case the other one would be incorrect.
Atlas is also trying to pass off this lower car for some of the taller rebuilt versions, which is a lot easier to spot as wrong than the end detail.
UPDATE - Nooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! - I just re-read the description of the model. Atlas is doing 10 panel steel sides, not the so-common 8 panels of most rebuilds. I'm betting they are just taking their 1932 box car model and change the ends - probably using the same straight center sill of the '32 car. Okay, now that I look, there WERE a number of cars with 10 panels. I still wish they had done the 8 panel version, just because it looks different from all over plastic box cars.*
* NEB&W Railroad Heritage Website. NEB&W Guide to Atlas Models Steel Rebuilt Box Car Models. [Web.] 18 October 2013.