It finally happened: The first train from New Jersey arrived in the city of my birth: Hildesheim, Germany! Well, at least on my HO model train layout. Perhaps an explanation would be in order. As regular readers of my blog know, my train layout has a germanic "flavor" to it. That is to say that the majority of the trains and associated items on my pike are scenes and models of German railroading. But I do not take it all that seriously: I am not a "rivet counter". Thus one will find a JR West "Shinkansen" zooming around my track, passing a siding where a Union Pacific coal drag with two ES44ACs on the point is waiting for it to go by.
Generally, with few exceptions, I tend to stick to modern power. Alas there are not that many US based models of contemporary passenger trains. Thus, when the Atlas Model Railroad Company announced some time back that they would produce a modern HO scale US commuter train, I put down one cent (seriously) with Factory Direct Trains to reserve one set. This was going to be a HO model of the New Jersey Transit ALP-45DP locomotive and the appropriate trailers and cab cars. The ALP-45DP engines were designed by Bombardier and based on their successful TRAXX series of locomotives. Built in Kassel, Germany they are dual mode capable and can be run under electric overhead catenary and via diesel engine power. Please click here for more technical information regarding the ALP-45DP.
To be honest, I had totally forgotten about ordering this train. So when the doorbell rang three days ago and the UPS guy handed me a large package, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. I couldn't remember ordering anything!
Once I did open the carton I did have the proverbial "aha" moment, now realizing that I had ordered this quite some months ago. Here is my first impression:
The ALP-45DP locomotives are heavy, around 21 ounces. The locos are packaged in a sort of clear plastic "clam shell" contraption.
That "clam shell" itself then comes in a foam lined heavy duty carton. And I mean heavy duty: the box itself is heavy! The coaches and the cab cars come similarly packaged.
Notice in the above photograph that there is a small bag to the right (rear) of the locomotive. This bag contains a couple of add-on items like hand rails, etc. to be attached to the front end of the locomotive. The large, silver colored item is a template to aid in the precise drilling of the very small diameter holes required.
For me at least this is a never before seen thing: Generally the holes would be drilled in at the factory, with the parts on a sprue as shown above. I can only surmise that this would save Atlas a couple of pennies of the production cost per locomotive.
The first impression one gets of the locomotive is quite good. The lettering and color scheme came out nicely.
So far I have only two complaints. The first concerns the pantograph. First of all it's rather basic and I do not think very realistic, and secondly, which is really the problem, I do not think that the collector assembly is wide enough.
I have installed overhead on my layout. It is not electrified, but rather just for show and it works with all the electric locomotive pantographs I have. Except for the new Atlas ones. Fortunately it should not be all that difficult to change it out for a correctly working pantograph.
The Atlas locomotives ("Gold" versions) come with an ESU decoder and sound unit. The decoder is set according to NMRA standard to address 3 as factory default. These 21 pin decoders are probably some of the best on the market. 17 functions have been programmed into the decoder. Unfortunately, despite quite a few attempts, my Model Rectifier Advanced Prodigy DCC unit will not reprogram the ESU decoder. Of course this is not Atlas' fault and I am trying to find a solution.
The locos run well. They have no problems pulling ten NJ Transit double deck coaches. The sound is interesting. In "overhead electric" mode the locomotives make that typical German electric engine "whine". It drives me nuts. So I do not anticipate using the sound function all that often.
The coaches and cab cars are also nicely detailed. All have interior LED lighting built in. It's a bit bright, but that's being a bit nit picky on my part. The car bodies come off easily, so the cars can be populated with tiny passengers without much ado. In a first, the cab car has a 21 pin decoder socket. This would allow one to add a decoder to control directional lighting, as well as the bell and horn sounds.
There is one complaint though. The coupling gaps between the cars are just too large. I really wish that the US model train manufacturers would adopt the short coupling mechanisms used by the European manufacturers.
A few more photos of the new toy:
A short video of the new NJ Transit train in action: