Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

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Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby Amtrak207 » Wed Mar 08, 2017 8:49 pm

This covers Series #1 of the "MODERN COMMUTER TRAINS" from Atlas featuring NJ Transit's ALP-45DP engines and Multilevel cars. (For anyone with a Trainorders.com account, please copy below and post it on their Model Railroading forum. You have my permission.)

Background

As much as I would like to start off with my usual "these cars have been the backbone..." opening, I cannot with these. While they are the backbone now, I believe that title is held for the Arrow series cars with regard to NJ Transit. Faced with increasing ridership, NJ Transit has been talking about a "bi-level" type car for some time now. Traditional bi-level cars would not work due to tunnel restrictions for New York Penn Station; and in typical NJ Transit practice, a whole new design was required. Along with that, NJ Transit faced another issue with regards to motive power. For years, and even back to the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) days; passengers have been longing for a one-seat ride into Manhattan. Many were skeptical (including myself) when NJ Transit sought out bids in 2006 for dual-mode locomotives which unlike the traditional FL-9 or P32AC-DM which utilized 3rd rail shoes, the new engine would require a pantograph for overhead catenary operation.
In 2011, NJ Transit unveiled the first overhead catenary dual mode locomotive, the ALP-45DM produced by Bombardier Transportation.

The model ALP-45DM

The Atlas model drifts away from past packaging that has adorned so many of their locomotive models and the new owner finds a very attractive multicolored box featuring a picture of the model. Removing the top, a layer of foam protects the prize which is followed by an instruction sheet, a sheet for grab iron installation, a warranty card and finally, the prize itself carefully encased in plastic which is then surrounded by a soft foam center. Getting to this point, the modeler should feel like he/she has something unique they opened; as if opening an Athearn Genesis or Overland Models box.

And unique it certainly is.

One the plastic shell containing the engine is removed from the foam cradle, I was struck with just how heavy the engine is. As you slide the ALP-45DP out of the FIRST plastic shell, those that are familiar with Athearn Genesis packaging should have no trouble how to remove the engine from its main plastic protection. First impressions is the model is simply gorgeous. The "silver" paint is clean and nowhere as "grainy" as the first runs of Athearn's AMD-103 engines decorated for Phase V. Breathing a sigh of relief, I was in awe of the new "faded disco stripe" logo and upon further examination, Atlas did not take the easy road and faithfully replicated the prototype with the stripe fading into small dots. All lettering, which included the NJ Transit logos, numbers, warning labels, Bombardier logo, are in the correct spots and perfectly legible under magnification. Trucks are done well and the pantograph can be raised though it is non-operating. Also included are the modeler-installed grab irons along with a template to install them (more on that later.) One thing that particularly struck me was just how thin the handrails are that brace both sides of the door. They're utterly amazing.

Operation couldn't be better. Couplers were of correct height and sound matches the prototype though I did find I had to decrease the volume. Pulling power was all you can ask for, it had no problem hauling ten cars in push and pull mode. Lighting for DCC was done very well with multiple functions. Please check your instruction manual or Atlas' DCC instructions and helpful information located on their website.

Not so great stuff... yup you know it was coming. As this is simply a gorgeous model, it is not without its flaws.
1: Modeler-installed grab irons. Really Atlas? You come out with this work of art then short us on the grab irons? With the offerings nowadays not to mention the prices these engines go for, all grabs should be pre-installed.
2: Non-operating pantograph. Some modelers do have an active catenary system; is it a deal breaker? Of course not, but it wouldn't hurt.
3: Rear headlight stays illuminated while in push mode. (If there is a way around this, please let me know.)
4: The exhaust fans, while well done, should be see-through.
5: One of my biggest peeves, the "simulated" windshield wipers on the nose. Just like the grabs, really Atlas? With the level of research and detail that has gone into this model, would actual separately applied wipers be that hard? Or even if not, leave them off all together and let us apply them if need be.

Overall rating: 8/10

Bombardier Multilevel Car (Coach and Cab)


Unboxing the car is pretty much like the ALP-45DP. Upon first inspection, I was floored by how beautiful the Multilevel cars are. As with the engine, all warning labels, logos, etc are not only legible but accurately placed on the model. NJ Transit certainly was consulted just like they said! The roof leaves no stone unturned, you're just going to have to see it for yourself! All wheels matched NMRA standards as well as coupler height, which should come as no surprise. The diaphragms are expertly done and while the car has weight, I feel it is slightly too light and perhaps can use some additional weight. Undercarriage is sparse but with the skirting, it is not noticeable and does not distract from the beautiful model. Another nice note is the window gaskets are replicated as well. Cars rolled VERY well and no problems with tracking in push and pull modes (up to ten cars) were encountered.

The cab car, just like the Multilevel trailer, is a work of art. Atlas made a very smart move to include provisions for a DCC decoder. Ironically the cab wipers do not look as noticeably-lacking as on the ALP-45DM, in fact I even had trouble discerning if they were separately applied or not. One of the biggest advantages is that all passenger cars come equipped with factory lighting and a good job is done on them. With a painted interior and some passengers, you are well on your way to a true replica of the prototype.

Yup, it's that time.... negatives.

1: Silver paint. While this "silver" they used is nowhere as bad as some other models, it still leaves something to be desired. In this day and age, with all the advancements with Alclad II and others; I believe a much more realistic finish could have been achieved. If you look closely, there is a sheen to them which I am so thankful for, but maybe an extra tone or two would have helped. In the same regard, I am glad they didn't go for the factory "plated" finish that Walthers uses which is probably a plus since the prototypes are riveted aluminum bodies on steel frames as opposed to the stainless steel of an Amfleet or Budd car. Maybe Atlas' choice was a blessing in disguise, you decide!
2: End barriers, while it is included, maybe they should have been cast further out to be at least flush with the diaphragms for prototypical accuracy.
3: Speaking of prototypical, when coupled together, the cars exhibit a toy-like appearance almost with that much gap in space. Short shank couplers should help in this regard. To take it a step further, consider installing Sergeant Engineering Type-H tightlock couplers as equipped on their real life counterparts. The couplers are also installed with a new type of pocket (similar to a cushioned boxcar) which I assume is for push operation.

Overall rating: 9/10

In Closing:

Atlas took a giant leap with producing this series, I firmly believe they hit a home run here as cars and engines are already sold out on various mail order stores and in hobby shops. NJ Transit has always been a hot seller and this series pretty much solidified that. AMT Montreal ALP-45DP and matching Multilevel cars are due at the end of the year, and Atlas is actively pursuing the licensing to produce the MARC Multilevel cars as well. I would expect another run of NJT down the road with new road numbers and perhaps, just perhaps, we will see Comet II/III/IV/V trailer and cab cars being hauled by an Atlas PL42AC/GP40PH-2/ALP-46. The ALP45DP and Multilevel cars are simply a work of art as I have previously said and a sight to behold. You will not regret your purchase. In closing, TREMENDOUS job Atlas!!

Tom
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Re: Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby fl9m2026 » Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:29 pm

GREAT review. However, just a correction to your description of the coaches. The prototypes are not riveted aluminum, they are welded stainless steel.
"You're so ugly you could be a modern art masterpiece! Did your parents have any children that lived?" R. Lee Ermey
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Re: Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby glennk419 » Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:34 pm

Thanks for the detailed review. Bummer on the wipers, I've even applied them to my Walthers Comets / Bombers.

I have an ALP, a cab and four coaches enroute. Looking very much forward to receiving and running them.
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Re: Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby Amtrak207 » Sun Mar 12, 2017 2:58 am

I stand corrected, looks like I was going off an old Wikipedia article! :P

Thanks for pointing it out hahaha. That being said, anyone think the finish could have been done better?

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Re: Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby dedm30junk » Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:21 am

Im am pleased by Atlas how the engine and coaches and cab cars came out they look very good on the layout and I wished walthers to update there comet coaches to todays standard with the center door.
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Re: Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby glennk419 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:34 pm

I have received my ALP45-DP and cars and I must say that I am impressed. As has been stated above, the paint jobs and lettering are exemplary of what we have come to expect from Atlas and are miles above the last NJT offerings from Walthers, and these models just look GOOD! I have already ordered two more trailers based on my satisfaction with these models. While I do strive for some of the finer details, I am not a "rivet counter" and think some of the earlier "cons" are a bit nit picky. If Atlas ( or even Bachmann, since they seem to have a bit of love for electric power ) decide to release an ALP46, I'll have another half dozen cars coming my way.

As an aside........ with all the talk of the model railroading hobby being in a death spiral, I think that releases like this are extremely healthy. If a kid can see a model of something they can actually ride on today, they are going to be very persuasive in convincing mom and dad to "buy me one of those". I think Atlas hit a home run on this one.

PS. this all comes from a READING guy who likes to switch up eras on my layout once in a while. If the Reading was still around, these would need to be on the roster.
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Re: Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby steemtrayn » Fri May 12, 2017 3:48 am

My only gripe is that the pantograph must be all the way up, or down and locked,
; it can't be positioned half way.
Just be glad you don't have to press "2" for English.

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Re: Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby glennk419 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:34 am

Looks like Atlas is doing another run of these cars with new numbers and banners for NJT, as well as a run of MBTA cars. Didn't see any for MARC as of yet.
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Re: Review of Atlas' ALP-45DP / Multilevel Cars

Postby Backshophoss » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:45 pm

Also Atlas did a run of AMT's AL45DP's and cars for the Montreal based commuter service.
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