A trip to New Jersey in N Scale

The Atlas Model Railroad Company has finally released their N scale New Jersey Transit and AMT (Agence métropolitaine de transport Montreal) ALP-45 locomotives and the appropriate double deck coaches, as well as double deck cab cars.

This was quite some time in coming. I had pre-ordered my N scale set in early January of 2019. Back in 2017 Atlas had already released the HO scale version of the same equipment and, at the time, also announced that “N scalers” would get their NJ Transit and AMT sets also.

In 2017 I was still working with HO scale. Not surprisingly I got myself an HO New Jersey Transit train set as soon as they became available back then. Those HO sets had some flaws, but were basically quite nice. Certainly the price was right compared to some of the European train models. My review of the HO version can be read here.

Then in late 2018 I decided that N scale would be a better scale for me to work with. (Read my reasons here.) Thus the order for the Atlas Model Railroad Company New Jersey Transit set in N scale. The train set arrived yesterday.

The locomotive comes nicely packaged, nestled in a foam insert, which itself is in a plastic box. This is the “Gold” version of the model release, meaning that the locomotive has an ESU sound decoder installed ex factory.

NJT 4512.jpg

As with the HO version, the very first impression is quite good. The colors and printing are ok at a normal viewing distance and certainly for watching this locomotive go around a layout. Upon a closer look there are some printing issues and color separation problems: NJT 4512 6.jpgb.jpg

Look at the Bombardier printing. I wonder if this could have been done a little better. But then again this is N scale (1:160) so perhaps this is a bit on the nitpicky side.

The roof is fine. I am not crazy about the plastic pantograph however. It is pretty useless for using with model catenary. It may not be true to the original, but I might just replace it with a properly working, all metal pantograph from SommerfeldtNJT 4512 4.jpg

The front end:NJT 4512 2.jpg

Not bad, but those couplers…

The rear end of the locomotive. The ALP-45s have only one cab, since they are always used in push-pull service with a cab car at the other end of the train:NJT 7019 6.jpg

The double deck cars:NJT 7019.jpgIMG_5155.jpeg

Front end of a cab control car:NJT 7019 5.jpg

Roof equipment on a cab car:NJT 7019 4.jpg

The locomotive lights change from white to red depending on the direction. The ditch lights can be turned off and on by using F6 on a DCC controller. Unfortunately this is not so with the cab control car. All the lights, ditch lights, head lights and red rear marker lights, are always illuminated together. The coaches have interior LED lighting already installed at the factory:IMG_5167.jpeg

Personally I think the headlights and rear lights on the locomotive could be just a bit brighter. All the lights on the cab control car are also rather dim. I believe that is because instead of using separate micro LEDs for each lamp, Atlas used clear plastic light conduits from one lamp to imitate the front and rear lights on the models. Probably a bit cheaper that way.IMG_5175.jpegThe clear plastic light conduits for the red marker lights and the head light are clearly visible.

IMG_5154.jpegIMG_5153.jpegIMG_5168.jpegNotice that all the lights are illuminated on the cab control car. Pity that. The HO version had a decoder built in, allowing one to switch from red marker to head/ditch lights depending on the direction of travel. 

Now for the not so great things. The coaches are too light and need more weight. The couplers on the locomotive and the coaches seem way out of proportion. The distance between cars, once coupled together, is awful:NJT 7027.jpgI still do not understand why American model train manufacturers can not or will not use standard coupler pockets and close coupling mechanics on their model trains.

On some of the cab control cars the snow plow was not properly attached and got hung up on the track. I am not sure wether that is a design problem or a quality control issue. Same for some coupler pins: they were too long or installed too low and consequently got hung up on turn outs.

The locomotive runs well. However I can not get it to go beyond a crawl. At this point I am not sure what the issue may be. It could be my DCC system or I may have to change some of the speed configuration variables on the decoder. We will see.

The Atlas N scale ALP-45 locomotive (gold version) has an MSRP of $260.00. A three car New Jersey Transit coach set has an MSRP of $180.00. The gold versions of the New Jersey Transit ALP-45 have already been sold out at the factory. Quite a few dealers offer considerable discounts on these models. I got mine at Trainworld in Brooklyn, New York.

Here is a short video of my new train: NJTransit ALP-45.

For technical information on the full scale, real ALP-45 click here. For information on the double deck coaches click here.

All photos by Ralf Meier (iPhone X and Sony RX100 M7)

5 Comments

  1. John Bruce says:

    Thanks for the review and video. I’ve sent for a loco and 3-car set and am waiting for its arrival. I was curious as to how the cab car lighting would be handled, so I appreciate the info! I’d been looking for a review on Google for several days but yours is the only one I’ve come up with so far. I do note that on the video, you have a fairly fast runby — did you fix the problem with the speed?

    • Trainphilos says:

      No, no “speed fix” yet. So far I have not had the chance to take a look at the loco speed configuration variables. Also, I believe that the iPhone video makes it look faster than it really is. To the naked eye it just seems a bit too slow…

      • John Bruce says:

        I received my loco and reset cv 3 and cv 4 to 0. These are the accel and decel variables and at least make the loco slightly more responsive to the throttle. This also increases the apparent speed a bit.

  2. Trainphilos says:

    Thanks. I will try that…once I have the time to deal with it.

  3. John Bruce says:

    I found the same problem with my loco and e-mailed Atlas Support. They replied they are aware of the problem and are “working with the engineer to fix it”. I asked them if they had a time estimate, and they didn’t answer. I reported this to MB Klein, where I got it and asked if it would be possible to return it for exchange with one that did work. Their reply was that they tested four others and found all had the same problem. They think the problem is with the whole run and advised my best bet would be to return the loco for a refund. So that sounds like a solution for you as well.

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